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Extreme Weather Could Affect Travel; Taking Action in Africa?; Obamacare Deadline; American Held in Dubai Sentenced; Spacewalk Postponed; Plane's Wing Slices Building

Aired December 23, 2013 - 08:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Parents are blasting him. The dad is speaking out. You decide.

Your NEW DAY continues right now.


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

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to NEW DAY.

It's Monday, December 23rd, 8:00 in the East.

If there ever was a weekend where the weather left you scratching your head, this was it. Out in the Midwest or Northeast, you were dealing with snow and ice, some of it deadly. In the Southeast, heavy storms bringing some flooding into your neighborhood.

But if you came to New York City by chance you were lucky to enjoy unusually balmy weather while admiring the Christmas decorations. Those two things don't go together in New York City.

Indra, what happened this weekend?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, a lot of these things don't go together. You're talking about over an inch of ice in the Northeast. Ten inches of rain in the Midwest. We had severe thunderstorms into the Southeast. You just mean that record-breaking heat in the East. This is all on a 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.

This 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: Let's look at it by the numbers.

We're seeing almost a good 10 inches of rain that fell in through Illinois. So, still, flood warnings in the region today, about five inches through Indiana. And, of course, we did mention the ice as well in the Northeast. Look, over an inch of ice fell in upstate New York. So, definitely some concerns with that ice storm left this morning.

The biggest concern, though, moving forward is going to be some heavy rain especially from the mid-Atlantic down to the Southeast. We're going to break all that down for you coming up in a few minutes -- Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: All right. Indra, thank you very much.

The U.S. is getting deeper into the situation in South Sudan, Africa. President Obama says he will do what it takes to protect Americans there, including military action. This comes after U.S. aircraft sent to evacuate Americans were fired on over the weekend. The State Department says some 15 Americans were successfully airlifted out on Sunday. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is here with the latest.

This was the concern, Barbara. At first, just to protect the embassy but now it looks like the U.S. has to get in deeper?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment, the president says he's going to reserve the option of putting troops back in there if they need to protect American interests. The embassy, other American interests are people in South Sudan.

This war has just burst into massive violence. Thousands of South Sudanese and Westerners trapped into these U.N. compounds as the fighting rages around them.

The U.S. troops who tried to evacuate Americans on Saturday before the successful attempt really extraordinary what happened to them. They got fired on from the ground. Three Osprey aircraft took gunfire. All three aircraft were hit, all three were damaged. Four U.S. troops wounded, one seriously. Those aircraft, full of bullet holes, managed to fly 500 miles back to Uganda and land.

The good news right now is the four U.S. troops have recovered enough to be able to have this holiday season to telephone their families, call home and tell them they're OK -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Thank you so much, Barbara.

The first big deadline for the president's health care law is at midnight tonight. Americans must enroll for coverage before then in order to have insurance coverage on January 1st. But new poll numbers show support for Obamacare is dropping and dropping fast, it appears.

So, what can we expect with this deadline looming?

More now from Athena Jones live in Honolulu.

Good morning.


The president said Friday, more than a million people have signed up for health plans through either the state or federal marketplaces since October 1st, but our new polls show that the job of selling the health care law to the American people is far from complete.


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.

SEN. 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 -- us healthy.

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.

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: And despite their recent jump in people signing up for health coverage, the administration is still far away from its goal of 7 million people enrolling by the end of March. Today's deadline is likely to see a surge in folks trying to sign up through Officials say 3/4 of a million people visited the site between midnight on Friday and noon on Sunday -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Athena. Appreciate the report.

We have breaking developments now overnight in the case of that American charged in the United Arab Emirates for making a parody video. After spending close to nine months in custody, he is finally learned his fate -- a prison sentence. In a moment, Kate will talk to the brother of Shezanne Cassim. But, first, Sara Sidner is in Abu Dhabi with the latest.

Sara, what do we know?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, you know, this case had a lot of people scratching their head and a lot of people coming forward to try to help Shezanne Cassim and his four friends who were jailed for that parody video on the UAE.

The judge sentenced Cassim and two other foreign nationals to one year in prison and $10,000 dirham fine, which equates to about $2,700. That one year, though, maybe credit for time served. We're still waiting to confirm that. If so, he may get out earlier than a full calendar year. He may get out actually in the next couple of weeks, but we're waiting to confirm that.

Again, this case, a lot of people wondering what's going on here. This was supposed to be a funny video, a parody. If you watch it all of the way through, it's hard to tell why anything would upset a government but certainly the UAE did not see it that way. The judge obviously convicting all five people, including two locals, two Emirates were also convicted. They were given an eight-month sentence with a $5,000 dirham fine.

So, certainly, the UAE doesn't think it's funny. They sentence and convicted all five men. But the families are just hoping and there were tears in court, hoping that they're were going to be able to get their loved ones home soon -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Sarah.

Let's continue this discussion with Shervon Cassim, the brother of Shezanne.

You're just learning of this news, just this morning, Shervon. The last time we talked, you were trying to remain hopeful that your brother would return by Christmas. Clearly, it seems that's not going to be the case.

First off, what is your understanding of what this sentence means? As our reporter Sara Sidner was saying, there's a possibility that this one-year sentence could be -- could include time served. What's the family's understanding?

SHERVON CASSIM, BROTHER OFF SHEZANNE CASSIM: We don't have confirmation yet, Kate. All we do know is that this is his 260th day in prison. And it looks like he's going to be spending more time in prison.

BOLDUAN: And obviously this is nowhere near what you wanted to hear coming out of the courtroom this morning. How is the family handling this?

CASSIM: We are absolutely hurt and outraged by this, Kate. This is not justice. He's already been in jail for eight months. It looks like he's going to have to spend more time in jail. And, you know, we were hoping to have him home for Christmas, and it's just -- it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

BOLDUAN: I know your mother has been taking this particularly hard. Understandably so. How is she?

CASSIM: She is really upset and it's difficult to console her. She is really upset.

BOLDUAN: One, would not even call it a silver lining, but the one good thing is you have been able to communicate off and on with Shezanne. He has been able to call you.

When was the last time you heard from him? How is he doing now?

CASSIM: He was able to make a phone call us to yesterday for a few minutes. He is frustrated. He's going stir crazy in his prison cell. And he just wants to get out and come home.

BOLDUAN: A one-year sentence. We don't know, of course, what it means, but a one-year sentence for -- as we would view it here in the United States, as a complete parody video. You now have comedians of the likes of Will Ferrell coming out to try to support your brother saying this is outrageous this would go this far. You call this a silly situation the last time we talked.

Will you ever imagine this would be the sentence your brother would be facing?

CASSIM: Not at all, Kate. This is horrifying. You know, the UAE tries to position itself as being this modern society with its film festivals and Dubai is trying to host the World Expo 2020. This tells the world that it's not as modern as it likes to make people think it is.

BOLDUAN: And I know that you have been trying in some communication with U.S. government officials to try to get some assistance so that to they can somehow intercede and help out there.

Have you heard from them? Have they been helpful enough? What's the latest on that front?

CASSIM: Kate, it doesn't look like they've had any success in their attempts to affect the situation.

BOLDUAN: Are you frustrated by that or does it just seem that they just haven't been able to get through?

CASSIM: It just doesn't look like they've been able to have any affect on the situation.

BOLDUAN: So what do you do now? Is it all over? Do you just wait?

CASSIM: We -- we aren't sure what we're going to do now. We really wanted to have him home. It's not going to happen. We just don't know what our next step is going to be at this time.

BOLDUAN: It's that unknown, I'm sure, is the worst part of this, not knowing how much longer you're going to have to wait to see your brother.

CASSIM: Absolutely. We just don't know how much longer he's going to have to be in there.

BOLDUAN: And I can sense your frustration understandably so. What would your -- you've tried to be very measured throughout this morning when we've had conversations because you were hoping for a different outcome. But what now is your message to the UAE?

CASSIM: This is -- this is -- it was a comedy video with no intent to harm anybody, and it was made clear that it was a fictional video. It was a comedy video with no intent to harm. And it was pretty clear and he's already been in there for eight months and there's no reason why he has to -- he should have to spend any more time in jail. We don't feel that this is justice.

BOLDUAN: And an important note, at the beginning of the video it says very clearly this is an act of fiction. Before the video even airs you can see that clearly.

Shervon, thank you so much for coming in. I wish it was under different circumstances. But thank you very much and we'll continue to follow this story.

CASSIM: Thanks very much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right.

Let's he'd over to Miguel Marquez, in for Michaela once again for some of other stories making top news.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good stuff there, Kate. Thanks.

Here's the headlines today:

Two members of an all women punk band in Russia are free this morning. They were released earlier after nearly two years in prison. They were found guilty of hooliganism in 2012 after performing songs critical of Vladimir Putin.

But last week, Russian lawmakers approved an amnesty plan. One woman said her release seems more like a publicity stunt than an act of amnesty.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman left North Korea this morning without meeting leader Kim Jong-un. But Rodman did tell a reporter in Beijing that he's not disappointed, saying he will see him again. Rodman was in Pyongyang to train local basketball players for an exhibition game next month to mark the North Korea leader's birthday.

A federal judge is set to consider a request today from the state of Utah to block gay weddings that have been taking place since Friday. That's when a federal judge overturned the state's same-sex marriage ban. Lawyers for the state want the ruling put on hold while they appeal. On Sunday, a federal appeals court rejected the state's emergency request to stay the ruling on technical grounds. Several dozen animal rights activists protest outside SeaWorld's gates, calling for an end to killer whale shows. The move comes in the wake of CNN documentary "Blackfish", which exposed the practice of capturing and training killer whales. Fallout from the film has prompted eight of ten music acts to cancel planned appearances at a concert series early next year. SeaWorld calls the criticism without merit.

And 150 years after his civil war heroics, Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, is poised to receive the Medal of Honor. The 22-year-old artillery officer refused to leave the battlefield, defending the union line even after being severely wounded during the battle of Gettysburg. If President Obama agrees, Cushing will have waited the longest to close to 3,500 recipients to receive the Medal of Honor. That is absolutely amazing. Crazy.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely is. Thanks --

MARQUEZ (on-camera): What a battle.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.

CUOMO: Absolutely. An epic battle that at least his family, you know, the generation that have come sense.

MARQUEZ: It's incredible that that does not go away. People still seek that.

CUOMO: They want the validation -- sacrifice and they deserve it. Miguel, thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Miguel.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, a jet's wing tears through part of a building at the Johannesburg Airport. Just look at that picture. The story behind these amazing photographs ahead.

CUOMO: And critical spacewalk put on hold. Why? Wardrobe malfunction. We'll tell you why there's a need for a space suit swap.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. This morning, there is trouble in space. A second emergency spacewalk to fix a cooling system on the International Space Station is postponed. The reason, something that has happened before, faulty space suits. CNN's Alexandra Field joins us with that. What's the situation?

Alexandra Field, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Well, these are 35- year-old space suits. Keep that in mind. So, it's conceivable that issues will arise. In this case, we're talking about an issue with the suit's cooling system. Now, NASA says that the astronaut was not in harm's way because of the problem, but they also say that they won't risk sending him back out in the same suit. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just one -- verify there are no red exposed.

FIELD (voice-over): NASA astronauts on a mission to make repairs at the International Space Station spent 5 1/2 hours Saturday on a high stakes spacewalk and they'll do it again Christmas Eve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're good with that.

FIELD: If you thought your holidays had high drama, it doesn't compare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got -- believe in miracles, but I got the hitch pinned on the first try.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's awesome, Rick.

CHRIS HADFIELD, RETIRED ASTRONAUT: You know, it's sort of like a really complex ballet with only two performers.

FIELD: The astronauts, Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins, have already successfully removed a faulty pump vest needed to cool the equipment on the space station.



FIELD: A new pump was supposed to be installed today but will now be delayed until tomorrow after potential problems with Mastracchio's space suit was discovered Saturday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only issue that I personally am having here is it' very, very cold.

HADFIELD: One of the suits showed maybe a sign that it got a little water into the evaporator on the back, on the flash evaporator which cools the suit when you're outside.

FIELD: NASA says the astronaut wasn't in danger and that the issue with the space suit isn't related to what happened in July. That's when Italian astronaut, Luca Parmitano, nearly drowned after water leaked into his helmet. A reminder of the dangerous nature of the work being done 220 miles above Earth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Astronaut is off structure.

FIELD: The recent hit movie "Gravity" puts a highly dramatized science fiction spin on the risks of space work, risks every astronaut on every mission understands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The movie "Gravity" is a good movie, but you probably don't want to watch that when you're in space.

FIELD: Maybe not, Mastracchio will have a new space suit ready to wear when he and Hopkins goes back out on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome. Thank you. Good job.


FIELD (on-camera) NASA only has about 12 space suits that in are use. The crew has a spare space suit up there with them. So, that suit is going to be refitted. It can put back together so that the astronaut can head back out in it tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: The 35 years old, you think that it might be time to change that up.

FIELD: Yes. May be time for an upgrade. Maybe the look has changed.

BOLDUAN: I get that they're expensive. It's not just about the fashion, but when it's dangerous, you know?

FIELD: Absolutely. And these are customized.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Thanks, Alexandra.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the shocking scene involving a British Airways jet, a wing, see it right there, cuts right through a building at an airport. How could something like this happen? We're going to be taking a closer look just ahead.

CUOMO: Plus, here's some video for you to look at. What do you think? Shock the dad is doing this to his four-year-old little man or shocked it is national news. I'll tell you this, you may not believe how vicious some of the reaction has been to what you're watching right now. The story and the response ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's get back to that bizarre incident on a plane in South Africa. The photos really speak for themselves. The wing of a British Airways jet prepared for takeoff slicing right through part of a building at the Johannesburg Airport. Rosie Tomkins is following the story from London. What more are we learning, Rosie?

ROSIE TOMKINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, an extremely terrifying incident for almost 200 passengers who were on board this British Airways flight intended for London. One, it was taxiing, preparing to takeoff from Johannesburg International. The wing of the aircraft, you can see it in the picture, collided with the building on the side of the taxiway. Now, thankfully, nobody on board the flight itself was injured, although, we understand that four people in the actual building did sustain slight injuries, but are fine.

That confirmed to us by the Civil Aviation Authority in South Africa. Now, those on board, as we say, thankfully not injured but understandably very shaken up by what they saw and what they felt. We were able to speak to one passenger just a short while ago who described what it was like to be onboard. Let's have a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF JOHN HART: We were doing a decent rate of speed for taxiing purposes on its flight and I just saw this building in front of us. I said to myself, man, that building looks close. But I never thought anything else about it. And then within half a second, the millisecond, the plane just smashed into the -- whatever building that is.

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


TOMKINS: Passengers there very clearly shocked by the sheer impact of the collision. A full investigation is under way. The Civil Aviation Authority tells us the aircraft traveled down a taxiway that was too narrow for it. So, we'll see how the investigation develops, Chris, and we'll bring you more when we have it.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much, Rosie. Appreciate it. Let's get over to Miguel Marquez in fir Michaela with the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

MARQUEZ: And here are those five things to know for your NEW DAY.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): A bizarre mix of weather across the country is spawning tornadoes, ice storms, snow, and record-setting warmth. And more storms today could cause problems if you plan to travel today.

Today is the deadline, as well, to apply for coverage to the Affordable Care Act to have coverage in the New Year. A new CNN poll shows a big drop in public support for the law. Down to 35 percent.

The American held in the United Arab Emirates for posting a parody video that mocks teenager's life in the country as been sentenced to one year in prison. Shezanne Cassim also faces a fine followed by deportation.

And former NBA star, Dennis Rodman, returning from another trip to North Korea. Rodman didn't get to see Kim Jong-Un this time, but he wasn't disappointed. He says the visit was awesome.

Peyton Manning can add one more accolade to his already distinguished career. The Denver Broncos' QB broke the record for touchdown passes in a single season with 51 total on the year and if he has one more chance to do even better.


MARQUEZ (on-camera): We are always updating the five things to know, so go to for the latest.

CUOMO: All right. Miguel, thank you very much.

We want to talk to you now about this controversial video. OK? It's a father. He's got his four-year-old running next to his car or his truck or whatever and he's talking to him about football and all these things. In order to judge, first you must watch it, then we'll tell you what the father says. Then we'll talk about the reaction. Here's the video.