Return to Transcripts main page


Wintry Storms Blast Eastern U.S.; U.S. Veteran Held in North Korea Back Home; South Africa Celebrates Mandela

Aired December 8, 2013 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So, the question is, do you really want to go out?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Millions of people in the east in the path of this huge winter storm, early winter storm, actually, pre- winter storm because it's not winter yet.

PAUL: Winter yet, officially.

BLACKWELL: So, you know, look for ice and snow to spread from northern Kentucky to Washington, D.C. today. And before the day is over, New York, Philly, Boston all expected to get slammed. The storm hit the Dallas area.

Look at this.

PAUL: Wow.

BLACKWELL: This is Saturday. Miles of drivers, which is stuck on I-35. Some there up to 10 hours. The storm led to hundreds of canceled flights, hundreds of thousands of people lost power.

PAUL: One man we know lost control of his truck on I-35 there, skidded into a lake. And rescue drivers just couldn't reach him fast enough. He died before they were able to pull him out of the truck, pull the water out of the truck. A total of seven deaths are being blamed on this storm we know.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to CNN's Tory Dunnan in Roanoke, Virginia. The storm is moving there.

Tory, the last time we spoke with you, the temperatures were just a little too warm to freeze over. Are they dipping now toward that freezing mark?

DUNNAN: You know, Victor, I can tell you, it definitely feels colder out there. And what we're seeing here in Roanoke, this is really the downtown historic area. And we're seeing kind of on again/off again rain, as well as some sleet. But not so much icing yet.

Now, we did talk with the Virginia Department of Transportation. They are saying just north of us, there's really some slight icing. They also say, though, that some of the bridges in this area, the temperatures are a little bit too warm meaning those bridges aren't icing over, which is a good thing, because that's going to be the big concern. They are expecting kind of a thick coat of ice in this area. What that means is there's a potential for power outages if it gathers on power lines, on trees, things like that. But they have taken precautionary measures pre-treating some of the major roadways.

But as I mentioned a little bit earlier, we're watching this closely here, the thermometer. Right now it dipped down, closer to 35 in the area. Still a little bit warm. Victor, I can tell you it feels cold out here and people are definitely concerned about the potential for this ice. A lot of people are staying home today, which is a good thing to do.

BLACKWELL: Good idea.

PAUL: Yes, we're interesting. I was looking at your local report, some of the local reports there, and they were saying ice was a concern. But then it was interesting. They said don't put a lot of stuff in your refrigerator if you -- you know, because the power will go out. Can't you just put it outside at that point?

BLACKWELL: Yes, you can. It's cold out there.

PAUL: I mean, Tory, does it feel like it's getting colder or no?

DUNNAN: You know, it does feel like it's getting colder. We actually drove up to a mountain in between our live shots. It's a little bit colder up there and they are starting to see a little icing on the mountain that over looks the city of Roanoke. So, it seems like temperatures are dropping. But we just have to wait and see if we're going to get that wintry mix and some more of that sleet and freezing rain, things that we're expecting to see throughout the day.

BLACKWELL: All right. The rocky road on the back porch. It will be all right.

PAUL: I was just saying.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Tory Dunnan, live in Roanoke, Virginia, for us this morning.

Let's bring in meteorologist Jennifer Gray to expand our conversation about the weather.

PAUL: Yes, she knows how bad it's going to get, there and elsewhere.

Hi, Jennifer.


Here is Roanoke. And, you can see, the freezing precipitation is basically just to the south. And that's continuing to make its way to the Northeast. I think you're going to get a little bit of a wintry mix, little rain, freezing rain as well. A little bit of snow up to the north. So, the surrounding areas definitely.

Then, as you look to Washington, D.C., it's going to take a couple more hours as we head into a little bit later this afternoon and into this evening, that's when D.C. is expected to see the brunt of it. This is 10:00 p.m. for tonight. And, you can see, freezing rain, freezing precipitation right around the D.C. area. And then as we make our way up into the Northeast overnight tonight into Monday morning, expect more of the same.

We could see anywhere from a quarter of an inch to half an inch accumulation of ice and then, possible snow mixed in as well. And then by Tuesday, look, more rain for the Southeast, unfortunately. So, what we're dealing with for snow accumulation, up to five inches. That's mainly areas out west. We are going to see possible one to two inches of snow in places like D.C. and possibly New York.

Also, the ice is going to be a problem -- anywhere from half an inch in southern sections and make your way to the Northeast possible quarter inch. That's where you see the big problems, power outages, things like that, guys.

PAUL: All righty. Meteorologist Jennifer Gray -- hey, thank you so much for the heads up, Jennifer.

BLACKWELL: Well, this morning, Korean War veteran detained in North Korea for more than a month, he is waking up at home in his own bed. Eighty-five-year-old Merrill Newman returned home yesterday. And Newman was pulled off a plane, detained back in October, just as his tour group was getting ready to fly back home.


MERRILL NEWMAN, RELEASED FROM NORTH KOREA: It's been a great homecoming. But I'm tired but I'm ready to be with my family now. And thank you all for the support.


BLACKWELL: Newman also called for the release of another man, this man, Kenneth Bae. The American has been in North Korea's custody since last year.

We're learning more about the American delegation who will be going to South Africa. President Obama and three former U.S. presidents will be at Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa on Tuesday.

PAUL: Yes, all across the country right now, millions of people are in churches and mosques and temples and synagogues to honor Mandela.

CNN's David McKenzie has been at South Africa's biggest Catholic Church today. He joins us now from Johannesburg.

And, David, we're wondering what are you seeing today when it comes to memorializing Nelson Mandela? DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, throughout this country, it's been a day for people to flock to their places of worship and remember this great man here in South Africa, a man who did so many for so many individual people. He did so much.

And in this church behind me, which is so steeped in history here in South Africa, it's a Catholic Church which was very linked to the struggle against apartheid, even Children who fought against authorities in the '70s fled to this church. There's still bullet holes in the windows remembering what happened here.

But mostly people are remembering the legacy of Nelson Mandela, singing praises for him, singing both Christian songs and songs of the anti-apartheid struggle. I've been really struck what a deep resonance he has with every member of the public that I've spoken to, old and young, white and black. It's really a universal love for this man here today in South Africa -- Christi.

BLACKWELL: David, we've seen so many informal and formal displays, celebration, mourning. We know there are more to come over the next few days. Can you tell us how who is expected to attend these memorial events this week? Also, the state funeral?

MCKENZIE: Well, so many people coming from outside. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of dignitaries, celebrities and just well wishers will be flying into South Africa. Of course millions of South Africans will join them in the official and unofficial event. President Obama, Michelle Obama as well as a whole host of former leaders from America and others will come.

Obviously, there's such a deep tie between the U.S. and South Africa when it came to the anti-apartheid struggle. Many Americans feel deeply connected to this country and what this country went through. All those free Mandela campaigns through the '80s and in the late '70s, many Americans of a certain age will remember that time very fondly and the impact that they had in helping this man go free.

Now, we are memorializing his death and his life and certainly, South Africans appear to be welcoming those people coming in from elsewhere with open arms. The sheer numbers will mean a big logistical challenge for this country.

PAUL: I can imagine. David McKenzie, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

And here's a twist in the U.S.: a sheriff in South Carolina is refusing to lower the American flag to honor Nelson Mandela. President Obama ordered flags to half-staff until sunset tomorrow. But Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark says he doesn't think it's right.


SHERIFF RICK CLARK, PICKENS COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: To show a sign of respect for what Nelson Mandela has done, I have no problem with lowering it in South Africa, in their country. But for our country, it should be the people, in my opinion, who have sacrificed for our country.


BLACKWELL: Now, it is rare for a U.S. president to order flags lowered for a non-U.S. citizen but it has happened. George W. Bush did it for Pope John Paul II. That was in 2005 when he died. Bill Clinton did it for former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The practice goes back to 1965 even when President Johnson lowered flags for the death of Winston Churchill.

All right. Still to come on NEW DAY, a new clue in the case of a missing teenager in New Hampshire. Have you heard about this? We're going to talk live with the lead investigator.

Plus, understanding the Mandelas. We're going to speak to a CNN producer who knows the Mandela family well and find out why Winnie Mandela's relationship to Nelson is also complicated.


PAUL: We want to tell you about a new lead in the search for a missing New Hampshire teen. Officials confirmed a letter reportedly sent from 15-year-old Abigail Hernandez to her mother appears to be the real thing from her.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Hernandez vanished on the way home from school. That was in October. And police fear someone might be holding her against her will.

PAUL: FBI special agent Kieran Ramsey is in charge of this case and joining us by phone from Bedford, New Hampshire.

Thank you so much, Agent Ramsey, for being with us. Let me ask you something, it's reported she's believed to be held against her will. What makes you so certain of that?

KIERAN RAMSEY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT (via telephone): Well, honestly, we're not certain of it, but it is a great fear of ours. The fact remains in this investigation there are caters that could be consistent with abduction. Then we get this letter, which we have verified and validated to the best of our ability with the information we have now that it did come from Abigail.

Sadly, though, that letter has not produced viable leads where she is now and who she might be with. And I say who she might be with, because this is a 15-year-old girl that we know has no independent financial means and who has been able to essentially evade law enforcement detection for all this time.

BLACKWELL: Is there -- I know authorities want people to look out for her. You posted the missing person flyer and the pictures. Is there any indication of where the letter was mailed, a postmark, specifically where people should be looking?

RAMSEY: Well, we do know where the letter was postmarked. So, we do have a general sense of that. We haven't released that simply because we do have fears of getting copycat letters after this. So, we haven't released the post mark. We haven't released the actual letter itself because we're afraid other people might very chillingly and sadly copycat a letter like this and mail them to her mom or authorities or what have you.

So, we're hoping the letter stands on its own, but we know exactly what that letter was. Should we get at one, we can easily validate and verify it's the same, in fact.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you a question. Are you in fear this may be a situation similar to what we saw in Cleveland with Ariel Castro?

RAMSEY: That's our greatest fear. The fact remains, again, this is a 15-year-old girl. We had indications early on this could have been an abduction. We see this letter, which threw us for a loop in the investigation. We have had no contact since.

It's a 15-year-old girl. You know, we know even if she ran away willingly, she certainly could be victimized afterwards. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a statistic one in eight endangered runaways could become victims of forced sexual exploitation.

So, you have that statistic. But the fact remains, certainly, she could have been abducted. She could be being held, manipulated, of course, by somebody with ill intent.

BLACKWELL: We know that the victims in Cleveland, even the victims in London, all of the missing persons who have been released or found in the last year or so, many of them watch television, had access to media. If this young girl, if Abigail is watching, what's your advice to her?

RAMSEY: Well, our advice has been consistent. And that if she's able to hear this message, she has to remain strong. If she's able to contact law enforcement, she needs to do so immediately. If she's not able to contact law enforcement, she needs to know that law enforcement has not given up in this case whatsoever. And we continue to be very aggressive in everything we do.

In fact, after our last press conference, we got some dozen leads fairly quickly. Every one was acted on almost immediately. We dispatched local, state, FBI investigators across New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the hope that, again, we could find her.

PAUL: Well, FBI special agent Kieran Ramsey, we're so appreciative of the work you're doing in this case and all others. And thank you so much for giving us an update on what's happening there.


PAUL: Best of luck to all of you.

RAMSEY: Thanks for having me. BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY, the tumultuous relationship between Winnie and Nelson Mandela. We'll tell you why a lot of people really don't know much about Winnie Mandela and the details of her fight against apartheid.



PAUL: A clip there from the movie "Winnie Mandela."

Now, while Winnie and -- she's had her story told in several films and books. Many people still don't fully understand the complicated relationship, though, between her and her former husband Nelson Mandela, nor do we get the role she played in South Africa's fight against apartheid, that she played, remember.

CNN editorial producer Nadia Bilchik joins me now.

I know that you just spoke with Winnie recently.

NADIA BILCHIK, CNN EDITORIAL PRODUCER: I was with Winnie in Johannesburg Saturday a week ago. In fact, we were at Mandela house, which is the first house Mandela owned and the House he returned to after he spent 27 years in prison. So I was with Winnie.

And, you know, when you look at the story, Christi, in 1958, they meet and marry. It's a great love story. She's a social worker at the time and she's not politicized. A couple of years later, he's arrested, and in '64, life in prison.

Do you know she does not see him for eight years, had no contact?

PAUL: Eight years.

BILCHIK: But 1969, she herself is arrested and she's in solitary confinement for 18 months, severely tortured during that period. It's under the infamous Apartheid Antiterrorism Act. In 1977 to '86, she is under house arrest in a remote village called Brumford (ph), a remote town in southern Africa. This woman was relentlessly harassed. She really held the flag, held the mantle and kept his name very much in the press during the apartheid years. That's why she's known as (INAUDIBLE), mother of the nation.

PAUL: OK. Thank you for helping us understanding her role in that fight.

One of the things that I think people cannot understand, they are very curious about, is why were they married the whole time he was imprisoned, and then when he released, he divorced her?

BILCHIK: Well, their political opinions were very different. So, Mandela emerges conciliatory. She had a much more militant view, then she says some very inflammatory things and is involved in some very controversial activity. In "The Long Walk to Freedom", he actually said she just had bad judgment but it was mainly different political views.

She really considered herself more radical. He wanted to take the same. He wanted to be much more embracing. He spoke about we are human through the humanity of others.

She would have liked -- she lived through the struggle so much more than he did. He was in prison during the time. He always said my family suffered more than I did.

PAUL: Recognize that.

BILCHIK: Exactly.

But I spoke to (INAUDIBLE), who is their daughter together, and the reason she likes the new movie "Long Walk to Freedom" with Naomie Harris, was she said this is the first film that highlights her mother's role in the struggle because there's a lot of controversy around Winnie. As I said, people have very mixed opinions about her. Her own children love her.

Christi, I spent a lot of time with her children, they call her big mommy, big mother. She's a very eloquent, very charming person, Winnie. And her story has yet in its full been told.

PAUL: All right. Well, Nadia, looking forward to seeing more and hearing more. Thank you so much. We appreciate it. Great perspective. Wow.


BLACKWELL: Thanks, Christi, an icy winter storm disrupts life for millions. Icicles on the roof, power lines on the ground, the forecast, next.

PAUL: Let's check in with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, though, for a look at what's coming up at 7:30 Eastern. Good morning, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christi, it's a statistic that I talk about all the time. Someone denies every 19 minutes from an accidental prescription drug overdose. And most of these deaths, Christi, involve painkillers. So, we're exposing one prominent prescription who some say was writing precipitations with reckless abandon.

We've got that and much more at the bottom of the hour.


PAUL: I want to wish all of you a good morning in Dallas. I know that if you look out your window, it's kind of something like this. You're going to see all that snow on the ground and a chilly 28 degrees, if you haven't open the door and let the dog in.

BLACKWELL: Easy like Sunday morning. Nothing easy in Dallas this morning. I know they are probably going to stay inside for all -- PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Look at that, yes, they are going to stay inside.

PAUL: I think it's pretty.

BLACKWELL: It is pretty.

PAUL: But that's just me.

BLACKWELL: It is pretty out the window.

PAUL: Very good point.

BLACKWELL: Hey, the South is thawing from that bone chilling freeze that's come through. States along the East Coast now are bracing for plenty of snow, plenty of ice.

Let's bring in meteorologist Jennifer Gray who's tracking the storm's path from the CNN severe weather center.

Who is next?

GRAY: Oh, yes, it's going up the East Coast. Dallas is very, very cold this morning, in the 20s. Like you said, and so, all that ice still frozen on the ground. So, still a dangerous situation there.

All ice and snow from the second is now wave pushing into the Atlantic. We're going to see ice hit D.C. around, 3:00 to 5:00 range. And that's where we could pick up anywhere from quarter of an inch to half an inch of ice accumulation. So, it is going to be a possible dangerous situation across D.C. this afternoon and to this evening. It could also pick up one to two inches of snow.

It's going to be a wintry mix as we head into New York and Boston during the overnight hours spoke tomorrow and then it should be clearing out as we get into Monday afternoon. So, a breakdown of D.C. this morning. We could see some snow and sleet, a little bit later this morning, freezing rain in the afternoon, one to two inches of snow, quarter of an inch of ice possible.

So, guys, I'll keep you updated coming up at the 8:00 hour.

PAUL: All right. Jennifer, thank you so much. We're going to see you back at the top of the hour, 8:00 Eastern, for another hour of NEW DAY SUNDAY.

BLACKWELL: Yes. But, first, some surprising good news about the search for cure for cancer and treatment for cancer.

"SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." starts right now.