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The World Mourns Nelson Mandela; Interview with Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Ice Storm Spreads Across U.S.; Major Ice Storm; American Teacher Killed In Libya

Aired December 6, 2013 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): His nation and millions across the globe remember Nelson Mandela this morning.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.

BOLDUAN: We're live in South Africa, and we talk to those who knew him well.

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


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY", everyone.

It is Friday, December 6th, 8:00 in the East.

And today, we are celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, that life finally came to an end Thursday after 95 years, but it is a legacy that must endure.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking live at a makeshift memorial for Mandela. That just popped outside of his Johannesburg home. We're looking so much more about the man known as South Africa's giant, a man whose influence on the world just can't be overstated. And yet, it may have been his common touch and his simple humanity that made him so special.

Take a look.


CROWD (singing): Nelson Mandela --

CUOMO (voice-over): Nelson Mandela stands alone as a man, a messenger, and as a man of the people.

He was born in 1918, in the remote hills of South Africa's Eastern Cape. Mandela was also a man of many names. His birth name, Rolihlahla, which Mandela said translated to troublemaker. A school teacher named him Nelson later on. And, of course, Madiba, the name of his tribe given to him as a sign of respect. And then there was Tata, father, with a free nation he helped birth.

He would take up boxing and law, tools in a fight for freedom.

NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN ANTI-APARTHEID ICON: The Africans require -- want -- the franchise on the basis of one man, one vote. They want political independence.

CUOMO: When Mandela saw the apartheid authority was increasing its grip on the black population, he led the African National Congress, defiantly burning his passbook -- a document authorities used to control the movements of South Africa's black citizens.

His fight for equality eventually caused him and others to be tried for sabotage in 1964, which led to one of the most famous imprisonments ever, banished on Robben Island near Cape Town to serve a life sentence.

While in prison, Mandela continued to serve as a symbol against the racial segregation practiced by South Africa. In 1989, he met with new President F.W. de Klerk who had already begun dismantling apartheid.

F.W. DE KLERK, FORMER PRESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICA: My first meeting I didn't know what to expect and there he was standing straight as a ramrod, taller than I expected, being courteous, being obviously a man of integrity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's Mr. Nelson Mandela, a free man.

CUOMO: De Klerk eventually freed Mandela after more than 27 years in prison. Now, as the face of the end of apartheid, he ushered in a new era of freedom for his country.

MANDELA: Your struggle, your commitment and your discipline has released me to stand before you today.

CUOMO: Just three years later, Mandela won a Nobel Peace Prize together with de Klerk.

MANDELA: So help me God.

CUOMO: And became South Africa's first freely elected and black president in 1994, always an example of humility.

MANDELA: I am part and parcel of a team, which has been part of the broad anti-apartheid movement in this country.

CUOMO: He also became a symbol of freedom the world over, a voice heard everywhere, even joking with a child about how long he was in prison.

MANDELA: But she insisted, but how long? I said, well, look, I have already told you that I can't remember. And she said, "You are a stupid old man."

(LAUGHTER) CUOMO: In 2004, Mandela stepped out of public life to spend more time with his family, celebrating his 90th birthday with much fanfare, leaving a powerful legacy of forgiveness, strength, and above all, freedom.


CUOMO: Well, look, we're starting to learn more about him and you have to distinguish the man from the message that he had, and what we do with it all going forward.

Let's get some more reaction and bring in former British prime minister, Mr. Tony Blair.

Mr. Prime Minister, can you hear us?


CUOMO: OK. So, obviously, you know the topic that we're discussing this morning, and it's difficult to distinguish this man from the message, because both were so big, so great.

You, as a great leader yourself and seeing Mandela as an example, what did he mean to you as a leader but also as a man?

BLAIR: As a leader, he was just a huge inspiration. I remember when we started our own peace process in Northern Ireland, he was such an example for reconciliation, forgiveness, the ability to put the past behind you. He was hugely important in all the work we did for Africa, and for ushering in a whole new generation of leaders in Africa.

But I will also remember him as a man coming in, visiting me in Downing Street when he'd come in the door and after saying hello to myself and my wife, he'd say hello to the people on the door, the people making the tea, the staff members, and he had a wonderful way about him and to be with by the way was enormous fun.

I mean, he wasn't -- he was obviously this person, this political character, incredible stature, but as an individual to be with, he was very relaxed, very fun, very funny, and immensely humble with that sort of quiet humility that really came of huge inner strength.

BOLDUAN: We've heard many describe him as a father figure. A nation, South Africa, describes him as a father figure. I've read you have said that as well.

Is there a moment with him that you will always remember?

BLAIR: I think one of the moments actually I'll always remember was when he came to my party conference, we have an annual party conference. And he came and he was so kind not just to everyone there but to my family and then I remember him actually, this is after he stepped down as president and saying to people, "Hello. You know, I'm Nelson Mandela, and I'm unemployed. I'm a pensioner with a criminal record." (LAUGHTER)

BLAIR: It was one of the extraordinary moments. He was just -- he was -- he was somebody who -- you know, you often read about people and hear about them and think well they can't be that good when you meet them, but actually he was. And the other thing is that I think he -- he had a different effect on different people so for African leaders today, he's an enormous example and inspiration.

For people engaged in post-conflict work and peace processes, he's obviously a tremendous example. I think for a lot of people in western countries, he made racism seem somehow stupid and old- fashioned and irrelevant, as well as wrong. He had that quality, because his greatness as a leader was so obvious. He just stood, frankly, taller than anyone else.

CUOMO: Well, he had such great power of example because of what he endured and, obviously, that emboldened his own message if he was saying you need to learn how to set aside and forgive and move forward. You know, this was a man who had to do it on a profound level.

Let me ask you, Mr. Prime Minister -- what do you think is the best advice you got from Nelson Mandela?

BLAIR: The best advice I got was -- particularly, I remember around the Northern Ireland peace process, when it was very, very difficult because there was so much bitterness and suffering, actually. I mean, this is the thing, when you've gone through something like this, there is enormous amount of suffering, and he used to always say, look, the suffering is there, and it's real, and you can't wish it away so don't pretend it hasn't happened and don't -- you can't forget it, but what you can do is embrace the future in a way that means that you triumph over that adversity and that suffering.

And that's, you know, that was for me what he represented, and insofar as we were able then in what we were doing in a very difficult situation to refer back to his example, it was hugely important for us.

BOLDUAN: And we've kind of talked about it throughout the morning, you described him as a unique leader and unique moment in history. What do you think kind of sums up what is so special about him that people should try their hardest to emulate, so we could have another man like him in the future?

BLAIR: I think he was a unique character and personality. But I think he also came about and stepped onto the stage, as it were, at a unique moment in time, when the world was changing, when old prejudices were being put behind us, when there was a whole new sense of optimism and possibility about how we could tackle issues like poverty and disease and injustice in the world.

And so, what you really had was something I think very occasionally in history you get, which is someone with an enormous sublime sense of justice and integrity, allied to that very special moment in time when that quality is needed and looked for and found presence.

So I don't know that -- you know, I don't think there are many occasions in human history when you get all of those things coming together in that way, but they just did with him. And with that end of the 20th century, when the advent of a new millennium seemed also the advent of a new age of thinking and attitude.


Prime minister, thank you so much for your time. It's great to see you and it's great to get your perspective on this day, a special day, a special day to take and celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. Thank you so much.

BLAIR: Thank you.

CUOMO: The prime minister is so right, very often the moment makes the man in this case.


CUOMO: The leader who has to step forward, and we're talking to leaders because it is special that Nelson Mandela was so powerful an impact that it is world leaders who felt that impact and you're hearing that from Prime Minister Tony Blair coming up later on "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer, he's going to be talking about the same dynamic of impact with former President Bill Clinton. That will be at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

BOLDUAN: We're going to continue our coverage there, but we also want to get you to the other big story that we're following for you this morning -- a potentially catastrophic winter storm threatening really millions of people across the United States. It could be one of the worst ice storms in recent memory, a brutal batch of arctic air delivering freezing rain in the South, several states have declared emergencies as accidents are piling up on icy roadways and hundreds of flights have already been canceled.

We're covering every part of the storm for you beginning, of course, with Indra Petersons in Memphis for us this morning.

Good morning, Indra.


Things are quickly changing here. The sun is coming up but the temperatures are dropping even faster as that arctic air is making its way closer, just west of us here in Memphis, at the west Memphis airport. They have reports of freezing rain so that storm line is very near to us.

But many places overnight have already seen the freezing rain. You can see anywhere from southern Indiana, all the way down through Texas. They've already seen rain, sleet, that freezing rain, that ice and dangerous snow.


PETERSONS (voice-over): A potentially catastrophic ice storm blanketed the nation's midsection overnight.

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

PETERSONS: Treacherous roadways and large scale power outages forced Arkansas, Oklahoma 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 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 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: Again, here in Memphis the threat of a category 3 ice storm. It's the new system the National Weather Service is trying out, giving you the idea the amount of damage we could potentially see from a system like this. Category 3, that means a half inch to three- quarters of an inch of freezing rain, three-quarters of ice out there can be seen. We're talking power outages that could last a week.

But just north of us in Jonesboro, we're going to be talking about a category 5 ice storm. That is catastrophic damage that could mean without power for several weeks out there. So keep that in mind. The advisory is obviously an ice storm warning, please stay off the roads if you do not need to go anywhere. They're advising you to please stay home.

BOLDUAN: Indra, thanks so much. Indra Petersons live in Memphis, Tennessee, for us.

From there to north Texas, which is bracing for the worst of the storm, where they expect to see the temperatures plummet tonight.

CNN's Alina Machado is in Dallas, with much more on this side of the story -- Alina.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we are starting to see the freezing rain and the sleet we've been seeing all morning easing up a bit. But that does not mean the danger is gone. There is a fresh coat of ice all over downtown Dallas.

And you can get a sense of that on this chair. Take a look at it. It is covered in ice. These bushes back here, also frozen, also covered in ice. And that also means that the roads are slick, they're wet, they're slushy.

Traffic as you can see behind me is moving slowly and that's a good thing, because there are already reports of dozens of car wrecks in north central Texas, also reports of power outages, widespread power outages, at least 100,000 people, well above 100,000 people without power this morning. So Michaela, this situation here is likely to continue to be treacherous for quite some time.

PEREIRA: Yes. It's going to be a tough weekend for a lot of folks. Alina, thank you so much for that report. We're going to take a look at our other headlines at this hour.


PEREIRA (voice-over): President Obama refusing to take the bait Thursday when asked to draw comparisons between Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. The president telling MSNBC that either would make an outstanding president. He praised Biden as one of the best vice presidents ever and said former Secretary of State Clinton would go down in history as among the finest.

The Pentagon revealing this morning a plan to safely destroy Syria's chemical weapons at sea. Specially equipped naval vessel would be used to neutralize some of the most dangerous materials, compounds use to make sarin gas and mustard gas. U.N. officials are worried about the civil war and potential dangers along land routes that would be used to get the material to the ship. Syrian authorities said they are taking steps to secure those roads.

Back here at home, the engineer behind the controls of the commuter train that derailed in the Bronx now suspended without pay. The NTSB also saying that drug and alcohol testing for William Rockefeller came back negative. His attorney says he was in a daze when the train took a sharp turn at 82 miles an hour. Four people died. Many others injured when the train jumped the tracks on Sunday. Funerals for two of the victims are set to happen today.

Cameras capturing a rough attempt landing by a plane in howling winds in Britain. Take a look at this. Boeing 777operated by Emirates getting tossed side to side, misses the approach and has to circle back around the runway before trying again. The second attempt also didn't work. The pilot was forced to divert to another airport where we are very pleased to say that plane landed safely. But you can imagine how nerve wracking that would be for the folks on board especially when they try again and again.


BOLDUAN: How about the talent of the pilot?

PEREIRA (on-camera): You kiss the ground when you finally land.

CUOMO: You know, not to be trite but tying into what we've been discussing all morning with Mandela, the difference between what you feel and what you decide to do with it.


CUOMO: You know?


PEREIRA: You got to just keep presence of mind --

CUOMO: You know, the attitude of that plane is off, but they keep --


BOLDUAN: Seeing how -- that's pretty amazing.

CUOMO: Thank god they got it right.

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

CUOMO: All right. We're going to take a break here on "NEW DAY". When we come back, more bloodshed in Libya, an American, a teacher, gunned down in the Benghazi streets right by the U.S. consulate where four Americans were killed last year. Who is behind this new attack? Is it a message? We'll give you a report.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to "NEW DAY".

An investigation is under way into the shooting death of an American teacher in Libya. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for Ronnie Smith's death, but there's evidence al Qaeda may be connected. Our Nic Robertson has more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ronnie Smith, a chemistry teacher at an international school in Benghazi, gunned down while exercising in the volatile Libyan city. Smith's killing not far from the former American consulate where U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, was killed almost 15 months ago.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: At this point, we don't have very much information to share about who is responsible or how it happened or why, but we certainly do expect the Libyans to investigate.

ROBERTSON: Smith may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of random violence that took three other lives in Benghazi Thursday, as the country is caught up in rising militia violence. And although no claim of responsibility yet, less than a week before the shooting, al Qaeda's American spokesman told Libyans to attack American interests.

In the 17-minute audio message in Arabic, Adam Gudahn said "rise up and have vengeance against America for arresting Abu Anas al-Libi." He was arrested by U.S. Special Forces in the capital Tripoli two months ago. He was wanted in connection with the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, echoes here of a similar threat against Americans in Libya by al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, just days before the Stevens killing.

Impossible to know why Smith was killed, but a look at his Twitter account shows the world has lost not just a dedicated American teacher but a keen whit, too. This from his account Wednesday, "People always hate the cool kids, for clarification, we're the cool kids." Much loved and already missed by his students and friends alike. Smith leaves behind a wife and a young son.

Nic Robertson, CNN, New York.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Nic, for that.

CUOMO: Coming up on "NEW DAY", millions enduring a bitter chill, freezing rain, dangerous ice-coated roads. We're going to show you where we expect the worst of it to hit and tell you what to do.

BOLDUAN: And also ahead, the November jobs report is coming out in just a minute. Will the numbers beat expectations? We're going to bring it to you.


CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". We are keeping an eye on that massive and dangerous storm bearing down on much of the country. Winter warnings are in place from Texas, the Ohio Valley, sleet and freezing rain create dangerous icy conditions. Airlines have canceled hundreds of flights, many schools are closed. Meteorologist, Indra Petersons, she's live in Memphis, Tennessee, finding the storm there. Indra, what are you seeing where you are and what is moving away?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, things are changing very quickly here. Just in the last few minutes, we're really starting to see that rain come on down, and just west of us at the West Memphis airport, they are now reporting that freezing rains, well, that line of storms, that cold arctic air is plunging even farther to the south and we know a dangerous ice storm is now already under way.

I mean, just take a look now at the radar. You can actually see where that storm is that's making itself kind of move farther down to the south and you can see all those storm reports of freezing rain that we've already seen in these overnight hours. I mean, you're talking from Southern Indiana stretching all the way back through Texas.

We've had reports of this freezing rain. Now, farther to the north right around Southern Illinois and Indiana, we've seen about a third of an inch, but when you really get that bull's eye in through Arkansas and Tennessee, this is where that real danger is. We've seen many places already reporting over an inch of ice from the freezing rain.

Remember, I keep saying this that over half an inch takes down those power lines, makes it weigh 500 pounds, when they've already seen an inch like this, we know that danger is still headed in their direction with more ice on the way. We're talking about potential catastrophic results. This system is expected to stay with us even as we go through the overnight tonight.

It tapers off, but there's another system behind it and that's the concern really affecting these exact same regions. Now, I keep mentioning something called the ice index, the national Weather Service now has an ice index. Right here in Memphis, we're talking about a category 3 ice storm, potential half an inch to three-quarters of an inch still possible right here.

And I keep mentioning this, we have 20,000 people expected to come into town here in Memphis today for the marathon that's starting tomorrow, and they have not canceled that yet. So dangerous conditions out on these roads -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: OK. I'm sure the folks planning to run on the marathon will want to keep in touch with local authorities to find out what the status of that is. Indra, thank you so much.

Time now for the five things you need to know for your "NEW DAY".


PEREIRA (voice-over): The funeral for former South African president, Nelson Mandela, will be held December 15th. A memorial will be held December 10th. He's being mourned around the world and remembered as an anti-apartheid hero.

A U.S. cargo vessel could start destroying some of Syria's chemical weapons in January. The MV Cape Ray would be equipped with special equipment to neutralize the chemical compounds at sea.

Senator Paul Rand is in Detroit today unveiling his economic recovery plan for that city. It's part of a larger proposal meant to create jobs in cities with high poverty rates and is being viewed as an outreach effort to minority voters.

Renewed hope for a group of whales stranded off the coast of Florida. Thirty-five of them have moved to slightly deeper water. They do still have miles to go before they reach safety. Eleven of them have died. So far, five others went missing overnight.