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Twenty-Two U.S. Embassies, Consulates Closed Today; Select U.S. Forces on Higher Alert; CBS Goes Dark in Several Major Cities

Aired August 4, 2013 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. military forces on a heightened state of alert as an al Qaeda terror plot prompts the massive shutdown of American embassies in 17 countries. We are live around the world, bringing you the latest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the victims has expired at the hospital due to the injuries.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A car plows into a crowd of people on Venice beach's famed boardwalk. One person is dead, many more are hospitalized. Why witnesses say this was no accident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My thing is, for that kind of money, it had better work when I want it to work.

KEILAR: Planning on watching "60 Minutes" tonight? How about "The Mentalist"? If you have Time Warner Cable in New York or L.A., you're out of luck.


KEILAR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Brianna Keilar.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock here at CNN headquarters. Thank you for starting your NEW DAY with us.

KEILAR: Now, there are fears this morning that al Qaeda might be getting ready to launch attacks in the coming days.

BLACKWELL: The U.S. is not taking any chances -- from Asia to the Middle East to North Africa, almost two dozen U.S. embassies and consulates have shut their doors.

KEILAR: Also, U.S. forces are poised to move in closer to the Middle East to those hot spots if they're needed.

We have reporters around the globe to bring you the very latest on this developing situation. We're going to go ahead and start with CNN's Emily Schmidt. She is in Washington.

Emily, talk a little bit about the specific time frame that's attached to this threat. EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, Victor, good morning to you.

Really, one of the most unusual aspects of the U.S. deciding to close so many of these embassies and consulates is it came with a specific date attached. That day, Sunday. Now the date has arrived.

There's a lot of watching and waiting to see if the terrorists are going to take the threats to another level. As far as here in Washington, President Obama is at Camp David this morning. The White House says he's been meeting with his national security team, getting regular updates about the terror threats.

We're getting another view of the seriousness of these threats from Republican Peter King. He was briefed as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He says the best way to describe the plan is a catastrophic type attack.

Now, officials say this threat is considered credible. Problem is it's ambiguous. It could target western or U.S. targets all across a huge area, an area stretching from northern Africa across the Middle East, even into Asia. It was nearly one year ago, you remember, when the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi came under attack, killing four Americans. After that attack, the Pentagon decided to deploy combat ready marines to the Red Sea, to Spain and to Italy, so if another attack happened in the area, they would be in place for a rapid response.

CNN has learned, as a result of this particular threat, some military forces in the area are now operating at a higher state of alert -- Victor and Brianna.

BLACKWELL: Emily, there's this chatter that's been discussed, the chatter that's picked up from al Qaeda. Talk about that, if you would, and what the intelligence community is focusing on.

SCHMIDT: You know, what we hear from the sources is they say the chatter seemed to come from the area of Yemen, not a region that really surprises a lot of people in the intelligence because al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has targeted the U.S. for years. That's, of course, where the 2009 underwear bombing originated.

Another potential twist that's happening when we talk about the chatter and where it's originating from, recently, it appears that the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, he may have recently been tapped to be in charge of al Qaeda worldwide.

I've been talking with CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank. And he tells me, you know, this plot really could be a way for that appointee to make his mark. So, when we hear the chatter, when we hear it coming from the area of Yemen, that's why a lot of folks are not surprised about the region we're talking about.

BLACKWELL: All right. Emily Schmidt in Washington for us -- thank you.

And CNN has a team of correspondents covering this story across the Middle East.

CNN's Vladimir Duthiers is outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.

Good morning, Vladimir.


I am standing out in front of the United States embassy in Tel Aviv.

We've been here for the last three days. I can tell you, in speaking to people and speaking to the security officials out in front, this is a normal, routine security apparatus behind us here. They -- we are told, generally speaking, there are not more than three or four security officials in front the embassy.

Now, today, the embassy is not normally open on Sundays, but I can tell you that yesterday there was a suspicious package that was placed right in front of the embassy, and within minutes, security officials had rushed out onto the scene. They had a bomb disposal unit that showed up, took care of the package. It turned out to be a false alarm.

Even with this sort of just few people standing out in front of the embassy, we could tell that, if there was even a hint of a threat to the facility, that they were ready to basically deploy all resources to mitigate that threat, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Vladimir Duthiers in front of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, thank you very much.

Now, let's go to Abu Dhabi, where the U.S. embassy is closed and security there is tight.

KEILAR: That's right. CNN's John Defterios is there -- John.


In fact, the U.S. is being seen as taken a very broad brush approach to the security situation Vladimir was talking about 22 embassies and consulates being shut.

Let's take a look at the one here in Abu Dhabi over my shoulder. We'll take a tighter shot of it as well. It's that large sloping building. That is the diplomatic quarter here in Abu Dhabi where all the embassies are.

The one from the United States stands out from the rest. You can understand why the U.S. is being very cautious as we speak.

Also, this alert that's come out from Interpol suggesting that nearly 2,000 militants have been freed from jails with the support of al Qaeda since July 23rd, has raised the intelligence traffic and the noise here.

So there is that sort of concern. But I did speak to one ambassador who suggested that perhaps the U.S. is overreacting in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, shutting down the consulate services there, because this is a country that has extremely tight security. To give you a sense, if we try to go to the diplomatic quarter with a still camera or a video camera, even under normal operations, we're not allowed to go in. That's how tight the security is, Brianna.

KEILAR: John, when you're there on the ground, are you seeing any visible difference in the security?

DEFTERIOS: None whatsoever unless you go in front of the U.S. embassy. There's only a handful of marines in front of the embassy.

I spoke to the U.S. ambassador who said he could not go on the record because this is being handled out of Washington. It is also worth, this is the last week of Ramadan. So, Emirate (ph) is other Muslims who live in the UAE are not even coming out until 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the afternoon, about right now, because they're staying up so late for that early break of the fast.

So this is business as usual, with the exception of the diplomatic quarter, and with the exception particularly for the U.S. embassy where it's almost a ghost town, just a few marines watching the facility today -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Interesting. John Defterios, thank you for that.

BLACKWELL: Another story we're following this morning. A day at the beach turned fatal at a popular tourist spot in Los Angeles. A driver plowed through the crowd yesterday on the famous Venice beach boardwalk.

Authorities and witnesses say it was deliberate.


LANDON BLACKBURN, WITNESS: Pedal to the metal, because the tires started screeching. I saw him, and he was looking for blood. That guy was -- that guy, his intention was to kill people.


BLACKWELL: One person this morning is dead, 11 others in hospitals. Police say the driver ditched the car and then ran off.


LT. ANDREW NEIMAN, LOS ANGELES POLICE: We have detained an individual in the city of Santa Monica who may be involved or connected with this horrendous incident. At this point, the investigation goes on, and we will determine whether or not this individual is responsible for this incident.


KEILAR: To Bakersfield, California, where three people are recovering this morning after an implosion went wrong. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

KEILAR: Now, you've seen these before. Normally, they go off like clock work, but all three people here were hit by flying shrapnel. Obviously, not supposed to happen during yesterday's implosion at that power plant, is what you saw there.

Police say one man standing more than 1,000 feet away had to have one of his legs partially amputated. The other injuries, though, were minor.

BLACKWELL: If you live in New York or L.A., you will not be able to watch your favorite CBS shows today.

KEILAR: No golf. Tiger, big day.

BLACKWELL: No golf, Bridgestone invitational, won't be able to watch it.

KEILAR: That's right. Because the network has gone dark in those and several other major cities because of a contract dispute with Time Warner Cable. At stake here: big money. $1 billion in fees.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Alina Cho is following this one for us.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Turn on the nation's number one network, CBS, in New York, L.A, and six other major cities, and this is what you will see on CBS. No programming, just a slate with a Time Warner logo and a scathing open letter, which reads in part, "CBS has made outrageous demands for the programming it delivers for free on the air and online, requiring us to remove their stations from our lineup while we continue to negotiate for fair and reasonable terms."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a travesty. I love CBS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's annoying, you know? It's like everything -- there's a ton of stuff that I watch on CBS. That's the main annoying thing. David Letterman, I'm about ready to lose my mind.

CHO: For golf fans, it means no PGA tour this weekend, no "Big Brother," "The Mentalist," not even this -- no "60 Minutes." The roughly 3 million customers affected also lose access to CBS owned premium networks like Showtime and the Movie Channel.

Why is this happening? The fight is over retransmission fees, the millions cable networks are required to pay broadcasters in exchange for their content.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I paid $200 a month. That's a lot of money. So, my thing is for that kind of money, it had better work when I want it to work. CHO: The contract between CBS and Time Warner expired on June 30th. It was extended and extended again. But by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Friday, Time Warner had had enough and pulled the plug.

CBS says it's the first time in its history the network has been dropped by a cable system. The question is when will viewers be able to see their favorite shows again? Nobody knows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just get over it. Give me back my news, my Letterman.


CHO: So if you are waking up in New York City or any of those other cities this morning with CBS owned stations, this, if you're old school like me, this is how you are going to read that Tiger Woods is leading the Bridgestone Invitational. He shot a 61, under par yesterday. He's heading into it, looks like he's going to win. Everybody knows, when tiger is playing, the ratings tend to go up -- too bad for people in New York and L.A. and those other cities. They won't be able to watch it.

Victor and Brianna, though, important to point out this is happening in the middle of summer. It would have been far worse had it happened in the fall with the NFL lineup and the key primetime lineup. Nevertheless, it's not good for those viewers who want to watch the news on CBS, Letterman, and all of those other shows, which are so, so popular.

And we can tell you that, from what we're hearing, the talks will resume tomorrow morning.

BLACKWELL: Well, at least they're continuing to have the conversation.

KEILAR: I bet it will be resolved quickly. There's nothing like a little bit of pressure, not being able to see whether it's "60 Minutes" or the golf.

BLACKWELL: And this one was David Letterman. Please get her the Letterman.

KEILAR: She alone could tip the scale to get things moving.

BLACKWELL: Alina Cho, thank you.

CHO: You bet.

BLACKWELL: The U.S. embassies are closed this morning across the Middle East, across north Africa. So, how credible is the threat coming from al Qaeda? We'll explain and look into that next.

KEILAR: Plus, $300 million. Now, that is quite a truckload of money. Who won Powerball's ticket to riches?

BLACKWELL: But, first, a very good morning to Jacksonville, Florida, a city that's very close to my heart, lived there for four years. The bold new city of the South, as it's known. Thanks for starting your NEW DAY with us.

We're back in a moment.


KEILAR: This morning, it is an anxious situation across the Middle East and in North Africa. U.S. embassies in the region are shut down, because of what is being called a serious, incredible threat coming from al Qaeda.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been holding meetings at the Pentagon and some U.S. military forces are on a higher state of alert and poised to move at a moment's notice.

I want to now bring in, CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer.

Bob, first off, thanks for being with us.


KEILAR: Can you tell us -- so, what's so unique about this threat other than what we're seeing the resultant shutting down of such a wide swath of embassies? What's unique about this threat, in particular?

BAER: Well, Brianna, first of all, I've spent 21 years in the CIA, and I don't think I've ever seen 22 embassies closed simultaneously. This is very, very unusual. It could only be based on very credible information.

Secondly, we're seeing a resurgence of al Qaeda, which frankly surprises me. We've had prison breaks in Libya, Iraq, other places in the Middle East. We've got Mali. We've got also Egypt, which we're being held responsible for the military coup d'etat there, the overthrow of the democratically-elected government, which happened to be the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic, they're allied with al Qaeda spiritually in a sense.

So, I think we're seeing a lot of turmoil. It goes back to the chatter. There are definitely plans to make some sort of attack, supposedly today, but there could always be slippage in this.

KEILAR: Just to remind people of those prison breaks, we're talking about prison breaks, for instance, the one in Iraq where you saw hundreds of inmates escape. These are very serious criminals who are accused or convicted of murder. It would almost be like someone breaking folks out of San Quentin or something like that here in the U.S. -- a big deal when you're talking about al Qaeda's involvement.

But talk a little bit about the timing here. Why would al Qaeda make a move now? Is this connected to the 9/11 anniversary, the Benghazi anniversary? What is it?

BAER: It's the end of Ramadan, that's one reason. They like to do this during the holy month. It's not necessary.

You know, in Islam at a time of war, you can make attacks any time you like. At the end of Ramadan, important for them. Just in general, they need to put themselves back on the map and make a big splash at this point.

KEILAR: So much of the focus here is on Yemen, even though we're looking at so many countries affected. There is talk that this could be the coming out party for lack of a better term, for a former bin Laden protege. What do you know about that?

BAER: Well, it's Yemen is very much big, large parts of it are in the hands of al Qaeda, especially in the high mountains. It's sort of their central base, in that sense. They've got a lot of people there that understand explosives, how to attack aircraft, how to project power across the world.

So I wouldn't necessarily say that it's a coming out party for anybody because the organization isn't about a person. It's about jihad, an attack on the West, drive the west out of the Middle East. And that's as deep as it goes. But it's very, very lethal organization still and could hit us just about anywhere.

KEILAR: Bob Baer, thank you so much for your insight here. Appreciate it.

BAER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Check this out. It's not a scene out of a movie. It's our must-see moment of the day. After the break, we'll tell you all about this airborne big rig. Look at the flames. And what happened to that driver.


BLACKWELL: Twenty-three minutes after the hour now. Welcome back to NEW DAY SUNDAY. This is today's must see moment. It was captured by the dash cam on a big rig.

KEILAR: You can actually see another semi launch into the air as it crosses in front of the overpass there. It bursts into flames after that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you can also hear the beeping from the person who was driving this big rig because they used a few choice words. It happened on I-74 in central Indiana.

Local reports say the driver and his 7-year-old son escaped with only minor injuries.

KEILAR: Unbelievable, isn't it?


KEILAR: I don't even know what to say. That's like a movie.

BLACKWELL: Fortunately, the kid got out safely, and so did his dad.

KEILAR: Exactly. Very good news there.


KEILAR: To Colorado, where a fire department captured some amazing pictures. Some other pictures.

Here it is. This is a layer of hail on top of several feet of floodwater. This happened yesterday in Windsor, where it had been raining for hours when hail started to fall.

BLACKWELL: A crew was out checking out reports that people were trapped in a car. Turns out the car was empty, but they got these pretty remarkable pictures.

KEILAR: It's kind of like cereal.

BLACKWELL: I was going to say something else. Let's stop here. It's kind of like cereal?

KEILAR: It is. It looks like weather cereal.

BLACKWELL: Weather cereal.

KEILAR: Alexandra's laughing at me.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMSS METEOROLOGIST: To meteorologists, everything looks like weather of some sort.


BLACKWELL: Weather cereal.

STEELE: Yes, or sugar. It looks like some type of interesting cloud picture.

Hi, everyone. Good morning.

What you were looking at there in Windsor, Colorado, that's northern Colorado off I-25, that whole storm system, that complex, has moved eastward, and you can see where it is now. I mean, not as robust in scope as it was yesterday. Showers and thunderstorms, though.

Kansas now seeing that along I-70, that's where the heaviest rain is, and with that, they've seen three to five inches of rain, thus the flash flood warning, meaning we are seeing flooding, and flooding is imminent and happening. And another five inches of rain expected around Wichita. Certainly a slow go. We're watching the waters rise.

Here's a look at what else we're seeing in radar around the country. A few cells here from Birmingham dropping south. You can see not really in Atlanta, cloudy skies around, 89, expecting a warm day. But Jacksonville seeing some clouds. So, let's take you there and show you what we've got out there this morning, clouds and warm and sticky. It's incredibly warm in the south. Dew points are incredibly high.

It will feel in Jacksonville like 102 this afternoon. Temperatures there, though, only getting to about 92, though. Atlanta, 89 this afternoon, but feeling even warmer than that.

Here's where a little cool pocket of air is. Cold front moved through, one cold front, second one expected to move through next week. With that kind of reinforcing shot of so much cooler air. So, we know how hot it was in July. Not seeing that in the Upper Midwest and even into the Northeast.

So, here's the August outlook. I mean, we've seen such extreme conditions. In the northeast, July was hottest on record. We're talking over 100 years of data, in places like Bridgeport and Providence.

But we're going to see more cooler temperatures or more on average. Below normal here in the Upper Midwest, the West, Salt Lake City, had their hottest July ever on record, above normal conditions continuing, looking like, for the next four weeks or so.

In terms of the forecast for today -- the cold front dropping South, the sticky air here along the Gulf Coast, and once again, a few storms in the central portions of the country. But the West Coast, guys, is dry on this Sunday.

BLACKWELL: They have no breakfast, no weather cereal.

KEILAR: No, they don't. You know where I think that comes to mind is you know that children's book, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

STEELE: That's right. There you go.


STEELE: Bye-bye.

KEILAR: She's like, get out of here.

BLACKWELL: Let me out of this conversation.

KEILAR: Thank you, Alexandra.

BLACKWELL: All right.

KEILAR: Now a changing of the guard in Iran taking a turn here. A new president takes charge and promises change.

BLACKWELL: Plus, U.S. embassies lock their doors, troops are on alert. The latest on the al Qaeda threat. That's next.


KEILAR: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Brianna Keilar.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. We're starting this half with five stories you need to know this morning.

Number one, visitors to U.S. embassies in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia will not get passed those closed doors. Nearly two dozen embassies and consulates in 17 countries across that region are shut down. And select U.S. military forces in the Middle East are on a higher state of alert and poised to move if needed. Washington is taking no chances with a terror threat from al Qaeda.

KEILAR: Number two, Iran's new president formally took charge of the country yesterday. Hassan Rowhani is promising reform and he says he'll end Iran's isolation. Keep in mind though the Supreme Ayatollah still calls the shots in Iran. Rowhani replaced the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

BLACKWELL: Number three, you'll still be able to buy the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 this fall because the U.S. International Trade Commission had banned Apple from importing the devices because of patent violations, but the White House had the option to review the decision and it overturned that ban.

Number four, who won last night's $300 million Powerball jackpot? Nobody. Hooray.


KEILAR: And that means Wednesday night's drawing will get jacked up to around $400 million. Not bad.

BLACKWELL: Not bad at all.

KEILAR: That is still, though, far below the record jackpot of almost $600 million. I will take it, though, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Still a good payday.

Number five, veteran NBC newsman John Palmer has died. He was 77. Palmer covered everything from the civil rights movement to 9/11. And he spent most of the 1980s as the news anchor on the "Today" show.

KEILAR: Twenty-two embassies and consulates around the Muslim world are shuttering their doors today following a threat that the State Department called credible and serious.

Candy Crowley is following the story from Washington. So Candy, do we know anything about how Washington is responding to these threats?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Well the orders are coming from Washington. So you're seeing -- with the embassy shuttering you are seeing with some troops in the area and in Europe, on U.S. bases, being put on a higher state of alert. You are seeing it with the global warning to Americans overseas. Be careful.

So it is coming out of here. At the same time, this is a curious balance for the administration. Because most everyone we've talked to, members of the Hill, members of the administration, say this is warranted. This is -- you know this was a serious enough threat that this is warranted.

But you don't want it to go over the top and push people into fear. So at the same time, you have the President yesterday played golf, went about his business. So it's this kind of balance of, yes, take this seriously, we're doing everything we can to make sure that Americans stay safe. And you know let's not go overboard on the fear factor.

KEILAR: Yes it's also interesting Candy how some Republicans, who obviously are very critical of how the Obama administration handled Benghazi are saying, this time this is warranted and they're happy with how the administration is responding.

CROWLEY: And they're also saying that they're not sure this would have happened pre-Benghazi, that there is sensitivity to what happened at Benghazi involved in the administration's decision to go very public with this and say, here's what we're doing. Here's what we're saying to troops. You remember one of the things that has been -- one of the questions about Benghazi has been why did they not scramble some -- some troops? Why didn't they put some folks on a plane and get help there? And the military has always said, we just couldn't do it. We couldn't get anyone there in time. There was some question as to whether -- a lot of people question whether that's true. But nonetheless some very high ranking military people say that.

So this -- a lot of -- a lot of Republicans are saying that this is you know post-Benghazi, but -- but well warranted. They truly believe that this is the right action to have taken. And let's be serious here. And that is that nobody wants to be the guy that puts the kibosh on saying -- on telling the public there is a threat and then having something happen and have it revealed that the government knew all along.

So there is this -- there is a kind of a group thing that goes with this in that, if the threat is this serious, you don't want to be the person that says, you know, we're going to scare people. So you know that's kind of you know again, one of the balances going on here.

KEILAR: Don't be scared, but be cautious. And we know you'll be covering this, Candy.


KEILAR: At 9:00 a.m. Eastern on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," along with a lot of other issues, including the political football that Obamacare has become. We look forward to seeing you then.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Islam's holiest month is marred by an al Qaeda terror plot. Now moderate Muslims are speaking out against the extremism.


BLACKWELL: For today's "Faces of Faith", we're talking and taking a different look at religion, considering today's news that 22 U.S. embassies and consulates are closing over the threat of a possible terror attack. Now the threat coincides with Islam's Night of Power. It's a special holy day during Ramadan the month of fasting and worship for Muslims which ends this week.

Already government officials and security experts are making the connection between terror and the Muslim holiday, but there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and many moderate Muslims say their voices are drowned out by violent radicals like al Qaeda.

Joining us now to talk about this is Zarinah Shakir, producer and host of the Washington-based show "Perspectives of Interfaith". Zarinah it's good to have you with us.


BLACKWELL: Certainly. As a Muslim American, how does this news of this terror threat, especially the connection to the Night of Power, feel and what do you feel like you have to do in response to that connection?

SHAKIR: Well, let me say first, Mr. Blackwell, that I would say assalamu alaikum (ph) and Ramadan Mubarak to all the millions, and as you mentioned, 1.6 billion Muslims throughout the world that we are in the last days of Ramadan, where many people have been fasting. And the -- and to hear this sort of connection between a terrorist threat and the Night of Power, is there is no connection. I've never heard this before.

And so it does not sit very well, I'm sure, with the majority of Muslims in the world.

BLACKWELL: But with the radical element of, I guess, any group, they often pick times and holidays to highlight the reason they're doing it. You know that many in -- of the Muslim faith who are of the extreme end want to use the Koran as an explanation for why they're doing that. What does that make you feel?

SHAKIR: Well let me say that I don't know those people from that extreme end and it may be about, I don't know, I don't know one percent, two percent, three percent of what is supposed to be part of the Muslim community.

But these are not people that for most of us that we know or understand. We are not partners with them. We are not trying to speak on their behalf or to condone anything that seems to be volatile or terrorist threat. Even to us. There are many Muslims, unfortunately throughout the Muslim world that are being killed en masse. And that's not something that we feel comfortable with at all. BLACKWELL: You're obviously very outspoken about religion. You host a show on faith. You're here speaking with us about your faith. What is the biggest misconception about Islam? And you've spoken pretty much about Sharia Law.

SHAKIR: Well, I was afraid you were going to bring this up. And our program does not really focus on Sharia law. Can I say that our show is called "Perspectives of Interfaith" so we interview Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, the high sheikhs and on and on. The numerous religions and our one sentence of our show is we try to dispel the myths and stereotypes of various faith traditions.

Sharia, which I find very interesting and because it has been brought up in a number of legislators or political leaders in the United States, are saying what they want to ban Sharia. Well, we don't need -- we are not asking people to include Sharia. We have a Constitution in the United States. And it would be good for us to follow the Constitution as it has been prescribed for Americans.

And let me just say that there are very few people that even understand what Sharia law is about. And Sharia, even by Muslims is not something that is understood well. But the final thing I'd say about Sharia is what people are saying, particularly those who know very little about Sharia, is you're saying to me, as a Muslim, that you are not accepting my law, which comes from the holy Koran. The Sharia comes exactly from Koran and many of the things and passages that I've actually read and heard about have not been anything that I've grown up with as a Muslim.

BLACKWELL: And I'm glad we've had this conversation so you could dispel some of those myths and share with us some of the history of the Koran and the month of Ramadan. Zarinah Shakir thank you so much.

SHAKIR: Thank you so much for the opportunity.


KEILAR: Thanks, Victor.

Now next on NEW DAY, will the MLB let A-Rod play another game? The Yankees slugger says that he's returning to baseball, but new reports say he's about to get hit with a big-time suspension tomorrow.


BLACKWELL: Twelve minutes before the top of the hour.

Big sports news developing this morning. According to reports, all-star slugger Alex Rodriguez will be suspended from baseball tomorrow.

KEILAR: And the suspension could stand through all of next year. It's a really big deal. And this, of course, is his punishment for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs. This weekend A-Rod claimed that he's become a target because people will benefit if he never plays again. ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEE: There's more than one party that benefits from me not ever stepping back on the field, and that's not my teammates, and it's not the Yankee fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is it? Who benefits?

RODRIGUEZ: I can't tell you that right now, and I hope I never have to.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Jason Carroll spoke to a group of sports journalists about A-Rod, and if someone in baseball is really out to get him.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe he is being targeted because of the amount of money that he makes or because of that lucrative contract that he signed? Is he a target?

CHUCK HIXSON, USA TODAY: I don't think it's because of that. I think it's more because Major League Baseball feels that he kind of got one over on them before.

CARROLL: So you believe that Major League Baseball is out to get him, Rodriguez?

HIXSON: I think that there's a little bit of a grudge because he has admitted it and yet they haven't been able to do anything to him.

CARROLL: In some ways he would be an easy target. He's admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in the past. He's not playing particularly well by his own admission, and he's making a lot of money.

ANDREW MARCHAND, ESPN: The money is a factor in the whole thing. I mean he's owed nearly $100 million. You can't take that out of the equation.

CARROLL: And what do you think?

KEN DAVIDOFF, "NEW YORK POST": I think the reason they don't like him is because he's always been sort of a fly in the ointment. He's never been a particularly likable person.

CARROLL: And why is that?

DAVIDOFF: He's pompous. He's always thought -- often has thought of himself as bigger than the game, and he's been a huge part of the game.

CARROLL: Do you believe that he loved the game so much he'd be willing to do anything to play it?

MARCHAND: Well, I mean, look, if you look at it in this current scandal when he did the performance-enhancing drugs that they're alleging, it was after he already had his big contract. Is that vanity? Is there some integrity there? I don't know.

CARROLL: What do you think?

MARCHAND: I think it's a combination. Again, this is alleged if he did it or not. We don't know for certain. But if you go on the assumption that he did do it, I think there's some vanity, and I think there's a performance level that he wants to achieve even though he already has the money.

HIXSON: I don't doubt for a second that he loves the game and respects the game. I don't doubt that at all. There's a lot of pressure on a guy when you get that kind of a contract. I think that you do want to put up certain numbers, and maybe you do buy into it a little bit where you need that extra help to do it.

CARROLL: Should he be allowed to keep playing while he's defending himself?

DAVIDOFF: That's a great question. There are two different legal avenues to take there. One is yes, he can. One is no, he can't. There's two different routes that Major League Baseball can take.

CARROLL: What do you think? What would you like to see happen here?

DAVIDOFF: Well, for my own selfish purposes, I'd like to see him play because it's a great story. In terms of justice, I really think either way it could be justified.

CARROLL: Thoughts on that?

HIXSON: I think you can justify either way as well. I think, to be fair, he probably should be allowed to play because, if it were to come back that he didn't do these things, then you've penalized him for nothing.


KEILAR: Now, Rodriguez says that he will appeal any suspension, and he says that it's his plan to play for the Yankees tomorrow. We'll see if that happens.

BLACKWELL: Reports on the suspension is coming tomorrow.


BLACKWELL: Next on NEW DAY, could you spend a month living under water. The grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau is ready to try. He'll tell us how he's planning to do it. Stick around.


BLACKWELL: We're nearing the top of the hour. But now it's time for our weekly series, "The Science Behind" where we give you the why behind the what. Today we have a real life deep sea adventure. Fabien Cousteau is the grandson of legendary diver Jacques Cousteau. He's about to plunge into the ocean and live in an underwater lab for 31 days. He spoke to our Chad Myers about this mission.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Fabien, 60 feet, 31 days, never done before. What do you hope to find?

FABIEN COUSTEAU, AQUATIC FILMMAKER AND EXPLORER: The unknown. This is what it's all about. It's pushing outside the box and going into the mysteries and hopefully bringing some of those discoveries back.

MYERS: You have motorcycles to go on too, some kind of underwater vehicle.

COUSTEAU: We have a lot of modern day technology, including underwater motorcycles, which are the modern day scooter. You can sit on top like a motorcycle with a cowling, and it gets you from point A to point B more efficiently than the traditional scooter.

MYERS: I heard you talk in the past about places that you used to dive where there would be hundreds of thousands of fish, and now you don't find any fish. Does that concern you at all?

COUSTEAU: It used to be a fireworks display of life when I was a child. And I go to those places that used to be full and teeming of life, and it's changed quite drastically. One of the things that worries me probably even more is that today's youth doesn't know what it's supposed to be like and figures that what it is today is what it's supposed to be.

MYERS: Do you think it's ocean acidification, global change, global climate, overfishing? What do you think?

COUSTEAU: I think you've hit all of the topics right on the head. It's climate change and acidification issues, it's overfishing issues, especially by commercial interests and non-selective fishing. And it's pollution issues. And all those things of course, affect our planet and our oceans. But it affects us fundamentally. And that's what we really have to be worried about.

MYERS: Let's talk about the six aquanauts that are going to be down with you.

COUSTEAU: Yes. Well --

MYERS: What are you going to do all day?

COUSTEAU: Well, they're about as crazy as I am if they're coming with me. But we're going to be doing a lot of things. We're going to be diving six to nine hours a day going down to depths of up to 150 feet or maybe even more.

We're going to be looking at the phosphorescence and the bioluminescence of coral reefs -- what I call underwater cities. And of course, something my grandfather only dreamed of. We're going to be able to reach millions of people, millions of students around the world for a full 31 days live in real-time through things like Skype in the classrooms.

MYERS: So you swim under kind of like the old movies where we'd see you pop up and you'll be in the air. And Aquarius will be full of air but there will be water all around this, what, bus-size thing, right?

COUSTEAU: That's correct. It's a habitat that's about 43 feet long, 9 feet wide inside; full of equipment and full of people, six people. It is you can get in and out of the habitat from down below in what we call the moon pool. But inside it's air. It's at pressure depth, so to speak. So we'll be saturation diving as opposed to diving from the surface.

Once we're down there, we are committed to being down there for the full 31 days before coming back up.


BLACKWELL: To follow Fabien Cousteau's underwater ocean adventure, please go to

KEILAR: I have a special thing for you.

The polar bear cam -- this is from researchers at the Oregon Zoo. They're getting a new look at life from a polar bear's perspective. Tassel (ph), the polar bear, has been wearing this collar fitted with a camera and electronic sensors that track her movements. Once the technology is finalized, similar collars will actually be placed on free roaming polar bears in the arctic. Pretty cool prototype.

BLACKWELL: I guess so. I don't know what they thought the polar bear was going to do all day though.

KEILAR: They do interesting things, pretty much sleeping. Look at this. Look at this. I love it.

BLACKWELL: All right.

KEILAR: That's going to do it for us today.

BLACKWELL: "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now.