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Saved on Christmas; Fighting Back After $3,500 Fine; Holiday Hoops; Mystery Underground In Seattle

Aired December 26, 2013 - 06:30   ET


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, UPS and FedEx getting swamped with packages and complaints. Thousands of Christmas gifts didn't reach their destinations in time because of bad weather and a surge in demand. Complaints on social media then spiked. A UPS spokeswoman said the company is, quote, "terribly sorry." Neither UPS nor FedEx said how many packages were delayed.

The Muslim Brotherhood is now considered a terrorist organization in Egypt. That's a decree from Egypt's military-backed government. It essentially means the brotherhood's activities and finances are now criminalized. The move hardens a deep divide between the two sides in Egypt ahead of a referendum on a new constitution next month.

McDonald's has taken down its controversial employee Web site. You know the one that encouraged workers to skip fast food, get a second job and not pay for heat. The site is now offline with a message that says it's being upgraded. The company says the site is being re- evaluated because it caused unwarranted scrutiny.

Love this story. A Las Vegas cabbie proving Sin City has its share of angels. Gerardo Gamboa says he had no second thoughts when he find a paper bag with $300,000 inside his cab. The unidentified owner of the money: a well-known 28-year-old poker who remains unidentified.

For his good deed, Gamboa received a $1,000 reward and a steak dinner for two. He was also named driver of the year and the man that left the $300,000 behind, we're still waiting for him to hopefully give him a bonus. I think he earned it.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Pamela. I mean, that's a big deal. I mean, maybe he thought it was fake, the money at first, because the new $100 bills are weird looking.

BROWN: Right, I know.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-eight years old. That poker player.

CUOMO: They know who he is. If they know his age, they know who he is.

BOLDUAN: There's only so many people that can fit in that.

CUOMO: But that was definitely a miracle of sorts. So, let's go to a different type of Christmas miracle. This one had a lot more at stake than just money. It was life and death on an L.A. freeway, a dangerous car crash that could have turned fatal.

But some Good Samaritans, including a police officer and a firefighter were in the right place at the right time.

Miguel Marquez is here and has the story.

When you look at the pictures of how it was on fire --

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I have driven down that freeway. It is a giant freeway in Los Angeles, very, very busy place. It's amazing this guy survived.

This is a miracle of coincidence -- the right people in the right place at the right time.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): Hard to tell but that is a black Mercedes. It lost control on a major freeway in Los Angeles, harder to believe, the man who was driving survived.

DON THOMPSON, LAPD: It was just a matter of seconds. Another 10, 15 seconds, there just would have been too much fire.

MARQUEZ: Seconds to rescue the 72-year-old man whose car burst into flames after smashing into the center divider.

THOMPSON: I reached in there, fumbled a bit more. Thank goodness I found that button, popped the belt and grabbed him and pulled him out.

MARQUEZ: Adding to the miracle, Don Thompson, a 26-year veteran of the LAPD bomb squad happened to be on his way to work. His shift started early, diving into the flames, pulling the driver to safety.

THOMPSON: Singed hair here and first degree on the side.

MARQUEZ: Thompson did have help. Miracles sometimes need company. A Los Angeles firefighter happened to be driving by, making the rescue seamless.

ERIK SCOTT, LAFD: To be able to help, do immediate patient assessment and get other resources on scene a lot quicker. He happened to be the commander of the dispatch center and called them directly to do so.

MARQUEZ: A horrible accident an impromptu act of heroism.

THOMPSON: It makes me feel good to know I saved a life.

MARQUEZ: Understatement from a veteran cop, all in a day's work.


MARQUEZ: Absolutely amazing story. The 72-year-old who survived this goes to the hospital, complaints, neck and back. Amazing.

BOLDUAN: And that's it.

MARQUEZ: Amazing that he survived. The officer singed but a Christmas they will not forget certainly.

CUOMO: Important to note, they didn't get him out, then the car went on fire. The car was on fire.

MARQUEZ: It was on fire.

CUOMO: They were in there operating without any regard for that, doing what they had to do.

MARQUEZ: Yes. Well these guys, they do it every day, rarely do we see it in action like that.

BOLDUAN: And as it said in your piece, the policeman said 10, 15 seconds more, this would have been a completely different story.

MARQUEZ: If that. I mean, this guy was so cool and calm. And, you know, he did not want any praise for this. But, clearly, it was going to take this guy's life very quickly.

BOLDUAN: Well, thanks, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: All right. Coming up on NEW DAY: the question, extortion or just enforcing a contract? A couple is fined thousands of dollars for putting a negative review online about a company. They say it's unfair. So, now they're suing. The company has a different take. We'll dig in to the story this morning, and you decide.

BOLDUAN: Plus, stuck between a rock and a hard place of sorts. Something under Seattle is standing in the way of building a new tunnel and they're not quite sure yet what it is. The mystery, coming up.


BOLDUAN: Let's go around the world now, starting in South Sudan where there are desperate calls for a cease-fire amid intense fighting and fresh claims of ethnically motivated killings.

Arwa Damon is in nearby Uganda.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, fighting does continue in the oil rich northern portions of South Sudan, other pockets as well. In a town in Bor that is now back in government control on Wednesday, there was evidence of fresh blood in the streets, bodies some of them burnt, not entirely clear why at this stage. Shops have been looted. Some shops and homes razed to the ground. Civilians returning, but only to salvage whatever they can before going back to seek safety at U.N. bases. The violence that has erupted in this country has really terrorized the civilian population. Only beginning to get an idea of just how horrific it must have been -- Kate.


BOLDUAN: Arwa, thank you so much for that.

Now to Antarctica where a polar expedition ship got stuck in the ice and the 74 passengers on build, they might not see rescue until Friday.

Diana Magnay has the latest on this.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three vessels are on their way to rescue a ship stranded in the ice in the Antarctic. The Russian- flagged vessel is carrying 74 people on board. We're hearing they're safe.

We know also this is a ship designed for polar exploration. You know, the Australian coast guard who is coordinating this mission says that the ship is 100 nautical miles east of the French base of (INAUDIBLE) in the Antarctic. They said on Wednesday that it could take some two days to reach the vessel -- Kate.


BOLDUAN: All right. Diana, thank you.

And to a Christmas tradition in the U.K., Boxing Day -- taking on a different meaning these days. It's all about the sales now.

Rosie Tomkins has more.


ROSIE TOMKINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's cold and it's only just getting light. But shoppers are undeterred. Here in London, incredibly long lines of people cueing up in anticipation of the notorious Boxing Day sales. And while Boxing Day traditionally marks the official start to the sales, this year, it has been different with online sales at a record high, counting for 20 percent of nonfood items.

Despite the shift in behavior, the people are undeterred and spending their money the traditional way, with the in-store sales expected to bring in $4.2 billion.

Back to you, Kate.


BOLDUAN: All about the sales. Thanks, Rosie. CUOMO: All right. Now, a story we've been following for weeks. It's cautionary tale really for online shoppers, especially as they return unwanted gifts and start looking for post-Christmas discounts. So, this couple was fined $3,500 for posting a negative review of Now they are fighting back.

Well, the company says the couple didn't read the fine print and thus got fined. The couple says they're being extorted.

Pamela Brown is here this morning and following this one for us.

What's going on?

BROWN: Yes. You know, we brought you this story a month ago. And let me tell you, it garnered a huge response from our viewers and really hit a nerve with them. Many saying this is not fair and should be illegal. Now the couple at the center of the story is taking action to fight back.


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 Citizen.

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 3 1/2 years later, they received this e-mail, appearing to be from clear gear, stating they'd be fined $3,500 if the negative review wasn't taken down in 72 hours.

JEN PALMER, FINED FOR WRITING NEGATIVE ONLINE REVIEW: It's ridiculous that anybody would turn us around and try to extort us like this, especially for doing something as simple as just posting a review online.

BROWN: But Klear Gear told the Palmers they signed away their freedom in an obscure terms and conditions non-disparagement clause, forbidding them from taking any action that negatively impacts

The Palmers tried to take the review down but couldn't. Klear Gear apparently then reported the $3,500 bill as unpaid to a collections company.

PALMER: It was bad enough that when we went to get a second card, it took them a month to find a bank that was willing to finance us because of the huge dink that this puts on our credit. BROWN: The Palmers say they tried to reach out to set this amicably, but never heard back from the company.

SCOTT MICHELMAN, PUBLIC CITIZEN ATTORNEY: As Jen Palmer's original review online noted, part of the problem with Klear Gear's customer service is they're difficult to contact.

BROWN: Thus, according to the Palmers, leaving them no choice but to sue. They're asking the court to declare they never owed the $3,500 and are seeking compensation to be determined by a jury.

MICHELMAN: Contract law isn't a game of surprise, where businesses get to extort money based on terms that the customers didn't read in the fine print.


BROWN: CNN did try reaching out to Klear Gear's phone numbers and e- mails on its Web site but did not hear back after repeated tries. did respond via e-mail back in November to our affiliate, KUTV, defending its actions saying, quote, "Its request for the Palmers to take down their comment was not blackmail, but," quoting, "a diligent effort to help them avoid the fine.

So, we will be keeping an eye on this story. Apparently, the Palmers still have not heard from the company, even in the wake of filing this lawsuit.

BOLDUAN: After all this?

BROWN: Yes, after all this.

CUOMO: File under "bad for business".

BOLDUAN: The fact that it hits their credit history is the really, really unacceptable thing about it.

BROWN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: A good one to follow up on.

BROWN: Absolutely. We will stay on top of it.

CUOMO: Thank you, Pamela.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Pam.

BROWN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Take a little break here on NEW DAY.

When we come back: taking it to the rack and sending it home. LeBron James has done that plenty, right? But what he did on Christmas was a gift and Santa was played by a man named D. Wade. You need to see this. BOLDUAN: Plus, did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? Well, we know one boy at least who did. The gift that had him screaming in pure joy. It's our must see moment. Ahead.


CUOMO: It would have been my first choice for this segment --

BOLDUAN: Really?

CUOMO: We'll go with it. We're talking about the NBA and the highlights were often the best part, right, especially the signature jams. Lebron James, he's known for this, but he and the Heat may have set a new standard in their game against the Kobe and his Lakers on Christmas.


CUOMO: Let's bring in Joe Carter here with this morning's "Bleacher Report." I hope Christmas was good to you, my brother. Boy, this was a gift to all of us yesterday.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes, it was. You know, it was nice to sit back, open gifts, and obviously, have the NBA on in the background all day long. You know, Christmas is that one day of the year that the NBA gets to be front and center to the entire nation. You get the best teams, the biggest stars all playing on national TV. Unfortunately, as Chris said, no Kobe/Lebron matchup this year and that's because Kobe is out with a fractured knee.

But Lebron was unbelievable, and he delivered two signature dunks. That's the first one, a great alley-hoop from Dwyane Wade, and then the second one is epic because watch what Dwyane Wade does here, guys, off the glass, Lebron with a huge finish. Even Lakers' legend, Magic Johnson, called it one of the greatest players he's ever seen. I loved it live. Love it on the replay.

The win yesterday extends Miami's streak on Christmas day to give years in a row. They beat the Lakers, 101-95.

All right. So, let's talk college football. Of course, this is the last year of the BCS, The Bowl Championship Series. The last time that a computer will pick which two teams play for the national title next year, a committee will select a four-team playoff. Now, in a new CNN/ORC poll, college football fans clearly say they're ready for change.

Sixty-two percent said yes, a playoff is better than the current BCS system. Now, on the other side, about the same number of people said that they thought the BCS did, in fact, get it right this year, that the computer was correct picking Florida State and Auburn to play for the national championship.

But I think the feeling is, overall, when you look at the big picture of the BCS, guys, people want to see like all the other big college football -- big college sport they want to see football go to a playoff system. You got it in baseball. You got it in basketball. You got it in hockey. They want to see football determine their champion through a playoff system like everybody else's do.

BOLDUAN: Are you pro-playoff, Chris?

CUOMO: I'm pro-playoff. I was surprised looking at those poll numbers that college football is not as popular as I would have thought than it would be. And I think --

BOLDUAN: Were you surprised -- that's one of the numbers that I think was baffling. Just ask if you're a fan of college football, only 44 percent said yes. Fifty-six percent said no. What's wrong with 56 percent of you?


BOLDUAN: What do you think, Joe?

CARTER: I was surprised that that number was that where I think that if you look at the big picture, probably, the south would be 80 percent versus many other parts of the country that wouldn't be as heavy, but I think when you see a playoff system in place next year, more people are going to get on board because it's going to be a little bit more exciting. It's going to allow that maybe that team that never would have the chance to get in and compete for the national title.

CUOMO: Joe carter, well said, well played. Happy holidays to you.

CARTER: Yes, you too, guys.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Joe.

All right. So, they call it the object. That's it. A mystery standing in the way of a major tunnel project in Seattle, drilling what will be a two-mile highway underneath the city. It was just getting started, the dig, when the unidentified obstruction occurred and brought everything to a grinding halt, and also at the same time, sent speculation spinning across the country of what -- across the city of what this thing is. Here's Stephanie Elam with a little more.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No doubt, Bertha is a behemoth. At five stories tall, she's billed as the largest diameter tunneling machine in the world. And she was put to work grinding a tunnel under Seattle for a planned highway. But Bertha was only a tenth of the way on her nearly two-mile journey when she suddenly encountered something large enough and strong enough to stop her in her tracks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're being really cautious. We want to make sure that we don't damage this $80 million machine.

ELAM: But what is it? The mystery is fueling lots of speculation. Geologists point to how Seattle's watery edges were filled in with just about anything by the city's pioneers.

DAVID B. WILLIAMS, GEOLOGIST: You find old shoes, newspapers. There's a boat buried in downtown Seattle. So, you name it, it could be down there.

ELAM: Another theory is it's a massive boulder left during the ice age. Residents have their own guesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some kind of burial ground, maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. She's taking a Christmas break, you know? Merry Christmas, Big Bertha (ph).

ELAM: If that's the case, Bertha's Christmas break started two weeks ago. Since then, the $3 billion tunnel project has been on hold as workers drill wells to alleviate water pressure in front of Bertha in hopes of sending workers to the front of the drill to see what she's up against.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't back the machine up. You got the segment aligning in behind you. So, all you can really do is perceived (ph) forward.

ELAM: But the transportation department says Bertha won't be moving forward until at least early next year after the mystery is solved.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.


CUOMO: How did that conversation go? So, I've designed this five- story tall, completely dominant digging machine, but it doesn't go in reverse.


BOLDUAN: I'm sorry. It isn't funny. It's going to be expensive to figure it out, but it is really funny.

CUOMO: So, they just assume that wherever they pointed this thing, it would always go --

BOLDUAN: When it's that big --


CUOMO: What do you think --

BOLDUAN: No, no. I was trying to think of something creative. It can't just be a big rock. That has to be the very basic nature of what Big Bertha can do is break down rock.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: They had to put that into the equation, right?

CUOMO: Here we go. (LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I don't know. What -- you guess.

CUOMO: I got nothing.


CUOMO: If I knew, I wouldn't be asking you two.


BOLDUAN: No kidding. We know that.

CUOMO: All right. What's our "Must-See Moment?"

BROWN: Oh, I got something right here. It's today's "Must-See Moment," and you're going to want to see this. It's all about getting what, you know, getting what you want for Christmas. Chris Cuomo, still waiting for my present.


BROWN (voice-over): Eleven-year-old R.J. Meyer (ph) lives near Montgomery, Alabama. He's a big fan of Auburn football to say the least. And he asked Santa for a few things, a new pair of Nike shoes and some Xbox games, but what he really, really wanted was tickets to the BCS championship.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tickets to what?


CUOMO (voice-over): His poor parents were in agony there not knowing what it was.

BROWN: Yes. Seriously.


BROWN: His mom says number six on his Christmas list was luck that Auburn would win. Now, he's going to get to the big game with his dad on January 6th.


BOLDUAN: Wow! That's a great gift.

BROWN (on-camera): Is that how your nephew was?


BOLDUAN: Exactly. We didn't get him Auburn tickets, but he did have the same reaction when he opened up his gifts.

CUOMO (on-camera): Perfect Christmas.

BOLDUAN: That was great.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, forget about the Grinch. Too many are saying its U.P.S. and FedEx who stole Christmas. Where are the packages? We'll tell you why the packages are supposedly delayed and what the companies say they'll do to make up for it.

BOLDUAN: And also ahead, hundreds of thousands of people are in the dark this morning. Power still out days after an ice storm covered an area from Michigan to Maine. We're going to have the very latest on the efforts to get power back on, coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm, therefore, appealing to you to work for my release.

CUOMO: An urgent plea. An American taken captive by al Qaeda begs the president to help set him free before it's too late.

BOLDUAN: In the dark. Hundreds of thousands waking up without power this morning as an ice storm turns deadly.

CUOMO: Big-time bargains. Stores reeling from a slow holiday shopping season are slashing their prices to get you in the door. The best deals, ahead.

Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, December 26th, seven o'clock in the east. However it was spent, we hope you had a very meaningful holy day.

We have breaking news for you overnight. A wrenching new video, a message from an American held by al Qaeda for more than two years. The pictures, just take a look, they speak volumes. His name is Warren Weinstein (ph). Clearly, he's been hit hard by time in captivity. He now says his health is failing and he feels abandoned. So, the question is, what is the U.S. doing to bring him home?

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, joins us now. Barbara, what do we know about this situation? Barbara Starr, CNN's Pentagon correspondent: Chris, good morning. Warren Weinstein was kidnapped by al Qaeda militants in August of 2011 in Lahore, Pakistan. They broke into his home, overpowered his security guards, and took him. It was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda that claimed responsibility for this.