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Judge Rules Against NSA Phone Surveillance; Senate GOP Divide On Budget Bill; What A Catch; Suspended For Hugging Teacher; Journey To Antarctica

Aired December 17, 2013 - 07:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: This is the first successful legal challenge to the mass surveillance program and very well opens the door to other. The secret snooping was exposed by NSA leaker, Edward Snowden who called the ruling just the first of many. The administration says it stands by the program and is expected to appeal.

Bone chilling cold and more snow in the forecast for New York and New England today. Boston could get half a foot of snow. A storm moving down from Canada has already sent a chill through the Midwest with temperatures bottoming out at 26 below zero in Northern Wisconsin.

The head of the military's anti-sex abuse office is stepping down. This comes in the wake of allegations that Army Major General Gary Patton interfered with an investigation into patient abuse at a hospital in Afghanistan. An army spokesperson says Patton was formally admonished over those findings and also a Pentagon study on sexual misconduct spiked by 33 percent from 2010 to 2012.

New York businessman, Jacob Austriker held captive in Bolivia for more than two years is reportedly back in the U.S. that's what an unidentified State Department official tells the Associated Press. The family members in the U.S. apparently have not seen or heard from him since his return. He was detained more than two years ago without charge in a Bolivian money laundering investigation.

An Olympic size wardrobe malfunction or fail, it turns out the red, white and blue mittens the U.S. Olympic committee is selling to raise at the Sochi Winter Games were made in China says so right on the tag. Yes. The USOC says the official mittens that the American athletes will wear during the opening ceremonies will indeed and are definitely made in the good old USA.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Every time I feel like we've got the same thing.

PEREIRA: It's amazing how much the wardrobe --

BOLDUAN: It's that hard to have things not made in China. That's what it tells us.


BOLDUAN: Let's move now to our political gut check of the morning. The Senate is looking to clear the bipartisan budget compromise through a crucial test vote after several conservative Republicans pledge support, but Republican leadership and Tea Party backed senators possibly looking to 2016. They're not going as far. Do they have the votes they need?

Let's go to CNN's chief national correspondent John King to talk more about this. I mean, it looks like the support is lining up. It's not going to be as overwhelming as it was in the House, John. But it has made me wonder as we've been watching this. I feel like we're operating in an alternate universe where it's the House where normally the compromise bills have a struggle to get the votes, not in the Senate.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's an interesting point. The House has been the scene, you know, the cause of the government shutdown, the big debates over the debt ceiling more so in the House than the Senate. You hit the nail on the head in terms of when you look at the battleground in the next election. The Republican Leader Mitch McConnell faces a Tea Party challenger.

Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, a Republican who often does try to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats on security issues, on immigration reform and the like faces a Tea Party challenger. So you have some Republicans who say they have principled policy oppositions to this legislation, but they also have interesting political environments back home.

Both sides even leadership sources close to Mitch McConnell who going to vote no say the votes are there, though, both the procedural hurdle and then final passage. So this will pass. It will be interesting to watch, Kate, you know this from the days on the Hill, most Democrats might vote for this.

Watch to see if all the votes are there, if one or two liberals decide to vote no. Once they know it's safe, they'll go to the leadership and say, I need to make a point here. So let's watch the Democratic numbers as well as the Republican number.

BOLDUAN: That's a good point and when you look at the poll numbers out today by the "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, it's not looking great for Democrats. It seems like they have ground to make up on a couple of key questions san who handles -- who's seem handling the country's main problems better. Obama lost his 15-point advantage from a year ago. On the question of the economy which is so key in any election, the -- he's also lost his lead there. There is some problem for Democrats and maybe that speaks to some of why of the more liberal numbers. They want to make a point if they can.

KING: This post-ABC poll is an exclamation point to something we've talked about in the past because of CNN poll and because of our reporting. Look, the president is at the lowest point of his presidency in terms of his job approval rating, but also if you look deeper into the numbers, his honesty, his trustworthiness and a very important question especially when you have a Democratic president, the president who believes in using the power of the people. This emboldens the Republicans. This is one of the reasons, Kate, Republicans don't want to fight about this budget fight. They want to get it over with so they can focus on Obamacare and the president. As we close this year, legislatively, the president was essentially zero for 2013. He got none of his major priorities passed. He was at a low point. He ramps up now for the state of the union address. Can he somehow change this dynamic, this say tougher year because of the election year when Democrats are nervous to get anything done.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Who's standing up and saying -- there are plenty of people looking to disagree. Why isn't anyone standing up saying why are we cutting veterans benefits?

KING: Listen to the Senate debate today. You'll hear people who vote no, that will be Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, that's why he has to vote no, he's a member of the reserves, served in the military a long time. His state has a lot of military retirees and bases. That's why he's voting no. Some going to say he has a tea party challenge back home. A lot of the liberal Democrats going to say I'll hold my nose and vote yes. They don't like that they going to get extended unemployment benefits, a lot of people complaining but then most of them voting yes.

BOLDUAN: John, I just want to get your take. We've been talking about the legal ramifications and the legal fallout from the federal judge's ruling that the NSA program on tracking phones is likely unconstitutional. But is there a clear political fallout to this yet?

KING: It's just tough for the president. He's going to have a who's who of the technology industry over at the White House today. Many of the content providers there, the CEO of Yahoo, Google, they want to say Mr. President, we've been cooperating with the government and ware not sure the NSA is keeping its word. We're not sure they're treating this information as sensitively as they promised us they'd treat it.

Number to, because of the federal judge's ruling, now the president has to defend the policy in court. Even though he's studying it and may propose some reforms and changes, he's in court defending it. This will make its way to the Supreme Court, no doubt about it. They have to go to court and defend it and look at the reaction from the critics of this, both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and libertarians on Capitol Hill saying, see, we told you so, we want changes. It emboldens them.

BOLDUAN: Hasn't sparked a legal debate, but clearly sparking a political debate as well. Thanks, John.

KING: This is with us into next year and 2015 and beyond.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a hug derails a high schoolers college plans, what a headline. But is it a false headline? When is an innocent hug not so innocent? We have new information you'll want to hear, ahead.

BOLDUAN: Also, caught on tape, one man's quick reflexes and quick thinking saves a baby from a nasty fall. The incredible video next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The song is OK because it's a happy ending. I know you're in a rush. A father sits his baby boy down on a luggage counter. I know you're not supposed to do it. I know that's wrong. The kid leans forward and falls, but this is why you don't have to judge. Look at that, a quick thinking security officer, that's the white blob you see, catches the baby before the baby hits the ground, amazing dedication to the catch.

We show you again. There is the neglectful father, the baby falls, the father putting on his coat, there it is! There it is, amazing catch by the officer, given a bonus for his action. They did the right thing there in Poland. The father is of course all upset about it. He didn't mean for that to happen. He wasn't really thinking. He's tired. He's at the airport.

But the amazing dedication to the catch by the security guard. Not just reaching, just lunging but getting down with the knees and getting himself on to the ground, saving the baby, amazing.

BOLDUAN: Your dedication to describing that video --

CUOMO: That was well done, I must say. That was really great.

BOLDUAN: He must have seen it coming. That kid, that kid, that kid --

CUOMO: What do you think the next thing is he did? Look for his wife. He knew the pain was coming his way, no question about it. The baby is safe. That's all that matters.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the weather again, shall we? Talk about taking a hit out in the thick of it, Indra Petersons. Tell us how it's looking, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're talking about snow here into the northeast especially for your morning commute, which we know is the toughest time out here. We are not the only ones. Let's take a look at the radar, see where the system is today, south of Boston, they're looking for it later this morning. Around the lakes we have an Alberta clipper, expecting to bring them light snow, Chicago even dealing with it as well.

The bigger system here into the northeast, we're talking about anywhere from 2 to 4 inches now, places like Boston, yes, it's later in the day, New York City also looking for 2 inches to 4 inches, but the higher amounts, we'll really be looking for those farther into New England as the system strengthens overnight.

Temperature wise, we know, it's cold. Let's take a look at the rest of the country, though, notice the tail end of the system, there is a cold front. That could start to affect the southeast even though it's beautiful your temperatures have been above normal. That going to change a behind as that cold front goes through places like Atlanta overnight tonight. Not going to be a big deal. We'll have a pattern shift, a flip-flop. Yes, enjoy it, warm in the southeast, coal in the northeast. By the end of the workweek, what goes west comes east. We warm up, it looks better here. Notice another system building out west, which means that going to come our way by the weekend as well. Storm after storm, this trend is still continuing, guys.

BOLDUAN: Sure seems like it. It seems to always hit us on the weekend, doesn't it?

PETERSONS: I don't know why.

BOLDUAN: All right, Indra, thank you.

CUOMO: We have a story now, you'll have to listen to this. There are two sides at play, apparently a Georgia high school senior going to not be able to graduate this year because of a hug. All right in the student says he thought his teacher could use some cheering up. So he gave her a hug. The teacher says it made her uncomfortable. The result, a suspension and it has put the student's future at risk.

Kelly Wallace, CNN digital correspondent, editor-at-large, is following this story. On the face of it, Kelly, this is PC gone crazy. How could you punish a kid for a hug?


CUOMO: But do I know exactly what I'm talking about?

WALLACE: You do, of course, but there's a lot more here. Right, first the Georgia High School senior says he's a hugger. He comes from a family of huggers. After what he says was an innocent hug, he is suspended from his school for one full year and now his college future is in jeopardy.


WALLACE (voice-over): Surveillance footage from Duluth High School shows Sam McNair, a senior, placing his arms around a teacher. After that seemingly innocuous act he was suspended for one year for sexual harassment, ruining his chance at a Lacrosse scholarship.

SAM MCNAIR, STUDENT: It just threw everything off. Without a high school diploma and graduating on time, I wouldn't be able to receive that scholarship.

WALLACE: Take a look, Sam approaches the teacher from behind and hugs her, but watch closely, she pushes him and he walks away.

MCNAIR: I was thinking that maybe she had a bad day or something. But usually a hug would help a person in that case. I mean, she took it the other way.

WALLACE: According to the discipline report obtained by our affiliate WGCL, the teacher claims Sam's lips and cheeks touched her neck. She also claims she's warned him before, both things the student denies. He does admit to hugging this teacher in the past, but says he's never received any warnings.

A representative of Duluth High School says, this is a discipline issue and that if a parent has concerns about the outcome of a panel, he or she is entitled to appeal the decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just blindside us like this and say sexual harassment and the video doesn't show that. It's just a little bit unfair for the punishment that he's received.


WALLCE: A school district spokesperson tells CNN that hearing officers take into account a student's past discipline history including any long-term suspensions when considering consequences. Sam Mcnair says he does have a discipline record and has been suspended before but nothing for sexual harassment.

BOLDUAN: It seems like -- it seems like a year is pretty extreme punishment.

WALLACE: I think the general sentiment and we've been looking at what people are saying online, people do feel that it is an extreme --

CUOMO: But do they know about what the teacher said in the past? It made me feel differently about the situation. If you come up and hug somebody and you get suspended, that's silly and extreme, right? Let alone something that jeopardizes your future, but when you hear that a teacher told the kid don't do this to me, I think it's inappropriate and they do it again, if that's true --

BOLDUAN: Right. That's the key.

WALLACE: But the teacher says --

CUOMO: Can you assume the teacher is lying.

PEREIRA: You're going to assume the kid's lying.

CUOMO: You have to believe the teacher.

WALLACE: I think the mom raises a good point. She was never told that his hugging was an issue.

CUOMO: That's important.

WALLACE: It is important. Her feeling and she's going to appeal this decision is that the school should have come to her if this was an issue.


WALLACE: They could discuss it as a family and take action.

CUOMO: Fair complaint.

WALLACE: As opposed to the punishment being a year-long suspension. CUOMO: For a nonviolent offense. You know, something that's not an obvious --

PEREIRA: People going to say with all the incidences of violence in our schools right now, the kid is going to have his life derailed potentially because of a hug, a sign of love?

WALLACE: I know.

PEREIRA: That is not going to sit well with people.

WALLACE: It is not. People are saying a hug is a hug. What's our world coming to? This also does get into. We talked about this many times before.

BOLDUAN: A kindergartener kissed his little girlfriend and got suspended.

CUOMO: The mother popped up and said I didn't want this kid kissing my kid. That comes up, too.

WALLACE: The schools sometimes what it seems to be a strict adherence to its policy versus dealing with situations.

BOLDUAN: They need to deal with situations.

WALLACE: I think you have schools where they feel like they have to take things like sexual harassment very seriously.

BOLDUAN: Which they do.

WALLACE: Which they do. At the same time --

BOLDUAN: Is it sexual harassment.

WALLACE: Are they doing enough to educate students and parents about what's appropriate and not appropriate.

CUOMO: Hopefully if they're going to jam it would be great. I hope all the way down the line they're consistent. Otherwise they're punishing the kid really extremely. What do you think? This is obviously food for discussion. Go to You can find Kelly's reports there and tweet us with the #newday. Tell us what you think.

Coming up on the show, the Mega Millions frenzy in full swing, $586 million up for grabs tonight, what if no one wins? You know what happens. The jackpot goes higher. How high? We'll tell you.

BOLDUAN: Enduring some of the most brutal weather and terrain, trying to break a world record. And he is just 19 years old. We talk with a young explorer, as he journeys to the South Pole.


BOLDUAN: Now to a remarkable story, at just 19 years old, folks, Parker Liautaud taking on the South Pole leading the expedition, trying to set a world record for skiing from the Antarctic Coast to the South Pole, that's nearly 400 miles sub-zero temperatures in some of the harshest conditions.

I spoke yesterday with Parker about his journey. Of course, I had to ask him how much he has left to go.


PARKER LIAUTAUD, LEADING EXPEDITION TO SOUTH POLE: We have about 149 miles to go. If we could average around 16 miles a day for the next 10 days --

BOLDUAN: Let's give people the kind of conditions you're up against, which going to also help explain why you're so covered up that we can't see your face. What are the conditions you're facing right now?

LIAUTAUD: Well, today is fairly mild. It's probably minus 15 or so. No wind. I do see a little bit of whiteout. A couple of days ago we has windchill of minus 40 degrees, 40-mile-an-hour winds. It gets pretty brutal here.

BOLDUAN: You're 19 years old. By 18, you had three expeditions to the North Pole under your belt. What is driving you? Where does this passion come from, parker?

LIAUTAUD: It's been a progression, this year, two main goals. Contribute to a better understanding of the climate system, couple of different research projects, which we already undertook before the expedition. And the other is really to keep the dialogue of climate change and improve the general public understanding of the science behind it to lead to better foreign policy.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. In the middle of all this taking a moment to speak with us, puts any complaints about the cold weather here in the northeast into some serious perspective. We'll be following your progress and good luck. Thank you very much.

LIAUTAUD: You can go to going


CUOMO: How do you know that's what he said? You have a very keen ear.

BOLDUAN: I also know that was his web site.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, anti-bacterial soap. Got gallons of it in my house because it helps, right? A new report says it could be doing harm. What? We'll explain.