Return to Transcripts main page


Weather Expected to Cause Travel Disruptions; Obamacare Signup Process Examined; James Ray Speaks Out

Aired November 26, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Too much of the program remains intact while giving iron too much relief from sanctions. In response, President Obama says the U.S. cannot close the door on diplomacy.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The United States and Afghanistan are at an impasse this morning, the White House delivering a final ultimatum to President Hamid Karzai. National Security Adviser Susan Rice asking him to sign a security agreement or face a total pullout of U.S. troops next year. But so far, Karzai's refusing to agree to the deal unless the U.S. assures him American military personnel will no longer conduct home searches. Afghanistan's elders are urging Karzai to sign the agreement right now.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A potential environmental night they're happening in Iowa. A tugboat carrying 100,000 gallons of petroleum products sinks in the Mississippi river after striking an object in the water. The coast guard has closed off a section of the river near the quad cities community of Le Claire, Iowa, to deal with that spill. Nine crew members on the boat made it to safety and the accident is now under investigation.

CUOMO: All right, and now to what hopefully won't become known as the storm that ate Thanksgiving, but it is headed this way. It's making a real mess of Thanksgiving travel. We know that for sure. The Midwest has already seen the worst of it. More traffic accidents than we can count, some of them deadly.

Take a look at this video, snow falling in Pittsburgh, should be beautiful but not when it messes up travel. This is thanks to WPXI was filming it this morning. Now the east coast is bracing for heavy rain, winds, maybe some snow. We start with meteorologist Indra Petersons. What do we see as it moves across? Is there any chance for hope.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Maybe if you're really far out west. We're definitely looking at by big change already as the system continues to make its way up the eastern seaboard and collide with that other system coming out of Canada. Take a look already, we're seeing snow into the northeast, see something of the icing conditions moving into Virginia and North Carolina and of course the heavy rain down to the south, this is all only a precursor of what we're expecting to see as conditions worsen as we go throughout the day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PETERSONS: A massive winter storm blamed for at least a dozen deaths and hundreds of accidents will bring heavy rain, snow, sleet, and high winds to much of the east coast on the busiest travel week of the year. Frustrated travelers already beginning to feel the ripple effect of this storm system with delays and cancellations at some the nation's busiest airports.

And it's not just planes. The larger than life balloons flying high above the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade could be grounded. If sustained winds pass 23 miles per hour, the giant inflatable balloons can't take flight because officials fear their handlers won't be able to control them.

RAY KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: We have a sergeant assigned to each of the balloons. They can be lowered all the way to the ground or determination is made not to fly them.

PETERSONS: In 1997, ferocious winds blew the six-story tall Cat in the Hat balloon straight into a street lamp. Debris fell down on the crowd below, critically injuring one spectator. The colossal storm system made its way across the country, bringing localized flooding in Arizona, heavy snow in Colorado and in New Mexico. Wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour produced blinding conditions. Parts of Oklahoma receiving about a foot of snow, and in Arkansas, heavy rain caused this pileup on a bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The roads are really slick and I've seen a lot of accidents already.

PETERSONS: Freezing rain making driving treacherous as this unrelenting storm complicates Thanksgiving travel plans for millions.


PETERSONS: Here's what we're expecting through the next 48 hours. Look at all the heavy rains come through the southeast. Look for three to five inches of the heavy rain. Look at the heavy snow, even over a foot of snow expected especially off the lakes and tapering back down even through Kentucky and Tennessee. Let's take it day by day. So important for all the travel concerns we have out there.

Heavy rain, we already talked about. Currently seeing snow in the northeast, that will transition as warm air continues to make its way out of the south. We see that turn into rain. On the backside of it, we'll see the heaviest snow. Tonight and through tomorrow morning, Wednesday morning, we're talking about the heaviest rain and snow and the strongest winds, so the toughest time to be traveling. As you go throughout Wednesday, things start to taper off. You notice the system starts to make its way more into the northeast. On the backside it may look like things are calming down.

Unfortunately we're still going to be talking about strong winds, even in through Thanksgiving. We'll still be talking about strong winds even though the system is moving out. The stronger winds are in the southeast where we're seeing the first low. We see the winds shift up into the northeast through the afternoon. Kate, we'll be talking about more travel delays in the northeast as well.

BOLDUAN: You're absolutely right, Indra. Thank you so much. As Indra is talking about potential travel delays, but we have hundreds of flights that have already been canceled because of the storm, and we're expecting many more travel delays to come, of course. We are joined by Mark Gale, CEO of Philadelphia International Airport, to find out what travelers should expect and what the airports are doing to try alleviate some of the stress and pain, I guess you could say. Thanks for coming in.

MARK GALE, CEO, PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Thank you, Kate, and welcome from Philadelphia.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much, good morning. Can you give our viewers any good news this morning as they're ready to head to the airport?

GALE: Well, this certainly is the Super Bowl if you will for airports and airlines as we prepare for the heaviest travel time of the year. Unfortunately Mother Nature is going to play into this. I can say that for Philadelphia and many other airports, we're watching this very closely.

We began our coordination with all our stakeholders, the airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, the FAA, weeks ago in preparation for the travel time this week and on actually into early next week. The weather that's coming up the east coast for us, this nor'easter is in fact going to cause significant disruptions. But we do think that we have a good shot at Philadelphia anyway for getting most of our operations through today OK. Tomorrow morning is going to be quite rough. But we hope to rebound as the day goes through tomorrow and into Thanksgiving.

BOLDUAN: So you're expecting the difficult weather as our meteorologist Indra Petersons is laying out, tomorrow is going to be a tough day. What are you expecting in terms of air travelers? What's Philadelphia going to see?

GALE: Well, we typically see our heaviest loads three days today, tomorrow and Sunday is actually our heaviest day of the year. We'll range anywhere from 15 to 25 percent above our normal traffic loads. On Sunday we're expecting more than 100,000 travelers to come through the facility. And, of course, as has been reported, the weather is going to cause delays and in some cases cancellations.

I guess the good news is that some of the airlines, U.S. Airways, American, Delta that we're hearing are already starting to relax some of their change policies in the hopes that some travelers, if they can, will take advantage of changing their travel arrangements to get out of town sooner and give them a better shot at getting to the destination to be able to spend it with their families.

But we're going to be watching this closely and trying to communicate with our passengers through our website, through Twitter, and staying in close contact with our airlines to see what changes are occurring minute by minute as today, tomorrow, and into the weekend occurs. BOLDUAN: Twitter, this is definitely one of the situation where Twitter can be used for good to get the message out quickly to air travelers. We know in terms of the flights and trying to get out of the airport, ice and the big winds will be the challenge there. In terms of airport operations, what are the challenges you're up against?

GALE: Well, certainly, I'm very grateful, looking back in our history, my early career, we did have a big snowstorm on Thanksgiving back in 1989 which really hampered things. But I think with the rain we'll be able to manage throughout the day.

We're going to have extra staffing on at our checkpoints, all throughout the facility, maintenance personnel, additional security and operations and police personnel to make sure our travelers are being well taken care of and help them actually navigate and get through our facility.

Clearly the passengers can help us if they plan their trip in advance. It's a stressful time of year. Anytime you're traveling during the holidays, you know, if they take a few minutes to plan a trip to the airport, know how they want to get to the airport, know where they want to park, have a backup in case that lot is full, know which terminal their airline is flying out of, come to the airport prepared, know what some of the procedures are in terms of bringing identification and your boarding passes, you'll be able to get through the security checkpoint. Be familiar with some of the regulations to be able to get through the security checkpoint. You can go online to any airport's website, ours is You can go on to the TSA's website at and check on the rules about what you need to be aware of as you come through security checkpoints.

Leave yourself plenty of time, more time than you think is necessary to be able to arrive at the airport with the heavy crowds, to be able to get through security. The worst that could happen is you get on the other side of security, and in Philadelphia we have a plethora of food and shops that you can avail yourself to. We kind of look at this, if you want to get ready in testing for Thanksgiving turkey, you can enjoy a great Philadelphia cheesesteak. That's about the worst that could happen there.

We're hoping that everybody, not only gets through Philadelphia but many of the other airports and we're able to minimize those that don't get there.

BOLDUAN: As the ultimate airport insider, I think that's good advice that people can take with them as they're traveling today. Mark Gale, CEO of Philadelphia international airport, thank you very much. Good luck over the next few days. Great to see you.

GALE: Thanks, Kate. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Thank you very much.

And a reminder, you can get a behind the scenes look at another very busy airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, with CNN's digital project, ATL-24. See it right now on

CUOMO: Literally right now, because we're giving you a break. When we come back on NEW DAY, what's the real story about Obamacare? Is it about affordable care or is it a nightmare? We're taking an inside look at two test cases which you really should see in forming an opinion.

Plus, a CNN exclusive, James Ray, once a famous motivational speaker, now an ex-con for that deadly sweat lodge ceremony. He's telling his side of that terrible night. What did he think will happen? Is he truly sorry? An interview you'll only see on CNN.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. The Affordable Care rollout has been terrible, but what is the reality of the law? Are there successes with Obamacare, or is it just about failure? We want to take a look at both sides. We'll start with CNN's Miguel Marquez in Los Angeles.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today Kate and Justin Leeper aren't insured. Come January 1st that will change.

KATE LEEPER, INSURED IN CALIFORNIA: I recently changed jobs, so I took a contract position where I don't have benefits.

MARQUEZ: Keeping up that previous insurance would have cost $1,500 bucks a month, too much. She tried private insurers but the application process, onerous.

You'd have to fill out paperwork?

K. LEEPER: Not just paperwork but trying to remember every doctor's visit you've had for the last year and every procedure or major issue you've had for the last ten years.

MARQUEZ: And another problem for the 35-year-olds, uber-healthy writer, actor stunt man, Justin.

You are a vegetarian?

JUSTIN LEEPER, INSURED IN CALIFORNIA: Yeah, no meat, no dairy, never had coffee, don't' drink soda, no alcohol, no drugs, work out four times a week.

MARQUEZ: He's a bit of a medical mystery, suffering a condition doctors so far can't diagnose.

J. LEEPER: That was usually enough for them to say, "No, we can't cover you."

MARQUEZ: So they logged onto Cover California.

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Cover California.

MARQUEZ: Ten thousand Californians now signing up daily.

K. LEEPER: I didn't have to know a whole lot. I just put in some basic information, our Social Security numbers, our birth dates.

MARQUEZ: The website working as advertised presented them 30 insurance options.

What's it going to cost you?

K. LEEPER: Right, about $500 a month, less than that.

MARQUEZ: For both of you.

K. LEEPER: For both of us.

MARQUEZ: The actual quote: $467.

What does it feel like to know you are covered?

K. LEEPER: It's a relief.

MARQUEZ: Now, waiting for their first bill, they say the real test for Obamacare, the day they'll need to use it.


CUOMO: OK, now we want to look at the other side. And we're going to stay in California. Why? Well, they're a big state and they're having a lot of success with applications online. As you heard, 10,000 a day are signing up now. So what is the experience of those who sign up? Many patients and their doctors are unhappy with the changes.

For that side of the story, CNN's Casey Wian reports.


TOM HARRIS, HANDYMAN: I thought it was a great idea.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Harris is a 62-year- old self-employed handy man who had high hopes for Obamacare.

HARRIS: My expectations were that it would actually enhance my existing health care plan.

WIAN: (on-camera): How has it worked out for you so far?

HARRIS: That wasn't the case. I was notified that my plan would be ended at the end of this year in December. I was very surprised.

WIAN (voice-over): Harris suffers from debilitating allergies. He's seeing a specialist, Dr. Robert Eitches at the prestigious Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, at least until January 1st when his bill would go up.

HARRIS: I know if I go see him, it's completely on a network, and it does not apply against my deductible. So it's really out of network; it's almost in another orbit.

WIAN: The new Obamacare compliant plan being offered by Harris' current health insurance company will actually cost him $5 a month less, but Eitches and four of Harris' five doctors are no longer in that network.

ROBERT EITCHES, MD, ALLERGIST: I've had patients come to me saying, "Please do whatever you need to do because I don't know if I'll be able to come back to see you after December 31st."

WIAN: Eitches says 10 percent of his patients now must either find new doctors or pay steep out-of-pocket costs.

HARRIS: It's mind numbing. It's mind numbing.

WIAN: Even for Dr. Eitches. Less than six weeks before Obamacare takes effect, he still doesn't know which, if any, insurance plans he'll accept. He has already stopped taking Medicare.

EITCHES: Honestly, what I may think about is not taking any insurance at all. I have a lot of patients who have been seeing me for over 20 years, and we have a bond. It would be sad to lose those patients.

WIAN: For Harris, Obamacare has meant fewer choices and headaches untreatable by presidential apologies.

HARRIS: It's just so beyond that. I certainly wish him well, but the situation that I find myself in, the dynamic that I find myself in, is a real struggle.


CUOMO: And the problem, of course, is that we're going to hear stories like these on both sides as the law continues to take effect. And so, we will continue to monitor the impact and tell you the problems and the benefits as they come up. That's our job.

All right? Mich, over to you.

PEREIRA: All right, I want to maybe do a little cautionary nerd alert here, because I want to show you a really cool site in the sky that we could be in for: Comet ISON hurdling towards the sun at 248 miles per second.

This is a projection of the path that it could be taking. It's expected this comet could slingshot right around the sun on Thanksgiving. Now, whether it survives its brush with the sun or not is in question. NASA says that actually the tail could get yanked off by solar particles, or, as we see in this animation -- as we see in this animation -- as we see in this animation, it could cook the frozen ice particles and destroy completely.

So why do we care? Here's the question. It is coming from the very edge of space. That's a big deal. It has taken 5.5 million years to reach us. And if it actually makes it around the sun, it'll be very easy for us to spot with the naked eye. That's some serious cool factor.


BOLDUAN: Serious cool factor. A little special treat for Thanksgiving for everyone. Thanks, Michaela.

PEREIRA: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on "NEW DAY", self-help guru James Ray served his time after three people died on his watch. Well now he's speaking out. That exclusive interview coming up.

CUOMO: Plus, for millions of you, the race is on the get out of town before the weather keeps you grounded. Airports on the east coast are trying to move passengers for Thanksgiving. We'll tell you what you need to know right ahead.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". Let's give you a look at the stories that are making news. The east coast bracing for that wintry weather that's already slammed the rest of the country, making a mess of Thanksgiving travel. Hundreds of traffic accidents have been reported.

So far the storm is being blame for at least 12 deaths. Hundreds of flights have been canceled and roads are going to be slick for many of the 39 million people that are expected to drive. Temperatures are also expected to stay chilly throughout the holiday.

President Obama is speaking out on the international nuclear deal with Iran. During a speech on immigration in San Francisco, the president defended the agreement and responded to critics who slammed the deal, calling it a mistake. President Obama insists the nuclear deal is progress and added that bluster may be an easy political solution but does not help promote security. During that speech on immigration, the president was interrupted by protesters.


BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We will live a -- most importantly, we will live up --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our families are separated.


OBAMA: Most importantly, we will live up to our character as a nation.



PEREIRA: They were calling on the president to stop deportations that are tearing families apart. The president allowed them to stay in the hall, saying he respected their passion but added it's up to Congress to pass a fair immigration bill.

Controversial diabetes drug Avandia was been cleared for wide-spread use by the FDA. Avandia was thought to increase patients risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. But federal regulators said Monday that the drug was no more dangerous than other diabetes medications. The FDA says Avandia users will be able to get the drug through regular pharmacies.

And maybe it was a yogurt craving that caused a deer to come crashing through the window of a store in Holmdel, New Jersey. The owner and his daughter just closed up shop for the day when the deer broke in. They couldn't really believe what they were seeing. The deer apparently scampered around for a few minutes, checking out the various toppings that were available at the toppings bar before he finally fled empty-pawed.

CUOMO: It's weird. I thought he was lost and couldn't find his way out.

BOLDUAN: No GPS on those antlers.

CUOMO: Who knew he was checking toppings.


BOLDUAN: We're working on it.

All right. An update on a story we followed -- it happened years ago. But we've been following it for a long time. Self-help guru James Ray says he's still in shock now after the tragic events that unfolded at his northern Arizona sweat lodge back in 2009.

Three his loyal followers, you'll remember, died during a cleansing ceremony and witnesses say Ray did little to save them. Now he's breaking his silence after time behind bars. Early Start anchor Zoraida Sambolin is here with that story.

Good morning, Z.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

Well, James Ray made a fortune selling the Secret to Life. But he spent 20 months behind bars for three controversial deaths after being convicted of negligent homicide in the tragedy that occurred at his sweat lodge. So we hear from him for the first time since his release from prison in this exclusive interview with CNN's Piers Morgan.


JAMES RAY, SELF-HELP GURU: I'd say I'm sorry. I'm extremely sorry for what happened.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over) The former self-help guru fought back tears, reliving the scene inside the sweat lodge four years ago, an event that killed three of his loyal followers and sent him to prison for 20 months. RAY: It was my event. It was my lodge. I'm responsible. I was the captain of the ship. I have to take responsibility for that.

SAMBOLIN: He called it the spiritual warrior weekend, culminating in a ceremonial sauna that was supposed to signify cleansing and rebirth. But the sweltering temperatures inside reaching up to 120 degrees resulted in tragedy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two people are breathing. There's no pulse.

OPERATOR: They're not breathing.


OPERATOR: OK, is this the result of a shooting or something?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's a sweat lodge.

SAMBOLIN: Convicted of negligent homicide in 2011, James Ray addressed allegations that he ignored participants collapsing, vomiting and screaming for help.

RAY: I didn't see any those things. Those things were happening outside the lodge. I didn't know nor did anyone know that anyone was in a death -- a life or death situation.

SAMBOLIN: But the prosecution even argued that Ray encouraged participants to come back inside the deadly sauna against their own instincts.

RAY: Every 15 minutes we open -- or thereabouts -- we open up the flaps and people were free to leave, come and go. Some people wanted to quickly exit, and one of the things I told them in the setup was to go out clockwise carefully because obviously there's a pit of hot rocks in the center.

SAMBOLIN: The punishing heat generated by water poured over a pit of hot rocks sent 21 overcome people rushing for help.

RAY: I had systems in place and the systems broke down.

SAMBOLIN: Now a free man, he didn't rule out returning to the self- help industry, but this time, more humbled than before.

RAY: Was I arrogant? Yes. People fly in all over the world and asking me how to have a better life. And it tends to go to your head. You tend to think you've got all the answers.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): So Ray also says that he lost everything because of the tragedy. If he does return to the self-help industry, he insists he has no intention of ever participating in another sweat lodge ceremony again. I know he says that he wants to return to the industry, but the family of the victims here are saying, 'We're going to keep an eye on you because that is exactly where we don't want you to return'.

BOLDUAN: Also, it does make you wonder, even if he wants to return to it, he said people used to fly in from all over the world seeking his help. But after such a public and very tragic fall from grace from that pedestal that he was on, because so many people loved him and sought him out, how he can.

SAMBORIN: Well, he was very remorseful during Piers' interview. And, you know, but this is a guy who was on The New York Times best-seller list. He had the stamp of approval of Oprah Winfrey, so, you know, he wants to re-invent himself. We'll see what happens.

CUOMO: Appreciate it, Z.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Zoraida.

CUOMO: Coming up on "NEW DAY", stunning new charges in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. The case shocked a community, made national news, and now the Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine is making good on a promise for accountability. We'll tell you what he's doing.

BOLDUAN: How long will the weather hold off? It's the question millions are asking as they try to rush to the airport as early as possible. Zoraida's checking her departure time right now. We're gonna update (ph) the forecast and see how travelers are dealing with the headaches that are inevitable with holiday travel.