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Northeast Sees Unusual Mix; American Held In Dubai Sentenced; Taking Action In Africa?; Obamacare Deadline; Target Security Breach; Man Throws Son From High Rise; Utah Tries To Stop Same-Sex Marriage; Life Saving Spectacles; Plane's Wing Slices Building; Rodman: North Korea Trip "Awesome"; Fired for Offensive Tweet

Aired December 23, 2013 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to "New Day." It is Monday, December 23rd, six o'clock in the east. Extreme weather. That's the headline in the U.S. We had snow and ice removed from the Midwest to the northeast making for slick roads and treacherous conditions. There was flooding and a tornado in the southeast stretching from Kentucky to Mississippi. That's where the bad weather was there.

But, if you went out in New York City this weekend, no doubt, double take (ph). Warm temperatures that set records for the first weekend of winter. Then, not for north from here, ice an inch thick crippled communities. Dare we ask what is coming next? We do, because we have someone who can answer it. Indra Petersons over there in the weather center. What is going on here, my friend?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's been definitely a crazy weekend. We were talking about even as much as ten inches of rain in through the Midwest. We saw a half inch to even an inch of icing -- pretty good ice storm into the northeast. And now, you talk about those record breaking temperatures through whole bunch of the east coast. Hard to believe it was just, yes, the first weekend of winter.


PETERSONS (voice-over): It's just two days before Christmas and a powerful storm system is knocking most of the country into weather extremes, all on one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. Freezing rain and snow slammed the middle of the country. Creating colossal sheets of ice on the roof of these outlet shops in Oklahoma City.

While in the northeast, a bizarre mix of winter weather and unseasonable work. In upstate New York, an ice storm knocked out power, freezing branches and roadways. A stark difference just a few hours away in New York City which saw a record high of 71 degrees over the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love it. I feels like it's May in December.

PETERSONS: A dangerous mix of storms, flooding, snow and ice threatens travel plans this week and our neighbor to the north isn't immune. Toronto, Canada has seen one of its worst ice storms in recent memories. Severe storms swept across the south. In Arkansas, this damage was from 130 mile per hour tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I threw my whole body weight over my 16-month- old child to save his life. I found my daughter in the bathroom to save her life.

PETERSONS: In Nelson County, Kentucky, rushing flood water swept an SUV downstream killing three people inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We knew we had a terrible situation here. We were hoping to make some rescues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheets of rain and wind.

PETERSONS: In Charlotte, fans of the New Orleans-Carolina Panthers game endured drenching rain. The guy seemed to have the worst seat in the house as rain cascaded down from the upper deck. Flooding in the Great Lakes had rescuers evacuating a retirement village in La Rue, Ohio. For nearly 94 million expected travelers, it's a wacky combo of weather.


PETERSONS: It looks like the big concern this morning it's still going to be flooding. We already had heavy amounts of rain into the Midwest even as much as 10 inches into Illinois, about 5 inches into Indiana. That's not where it ends. We still have more rain on the way. You can see the advisories that are out. We are still going to be talking about a system exiting off the east coast today.

We are going to give you all the details in kind of how that pans out and whether or not we still have this icing threat in the northeast, not to mention how long the record breaking heat will last or will it? All these details are coming up in just a few minutes -- Kate, Chris.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We keep breaking records on different ends of the spectrum, it seems, exactly. Thanks, Indra.

Breaking news on another story that we have been following, the American held in United Arab Emirates for posting a parody video that mocks teenage life in that country. He is now just learning his sentence. Let's go now to Sara Sidner who is in Abu Dhabi where he has been imprisoned since April.

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you can imagine the family in court today. There were some tears. There were some confusion, but ultimately there was some relief. They finally got an answer from the judge. The judge saying that he actually sentenced Shezanne Cassim and two of the other foreign nationals to one year in prison and a 10,000 dirham fine, which equals about $2,700 for this parody video.

We do also know that the two locals, the two UAE nationals were sentenced to eight months in prison with a $5,000 dirham fine. What we can tell you is that normally court watchers are telling us they are familiar with the way the courts work here is that they will do time served.

So he will be given credit for time serve and he may get out even earlier because they do not do a normal calendar year when it comes to the day that you spend in court. So the family is waiting to hear from the attorneys once they get that actual paperwork to let them know exactly when Shezanne Cassim will be released. As we understand it, he will be released it could be in the next couple of weeks -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, thank you so much, Sarah. This is something that has grabbed so much attention here at home, comedians from Will Ferrell and beyond who have been championing Shezanne's cause. We are going to be talking with Shezanne Cassim's brother coming up in our 8:00 hour to get their take on how the family is reacting to this morning's news. Thanks so much, Sara.

CUOMO: President Obama is now taking a tougher stance on South Sudan. The president is saying the U.S. may send in more troops to help keep Americans safe there. Now, a group of Americans were safely evacuated from there. However, U.S. aircraft have been fired upon, four troops injured as a result.

Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr is here with the latest. South Sudan, very unstable situation, we knew that, but this is playing on fears that the U.S. is going to have to get in more deeply than expected. Barbara, what do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know, Chris, is as you said, President Obama making very clear he may decide to send troops in to protect Americans, to protect U.S. interests in South Sudan. But for now, it has already been a very rough weekend for U.S. troops.


STARR: As thousands in the war torn city of Bur face violence growing violence. The U.S. evacuated what it believes are the last American citizens, many of them of Sudanese dissent who want to get out. U.N. and civilian aircraft flew them to Juba and the U.S. military took them to safety in Kenya.

The first attempt failed on Saturday when three U.S. Air Force special operations Osprey aircraft with 46 heavily armed troops on board were fired on. Four U.S. troops were wounded, one seriously and rushed to surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always a very tenuous situation when you are flying into a relatively unknown very hostile environment. The rebels probably have what's, you know, is probably soviet former Soviet Union-type weaponry. Those AK-47s are out there.

STARR: All three U.S. aircraft sustained damage, but they were able to fly with the wounded 500 miles from South Sudan to a safe landing zone in Uganda. The wounded troops were then flown on to Kenya. It is not clear who fired but U.S. officials believe they were deliberately targeted. (END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, the wounded U.S. troops are in Nairobi. They are expected to go to launch in a hospital in Germany in the coming hours and days. That's, you know, where all the wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq have been treated. They're going to go there as well. The good news is we are told that the wounded U.S. troops have recovered enough to the point this holiday season they have been able to call home and talk to their families -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Barbara, thank you so much for that. The clock is ticking now for millions of Americans to buy health insurance plans under Obamacare. A critical deadline is today in order to have coverage beginning January 1st. President Obama said on Friday that more than 1 million people have enrolled from federal and state exchanges.

But a new CNN poll shows that support for the health care law is at an all-time low right now. Let's get more now from Athena Jones live in Honolulu where the president is on vacation. Good morning or good evening to you, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. There is one more number that the president mentioned. More than half a million people signed up for health pans via in the first three weeks of December alone. Even with the problem plagued website working better now. Our new polls show the president has a long way to go to sell the health care law to the American people.


JONES (voice-over): The latest poll by CNN/ORC shows the White House has a long way to go to convince the American public the president's signature domestic achievement, Obamacare is working. Support for the Affordable Care Act has dropped to a record low, just 35 percent approve of the law, a 5-point drop in less than a month. Sixty two percent oppose it despite the president's efforts to defend it.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Despite all the messages problems and the web site problems, despite all that, it's working.

JONES: The new poll numbers come as Republicans continue to rail against Obamacare.

SENATOR TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The rollout and the ideas behind the fact that the federal government could manage appropriately once the economy is proving itself erroneous.

JONES: And as members of the president's own party pushed the delay until 2015, fines for people who don't by insurance by the end of March.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: This whole 2014 will be a transitional year to find out where our glitches are and our little nuances we have as to work for and find out if the market can produce the products we need to keep this.

JONES: They administration did offered a reprieve last week to people whose policies are being cancelled and who haven't been able to find affordable plans on the exchanges. They'll be allowed to buy catastrophic coverage or be exempted from the fine. While enrolment through the federal web site is speeding up, states wanting their own exchanges have seen mixed results. Making matters worse for the White House, the drop in support for the law was driven by women, 60 percent now oppose it compared to 54 percent in November.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Women oftentimes are the ones making health care decisions in the family.

JONES: just last week the president and first lady launched a renewed push aimed at moms hoping they will help sell the law and in another sign of bad news, most poll respondents believe they are going to pay more, not less, under the new law, 63 percent said their medical bills will increase. Just 7 percent expect them to fall.


JONES: Now, despite the recent jump in folks signing up for coverage the administration is nowhere near its goal of 7 million people enrolling in health care plans by the end of March. Today's deadline will likely mean a surge in folks trying to sign up through, another test for that web site -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: It will definitely be a source of how to measure the progress that they have been to make since that toppled rollout. That's for sure. Athena, thank you so much.

Let's go now to Miguel Marquez, in for Michaela this morning for some of the other top news. Good morning.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Only people with "M" can hold this job.

BOLDUAN: Good morning, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Making news, good morning to you guys. Two members of an all-female Russian punk group are now out of prison. Their early release was approved last week when Russia lawmakers back amnesty announced by President Vladimir Putin. The women were found guilty of hooliganism in 2012 after performing songs critical of Putin. One said her release seems more like a publicity stunt than a humanitarian act.

More fallout after the security breach at Target stores that affected millions of shoppers. Three class action lawsuits have been filed with customers seeking more than $5 million in damages. JPMorgan Chase saying debit customers who use their cards at Target stores may see their accounts restricted. The "Wall Street Journal" says shopper traffic was down in Target stores this weekend.

And a heart breaking tragedy just days before Christmas, a 35-year-old father threw his 3-year-old son off the top of a 52-story building in Manhattan then jumped to his own death. He was in the middle of a custody battle and had just picked up his son who was dressed in Christmas pajamas. This is very tough to read. The shocking death comes three months after he posted on Facebook that he aspired to be the best dad and husband.

Utah officials are expected to ask a federal judge to push pause on his own decision that made gay marriage in that state legal. Last Friday, the judge ruled that Utah's amendment defining marriages between a man and a woman is unconstitutional, leading to a rush of same-sex couples tying the knot. An appeals court has already declined to get involved until a lower court judge makes a decision on the stay.

A Seattle teenager's glasses may have saved her life in the instant following a drive-by shooting. Police say she was lying on a couch at her home. Shots rang out on Saturday night. They say the bullet came into the home and hit the bridge of her glasses but was deflected. The glasses shattered but police say the teen was not seriously hurt. Detectives are investigating. She's like the Clark Kent of Seattleites.

BOLDUAN: There is a good likelihood she would not be with us had she not worn them.

MARQUEZ: It did hit her glasses, but still it probably would have killed her, right there.

CUOMO: We often like to say, you know, in mix absence, I will make the point she makes, the most amazing thing is what the person decides to make of their life. Why did this happen to me? Why am I still here? That's the question you must ask after something as random as this is there she will have a very good Christmas.

BOLDUAN: Very true. Thanks, Miguel.

CUOMO: Good to have you here, pal.

Coming up on NEW DAY, this is not the way you want your flight to start, the plane's wing going through a building. We'll have the latest on a truly strange incident.

BOLDUAN: Speaking of strange, Dennis Rodman heading home from North Korea after working with athletes in the country. It was his latest round of basketball diplomacy. So why didn't he meet with his friend, Kim Jong-Un? We'll have details on that ahead.


CUOMO: Ah, the jingle of change. It is "Money Time".

We have been talking about this deal for a while, Apple and China. Now, there's news. Zain Asher is here with more. What do we know, Zain?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris. This deal is a dream come true for Apple. Apple stock is climbing more than 3.5 percent this morning. It's finally signed a deal with China Mobile that will offer the iPhone China. China Mobile has got 700 million users, more than twice the population of the entire United States.

Apple says that the 5S and 5C will be available there beginning January 17th just in time for the Chinese New Year. Futures are higher this morning, pointing to a continuation of the Santa Claus rally. The Dow Industrials gained about 465 points last week. Its best week since January.

Friday was the 47th record close of the year. So far this year, the Dow is up 24 percent. The NASDAQ is up 36 percent, and the S&P 500 is up 27 percent.

One stock we will be watching today is Facebook. It's up more than 100 percent since the beginning of the year. And starting this morning, it will be included in the S&P 500 index, where the average investors, the move makes easier to own a small piece of Facebook, mutual funds that use the S&P 500 as a benchmark will need to add Facebook shares to their holdings. So, good news for Facebook.

CUOMO: So, it's in the funds now. So, if you own funds, you'll get a little piece perhaps. You won't have to buy individual stock.

ASHER: Exactly.

CUOMO: Spread the wealth.

ASHER: So, a lot of retirement funds trapped the S&P 500. So, good news for Facebook. So, yes, you can now own a piece of it.

CUOMO: Zain Asher, great to have you here.

ASHER: Of course.

BOLDUAN: Breaking overnight, a very scary moment on the plane in South Africa. Just take a look at those pictures. The wing of a British Airways jet slicing through part of a building at the Johannesburg Airport as it was preparing to take off.

Rosie Tomkins is following the story from London.

So, Rosie, what more are we learning?


Yes, clearly a very alarming incident. Almost 200 passengers on board this British Airways flight intended for London. And while it was taxiing at Johannesburg International Airport, preparing to take off, the aircraft collided with an office building on the side of the taxiway.

Now, the plane, of course, did not take off at the stage, and none of those on board the flight were injured. Well, some were very shaken up understandably. We were able speak to one of the passengers just a short while ago. Here's what he had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were doing a decent rate of speed for taxiing purposes on the flight and I just saw this building in front of us. I said to myself, man, that building looks close. I never thought anything else. And then within a half a second to milliseconds, the plane just smashed into whatever building that is.

The air hostess, the flight attendant, she was sitting across from me. Her eyes got huge. By the time I seen her eye, I actually got nervous seeing her face. I was like, oh my God, we just hit a building.

There's extensive damage to the building. That 747 is not going anywhere. What blew my mind, once we got off that plane, that wing was probably three to five meters deep into that building. So, it wasn't just the tip, that actually penetrated that building. It was like a good portion of the tail end of that wing.


TOMKINS: So, clearly, a frightening experience for those on board. As he said, thankfully, no, injuries for those on board the flight. Now, the civil aviation authority in South Africa have told us that the aircraft was traveling down a taxiway that was too narrow for it. We've heard from the airline itself, British Airways, that a full investigation is under way as to why this happened and meanwhile, we should tell viewers in the city, travel period and the run-up to the holiday season, that the aircraft has been moved and travel resumes as normal.

Thanks a lot, Chris. Back to you.

CUOMO: Rosie, thank you very much.

Also new this morning, Dennis Rodman on his way back from his latest trip to North Korea. He didn't get to see his friend Kim Jong-un this time. So what impacted his basketball diplomacy have, if any?

Let's go to CNN's Anna Coren in Seoul.

Anna, what do we know?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, as we see from the footage, Dennis Rodman was mobbed when he arrived in Beijing. He spent five days in Pyongyang training the national basketball team, obviously, preparing for an exhibition game to celebrate North Korea's leader's birthday next month.

But, look, he didn't hold a press conference. He was pretty short and sweet when reporters threw questions at him. All he said was the trip was awesome and he'll be back in a week in preparation for that big game.

But, you know, Chris, he has yet to announce the team, the American team, that we're playing against the North Koreans. It's made up of former NBA stars. Apparently, some of those players are a little bit concerned about their safety. Obviously, there has been a lot of upheaval in North Korea. Less than two weeks to go. Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed and it's believed that those purges are still continuing in the hermit kingdom.

But Dennis Rodman, he says he will definitely be returning for that exhibition game to celebrate what we believe is the 31st birthday of Kim Jong-un. He's hoping to catch up with his good friend, a very unusual friendship. This, of course, was his first trip to North Korea, but says certainly, no doubt he'll be back there in a couple weeks time and the circus will continue, Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: All right. Anna, thank you very much. If we hadn't been covering it for so long, you'd never convince me this story could be true.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. But it is, and he continues to go back.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, a tweet about AIDS in Africa has the world talking. The latest online controversy. But a question -- is the reaction even worse than the offense?

BOLDUAN: And it was a critical space walk repairing the International Space Station. Then the problems started -- not before but after -- with the space suits. What happened? We're going to have that ahead.


CUOMO: New questions this morning about an offensive tweet and the blistering Internet backlash it ignited. Justine Sacco was a top P.R. exec for a major firm. Now, in Friday, she tweeted, "Going to Africa, hope I don't get AIDS, just kidding. I'm white."

She was promptly fired. Now shy says she is ashamed. But this isn't necessarily her first offense, and it's not necessarily over. The questions are why?

CNN's Pamela Brown joins us.

Very unusual situation we have here.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very unusual. And it looks like Justine Sacco could use a publicist of her own in the wake of this controversy, just 53 characters, that's all it took to end Justine Sacco's 8-year career as a P.R. executive. It turns out the tweet that caused her to ultimately lose her job is just one of several tasteless tweets on Sacco's now disabled Twitter account.


BROWN (voice-over): Social media is calling it the tweet heard around the world. "Going to Africa, hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding, I'm white.

Now three days after P.R. exec Justine Sacco sent out that tweet, she is out of a job and apologizing. On Sunday, Sacco issued this statement saying, "Words cannot express how sorry I am and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet, for being insensitive to this crisis and to the millions of people living with this virus, I am ashamed."

Sacco was ahead of P.R. for IAC, the media company owned by Barry Diller, that operates Web sites like The Daily Beast, College Humor, and But on Saturday, the company said Sacco is no longer a good match, firing her.

The now former P.R. exec found herself the target of a social media mob on Friday, sending out that tweet right before logging offline while on her 12-hour flight from London to her native South Africa.

JOE CONCHA, COLUMNIST, MEDIAITE: Not only is this a publicist's worst nightmare. It's any public figure's worst nightmare, to send out a tweet. It's kind of like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. You can't take it back.

BROWN: Her Twitter page immediately filled with hateful comments, the #HasJustineLandedYet trending worldwide. One guy following the hashtag even awaiting her arrival at the Capetown airport. A trial by Twitter as many are calling it. According to her LinkedIn page, Sacco was also formally a publicist for the WWE.

On her now disabled Twitter page, she has a cache of questionable now deleted tweets like, "I had a sex dream about an autistic kid last night" and "I can't be fired for things I say while intoxicated, right?" Leaving many to wonder how could P.R. expert not know how to manage her own social media.

CONCHA: I don't think people like Justine realize the immediacy of Twitter, one tweet, one statement is all it takes in the world of Twitter, in the world of social media to cost somebody their career.


BROWN: Justine Sacco learning that the hard way. If there is any good to come out of this controversy, it seems that Sacco's tweets brought more attention to AIDS relief charities. In fact, someone even registered the domain name to link directly to the aid for Africa relief Web site.

But, you know, I want to also point out, Justine Sacco was on a 12- hour flight, no Wi-Fi. So, that's a big reason why that #HasJustineLandedYet became number one trending on Twitter, when this was all unfolding. And it was -- you know, it really work to her disadvantage because she couldn't get ahead of it. She couldn't come out and apologize or clarify what this was all about.

BOLDUAN: I mean, it is pretty -- I mean, I think one of the things about this whole -- how this all played, is that she thinks -- no one really knows who she is. You don't know her name. You know the company she works for. You probably know that. She only had some like a thousand something or a few hundred Twitter followers before this happened. But its still can explode and ruin your career. I find that amazing.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Well, she's in publicity. Those thousand people, ten of them may have been influentials that would have passed it on. And this was a really stupid thing to say. Stupid things that said in the line all the time, but something like this?

BROWN: Someone like this, and I think it's also the context, because a lot of other people say dumb things on Twitter. But I think just the fact that she is a P.R. exec, you know, she has I think more responsibility in a lot of ways to be careful of what she tweets and it's also a lesson learned for all of us that what you might think is funny, or maybe a point you're trying to make in what you think is a clever way isn't going to resonate to people.