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Ice Storm Spreads Across U.S.; The World Mourns Nelson Mandela; Interview with Richard Branson

Aired December 6, 2013 - 06:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This morning, we have lost one of our greatest leaders. We celebrate a freedom fighter and a hero as the world reacts to the death of Nelson Mandela with an outpouring of love and grief.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let us pause and give thanks to the fact that Nelson Mandela lived with a more universe toward justice.

CUOMO: We're live in South Africa as the nation mourns and millions the world over remember a legacy.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, dangerous ice storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's real slick roads -- stop, you slide.

BOLDUAN: Perhaps the worst in decades. Flights canceled, thousands without power.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the sixth time that I've had to stop and get the ice off of there.

BOLDUAN: But millions more in its path. We're live across the storm zone.

ANNOUNCER: This is "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome to "NEW DAY." It is Friday, December 6th, six o'clock in the east. We have two major stories this morning. The world, of course, mourning iconic leader and freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela.

BOLDUAN (on-camera): And here in the U.S., we're tracking a very dangerous ice storm. Forecasters saying it could be the worst ice storm ever for the region. People are waking up without power this morning, but millions could end up losing electricity for weeks, they fear, this as temperatures continue to plummet.

CUOMO: We'll get to what's going on now and tracking it across the country just a moment, but we want to begin with the growing reaction to the passing of Nelson Mandela. Here is a live look at the crowds that have been gathered outside the late South African leader's home. They're not merely somber.

You'll see they're singing and dancing. They are celebrating the man who thought so many how to face adversity with a smile, nations, of course, showing their respect. Flags around the world, at the White House we'll show you, see it, half-staff, this morning, honoring the anti-apartheid leader's life and legacy.

We're going to follow the developments from every corner of the world. Let's bring with Robyn Curnow. She's in Johannesburg -- Robyn.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the news came just before midnight South African time that Nelson Mandela had gone. So many South Africans woke up to this stark, gut wrenching headline. This says "Hamba Kahle Madiba". In Zulu, that means "Go Well Mandela."


CURNOW (voice-over): It was an announcement heard around the world.

PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, SOUTH AFRICA: Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation has departed.

CURNOW: After a long battle against a recurring lung infection and a lifetime spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela died at 8:50 p.m. Thursday night inside his Johannesburg home.

ZUMA: Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.

CURNOW: Mandela's family stood by his side until the very end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Long live Nelson Mandela! Long live the spirit of South African people!

CURNOW: His people, rushing to his old house, others flooding the streets outside his final resting place, some even in pajamas, celebrating his life, despite the announcement made just before midnight. Hundreds singing his anti-apartheid rally cry.


CURNOW: Nelson Mandela! Nelson Mandela, there's no one like you.

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU: Gave hope to the world.

CURNOW: This morning, Archbishop Desmond Tutu leading his church in Cape Town and those around the world in prayer for Mandela.

TUTU: Thank you for the gift of Madiba. Thank you for what he has enabled us to know we can become.

CURNOW: Today South Africans paid tribute to Tata (ph) or father as they call him with makeshift memorials. December 5th now marks the day of South African's deepest sorrow. But it's also a day that the country's president said should mark their greatest determination to continue Nelson Mandela's legacy.

ZUMA: To live as Madiba has lived, to strive as he has strived and to not rest until we have realized his vision of a truly united South Africa.


CURNOW: Many South Africans today, there's a bittersweet sense. They're relieved that he's not suffering, but they're sad that this man who created this nation has gone. When I think of it, when I talk to people, the two phrases that keep on coming up, all they're saying, all people here are saying is thank you and goodbye.

BOLDUAN: Robyn, thanks so much for starting us off with our tribute to Nelson Mandela. Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg.

Nelson Mandela changed the world and now the world is honoring him. The African-American community here in New York is among the millions remembering to him. Harlem's Apollo Theater is paying tribute to the anti-apartheid icon in life last night. Don Lemon, host of CNN's "ELEVENTH HOUR" is there with more of the tributes. You were there through the night, Don, hearing the reaction.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN'S "ELEVENTH HOUR": Absolutely, Kate, good morning to you. You can see that tribute is still up on the marquise here at the Apollo Theater. It says in memory of Nelson Mandela, from 1918 to 2013. He changed the world and he certainly did.

After he was released from prison, he came here, one of the first persons - places he came was Harlem back in 1990. It's fitting the people here in Harlem were the first to pay tribute to him last night, the first South African black president.


LEMON (voice-over): From the White House to Buckingham Palace, the entire world remembers the man who changed it forever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He taught us world peace. He taught us how to love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought he was a great man because he kept his people from rising up after they gained their freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has empowered each and every one of us.

LEMON: Nelson Mandela, a man who spent 27 years behind bars, now eulogized by presidents and monarchs. In Washington, flags at the White House were lowered to half-staff. President Obama spoke of the man who inspired him.

OBAMA: We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings any of us will share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.

LEMON: And former presidents Clinton, Bush and Carter united to mourn the leader, in cities across the nation, people coming together to honor the man who has become a global symbol for justice and humanity, a touching tribute lights a marquee at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem where Mandela visited to his first trip to the U.S. in 1990.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came to the state office building, drew about 200,000 people out here that day. And those struggles that we have here in the United States, he was very familiar with and they were going through the same in South Africa.

LEMON: News of his death traveled swiftly around the world. Prince William and Kate Middleton heard the news while attending the U.K. premiere of the film "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom."

PRINCE WILLIAM: We are reminded how extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was.

LEMON: Across the globe, world leaders reflected on the legacy Nelson Mandela leaves behind. At the United Nations, silence and the remembrance of his enormous impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations. Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us, if we believe.


LEMON: And so far, the only official tribute right now is the one in lights behind me, but I want to show you the marquee back in 1990 when Nelson Mandela visited here. It says, Mr. and Mrs. Mandela, welcome home. We love you. We love you. We love you. Over the course of that visit to New York City, 750 people throughout the city saw him.

And of course, Chris, you might remember that. Mario Cuomo was the governor then. David Dinkins was the mayor and Nelson Mandela made a big splash here and big impression on New York when he visited here.

CUOMO: I can remember, Don, how many said that they never met anyone like Nelson Mandela. Thank you for being there for us this morning. We'll check back in with you a little bit later on.

Right now we are going to get some perspective, though, because in the years following his presidency, Nelson Mandela devoted himself to humanitarian work. Sir Richard Branson worked with Nelson Mandela on numerous charity projects and helped him form a group called "The Elders." This is a group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights, a very important part for Nelson Mandela to what should be his legacy.

Sir Richard Branson joins us now. It's great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us. I want to say first, Nelson Mandela was a personal friend as well as a role model and I am sorry for your loss this morning, but thank you for joining us. SIR RICHARD BRANSON, FRIEND OF NELSON MANDELA: Thank you very much. I think everybody who knew him well is actually relieved for him and for his family, because he was having a very tough last two years. And now -- now he can rest in peace and we can move forward.

CUOMO: And that's going to be the difficult part, right? I mean, obviously you want comfort at the end for somebody, for anybody, but especially for him, and to live 95 years after what he lived through is amazing.

But now we have to deal with not having him in the world. Let's start, please, with your understanding of the man. Before we get to the meaning, what impressed you about him personally? What might surprise us about him personally?

BRANSON: As a man, he just had a wonderful sense of humor. He always had a naughty twinkle in his eye. He would laugh and dance with anybody and everybody around him. And he was an absolute delight to be with. Then there was the other side, the side where, you know, he really wanted to make a difference in the world. And he would get angry when other people weren't.

So even when he stepped down from being president, and he realized that the new government weren't addressing the problem of HIV and AIDS properly, he decided to speak out. I remember a wonderful concept, the 46664 concert where he got up on stage and told people in Africa, 'Look, you've got to protect yourself. You've got to look after yourself.' And he told governments, you know, you've got to help get anti-viral drugs, you have to save millions of people instead of letting millions of people die.

And almost everything he touched he made the right decisions, and as far as his legacy is concerned, he did set up The Elders. He wanted -- he didn't want his life to be wasted. So he chose the 12 men and women that he felt had the greatest moral authority in the world, who could carry on his good works for many, many years to come (inaudible) that they felt strongly about and could also go in and try to address conflicts in the world. And so people like Archbishop Tutu, Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson, President Carter from America. You know, Lakhdar Brahimi is working on this Syrian crisis and so on. So an extraordinary group of people.

CUOMO: Let me ask you, you know, we were showing people his first trip to the United States in 1990. And I remember the chants of Amandla Ngawethu, power to the people, and what Nelson Mandela came to mean to people here and all around the world. When you think about what Nelson Mandela would want his legacy to be going forward with what the world faces today, what do you think that would be? What do you think his wish would be for what leaders do going forward, The Elders and others?

BRANSON: Well, I mean, the one word I think most sums him up the most is forgiveness. And I think that he would want all of us individually in our own lives to pick up the phone today, talk to somebody that you've fallen out with, invite them to lunch, embrace them. Life is too short to have any enemies. And then, you know, on a bigger -- on a bigger picture, you know, he would have welcomed the talks with Iran. I mean, so much better to try to become friends again with nations you've once fallen out with rather than drop bombs on each other.

So he, for instance, was incredibly angry about the invasion of Iraq. I mean, I spoke with him before the invasion of Iraq and actually sent a plane to take him to Iraq to see Saddam Hussein to try to persuade Saddam Hussein to step down. And he and Kofi Annan were going on a secret mission.

The day their plane was due to leave South Africa, sadly, the bombing started and they never had the chance to try to get Saddam Hussein to step down in the interest of his country and the people. But he was trying all the time to try to resolve conflicts rather than encourage the starting of conflicts through his province.

CUOMO: Wow, Nelson Mandela was a flight away from trying to stop the Iraq war before it happened. I hadn't heard that before.

BRANSON: No. And you know, he said he'd be willing to go as long as we could get Kofi Annan to go with him. And Kofi Annan agreed to go with him. So it was a great pity that it never happened. History might have been changed if it had happened. But it just showed the lengths he would go, even as a very old man, to try to avoid the misery of conflict.

CUOMO: Sir Richard Branson, thank you very much. And it's important. I've heard you use the word that he did get angry. And people need to know that. It wasn't that he didn't feel anger; it's what he decided to do with it and show that the greatest strength was forgiveness. Thank you for your perspective, and again, I'm sorry for your loss.

BRANSON: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: We are going to have much more, of course, in the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela throughout the show. As a leader he was inspiring, but also quite a sense humor as you heard Sir Richard say. So you'll hear from in his own words and we are Nelson Mandela was inspiring, but also quite a sense of humor as you heard Sir Richard say. You'll hear from him in his own words. We'll also hear from those who knew him well and interviewed him often -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Turning back here to home right now, let's bring you up to date on that large and severe storm that is bearing down on much of the country. Winter advisories are under way from Texas to the Ohio Valley as sleet and freezing rain are creating dangerous ice conditions. Several states are declaring states of emergency and airlines have canceled hundreds of flights, many schools also closed for the day.

We have team coverage of what could be the biggest winter storm in recent memory. Beginning for us Indra Petersons live in Memphis, Tennessee this morning. Good morning, Indra.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): A potentially catastrophic ice storm blanketed the nation's midsection overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the sixth time I've to stop and get the ice off there.

PETERSONS: Treacherous roadways large scale power outages forced Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee officials to declare a state of emergency. Northeast Arkansas now frozen by up to an inch of ice and wet snow, leaving many without power, an outage officials say that could last for up to a week. Temperatures are expected to stay below freezing for many days.

This icy mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain caused multiple rollovers in Arkansas, including this seven-car pileup in Washington County. And in Oklahoma, the driver of this truck lost control on an icy bridge and plummeted into a lake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's real slick. The road, if you have to stop, you slide. I tried to get up the hill and couldn't get up the hill. So the best thing to do is stay home today.

PETERSONS: In Illinois, vehicles slide right off the highways as accumulations of sleet and ice reach up to a quarter inch in southern counties. In the skies, hundreds of flights canceled Thursday and more expected for Friday as the winter storm warnings spread from Texas to eastern Ohio.

It could be the worst ice storm to hit the region since 1994, which caused over $3 billion in damage. And it's not just the ice. The National Weather Service says this massive arctic air mass is dropping temps 20 to 30 degrees below normal, leaving millions of people to battle a dangerously bitter cold into the weekend.


PETERSONS (on-camera): Well, here in Memphis, Tennessee, right now, we're seeing temperatures just above the freezing mark and the line storms is now just pushing its way slowly into the area. You can see that on the satellite picture.

The concern? Well, we are talking about an experimental index. So, it's an ice impact index by the National Weather Service that says this could be a category 3 ice storm here in Memphis, Tennessee. We're talking about half an inch of isolation. Just the north of us in Arkansas, they have a threat for a category 5 ice storm.

That is catastrophic. That means they can lose power for weeks, although we have a little bit of a lull right now. We see the power on here behind me. Although that could all change as the storm moves into Memphis here in just the next few hours, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Indra, thank you for that. And you've been telling us how quickly the power lines can get loaded up with ice, and then they fall and, obviously, you lose power. So, we're going to be watching that. And we also know that in many states, accidents are piling up because of the ice, sleek roadways. The ice storm is expected to cripple much of north Texas as a result. In Dallas, district schools are closed, weekend events canceled. And from Wednesday's high of 80 degrees, just on Wednesday, a low of 20 forecasted for later tonight.

CNN's Alina Machado is in Dallas with the latest.


We are seeing some light sleet coming down right now here in downtown Dallas. But the danger is not gone. Take a look at these bushes. You get a sense of just how much ice we're talking about here. These bushes are frozen. You can see that clearly here. The roads here by the way are also a slippery, slushy mess.


MACHADO (voice-over): Heightened alert in north Texas as it sits in the path of what could be one of the worst ice storms to hit the U.S. in years. Sleet, started falling in Denton County late Thursday. Slushy surfaces slowing traffic, reports of up to a half inch of sleet and ice, accumulating on bridges and overpasses, making them more treacherous. Denton police responding to more than 50 vehicle wrecks and calls for assistance in an eight-hour span.

In Dallas, dozens of salt trucks and employees are on standby, ready to treat dangerous road conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand ready as the city of Dallas to address the ice and hazards that might come.

MACHADO: The threat serious enough to cause the cancellation of Saturday's holiday parade for the first time in its 26-year history. Classes at the Dallas independent school district, one of the largest in the state, are also canceled Friday and on Thursday, flight cancellations started popping up on departure boards inside Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, the hub for American Airlines. American alone nixed nearly 500 flights ahead of the storm.

(on camera): You took an earlier flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of Las Vegas, yes.

MACHADO: Because of the weather?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of the weather. They're comparing it to what happened to us about three years ago.

MACHADO (voice-over): That's what happened during Super Bowl week back in 2011 after a winter storm slammed the area and brought the city to a standstill. Residents now are bracing for what could be yet another wintry mess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably pack it in for the worst and hopefully try to keep safe. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MACHADO: You are looking at a live look at the roads here. It will be a very slow and treacherous commute this morning. By the way, more than 100,000 people are waking up today in north central Texas without power and that number could rise if this continues -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, Alina. We'll be watching that with you. Stay warm.

We are going to return to our coverage of the storm and, of course, Nelson Mandela's passing. First, let's bring you up to date on your other headlines.

President Obama spoke out in defense of in a wide- ranging interview with MSNBC. The president says the Web site is now working and there's no reason for people to go without insurance. He also defended his management of the rollout, saying he is holding every cabinet member accountable.

No claim of responsibility yet in the shooting death of an American teacher in Libya. Ronald Thomas Smith was killed in a drive-by shooting in Benghazi on Thursday. His death comes days after al Qaeda called for Libyans to attack U.S. interests as revenge for October's capture of a suspect off the streets of Tripoli. American officials are pushing authorities in Libya for a vigorous investigation.

Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today before returning to the United States. He was pledged to support the Jewish state security throughout separate negotiations with Iran and the Palestinians. Kerry's comments served as a peace offering to Netanyahu, called the deal between Iran and world powers a historic mistake.

The engineer behind the controls of the commuter train that derailed in the Bronx is now suspended without pay, and the NTSB says drug and alcohol testing for William Rockefeller have all come back negative. His attorney and union representative said he was in a daze when the train took a sharp turn at 82 miles an hour. Four people died when the train jumped the tracks Sunday.

Fast food workers across the country went on strike Sunday, demanding $15 an hour. Organizers say they there were rallies in 100 cities. In addition to a pay raise, workers are seeking the right to unionize. The growing movement began about a year ago and is being bankrolled by the Service Employees International union.

Those are our headlines at this hour -- guys.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

Coming up next on "NEW DAY", we're going to continue our breaking coverage of Nelson Mandela's death overnight. That as South Africans gathered at his home, singing, dancing, celebrating the man they called father.

We'll speak with the former to South Africa, who work with Mandela very closely. We'll also return live to South Africa.


NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN ANTI-APARTHEID ICON: I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together harmony.



CUOMO: Welcome back to a special edition of "NEW DAY".

We're going to start again, of course, with the passing of Nelson Mandela.

You're looking at live pictures down in South Africa. The news is sad to be sure but it is also definitely reason for celebration, because of the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. People have been gathering outside his house.

You will hear now singing, chanting, because remember, the greatest example of Nelson Mandela was the epitome of learning how to have joy in your heart even through the greatest of adversity. That's what we're seeing in South Africa being echoed around the world and continuing to grow as word spreads of the passing of this great leader.

We have Arwa Damon there outside the celebration. What's the latest from there, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's quite incredible to be out here looking at how this nation is dealing with such a devastating, massive loss. You can see from the crowds behind me, although it is a nation in mourning, it is a country that is choosing to celebrate what this man has meant for them.

So many of the people here that we've been talking to are not really able to verbalize exactly what they're feeling, what Nelson Mandela meant to them. That is how profound the impact has been. A lot of the singing, the chanting, has to do with fighting the battle that they had to fight during apartheid.

But the other thing, too, that is represented here, that is one of the cornerstones of what Nelson Mandela stood for, which is the unity of this country. You have people from all walks of life, all ages, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, coming to pay their respects to a man who has been called a legend, a hero, an inspiration, but a man which so many people here share a personal connection with.

Just to give you one quick story. We met a young 23-year-old black university student who talked about how had it not been for Nelson Mandela, he would not be able to get an education. He would probably not even be able to approach a white individual.

BOLDUAN: Arwa, it's beautiful to hear that celebration going on behind you. The tributes will continue obviously for days to come. Thanks, Arwa. We'll be back with you.

Among the leaders paying tribute to Nelson Mandela is President Obama, saying that we are not likely to see someone like Nelson Mandela again.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us from the North Lawn as always. And, Brianna, last night, when the president came out to make that statement following the announcement of Nelson Mandela's death, it seemed a very personal one for him.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. There's a real personal connection here, Kate. President Obama was just 19 years old actually when he got involved with the anti-apartheid movement.

And you can say that the first time he ever gave a political address was about this issue. It was 1981. He was a sophomore at Occidental College in California. And he spoke out before a crowd against apartheid.


KEILAR (voice-over): For President Obama, Nelson Mandela was a personal hero and personal idol whose legendary struggle fueled his earliest ambitions.

OBAMA: I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or policy or politics was a protest against apartheid.

KEILAR: But they met in person only briefly in 2005 before Obama became president. The two leaders, each standing in history as the first black president of his nation, spoke occasionally by phone.

President Obama penned the forward for Mandela's 2010 memoir, "Conversations with Myself." He wrote, "His example helped awaken me to the wider world, and the obligation that we all have to stand up for what is right. Through his choices, Mandela made it clear that we did not have to accept the world as it is -- that we could do our part to seek the world as it should be."

When President Obama visited South Africa this summer, Mandela was so ill, the two were unable to meet.

Still, Mandela's inspiration played large during the president's trip.