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Actor Paul Walker Dies; U.S. Urges Newman Release; Obamacare Website; Testing Obamacare Website; Bleacher Report

Aired December 1, 2013 - 06:00   ET


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: There is heartbreak in Hollywood this morning after the stunning news of an actor's sudden death. Much more ahead on Paul Walker and the fiery crash that killed him.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, captured in North Korea. An 85-year- old American war vet being detained in Pyongyang. Now an urgent plea from the White House and from the California man's family to release him immediately.

HOWELL: All right. And today is the day the bleared Obamacare website goes from flawed to fixed. At least that's the plan. But is it working? We will put it to the test.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Thank you so much for waking up with us. It is 6:00 on the east here. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HOWELL: And we begin with breaking news from overnight. Actor Paul Walker is dead.

KOSIK: And this morning we're learning more about the fiery car crash that killed him. We have new footage of the inferno taken just moments after the crash. We're going to play just a few seconds of it here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). The guy's in there. He died. Go.



HOWELL (voice-over): Police say speed was a factor. The star of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, he was only 40 years old. Friends, family, co-workers and fans around the world are shocked. Many saying his death came way too soon.


HOWELL: One of Hollywood's most bankable stars, Paul Walker had made a name for himself in the "Fast and Furious" movie franchise, died in a fiery car crash in Santa Clarita, California. A second person also died in that accident. Both were attending a charity event for Walker's organization, Reach Out Worldwide. The event was intended to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippians.

The crash happened just north of Los Angeles Saturday afternoon. According to his representative, the star was not behind the wheel of the 2005 Porsche. When deputies arrived, the car was on fire. Both occupants pronounced dead at the scene. All that remained was the burnt, mangled metal and a light pole that had been knocked down. Authorities says speed was a factor.

Walker wasn't just a car enthusiast on the silver screen. Off the screen, the actor competed in the Redline Time Attack racing series. Walker had been filming the seventh installment of "Fast and Furious" at the time of his death.

Hollywood has been reacting this morning with condolences coming from Will Smith, Jack Osborne, VMX (ph), and many others, like actress Alyssa Milano. Walker guest appeared with her in the '80s comedy "Who's the Boss."


HOWELL: Well, CNN shot these images of figure eight tire marks and skid marks near the scene of that crash. We asked the L.A. Sheriff's Department if they were related to the crash, but at this time we're told they don't know.

KOSIK: CNN entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner joins us now on the phone.

Nischelle, good morning to you.

We're hearing that speed could have been a factor in this stunning crash. What details are you hearing about what was involved in it?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, you're right, Alison, that's what the authorities in L.A. are saying, that they do believe speed could have been a factor in this crash. They're not saying much beyond that, but they are saying that this is an ongoing investigation.

But Paul Walker's representative said he was not driving the car at the time of the crash. They said say that he was a passenger in the Porsche. They also confirmed that he was attending a charity event for his charity, Reach Out Worldwide, and this event was going to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan on Saturday afternoon before the crash.

So still trying to piece together the information in this. But you guys are right, I mean this has definitely been sending some shock waves through Hollywood this morning. Forty years old. He is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. There have been several reports that he was in Los Angeles over the holiday visiting his family and his friends and was headed back to Atlanta later on this week to continue shooting "Fast and Furious 7." And that's where they were shooting the latest installment of the franchise. HOWELL: Nischelle, it's still very early, we know, but people are already connecting Walker's Hollywood character from "Fast and Furious" to real life events. I mean is there any connection in this?

TURNER: Well, I guess you could - you could make some connections, George. I mean you hate to say that they're directly related. But in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, he plays Brian O'Conner, who is an undercover police officer who infiltrates this street racing gang and it kind of becomes who he is.

But, you know, he just did an interview on Monday, which is really kind of eerie, from the set of "Fast & Furious 7" in Atlanta. And some of the things that he talked about was how is life paralleled Brian's. That early on in the franchise, Brian Walker was just a guy who was kind of wild and free and was kind of lose like he was. But later on in the franchise, he - you saw that he was a man who would do anything for his family and that he was just this guy with a big heart. And that's who Paul says he had become. He had a 15-year-old daughter named Meadow and he did talk about how she was the love of his life.

So, in some ways I guess their lives did start to parallel. He also said, it was kind of interesting, he almost became Brian O'Conner in different ways because when he would hear people say on the street to him, "hey, Brian," he would automatically respond. But when someone would say, "hey, Paul Walker," he thought it was odd and he didn't really know if they were talking to him. So, yes, you know, and once you become such a part of a franchise, like he did with the "Fast and Furious" franchise, sometimes you do become identified with the character that you play.

But that's also -- he does have another film that is coming out in just a couple of weeks, December 13th. It's an independent film called "Hours." And this is a film where he plays a father of a child who has complications after birth and this is in the hours after Hurricane Katrina. So it's a departure from what we've seen him do and should be very interesting to see what could be one of his last roles.

KOSIK: You know, Nischelle, we are certainly seeing a lot of reaction online, in social media. What are people saying? What are you seeing?

TURNER: Yes, there is a lot. Of course his co-stars from "Fast and Furious" have been tweeting. Vin Diesel wrote - actually Vin Diesel put on Instagram that, "brother, I will miss you very much. I'm absolutely speechless." He said, "heaven has gained a new angel. Rest in peace."

And Ludicrous, who also starred with him in "Fast and Furious," said, "your humble spirit was felt from the start. Wherever you blessed your presence, you always left a mark." I mean there - people are really just stunned.

I know one of his other co-stars, Tyrese Gibson, was writing - it was almost like stream of conscience. "I can't even believe I'm writing this. No, no, no." You know everybody that has been reacting to this pretty much says Paul Walker was just this kind of good spirit. Like a calm guy, very laid back, very down to earth. But he also loved what he did, guys. He loved acting. He also loved that adrenaline rush. He loved cars. He called himself a muscle head. He called himself an adrenaline junkie. He also talked often about how he loved to do stunts on sets of his movies. So it is very ironic that it was a car crash that killed him, because we do know him from being this high octane street racer in the movies.

KOSIK: OK, Nischelle Turner, thank you. And we're going to go ahead and check back with you in a bit.

TURNER: Absolutely.

KOSIK: And we have much more to come on Paul Walker's death. So stay with CNN throughout the morning as we get new information on his passing. We're going to bring it right to you.

HOWELL: Now we switch gears on to North Korea. The U.S. is urging one of the world's most isolated regimes to free an 85-year-old American. Merrill Newman has been held in that country since he was pulled off a plane in October. Now the North Korean government there, they're releasing video showing him apologizing for the Korean War. And he's a Korean War veteran. North Korea is also holding American Kenneth Bae. He was arrested last year and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. All of this happening as Vice President Joe Biden heads to Asia. Karl Penhaul joins us now from Tokyo.

Karl, good morning.

So, first of all, Newman is 85 years old. What do we know about his health at this point and how he's doing?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, George, there is some good news here. Merrill Newman has been able to send a message to his family. And in that message he says, I'm well and the food is good. That message was brought out over the weekend by Swedish diplomats because, of course, the U.S. doesn't have any diplomat relations with this hermit state. And also the Swedish diplomats were able to say that Newman is receiving his heart medication. We knew he had a heart condition and were worried about that, and he's also receiving doctor visits several times a day to ensure that his health stays well.

KOSIK: Karl, what are the Koreans actually accusing Newman of doing, and how serious is this?

PENHAUL: Well, Alison, that's the worrying bit because the North Korean authorities are accusing Newman of crimes -- of war crimes against them because they're accusing him of training and advising an anti-Communist guerrilla group that fought deep behind enemy lines in North Korea during the war and also for a few months after the end of the war. They also say that when he came back to North Korea in October on this tourist package, that he was trying to renew ties with his old comrades and their families. The North Koreans are very sensitive about this because although that war has now been over for 60 years, there was no formal treaty to end it. So for the North Koreans, they very much consider that the war goes on. They're very sensitive about this, Alison. HOWELL: Journalist Karl Penhaul, thank you so much for your reporting.

KOSIK: And in Scotland, a grim search for bodies are continuing. At least eight people were killed when a police helicopter slammed through the roof of a crowded pub on Friday night. Witnesses say it happened in an instant.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were bouncing up and down in time to the music and we thought because of that, that the roof had came down. And we said to the (INAUDIBLE) quite serious. And then within five seconds, the whole place was engulfed in dust. People couldn't breathe, couldn't see and I covered my face up and took my (INAUDIBLE) over my mouth and my nose and said to people - because they were panicked, and I said, hold on and follow me out the door.


KOSIK: And the search for bodies is expected to take many days. Authorities say they have to make sure the damaged building, which still has the helicopter partly on top of it, they have to make sure it's secure as emergency crews work inside.

HOWELL: Now, it's not new, but it is supposed to be, supposed to be improved. We are talking about

KOSIK: And CNN is about to take the website for a test drive to see whether it's working smoothly as promised.

Thanks for waking up early with us. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.


HOWELL: All right, good Sunday morning.

Today is expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the year as people return home from Thanksgiving. And that could be really bad news for anyone headed out to the northwest. That region will see rain and snowstorms threatening to shut down many roads today and bring headaches to travelers. We'll have a lot more on that, a travel mess in the northwest, at half past the hour.

Later this morning we'll hear from the president's web fix-it guy. He will tell us how is performing today. This is supposed to be the day that the website should work for most Americans. The site was down overnight for a few last minute hardware upgrades to improve the speed. CNN's Tory Dunnan has this story from Washington.


TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is it working? That's the big question this weekend as President Obama's deadline to fix arrived.


DUNNAN: No word from him as he took his family shopping at a Washington book store. But HHS official said, "the site is performing well with low overall error rates and response times despite heavier than usual weekend traffic."

And one expert we talked to sees improvement as well.

DUNNAN (on camera): Signing on right away you saw a distinct change?

ALEX MCGEORGE (ph), COMPUTER SECURITY EXPERT: Yes. Absolutely. Yes, just even going to the site. You can tell it looks much smoother. It looks more like what you see high capacity websites look like.

DUNNAN (voice-over): The administration has said the website should be able to handle 50,000 users at the same time, double what it once could. And, overall, more than 800,000 users per day.

OBAMA: This website is going to get fixed and we are going to be signing people up.

DUNNAN: Front page headlines Saturday drew sharply different conclusions about the politically important outcome. A CNN producer tried logging on and failed after getting through earlier in the day. But we'll have to rely on anecdotal stories like this unless the administration releases hard numbers.

LUKE CHONG (ph), SOFTWARE DEVELOPER: Without having the internal metrics and status reports of what's going on, on the website, we, on the outside, will not be able to tell.


DUNNAN: So looking ahead, the administration is planning a conference call with reporters happening just hours from now. Jeffrey Zients, the man that President Obama brought in to lead the charge and really to turn things around, is going to be on the call. We know the White House has ways to measure the site's success or failure. No word yet if they're going to be sharing that information. But the administration is billing this call as an opportunity to discuss the progress that they've been able to make through the month of November.

George and Alison.

HOWELL: All right, CNN's Tory Dunnan in Washington. Thank you so much for that.

Now, we wanted to see for ourselves exactly how this site is working this morning. So now let's go over to Alison with CNN medical producer Matt Sloane.

All right, so we know the first thing you have to do when you go to this website, you have to select your state. Is that working? KOSIK: Well, and what's funny is, I was talking with Matt and, yes, that seemed to work, right, when you logged on? But then came the road block. So tell me about what happened because we're getting another error message here and it's supposed to be running smoothly. We're just not seeing that.

MATT SLOANE, CNN MEDICAL PRODUCER: Yes. So we've - you know, we're been trying to get into this site since October 1st, on and off again. I have to say, it did work a lot more smoothly this morning. I got through. I picked my state. I put in all my information and I got through the whole process in about eight minutes and then it said my progress - or my status was in progress. So I went to refresh it and I got the error message.

KOSIK: OK. And so at this point, with the error message, what if you refreshing again, are you seeing any change or -

SLOANE: I don't know. Let's give it a shot.

KOSIK: OK. And as you do this, you know, now that the administration says that this is supposed to be working smoothly, but it's not, I mean how soon - how quickly do people need to sign up for this now that sort of these fixes are in place?

SLOANE: Well, if it works for everybody, I mean you have until December 15th to sign up if you want coverage to start on January 1st. that's the important part. If you don't need it to start by January 1st, you have until March 31st to sign up. So there's still plenty of time. But if you want coverage to start at the beginning of the year, you've got about two weeks left to sign up.

KOSIK: OK. And bottom line, George, not smooth sailing just yet. Back over you to.

HOWELL: Alison, Matt, thank you so much.

All right, still to come on NEW DAY SUNDAY, did you see this? This is already being called one of the greatest football games ever. Sports fan or not, this is one of those moments that will raise the hair on your arms when you see the incredible finish to last night's wild game with Alabama and Auburn.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give it up. On the way. No, returned by Chris Davis. Davis goes left. Davis gets a block. Davis has another block. Chris Davis! No flags. Touchdown!


HOWELL: Regardless of whether you're a fan or not, the stunning end of this game, 100-yard return to break the tie. I mean this 28-28 tie. This was incredible to watch. JEFF FISCHEL, BLEACHER REPORT: It truly was amazing. I would say, guys, that I'll recreate how I was watching it, right, because I'm so eloquent in moments like this. It was like -- yeah.

KOSIK: The rivalry led up to all the hype.

FISCHEL: Yes. Alabama and Auburn, the Iron Bowl, it's always - it's arguably the best rivalry in all of college football. The 78th (ph) division will be considered - go down in history as the greatest ever between these two schools. Auburn had just shocked everyone with 32 seconds left, tying it at 28. One second left. Bama, the two-time defending national champs, tried a long field goal to win it. Chris Davis catches it in the back of the end zone and he just starts running. And he kept running. And touchdown Auburn with no time left. The number one team in the nation loses in one of the great endings over. Bama players, coaches, Nick Saban, stunned. The Auburn players were stunned. They couldn't believe that they had just done it. Auburn fans, -- there's you see, there's the reaction.


FISCHEL: That's the - that's a winner right there. I just can't believe what we just did.

KOSIK: Love that face.

FISCHEL: Auburn fans poured onto the field.

HOWELL: Unbelievable.

FISCHEL: Look at -- the entire field covered with Auburn fans. And the celebration did not end there. It spilled out onto the streets. Now on campus, this is at Toomer's Corner. This is the corner where an Alabama fan intentionally poisoned and killed the massive oak trees. No problem. The party can go on without the trees. Auburn fans celebrating one of the great endings ever.

So with Alabama out, Ohio State is next in line to play for the national title. The Buckeyes, big rivalry game against Michigan. It also came down to the final seconds. The Wolverines scored to get within a point with 32 seconds left. Michigan Coach Brady Hoke, this is so cool, he let his seniors vote and decided to go for a two-point conversion and the win. So that part was cool. OK, it didn't turn out well. Interception. Ohio State saves its perfect season. They can still potentially play for the national title with a one point win.

Now, trending on, Wisconsin Coach Gary Andersen, watch him, there's the arrow. He wants a time-out. Somebody give him a time-out. None of the refs were paying attention. Andersen saw one of the Penn State players uncovered. So he ran all the way to the end zone begging for a time-out. Request denied. You will get nothing and like it. The Nittany Lions score easily. Penn State, in fact, would upset the Badgers by a touchdown. So it really did hurt the Badgers. In fact, they had dreams of a BCS Bowl but I'm not sure it's going to happen now.

KOSIK: You know that game was being live blogged all night.


FISCHEL: Auburn/Alabama, yes.

KOSIK: Oh, yes.

FISCHEL: An incredible - I think on readit (ph), it was the number one discussion topic after the game was over. And I think Alabama fans need a long time to recover.

HOWELL: Jeff Fischel with the "Bleacher Report." Thank you so much.

FISCHEL: All right.

KOSIK: And we do continue following that breaking news this morning on the death of Paul Walker and we know about the - and what we know about the crash that killed the "Fast and Furious" star. More details coming up ahead.


KOSIK: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back. I'm Alison Kosik.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell.

Let's get straight to the five things you need to know to start your new day.

At number one, the U.S. says it is deeply concerned about a 85-year- old American veteran who has been held in North Korea now for more than a month. The North Korean state media showed Merrill Newman allegedly apologizing for killing Korean troops and civilians during the Korean War. Washington is urging Pyongyang to release him.

KOSIK: Number two, today is the day should be working smoothly for the vast majority of users. That's at least the promise that President Obama made about the troubled website tied to his signature health care initiative. Officials say the site is, quote, "on track" to meet performance goals, through they're warning that glitches are still possible.

HOWELL: And it didn't work for your test.

KOSIK: It didn't.

HOWELL: At number three, an infant reportedly was among the people killed when a single engine plane crashed in southeastern Alaska. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the deadly crash. This happened near the remote village of St. Mary's. Six people survived, including the baby's mother.

KOSIK: Number four, TV preacher (ph) Paul Crouch has died at the age of 79. He'd been sick with heart problems. Crouch and his wife Jan founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network 40 years ago and built it into an empire. Its programs are seen on thousands of TV, satellite and cable channels around the world.

HOWELL: At number five, a new survey shows shoppers spent $12 billion at traditional brick and mortar stores on Thanksgiving and on Black Friday. That is a jump of more than 2 percent compared to last year's sales. Sales were higher everywhere in the country except in the northeast, which has been battered by strong winds and brutally cold temperatures there.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.