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Obamacare Deadline Extended; Christmas Shoppers Hit Stores; Edward Snowden Gives Interview; Astronauts Repair Space Station; Tracking Santa Claus

Aired December 24, 2013 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have got very, very good air flow in my boots, but my toes are quite cold.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: NASA says there was never any danger to the astronaut. After five hours of meticulous work from Mastracchio and Hopkins on Saturday, day one of the spacewalk is being called a success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm ready to leave this work site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, copy that, Rick.

MACHADO: NASA hopes by Christmas all the work will be done, leaving the astronauts to celebrate safely back on the space station.


MACHADO: Now, this is only the second Christmas Eve spacewalk to ever happen. The first took place two Discovery astronauts spent eight hours working on the Hubble space telescope 14 years ago. That is a live look at what is going on right now at the international space station. No doubt, Chris, we will be keeping a very close eye on what goes on there and hoping it all goes well today.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANMACHADOR: A lot of variables. Alina We'll check in with you. We're going to have an astronaut helping us out to understand what's going on. We'll be on it start to finish on our watch. Thank you very much.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANMACHADOR: Also new this morning, NSA leaker Edward Snowden giving his first interview in months, revealing to "The Washington Post" that he thinks he's already accomplished his mission. Snowden talks about his personal satisfaction in releasing the secret U.S. intelligence that led to a full-scale investigation into the spying program. Joe Johns is in Washington this morning with much more. So what more are we learning from this very revealing interview, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, Edward Snowden gave an interview to Barton Gelman of "The Washington Post." He says he's already won even though he faces criminal charges in the U.S. He gave this newspaper a long interview in Russia where he's been hiding out with the permission of the government there. "For me," he says "in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission is already accomplished." He said "I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work everything I had been trying to do was validated, because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself." Snowden says he's not being disloyal. He asserted he's trying to help the national security agency, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And you're also learning more about him talking about what compelled him to do what he did. What does he say?

JOHNS: Well, it's interesting. There are a lot of different reasons, but beginning in October of last year, he says he brought his concerns about the amount of information being collected to two superiors in the NSA's technology directorate, two more in the NSA threat operation center's regional bases in Hawaii, and 15 other co-workers detailing the volume of data ingested by the NSA. He said his colleagues were often astonished to learn we're collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia. Many of them, he said, were troubled. He said also that several did not want to know any more.

But he did, he said, ask these people what do you think would happen if the public saw this on the front page? The NSA said they found no evidence that he raised these issues to others, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Joe, thank you so much for that.

JOHNS: You have until midnight to be good for Santa and to sign up for Obamacare and still be covered by January 1st. The White House pushed back the deadline, because the website was down for so long, so they added this extra day. And record high traffic was reported to on Monday. Even the president is getting it, symbolically signing up for coverage. More now from Athena Jones who is in Honolulu with the president.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Across the countries, millions of Americans got an extra 24 hours to sign up for health insurance coverage starting January 1st. The deadline had been Monday, but officials delayed that deadline to give people until midnight today, Christmas Eve, to pick a plan. We also learned up on Monday that the president signed up for an individual bronze plan on Washington D.C.'s exchange. But he didn't do the signup himself. Instead a staff membered signed him up, the White House citing the complicated nature of the president's case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What people need to understand about how the website works is that one of core functions is to confirm your identity. The way they confirm an individual's identity when they go to the website is you submit your personal information and they check that personal information against a variety of government databases. The president's personal information is not held on a variety of government databases, I think for perfectly understandable reasons. The president has a rather unique case.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: The president already gets his health coverage through the military so this signup was an entirely symbolic show of support for the exchanges. The president's monthly premium will be less than $400. Despite the change in the deadline, health officials say Monday was a record day for with a million visitors to the site by the afternoon. This is in addition to the 1.2 million people who visited the site over the weekend. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Athena, thank you, traveling with the president in Honolulu this morning.

So if you have waited this long to buy presents you may actually be lucky. Sales have been sluggish this season. That means more competition for your holiday dollar, and after-Christmas deals are already in full swing. CNN's George Howell is clearly late on his Christmas shopping. That's why he got this assignment. Good morning, George.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. So there are three ways to look at this thing. You can shop well before Christmas. You've got all the presents under the tree. You can cram it all in right before Christmas, and you kind of called me out, yes, like me, or you can do it right after Christmas. Instead we're talking about the procrastinators, the people who waited until the last minute. Here's a look at what you can expect.


HOWELL: It's just that time of year.


HOWELL: The countdown to Christmas is just hours away and last-minute shoppers are on the hunt.

NATALIE WILLIAMS, CHRISTMAS SHOPPER: I think that the best deals are right now, and maybe right after Christmas. I don't go shopping right after Christmas. I do all my shopping right before.

HOWELL: That has retailers pulling out all the stops in the competition for customers, like the bargains Kenya Ramirez found on Chicago's Michigan Avenue.

KEYA RAMREZ, CHRISTMAS SHOPPER: Regretted shopping after thanksgiving because a lot of the deals are going on now.

HOWELL: And in New York, stores like Macy's and Toys "R" Us staying open around the clock through Christmas Eve to give shoppers a little extra time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very convenient. Definitely helped save my holiday shopping. There wasn't too many people. You go in early and get everything you need in there. HOWELL: The National Retail Federation predicts an increase of 3.9 percent in sales from the same time frame last year, so retailers know this is crunch time. According to one survey, certain stores are expected to do better than others financially over the holiday season, among them Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, Target, Walgreens, and Macy's, though sales are reportedly down at target after a recent data breach that compromised the financial identities of millions of customers. Among the bottom five on the sure ray, Lowe's, Toys "R" Us, Marshall's, Costco, and Barnes & Noble. Many of the stores offering heavily discounted deals from big items to small gifts. Experts say shoppers are looking for everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you're going to see now is one size fits all types of things, jewelry, clothes is strong right before Christmas, fragrances close strong. When you're not sure or fuzzy, a gift card will take care of it quite nicely.


HOWELL: And when it comes to gift cards, according to the National Retail Federation they make up 15 percent of overall sales for many of the retailers that last week just after Christmas. So gift cards are a big deal, Chris. And Kate, specifically who called me out a minute ago, how did you know you might be getting a gift card?

BOLDUAN: Family members have been calling me, telling me if you are on air I need to call you out, because they're waiting for their gifts. They know you're a procrastinator.

HOWELL: I'm doing my best.

CUOMO: You were outside Target just yesterday. Maybe you did sneak in there and take care of a few items on the list, George. I'm trying to help you out here.

BOLDUAN: George? George?


BOLDUAN: Thanks, George.

CUOMO: Let's get to Miguel Marquez. He is in for Michaela with today's top stories.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANMACHADOR: Not all joyful offerings this morning -- 911 calls are giving a glimpse in the harrowing moments as a gunman made his way through a Nevada medical center last week. Take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see it happen or just hear it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just heard it. I think he's coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's coming? Can you hide yourself? Can you put yourself under a cabinet or something, in case a shot gets fired your way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're sitting behind a table.


MARQUEZ: Amazing how calm that 911 operator is. In one instance a woman was recorded on the phone while the gunman was banging on her office door. Police quickly arrived. The woman was safe. Allen Frazier opened fire in the building, killing a doctor and injuring two others before killing himself.

And a car bombing leaves at least a dozen people dead at an interior ministry building in Egypt. More than 130 others were injured, but some had to be turned away from blood centers because supply ran so low. Part of the building collapsed from the buildings. Egypt's interim prime minister implied the Muslim Brotherhood was involved in the bombing without directly blaming the political group.

Questions in Connecticut this morning after a man known for his elaborate Christmas light display was shot and killed in his home. A family member found the 87-year-old dead of gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Police are treating it as a homicide. He had just lost his wife to cancer in November. The couple was known for their extravagant Christmas light displays that brought visitors from miles around.

Does Iran want to be friends again? President Hassan Rouhani writing an op-ed in a German newspaper saying he wants to rebuild and improve relations with Europe and North America and, quote, "remove the tensions we have inherited with the United States." Rouhani also wrote that his country would never give up its right to nuclear energy. Talks over Iran's nuclear program are on hiatus for the holidays, perhaps "frienemies."

A soldier surprised at Monday night's devil's Blackhawks game in Chicago. Private first class Hunter Taylor, these never get boring, of the 101st airborne division surprised his family who weren't expecting him home for the holidays. His mom and grandfather were in on it but his dad and brothers, Jacob and Jonah and Josh were truly overcome with emotion when he walked out. Taylor has been serving in Afghanistan and hasn't been home in a year.


CUOMO: So sweet.

BOLDUAN: You can see that.

CUOMO: They're really upping the game on these surprises for families.

BOLDUAN: You can see their emotions.

CUOMO: People are getting deployed two, three, four -- I don't have to tell you.

MARQUEZ: Over a decade of this. It's rough.

CUOMO: They just keep going. There's so much strain on the families. There's not a lot of attention about it on the news. The more attention they can get, the better.

BOLDUAN: Let's continue the joy of that beautiful moment with a check of the weather. The beautiful Christmas weather, Indra, please.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Look at that spirit. I give her one little gift and she's like, yes. All right, let's talk about this system making its way offshore. This was the troublemaker, the one we all dealt with over the weekend. This guy is now making its way offshore and should not be a problem anymore.

Where are we going to see snow? Tiny little wave. And then a bigger system, the clipper that's expected to make its way through and bring the heavier snow. Let's start with the first one. This is the one that will bring heavy snow off the lakes just south of Buffalo. It's pretty isolated here. But it is also the wave that could bring a couple of flurries in through New York City. That's the first one.

What we're looking for is the bigger system, the clipper, fast moving, going through the plains. Notice if you're trying to go to midnight mass, this is east coast time, around Chicago, flurries, maybe around Minneapolis, trying to get a couple in the action there. And then we have Christmas Day itself. The timing, 8:00 eastern in the morning, we're starting to see some possibly in through Indiana and also int through Michigan.

Those are the best chances there. They're OK, not too bad. They're looking for a good two to four inches of snow. Who are we going to talk about? We're talking about the Dakotas, through Minnesota, Wisconsin, in through Michigan. Not a bad chance here. Looks pretty good at least overnight tonight in through tomorrow.

For everyone else, it's the temperatures, and they're going way down. We felt it this morning, a good 30 degree temperature drop from yesterday morning on the east coast. That's how we know the cold front did go through. And of course, the temperatures will continue to go below normal. By Christmas Day it's up. Look at that, talking about a chill, 20s and 30s in the air. There's a lot of people that will be happy with a white Christmas, but they're more around the lakes. Here it's cool, it's fine.

BOLDUAN: And you. I'm keeping the spirit alive, though.

PETERSONS: I like that, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I'm keeping the spirit alive.

PETERSONS: Anyone else? Happy, cold, no?

CUOMO: What's not to be happy about?

PETERSONS: So cheerful. You're welcome. CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, the only people flying higher than Santa tonight are these guys. This is a live picture now as astronauts hundreds of miles up take another shot at fixing the space station's cooling system. We have a former astronaut who took the same space walk. He's going to be with us and give us a play by play of this difficult mission.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. As we speak, astronauts are 220 miles above us all outside the International Space Station. They're working to replace a cooling system part there. They were supposed to perform the space walk yesterday but it was postponed after problems with a space suit.

We have our own astronaut on Earth, Mike Massimino. He's joining us to explain what's going on. He;s a visiting professor at Columbia University, but he's performed four space walks himself. Christmas eve, happiness to you and your family, Mike. Thank you for joining us this morning. I have live picture on one side of me. We're getting the return of what's going on in the space station, you in the other. Tell us, what is this part of the operation? What are the variables right now?

MIKE MASSIMINO, NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, Chris, first, Merry Christmas to you and your family and the family at NEW DAY.

So, what they're doing right now is setting things up. They just got out the air lock, both the astronauts are out there, making sure their tethers are good, getting in position to start their day's activities. The robot arm is being put in position by Koichi Wakata, and Mike Hopkins will get in there. They're start off the procedures. Right now they're getting things set up at the very beginning.

CUOMO: What makes it more difficult in space than if you were doing this in a place with, you know, regular -- in Earth's atmosphere? Why is this harder?

MASSIMINO: Well, it's a completely different environment. Things float. You have to watch out that your tools don't float away. That's why tethers are very important. You're dealing with a big suit. It's like working on your car, fix the plumbing in your bathroom, or change the oil in your car, trying to do that with boxing gloves on. It's not so easy, and that's kind of what you're dealing with. You're dealing with, big, bulky gloves. Those are some of the things, the suit, the tools are different, things float around. You have to constantly check your suit and make sure that's all good. That makes it more challenging.

CUOMO: So what we're seeing now --

MASSIMINO: But it's also a lot of fun.

CUOMO: Yeah, fun for you guys, scary for us.

MASSIMINO: Yes. CUOMO: The Japanese astronaut is controlling this arm that we see moving around. It seems like one of the astronauts are now tethered to it or attached to it? What's going on? What are we seeing?

MASSIMINO: Yeah, so right now what's happening is Koichi Wakata is moving the arm around, and it looks like - I'm trying to see if Mike has gotten in there yet. He's - they may be putting it in position for Mike to get in. So, once he -- what happens is you always have a safety tether on. One of the guys will have a safety tether attached to the space station and the astronaut in this case, Mike Hopkins, who's going to be on the robot arm, he'll hook his safety tether up to the robot arm and then he'll hop in, meaning putting his feet in a foot restraint and he'll be moved around by Koichi during this space walk.

CUOMO: A lot of trust there.


CUOMO: One of the things I was reading and the variables they deal with. I like that -- what's on his arm? It looks like a quarterback play chart that he has on his arm right now. Did you see that? He has like this stack of cards or something there. What's that?

MASSIMINO: That's what we call our cuff checklist. You wear it on your cuff, your sleeve. It's got a few things in it. It has emergency procedures in case you lose communication and you have an emergency with your suit, you can look up the emergency procedure. Even if you still have communication you want to follow along as you're reading things off your suit, off your display. It takes you through emergencies.

It also has certain procedures that you might - little reminders. You can write things on there. You can write what you need to do here and there. I wrote my kid's names on mine, just for the heck of it. You have that little -- it's a checklist that you have that you can refer to just in case you need some help or want a memento when you're out there space walking. It's your own checklist you wear on your sleeve.

CUOMO: Is there a card just in case you become untethered that says if found return to, with the address on Earth, just so they know -


MASSIMINO: That's a great idea. I think I'm going to use that as a suggestion, Chris.

CUOMO: I was very close to becoming an astronaut except for the science and math part.

Another variable we should keep in mind as they're trying to do this maneuver is, when I was reading in your notes, temperature, swings in temperature. What could they be and how do they feel?

MASSIMINO: Yes. As you're going around the Earth you're 17,500 miles an hour. You have 90 minutes in one orbit, 45 minutes of daylight and 45 minutes of darkness. When you're in the daylight, the sun, if you had a thermometer out there, could be a couple hundred degrees. When you're in the darkness if you had a thermometer it could be minus a couple degrees.

The space station and space suit modulates that so you don't feel that wide range of temperature, but you can get pretty cold and you can get pretty warm. We have this fancy underwear we're wearing underneath there, a thermal -- a liquid cooling garment that allows you to regulate your temperature. You have like a little thermostat you can set to make sure yourself feel comfortable. If you're getting too hot, you can get more water flow, more heat gets taken away from your body and you cool off. If you're getting too cold, you reduce the water flow and your body heat will take over and warm you up.

And you kind of go through this adjustment, and then what seems to happen for me anyway, after about an hour or two out there, you find a sweet spot. Just when you start feeling cold, you notice the sun is coming out and will warm you. And as soon as you start feeling warm, you notice that you're going into sunset and you're going to get cooled down. So that's what you do -- you try to get yourself at a good temperature so you can work comfortably without getting overheated or too cold during the space walk.

CUOMO: A swing of 400 degrees. Unimaginable. We're watching now, Mike, he's trying to control his body, control everything on the tether. You know how hard it is. For the rest of us we can only imagine. We'll keep it here, come back to you. Thanks for filling us in. Appreciate it as always, Mike. Be back with you in a little bit.

MASSIMINO: Great to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: How cool is Mike Massimino? Astronaut and Italian. Can't ask for better than that, Kate, and we'll check back with him about what's going on as the space walk continues.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thanks, Chris.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, a Texas man battling with a hospital, begging them to take his pregnant wife off life support. Why doctors say they just can't do it.

Plus, the White House making another change to the healthcare law, another change to the deadlines around the healthcare law ahead of its first enrollment deadline. Is this a sign of more trouble ahead? We'll talk about it.


CUOMO: All right, I just got Santa on the cell phone. He says the reception is pretty good. You're watching the Santa tracker there. Somewhere out over Russia right now. We'll be following him throughout the morning. Just wanted to give you a check in there as you welcome back to NEW DAY. There you go. Back to us now. We'll be following him throughout. I have him on the Blackberry, kids.

BOLDUAN: Don't worry. CUOMO: Make sure you're good until the last moment.

A lot of news this morning for you as well, so let's get to Miguel Marquez, in for Michaela.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Not as exciting as Santa but it began with a bang and ending with a whimper. Womp, womp, womp. The holiday shopping sales have dropped off for the third week in a row, during what is traditionally the busiest buying time of the year. Last week, store sales dropped over three percent to just under $43 billion, compared with the same week a year ago. Final sales figures are expected in January.

Civilian and military employees get a Christmas gift from President Obama, a pay bump. He issued an executive order Monday giving them a one percent pay rise next year. Military employees have received a raise each year since he's been in office. Civilian pay has been flat over the last three years as Congress haggled over the budget and federal deficit.

Colorado has issued retail marijuana licenses to stores looking to sell recreational pot, making it the first U.S. state, first place to do it in history. Voters in Colorado approved recreational pot sales last year. As of January 1, stores will be open to sell pot to adults 21 years and older. Those stores will also have to get approval from their local governments to do that.

The inventor of the AK-47 rifle has died. Russian designer Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many armies around the world, and thugs around the world, died on Monday. He was 94. He designed the machine gun just after World War II. It became a main stay of Russia's armed forces and police. It also became the weapon of choice for guerrillas and terrorists as well. A very solid weapon.

We just showed you this. You can check it again.

CUOMO: Can't get enough.

MARQUEZ: On track, Santa's global whereabouts online through NORAD. He's over eastern Russia at the moment. It's so far without controversy, a children's advocacy group says online tracking site promotes violence since it shows fighter jets flanking Santa's sleigh. NORAD says the fighter escort has been depicted since the 1960s and insists it's something safe and non-threatening.

CUOMO: This would be a squarely category of non-troversy.

BOLDUAN: Let's just get back to - so, he's over Russia.

MARQUEZ: He's over Russia.


CUOMO: Seems like he was going over water there also.

BOLDUAN: You know how fast he travels.

MARQUEZ: I'm worried about the lack of snow in the country (ph).

BOLDUAN: Santa's on a joy ride right now. He's like, I've got time.

CUOMO: Yeah, does that mean he's leaving Russia, or is that like the Black Sea that he's going over there? Don't know. I have to check in.

BOLDUAN: I've got - you're the only one with a cell phone.