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Astronauts on a Spacewalk; Edward Snowden Speaks; Three Wounded Navy SEALs Now In Germany; New Pope's First Christmas; American Held In Dubai Sentenced

Aired December 24, 2013 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Gather round the Festivus pole.

Your NEW DAY continues right now.

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

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It's Tuesday, December 24th, 8:00 in the East. Christmas Eve.

And right now, we're going to show you some live pictures from NASA. Astronauts are performing a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. You can hear some of the communications right there.

This is a critical mission to replace the cooling station for the station. They're continuing repairs. They started Saturday but could not finish them because of problem with his a space suit of all things.

Mike Massimino has performed four space walks and is here to explain what's going on space. He's also a visiting professor at Columbia University.

Mike, it is great to see you once again. You've been watching this feed that we've been watching all throughout the morning. Can you talk me through where they are right now?

MIKE MASSIMINO, NASA ASTRONAUT: Sure, Kate. It's good to see you and talk to you again.

So, what's happened now is that they've gotten the area around the new pump unit prepared. Mike Hopkins has jumped in the robot arm. Soon he will have that pump unit, which is about the size of a refrigerator, in his hands. They'll go and install it later on in the space walk and to the space station, to get the space station full up and going again with its cooling capability.

The other thing you can see in the background with these photos, Kate -- I'm glad you're showing it is the magnificence of the earth around you.

And Chris asked me before, you know, the tough things about doing a spacewalk, one is you're working in the space suit and you have to work against the pressure in the suit and the gloves but the other thing is that you have this amazing distraction right over your shoulder, which is the most beautiful sight you've ever seen, which is the earth. You can see how beautiful it is from those photos.

When you see it through your helmet visor, it's just the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

BOLDUAN: You're absolutely right. It's so fun for us to be able to watch this in real time. I mean, I know that they train for this. I know that they have nerves of steel and you have nerves of steel. But one of the images that we were just looking at, Mike, it looks like the astronaut is just dangling there, barely tethered on. I mean, is there any sense -- any sense of security when you're out there in that weightless environment?

MASSIMINO: There is, actually. The earth is so far away from you that it's kind of belike being in an airplane. You don't necessarily feel like you're going to fall out of the airplane and hit the earth. And that's the way it is.

When you see the Earth in a distance, it's so beautiful, you don't really get the sense of where you are necessarily. What happens sometimes is when you're closer to something -- like when I was above the shuttle, payload bay, on top of the Hubble space telescope, and I was about 60 feet above the payload bay, I felt for some reason that your mind kind of takes over there and says, wait a minute. You're 60 feet above the ground here or this platform, which was the shuttle. I kind of had the sense I needed to hold on.

So, your mind has gotten used to when you think it's in a dangerous situation, it can sometimes fool you into thinking that -- you know, but you know that if you let go, you're not going to fall anywhere and that's what you do and you get used to it after a while and your mind adjusts and you do feel safe.

But you concentrate on your work and it really is just a magnificent experience, both from the technical site of getting to do that work and also from the human emotional side of being out there in space doing that stuff.

BOLDUAN: And we will take your word on that one.

I mean, talk to me about the difficulty in movement. The space suits seem so cumbersome. When you see, I mean, when you're talking about I mean, you see like the rod that they're working on, it almost seemed like he was using scotch tape, wrapping it around it. Obviously I know nothing of what I'm talking about here.

But is it difficult to move around in that space suit?

MASSIMINO: We do have tape in space. I've actually used it during a spacewalk. It's Sot scotch tape but space tape. We call it cap on tape (ph), it's a special kind of tape. But it is a little hard to move around. It's a bulky suit.

What you learn very quickly when you practice on the ground in the water is that if you use too much energy in making your motions at the beginning of the spacewalk, if you move your hands and grab the handrails very tightly, you're going to wear yourself out. You're fighting against the suit, the pressure in the suit and the bulkiness of the suit.

And one of the things you learn in training after time is to move very, very efficiently. Move very slowly. Don't grab things too hard and try to use very light fingertips as you're moving around so that you don't use all of your energy all up at once. So, you learn, you modify it. First time you're in the suit in the water, in our big pool when you train -- I remember my very first time I came home, I felt like I had been in a boxing match, even though I had never done any boxing. I just felt like I was beat up.

But you learn over the years that you get this training in you that you know you need to move slowly and carefully and use your energy and strength efficiently to make it through an entire spacewalk.

BOLDUAN: And I know this is critical work being done on the international space station to help fix the cooling system. We'll get to that. But, man, this is fun to watch play out in real time. Great to see you. We'll check in with you in another half an hour as we watch these truly amazing images from space as they continue the spacewalk.

Thanks, Mike.

MASSIMINO: Thanks, Kate. Look forward to it, thanks.

BOLDUAN: All right. See you in a bit.

CUOMO: It could be a great cure for any existential issues you may have.

You know, being out there in space and looking around, you having sense of how small you were and how big everything else is.

BOLDUAN: Let's start sending a few people up.

CUOMO: Right. That's right.

All right. So, Edward Snowden, he is back in the news because he's saying his mission is accomplished. The man who leaked top security documents and fled to Russia just gave his first interview with months. And has shared his thoughts on the leaks and what life has been like on he run.

Let's bring in Joe Johns. He's in Washington, following this for us.

Joe, what are the headlines here?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Chris.

Well, this was an interview with Bart Gellman at "The Washington Post." And Snowden says he already won, even though he faces charges in the U.S. He gave the paper a long interview in Russia, where he's been hiding out with permission of the government.

He says, "For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished. I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that 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 and he asserted he's trying to help the National Security Agency -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Joe, and a lot of people would say I don't care what this guy has to say. He has become part of the dialogue of this issue certainly and talks in the interview about what the standard should be for collecting data.

And again, taking it for what it's worth, what's his rationale?

JOHNS: Well, the standard on a lot of this stuff is reasonable suspicion. And he says it should be higher. Underlying legal issue that's controversial about the NSA data collection and its practice of using the lowest American standard to justify gathering huge swaths of information. He says the standard should be higher.

Quote, "I don't care whether you're the pope or Osama bin Laden," he said, "as long as there's an individualized probable cause for targeting these people as a legitimate foreign intelligence, that's fine. I don't think it's imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause, he says, because you have to understand, when have you access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees."

Now, he's not a lawyer, Chris, as you know.

CUOMO: No, he's not. And a lot of people would question whether he's the right person to give an opinion on this. Joe Johns, though, you are exactly the right person to be bringing us this story. The best for Christmas to you and your family.

JOHNS: And you, too, Chris.

BOLDUAN: Three wounded Navy SEALs are now at an American military hospital in Germany, with a fourth expected to arrive soon. Their aircraft came under fire over the weekend as they tried to help evacuate Americans from South Sudan.

This morning, Marines are prepared to help get more Americans out as South Sudan's conflict gets closer and closer to an all-out civil war.

CNN's Elise Labott is in Washington with much more of what's at stake, Elise.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Kate, this is just a precautionary measure now. After the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last year, this is the new normal. The U.S. military wants to make sure it has an emergency force on stand by. You have 150 forces moving from Spain to Djibouti. They'll be at the ready to evacuate the remaining 100 or so Americans that are still working in the country if the violence escalates and that the country descends into all-out civil war.

The U.N. is already preparing for that possibility. The secretary general, Ban Ki-moon is looking to double its peacekeeping force from about 6,700 to 12,000.

There is one bit of encouraging news, though, U.S. envoy, Ambassador Donald Booth, is on the ground, seems to be making some progress getting these warring factions, government led by President Kiir and forces loyal to Riek Machar, the former vice president to the table. So, we'll see what happens over the next 24 hours -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. We'll be following that.

There's a lot of other news as well. So, let's get to Miguel Marquez, in for Michaela, with the headlines.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas to you both.

BOLDUAN: Hello, hello.

MARQUEZ: Hello, hello again.

One final chance to sign for coverage under Obamacare in the New Year. The administration extended the deadline by a day to help people who faced Web site delays when record traffic was reported yesterday. President Obama enrolled over the weekend, signing up for the bronze level plan. It is a symbolic move since he is covered by the military but he will pay $5,000 a year.

Southwest Airlines flight from St. Louis to Kansas City had to turn around after birds got sucked into the engine during takeoff. Passengers described a loud boom and smelling smoke. A new plane was called to the terminal at Lambert International Airport and eventually took more than 100 passengers safely to Kansas City.

The White House apparently backing off this morning on a year-end deadline to reach a deal for an Afghan security pact. President Hamid Karzai refused to sign a deal that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. The U.S. had threatened to pull all troops out after December 31st if the deal wasn't done. U.S. officials tell "The New York Times" Karzai seems to be calling their bluff.

At least 12 people were killed over 100 more injured after two explosions hit a government building in Egypt. One of the blasts happened on the top floor of the building, and was followed by a car bomb. Government officials called it an act of terrorism that stopped short of blaming any one group for the explosions. The blast comes as a nation prepares to vote on a new constitution.

To California now where San Jose police just released gripping surveillance video of an Easter Sunday car crash. Oldsmobile cutlass smashing through the front of the store, reversing, then speeding forward. Amazingly, no one was seriously injured. Police say they released the video to try to find more witnesses.

And now to Indra and what the Christmas forecast is looking like. INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I have something here that everyone is asking for. Take a guess.

MARQUEZ: Yes? Yes?

PETERSONS: It's coming, it's coming, Santa tracker. Not there.

I am now made a liar on Christmas Eve. Oh, wait. Do we have it? Just in the monitor. OK. We'll take it.

All right. There's Santa. He has already left the North Pole, he went over Russia, making his way in through Australia. You want to see how many gifts he's delivered? Try maybe 640 million or so. That number is so small on the monitor, I cannot see it. Maybe you can see it on the big screen at home.

All right. Let's go to the next thing. Let's talk about how many of you are going to be seeing a white Christmas. So, by the first definition, if it's already on the ground, 47 percent of you right now already have a white Christmas Eve. OK?

We're talking about really, yes, across the Dakotas into the Midwest, even the Northeast. You're seeing a little bit of snow on the ground. Now let's talk about who is expected to see the snow falling overnight tonight into tomorrow.

So, pretty good amounts are going to be expected. The Dakotas, Minnesota, stretching all the way through Michigan and even a little wave, tiny piece of energy across the lakes this morning with that lake-effect snow could produce heavy amounts. Six inches South of buffalo. Good amounts there. This could bring a couple of flurries into Manhattan. So, New York City could see a little bit of that action overnight.

Timing, here we go. Most importantly, right? Christmas Eve, if you're trying to make your way to midnight mass East Coast time here, Chicago, Minneapolis, you could start seeing some of that snow.

Tomorrow morning, the best time of all, you're talking about that snow falling down. Indiana, again, also in through Michigan, still looking for that snow. This guy quickly makes its way offshore. So, love that.

Temperature-wise, it is cold for a lot of you. Talking about Chicago, negative 15 degrees right now. Bismarck, negative two. Even Atlanta feels like 20 degrees. Continue to be cool the next several days. Notice New York City drops down to 29 degrees for your high tomorrow.

I'm still in "Love Actually" in my head. I'm going to articulate why I love it. Not everyone has a perfect family. When you watch "Love Actually," all these different scenarios. People feel like they have love all around them.

Get it?

BOLDUAN: Love you, Indra. PETERSONS: I'm not done it.

MARQUEZ: Boy, you are not letting go.

PETERSONS: Was that articulate?

CUOMO: It's no joke.

MARQUEZ: I know what you're talking about anyway.

CUOMO: I made one comment.

BOLDUAN: Two commercial breaks ago. We don't even know what we're talking about.

PETERSONS: So important to me.

CUOMO: I'm telling when Petersons is on it, she's on it. I made one joke about white Christmas. Now she bifurcates every weather cast on two different theories of what it is.

PETERSONS: Yes, of white Christmas.

CUOMO: So, love actually, I can only imagine what's going to happen.

PETERSONS: It means I'm listening.

MARQUEZ: Forty-seven percent in the country does not mean a white Christmas. I'm sorry. It's out for this year.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You just asked for a fight, Miguel.

PETERSONS: Boom. Done. New friend.

CUOMO: As much as it would be nice to have someone support me at this point in the show, I would go with her.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSONS: Tam A. Team B. We're good.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, an American sentenced to a year in a Middle Eastern prison for what he says was a joke. Now, his mother is speaking out about her family's fight to bring him home. A NEW DAY exclusive.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, Pope Francis is getting ready to celebrate Christmas at the Vatican for the very first time. Will this be a new different kind of holiday message?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to the NEW DAY faithful. Pope Francis will hold his first Christmas mass tonight. The new pope met with his predecessor Monday as a new poll shows Pope Francis' popularity is soaring. Here's the numbers for you, 83 percent of Catholics, 72 percent of Americans in general say they like him.

Now, tens of thousands are flocking to St. Peter's square to hear his Christmas message. We're going to break down what that message may be, what the significance is. We have CNNs religion commentator and the host of the Sunday mass, Father Edward Beck. Great to have you here.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Merry Christmas.

CUOMO: Merry almost Christmas. So, let's start with the popularity, shall we? Are you surprised?

BECK: I'm really not surprised.

CUOMO: Seventy plus percent.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Eighty plus percent of our country agrees on nothing. We agree on nothing.

BECK: We love authenticity. We love when people are when they say they are. And remember, you guys were with me -- I was with you, I should say, in Rome, at that conclave. So, let's go back to that room, OK? That -- it reaches 77 votes. That's the two-thirds necessary for his election. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is terrorized by it. The cardinal next to him, Cardinal Humes (ph) leans over and he says, hey, Jorge, he kisses him. He says, don't forget the poor.

Those are the first words that he heard after his election. Don't forget the poor. He goes out on to that balcony. And we're expecting he's going to bless all of the masses there. He bows his head and he said, will you please bless me? It was the beginning of a different kind of papacy. It was moving from the palace to the people.

It was a sea change. And I think People are responding to it. For too long, it was so removed from people. And now, they're saying, wow, I can identify with this man. He knows me. That's why he's so popular.

CUOMO: And also something we learned when we were over there. He took, obviously, the name Francis. There was a little bit of confusion as to which Francis, because the head of his order is a Francis, St. Francis, and he was asked and he said, "il poverino" you know, the poor one. Obviously, Francis of Assisi. So, it's been central to him the humility from the beginning.

BECK: And he said that name came to him when he said, Cardinal Humes, don't forget the poor. He immediately thought lady poverty, Francis married (ph) the Lady Poverty. That's when he decided he's going to take the name Francis.

BOLDUAN: How do you think that new and different kind of pope that -- I mean, it started with that moment when he asked them to pray for him? How do you think that will then transcend to this Christmas mass? Howe do you think it's going to be a different message or maybe just a different presentation this time around?

BECK: Well, remember, this is a man who just sent 2,000 cards to immigrants in a shelter, right? And he gave them phone cards so they can call home. He gave them stamps so they can write home. And now, he's going to will walk down that aisle and bless a creche of homeless refugees. That's the message of Christmas, home these refugees, that our God wants to identify with the poor.

This pope is not going to let us forget that. So, I would expect tonight -- I don't know. I have not seen the text. I would expect he's going to talk about homeless refugees that we are celebrating tonight as God become man.

BOLDUAN: He's known for that intimacy. I mean, he kinds of breaks down all those barriers and reaches out and letting people touch him. I mean, he doesn't like being held up on a pedestal. But that's kind of inherently how this mass plays out, that he is a little bit removed. Do you think he's going to be able to change the program?

BECK: I don't know. Now, remember with Benedict, he couldn't really walk down that long aisle. So, he was on a platform being taken down. I would doubt that Jorge Bergoglio is going to be on any platform going down that aisle. I would see him going down that aisle touching people, kissing babies. I mean, I'm hoping unless they really want to, you know, get that thing moving and not going to let him, but I would just see him being much more accessible. He likes to be with the people.

CUOMO: Could be a mosh pit, I think, with this guy. They just carry him over their heads all the way down. John Paul II never polled this high in popularity. I mean, he polled very high in popularity as well.

He's very likable and interesting man, but is there a backlash coming? More conservative members of the church have expressed concerns about how far he is going in changing the tone of the church and for fear of changing canonical law as well.

BECK: You know, I've read an article just yesterday about Paul Ryan, conservative Republican. He's saying he's been moved by this pope to focus more on poverty, giving back to compassionate conservatism in this country. So, I mean, he has a conservative -- Catholic of it, but he's saying I'm being affected by this, too. So, conservatives are looking at it and saying what do we do here? And I think you have to land on the side of Pope Francis, otherwise, who are they going to go to?

CUOMO: And we have poll numbers that back up the point, Catholics only in the poll. What do you think about Pope Francis' positions? Eighty-seven percent say about right. Too liberal, seven percent.

BECK: Right.

CUOMO: Now, what that could speak to is the secularization of the Catholic Church or just, you know, being the right man at the right time where people are on these issues anyway. But so far, it seems like he's getting support from everybody.

BECK: And what are the issues right now? Immigration reform. Do you have any doubt where Pope Francis would be on immigration reform? Extending benefits to the unemployed, 1.3 Americans. Any doubt that Pope Francis would be on that issue? I mean, down the line, he's going to stand with those who have no voice. He hugs the faceless man and then he speaks about the faceless poor. I mean, he's consistent all the way through.

CUOMO: Father Beck, appreciate the perspective.

BECK: Thanks.

(CROSSTALK)

BECK: Have a wonderful Christmas.

CUOMO: You can tune in tonight at 6:00 pm for CNN's special coverage of the first Christmas mass of Pope Francis, 6:00 p.m. eastern. Father Beck will be there.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, Shezanne Cassim is an American now sentenced to one year in an Abu Dhabi prison for his part-in a mock-umentary, a joke video posted online. We're going to speak with his family in an exclusive interview, including for the first time, his mother.

CUOMO: And this is so simply cool. Live images from outside the International Space Station. Astronauts are making urgent repairs. We have our own astronaut down here on the ground to give us the latest coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: welcome back to NEW DAY. Now, to a story we've been closely following for weeks now here at NEW DAY. The latest on Shezanne Cassim, the American jailed in the United Arab of Emirates for making a parody video and posting it online. Just that. A court has ordered him to spend a year in prison before being deported, but he's already spent about eight months in jail.

Joining us now this morning, Shezanne Cassim's mother, brother, and sister, Jean, Shervon, and Shalali Cassim. Thank you so much for coming in. I know this -- we talked yesterday, Shervon. I know, this is a horrific time for your family, but thank you so much for being here.

Jean, I wanted to ask you -- you said that you'd been hoping that your son would return and be able to celebrate so many holidays with you, July 4th, Thanksgiving. And now, we're on Christmas Eve. How are you doing?

JEAN CASSIM, SON IMPRISONED IN ABU DHABI: I'm feeling so sad that he is not with us today. BOLDUAN: Have you heard from him since the sentencing?

JEAN CASSIM: No. I have not been able to speak to him since the sentence was passed yesterday.

BOLDUAN: Do you know how he's doing, though, after the sentence?

JEAN CASSIM: I'm sure he's pretty, pretty sad and disappointed. And I'm hoping that, you know, things will resolve and he will be back with us very soon.

BOLDUAN: And there's still, it seems, some confusion, Shervon, of how much time he will be spending behind bars. He's already been there for eight months, eight months plus. It was five months before he even knew what he was charged with. Do you have any clarity yet on when you'll next see your brother?

SHERVON CASSIM, BROTHER IMPRISONED IN ABU DHABI: No, we don't. In fact, we and our attorneys are still waiting for clarification from the court as to how the sentencing will be implemented. So, at this point, we're afraid that there's going to be another -- in the same way that the court dates and the judgment kept being postponed.

We're afraid that we're going to see that kind of delay all over again simply with getting some understanding from the court as to how the sentencing will be implemented.

BOLDUAN: And I'll tell you, even for our part here at CNN, we have reached out repeatedly to the UAE, UAE officials to try to get interviews and, of course, some information around a dozen times and have not heard anything. I mean, Shalali, how are you?

SHALALI CASSIM, BROTHER IMPRISONED IN ABU DHABI: Tired and scared for my brother. We're only 13 months apart, so we're very close. So, to not have him close by to us and not have access to him is -- or easy access to him is terrifying.

BOLDUAN: And even after all these months, it still remains the same, huh?

SHALALI CASSIM: Uh-huh.

BOLDUAN: Is there a next step for you guys? What's next?

SHALALI CASSIM: Really, just looking to support, trying to put pressure on getting him back as soon as possible. I mean, this is just ridiculous. Just get him out of there. Get him home to us. That's all we want.

BOLDUAN: Jean, do you remember what your first thought was when you got the information that your son was being detained and especially when you found out what he was being charged with and why?