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Al Qaeda Releases Video of Hostage Warren Weinstein; UPS, FedEx Apologize for Late Holiday Deliveries; Thousands Still Without Power; Paul Ciancia To Be Arraigned Today; Government Extends ObamaCare Deadline -- Again; President Obama Spends Holiday Time With Marines on Oahu; Poll -- 67 Percent Say "Worst Congress Ever"; Post-Christmas Sales Push Begins; Top Ten Scandals of 2013; Utah Couple Fights Hefty Fine

Aired December 26, 2013 - 11:00   ET


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Totally abandoned and forgotten, an American held hostage since 2011 pleads to President Obama to gain his freedom. Warren Weinstein appears in a video released by al Qaeda.

And if you didn't get your Christmas presents, don't blame Santa -- Santa's helpers, UPS and FedEx say the onus is on them, and they're rushing to get packages delivered today.

Also a bit mystery deep below the streets of Seattle and it stopped the world's largest tunneling machine in its tracks.

Hello, everyone. I'm Pamela Brown in today for Ashleigh Banfield. It is Thursday, December 26th. Welcome to "LEGAL VIEW".

Up first today, an American held hostage by al Qaeda for more than two years says he feels abandoned and forgotten. Warren Weinstein was kidnapped in Pakistan in August of 2011. In this new video you see here out today Weinstein says his health is failing. And he's pleading to President Obama for help. The statement appears to have been made under duress.

CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the city. Elise Labott is following the story for us this morning in Washington.

Hi, Elise. First up, tell us who this man is and how he was kidnapped.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Pam, Warren Weinstein is a 72-year-old development expert, contractor for USAID from right here in the Washington area.

He was kidnapped by al Qaeda militants in August 2011 in Lahore, Pakistan, where he was working. They broke into his house, overpowered his security guards and took him. The leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al- Zawahiri took credit for the kidnapping.

And in this latest video, he makes a desperate plea, Mr. Weinstein, for help from President Obama. Let's have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WARREN WEINSTEIN, AMERICAN KIDNAPPED BY AL QAEDA IN PAKISTAN: Mr. Obama, you are a family man and so you understand the deep, mental anxiety and anguish that I have been experiencing and, therefore, I am appealing to you on a humanitarian basis, if nothing else, and asking that you take the necessary actions to expedite my release.


LABOTT: And he says he has spent his whole life in service of the U.S. government and the American people and is asking not just the president, but Secretary of State John Kerry, the American public and the media to help him bring him home.

As he says, he feels abandoned and wants to make sure he's not forgotten, Pam.

BROWN: So, on that note, Elise, what has the reaction been from the White House and the State Department?

LABOTT: They're saying very little right now.

In a statement provided to CNN, deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf says, "We're working hard to authenticate this latest report, but we reiterate our call that Warren Weinstein be released and returned to his family, particularly during this holiday season, another one away from his family.

"Our hopes and prayers are with him and those who love him and miss him."

But, Pam, in return for his release, the kidnappers are asking for a release of all al Qaeda prisoners, a halt to drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. That's not going to happen.

The U.S. maintains its position it will not negotiate and doesn't want more kidnappings for terrorists to feel the U.S. is willing to bargain.

BROWN: And as this is all going on, obviously, this is a very dire situation for Weinstein.

You see in that video, it's clear his health is deteriorating, Elise. In fact, it's especially stark when you look at other videos released by him in years past.

Hopefully, we can put those up on the screen, as well, and we can see the in comparison. There we go.

What kind of health issues is -- are -- is he facing?

LABOTT: It's really -- you can see from the video, compared to those other photos, that the years have really taken their toll on him.

He says he's in poor health in addition to this horrible anxiety. He has asthma. He has a heart condition.

And, so, over the years, you can see being treated this way, and in Pakistan, I'm sure he's not in luxury conditions, obviously.

So, really for his family, it's a concern to get him home as soon as possible.

BROWN: Absolutely. Elise Labott, thank you so much for that report. We appreciate it.

Christmas may be over, but you still may be getting another gift or two. Those packages delayed by UPS and FedEx may be delivered some time today, both companies apologizing for the late deliveries, blaming the shortened holiday shopping season.

Together, they're moving some 400 million package this is holiday season, according to the companies.

Our Nick Valencia is following this story for us. He joins us from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

All right, Nick, what's the latest?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lots of angry people is the latest, thousands of you.

There are no official numbers, but it's estimated that thousands of you are dealing with this issue, looking out your front windows, waiting for those Christmas gifts to arrive that didn't quite make it under the Christmas tree.

UPS and FedEx apologizing to scores of angry customers, but they're saying it's not all their fault.


VALENCIA: UPS trucks are back out in full force this morning, trying to deliver packages that were supposed to be delivered by Christmas morning.

JULIE STRACHAN, UPS CUSTOMER: I waited around for hours and hours for it to show up, and it never did.

VALENCIA: Thousands of gifts not delivered on time, waiting in UPS warehouses to be shipped.

UPS says they've delivered an estimated 132 million packages in the last week alone, blaming the backlog on an unprecedented surge in online sales and bad weather.

UPS released a statement saying, in part, "The volume of air packages in our system exceed the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas, so some shipments were delayed."

But many are still unhappy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're still blaming it on the ice storm, which was two-and-a-half weeks ago. It's terribly disappointing. We ordered these things on December 1st. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to the front line after waiting about an hour and they said it hasn't been processed yet.

VALENCIA: Disappointed customers stormed online customer support, tweeting, "Got same message. Still waiting for the response this morning along with my granddaughter's Christmas gift," and, "Busy during December? Who would have thought it? Hash tag, #bunchofclowns."

UPS isn't the only delivery company experiencing delays. People lined up at this FedEx shipment center in Oregon on Christmas Day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They left me a note. Thank God they're open so I can go to my parents and give my mom her gift.

VALENCIA: Meanwhile, UPS says they expect the vast majority of packages to be delivered today.


VALENCIA: And, Pamela, I've got a couple of new statements to read to our viewers, a couple of new statements, one from FedEx.

This one says, "FedEx was projected to handle 275 million statements in this shortened holiday season during Thanksgiving and Christmas and we operated with very high service levels, over 99 percent at FedEx Ground, for example, during our busiest time of year."

Now, UPS, they've been criticized heavily, as well, from loads of angry customers. They just released a statement on their Web site.

That says, "UPS experienced heavy holiday volume and is making every effort to get packages to their destination as quickly as possible. UPS has resumed normal scheduling service on December 26th."

And when you think about this, Pamela, it's not just UPS and FedEx. It's those online retailers that rely on their services, as well. And they're offering gift cards and things like paying for shipments to make up for their blunder.


BROWN: Yeah. Retailers like Amazon.

All right, thanks so much, Nick Valencia. We appreciate it.

VALENCIA: You bet.

BROWN: Thousands of people who spent Christmas in the dark are still without power today.

Ice storms cut off electricity to more than half a million people earlier this week in Vermont, Maine, Toronto and in Michigan.

More than 100,000 people are still waiting for their lights to be turned back on, and in some cases, the heat.

A man accused of going on a deadly shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport is being arraigned today.

Paul Ciancia is expected to enter a plea to charges he shot and killed a TSA officer and wounded three others during that rampage last month.

The government is extending again the sign-up date for ObamaCare, for those who made the effort but couldn't complete the process by the December 23rd deadline.

Officials say customer service will help them enroll and get coverage by January 1st.

But those who did not start the enrollment are out of luck. Their insurance will only start in February.

And still ahead, right here on LEGAL VIEW, a verdict from the American people, and it could be summed up in three words, "worst Congress ever."

The historic numbers, out today, and the surprising twist on who's to blame, right after this break.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Listen, I don't -- we don't mean to interrupt.


BROWN: It's an Obama family tradition, Christmas with the troops in Hawaii.

The commander-in-chief and first lady spent almost two hours yesterday at the Marine base not far from their vacation home in Oahu.

They posed for pictures and thanked the troops and their families for their incredible dedication and professionalism.

Dedication and professionalism, not two words most Americans would apply to the 113th Congress. The words they would use, I probably shouldn't repeat here.

Luckily, CNN's Dana Bash has numbers that tell us all we need to know.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Freshmen Angus King and Joe Donnelly just wrapped up their first year in the Senate. Their take on the institution is telling.

SENATOR ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: It's still pretty bad that we haven't been able to get more done.

SENATOR JOE DONNELLY (D), INDIANA: The more cooperation we can get, the better off we'll be. BASH (voice-over): A new CNN/ORC poll shows 67 percent, two-thirds of the country, call this the worst Congress of their lifetime.

And nearly three-quarters of those people, 74 percent, have lived a long life. They're 50 and older.

Seventy-three percent say Congress has done nothing to address the country's problems.

BASH: The public approval of Congress is still pretty low. Does that surprise you?

DONNELLY: No, because what they see every day on television is deadlock and fights and screaming.

What you don't see every day is large groups of both Democrats and Republicans coming together, saying, how can we work through this process?

BASH (voice-over): One thing that is bipartisan? The blame. The public doesn't trust either party.

Fifty-two percent says policies of Democratic congressional leaders will lead the country in the wrong direction.

Republican leaders fair only slightly worse, 54 percent saying the GOP will move the country in the wrong direction.

Moderate Republican Susan Collins spent a year organizing bipartisan discussion to solve big problems. She wants Americans to have hope for 2014.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I hope that the American people will realize there are some of us who are trying to build bridges and bring people together and solve problems.

BASH: Congress did leave for the year on a higher note than when it started, passing a bipartisan budget through the House and Senate.

Several senators told me that they had several people coming up to them, thanking them for being reasonable.

One told me at first he thought it was a nice compliment, but then he realized it was a pretty low bar.

Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: And a few more numbers from that poll Dana mentioned.

Asked whether they prefer a Republican -- no name, just a Republican -- or a Democrat in next year's congressional midterms, registered voters now lean Republican, 49-to-44 percent.

By a wider margin, voters say they're more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who opposes President Obama.

And now here are numbers anybody can like, the Dow Jones Index picking up right where it left off before Christmas. An up day today would make six in a row, not to mention the 50th record close of 2013.

All right. Not bad.

And if you didn't finish your holiday shopping, you may be in trouble with your family, but you also may be in luck with the deals.

The ever-important post-Christmas shopping push is now under way, stores slashing prices even more in hopes of clearing shelves and boosting sales numbers from the shortened shopping season.

CNN's George Howell has more from Chicago.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just when you thought the holiday shopping frenzy was over, the after-Christmas sales are on, and this year it's expected to be bigger than ever.

Some stores, like Walmart and Kohl's, opened their doors as early as 5:00 a.m. to anxious shoppers hours after Christmas.

According to DealNews, you'll get the best bang for your buck on clothing, brand-name HDTVs, and holiday treats and decor.

KATHY GRANNIS, SPOKESWOMAN, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: The discounts will definitely be deep this week, but what you're getting are leftovers. You can guarantee that you'll see 70-, 75-percent off on wrapping paper and Christmas tree trinkets.

HOWELL: And the sales aren't just in stores. They're online, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're doing a lot of, a lot of online shopping.

HOWELL: Retailers like, Old Navy and Saks Fifth Avenue are amping up their day-after Christmas sales in hopes of cashing in on your holiday cheer.

GRANNIS: The week after Christmas can account for as much as 15 percent of what retailers see throughout the entire holiday season.

So, if you add it all up, this final week is just as important for retailers as the week before is.

HOWELL: Experts say the 26th is also a big day for gift card purchases with Target customers cashing in their stocking stuffers the most today.

GRANNIS: Gift cards for seven years in a row now have been the most requested gift item. We're expecting gift cards to bring in about $28 billion once they've all been redeemed. HOWELL: And for those of you who may be lugging around that sack of returns, some advice from "Consumer Reports." Be sure to read the fine print on your receipts for the exact return window and to see if you can get an extension on holiday gifts. Also, be on the lookout for restocking fees and keep in mind that some items, like video games and movies, can't be returned once you've opened them.


BROWN: That was CNN's George Howell reporting there.

The year of the scandal. That's one way we could sum up 2013, from Toronto's crack smoking mayor and Paula Deen to Lance Armstrong and Anthony Weiner. Where do we begin? The top ten coming up next.


BROWN: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. What can we say about a year that gave us Anthony Weiner, Paula Deen and Rob Ford? I'll say that twice, Rob Ford, because it seems like a story that never ends, and that bogus South African sign language guy. Remember him? Suffice it to say it's been a huge year for scandal, and Joe Johns names the top 10.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Number 10 beam me up, baby. It's seldom you get the crack question of the year and the crack answer of the year in the same place. But it happened to the now notorious star of his own crack-smoking video.


JOHNS: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford when he got put on the spot in an open forum with the whole world watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you purchased illegal drugs in the last two years.

FORD: Yes, I have.

JOHNS: Ford was a trendsetter in 2013 -- leader of the pack in the category of mayors gone wild with honorable mention to number 9, San Diego's Mr. Smooth himself, Bob Filner, who resigned as mayor facing a tidal wave of sexual harassment allegations. Charges of unwanted advances including a former female employee who filed suit, Irene McCormick Jackson, alleging that Filner asked her, "Wouldn't it be great if you took off your panties and worked without them on?" He was eventually sentenced to 90 days home confinement and three years probation for assaulting women.

Number eight, also in the runoff for worst mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the former hip hop mayor of Detroit convicted of racketeering and extortion so pervasive that prosecutors said it helped pushed the Motor City into the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Kilpatrick finally got the term he wasn't elected to serve; 28 years in federal prison. And speaking of elections, number seven on our list isn't a mayor, but he could have been. New York's former Congressman, Anthony Weiner a hit performer on the list from past years for the sexting controversy that made him leave Capitol Hill. Weiner made an encore running for the Big Apple's top job.

But when more explicit pictures surfaced that were sent to a 22-year- old woman under the alias "Carlos Danger", Weiner, who is married lost the primary with less than five percent of the vote. Magnanimous as always Weiner gave the media the universal "We're number one hand signal as a parting shot."

While we're on the subject of popularity, number six on the list is that agency everybody loves to hate -- the Internal Revenue Service. And in keeping with the season what might be described as one of the most notorious naughty list in recent U.S. history. It seems somebody at the IRS got bright the idea of singling out conservative groups, especially Tea Partiers, for extra special attention.

The practice attracted outrage from coast to coast. And an investigation by the other federal agency that gins up fear and anxiety everywhere, the Justice Department.

And speaking of spilling the goodies, there are some non-government players that must be mentioned for outstanding performances in 2013.

Number five on our list is the former man of steel, Lance Armstrong. Here is a guy who was master of the cycling world and the big lie, winning the Tour De France seven times, claiming repeatedly that he wasn't doping to enhance his athletic performance. But after being banned from the sport, he gave a tell-all, sort of, interview with Oprah, where else? He confessed and offered what may be remembered as the biggest understatement in the history of sport.

LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: I'm not the most believable guy in the world right now.

JOHNS: Number four on our list was another kind of credibility problem -- that phony sign language interpreter who crashed the Nelson Mandela memorial service. It would be funnier if it weren't so creepy. This guy got within arm's length of the President of the United States, making meaningless gestures. It later came to light that he had once been accused of rape and murder but was found not guilty.

Number three is Paula Deen.


JOHNS: What would possess a host of a popular cooking show that get herself embroiled in a lawsuit where somebody was actually going to ask her under oath whether she ever used the "n" word when she knew she did? Can you say settle the case already?

And speaking of legal problems, number two on our list is the not so secretive anymore NSA, the National Security Agency. Who would have thought that one government outfit that was supposed to be stealth city could manage to embarrass or anger just about everybody in the U.S., by letting a rogue former contractor named Edward Snowden download a busload of secrets, so-called signal intelligence, from its computer system, splash some of it to the media and then run off to Russia, of all places, while the goodies continue to be spilled item by item for maximum effect.

And finally on our list coming in dead even: tied for first place for the broken government award of the year, Congress, for the absolutely inexplicable government shutdown crisis of 2013 that featured an absurdist dramatic reading of a Dr. Seuss classic in the midst of a 21-hour senate talk-a-thon.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am.

JOHNS: And not to be overlooked, the Obama administration for the utterly disastrous bungled rollout of the website. Which debacle was worst is entirely in the eye of the beholder. The futile attempts by a congressional minority to dismantle a law of the land upheld by the Supreme Court with the stated aim of getting rid of the President's signature achievement or the video replays of the leader of the free world promising that his signature achievement would allow anyone to keep the status quo only to find out, that well, it just wasn't true.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


BROWN: And thank you to Joe Johns for putting together that very comprehensive look at the scandals from this past year. So, we want to know, what do you think was the biggest news story of 2013? You be the judge. Voting is underway right now on There, you'll see a list of 20 stories. We want you to choose your top ten. December 30th, 9:00 am eastern time online and on TV, we'll reveal the top ten stories of 2013 as voted on by you, our viewers. That's at

Coming up, a Utah couple finds out the hard way if you want to leave a negative online review, you could end up paying a price. Coming up, hear why they say they were fined by an online retailer and what they're doing to fight back.

Stuck in Seattle? Something standing in the way of a massive project for the city. It's underground and it's big, very big. So, what in the world is it? Still a mystery.


BROWN: Today we have an update on a story we told you about a month ago. A Utah couple is fighting back against an online retailer. John and Jen Palmer are suing after the company fined them $3,500, all for writing a negative review online. Let me bring you up to speed on the details.


BROWN (voice over): A Utah couple fined $3,500 for writing a negative review of is now suing the merchant for retaliating against them, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday on the couple's behalf by Public Citizens. The battle began when John and Jen Palmer bought a few Christmas gifts from the Web site in 2008. But they say the items never arrived and their calls went unanswered.

Finally, the transaction was canceled. Jen Palmer vented her frustrations online, posting a review of the company on saying, in part, "There is absolutely no way to get in touch with a physical human being, no extensions work."

Then three and a half years later, they received this e-mail, appearing to be from KlearGear, stating they would be fined $3,500 if the negative review wasn't taken down in 72 hours.

JEN PALMER, COUNTERSUING KLEARGEAR.COM: It's ridiculous that anybody would turn around and try to extort us like this especially for doing something as simple as just posting a review online.