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Kidnapped American Releases Video; Edward Snowden Gives Video Address; Stores Open for Post-Christmas Shopping; When to Get the Best Post-Christmas Deals

Aired December 26, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He now says his health is failing and he feels abandoned. 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 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. No one has ever disputed that Al Qaeda or militants were behind his capture. He's been seen before but in this latest video, and the government is still trying to verify the circumstances of it all, this man makes a very desperate plea for help. He makes very clear just how urgent his situation is. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN WEINSTEIN, KIDNAPPED AMERICAN CONTRACTOR: Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government. And I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here. And now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Now, in this 13-minute video he appeals to President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, the American public, the American media, his family, for any help to get him out thereof. But the conditions that his captors have set have been the release of Al Qaeda operatives being held by the United States and the stopping of any U.S. military action in Al Qaeda strongholds like Yemen and Pakistan. That's not going to happen. It's hard to see how all of this is going to turn out, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, let's deal with the practicalities, then we'll get to the politics. When you look at those pictures, you don't have to be a medical exert to understand that it looks like time has been very hard on him. What do we understand about his condition?

STARR: Well, he says he is full of anxiety and that has taken its toll on him. I think if you look at some of the previous pictures of him, you see that in his face. You see it in his mannerisms. He also says that he is suffering from acute asthma and that he has a heart condition. And this, of course, this medical situation adding to the urgency that his family, of course, feels about wanting to get him out of there.

CUOMO: Now, is this a situation, therefore, politically, where there is no more movement? There are no more talks? What do you think precipitated this video? Obviously he doesn't get to decide when a video gets put out. So what do you think is at play here?

STARR: I think that's exactly what the State Department and the intelligence community is looking at. If they have an idea of exactly what elements of Al Qaeda groups may be holding him in Pakistan, what their loyalties are, what their situation is, they will be trying to figure out if there's any maneuvering room here to see what can be done.

He went to Pakistan as a government contractor working for a private company. This complicated things perhaps a little bit because -- has the company had private communications with his captors? We really do not know. As always in these situations, things are very quiet publicly. They don't want to do anything that could make some arrangement that they might be working on not happen. But let me emphasize, we have no knowledge that there's any discussions for his release at this point. There's been no public acknowledgement, no discussion of any such thing.

CUOMO: Right move seems to be to get the word out, at least for now, Barbara. Thank you very much for helping us this morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's turn to the weather. It's been days before a dangerous ice storm moved across the northern states. But the aftermath of that weather has turned deadly. We're talking about power outages reaching in spots from Michigan to Maine, with more snow and wind on the way. Let's get straight to Chad Myers in for Indra Petersons this morning, with a look at the forecast. And Chad, you say the wind is the thing people need to be worried about it.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It blows right through your house, especially if the heat is not on, and it also keeps the men and women in those bucket trucks on the ground because they don't want to be up there when the wind is blowing 30. It is 24 right now in Syracuse. It was 22 this morning in Atlantic City. That's cold all the way to the ocean, 11 in Minneapolis, 17 in Chicago, but if you add in the wind it feels colder than that. Chicago you're almost down to zero. It feels like four.

It's snowing across parts of the Poconos, some of the Catskills. There's a little into Buffalo and Cleveland, also into Detroit, not like with saw over the weekend though. This is 24 hours. In 24 hours almost a foot and a half in Silver City, Michigan. I know it's lake- effect snow. That's what they get. You expect that.

But if you're flying today you may run into problems, de-icing delays, Boston, New York, all these areas may have ice or frost on the plane wings. So that's a 20-minute delay. The biggest one could be later on today, San Francisco all the way down to L.A., big winds, 20, 30 miles per hour could kick up some dust.

CUOMO: Thanks, Chad, appreciate it. So thousands are saying UPS stole Christmas for families across the country, empty spaces under the tree because their gifts weren't delivered on time. Why not, and what happens now? Nick Valencia is at the CNN center in Atlanta tracking the situation. What's the latest?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a gripe for thousands of you, because thousands are still waiting at your front doors and looking out your window for your UPS driver to finally deliver Christmas gifts that never arrived. The company is apologizing to scores of angry customers this morning, but they say it's not all their fault.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 already 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 ice storm which was two-and-a-half weeks ago. It's terribly disappointing because we ordered these things on December 1st.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to the front of the line after waiting for about an hour and said it hasn't been processed yet.

VALENCIA: Disappointed customers stormed online customer support, tweeting "Got same message, still waiting for a response from this morning, along with my granddaughter's Christmas gift." And "Busy during December, who would have thought it? #bunchofclowns."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing today?

VALENCIA: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: Online companies who rely heavily on UPS's service are making amends, or trying to make amends anyway. They say they're giving gift cards and refunding the charge of shipment for some of their customers. So hopefully they can make amends for those botched shipments. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, thanks so much. We'll check back in with you soon.

So a lot of people are grabbing receipts, he's talking about problems with UPS and FedEx. A lot of people grabbing their receipts, gift cards, heading out, hitting the cold. Why? Because they want to hit the stores today. The day after Christmas sales are off to a very early start, retailers hoping to cash in on these last few days of 2013 to turn a profit. We're not only talking about stocking up on those bargains that you always get right after Christmas on wrapping paper and ornaments and the like. Let's get to CNN's George Howell in Chicago. Hi, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning. Today will be a good day to do it. I just noticed here on magnificent mile, the big sales, you see the red signs promising huge discounts anywhere from 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent off, stores doing everything they can to get you in the doors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: 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 Wal-Mart and Kohl's open their doors as early as 5:00 a.m. to anxious shoppers just hours after Christmas. According to deal news, you'll get the best bang for your buck on clothing, brand new HDTVs, and holiday treats and decor.

KATHY GRANNIS, SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: The discounts will definitely be deep this week. But what you're getting are leftovers. You can guarantee you'll see some 70 percent, 75 percent off discounts 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 Amazon.com, online shopping.

HOWELL: Retailers like Amazon.com, Old Navy, and Sacks 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 actually expecting gift cards to bring in $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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: So, as you heard in the story, gift cards can make up a big portion, $26 billion for these stores, these retailers. Also this week alone could count for 15 percent of sales. So guys, you can tell that the stores will definitely be counting on you to come in and shop today.

CUOMO: Good to know. You know, you have to shop, you have to shop. I'm not much of a shopper. George, you say you have shopping to do. I say go and be good with it, George.

HOWELL: It's a good thing to do.

CUOMO: Don't forget your friends in New York. I like that tie clip you have on.

HOWELL: You have gift cards coming your way.

CUOMO: Just a suggestion. I like the tie clip you have on today. Enough said.

(LAUGHTER)

HOWELL: Got it.

CUOMO: NSA leaker Edward Snowden who appears to be going from snitch to spokesman for personal privacy in an alternative Christmas message on British TV. Snowden told people privacy matters and encouraged them to remind their leaders that, quote, "Asking is always cheaper than spying." Foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott has more for us. What do we know about this?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, this year you saw Snowden evolve from someone behind the scenes to a provocateur, speaking out more, urging the public against these mass government surveillance that he revealed this year. Let's take another listen to what he said in his Christmas message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARD SNOWDEN, FORMER NSA CONTRACTOR: Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and remind the government that if it want today's know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: So really trying to rally the public. Remember Orwell's famous book "1984" about Big Brother watching, Chris? He says that's nothing compared to what's going on today is what he's seen. Not a very uplifting Christmas message about the world we're living in, Chris.

CUOMO: Privacy matters. You always have the message and the messenger. The question becomes, this outlet that put out this message, they have a tradition of doing this. So what did they say their reasoning was for putting Snowden out right now?

LABOTT: It's always a controversial figure or an alternative figure that does this message. And if you remember, Britain's security services were in the hot seat for their cooperation with the U.S. Channel 4 said Snowden's decision to reveal these NSA programs was one of the most significant stories of the year, saying it raises serious questions for democratic society and gives the public a chance to hear from him directly and judge for themselves what he has to say about what he did.

CUOMO: Elise Labott, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting. Happy holidays.

Let's get to Pamela Brown now in for Michaela. She's got this morning's other top stories.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. And making news on this Thursday, the U.S. is reportedly sending military equipment, including drones and missiles, into Iraq with the goal of helping the country stop Al Qaeda backed insurgents. "The New York Times" saying the Obama administration is responding to urgent requests from the government there but so far is not operating any armed U.S. drones over Iraq.

Meantime, the leaders of Kenya and Ethiopia are in South Sudan trying to mediate some semblance of peace there. Fighting between government forces and rebel groups hasn't let up as the country edges closer to a full-fledged civil war. In a Christmas day address South Sudan's president condemned ethnically motivated killings there. The government says hundreds of people at least have died. U.N. officials say tens of thousands have sought refuge at peacekeeping compounds across the country.

And over in Turkey, protesters are marching in the country's major cities and clashing with police, demanding the prime minister step down. Three senior ministers resigned on Wednesday and several more were replaced. One claims Turkey's prime minister knew about corruption involving the construction industry. He calls the scandal an international conspiracy against him.

The suspect accused of gunning down a TSA officer at Los Angeles International Airport is set to be arraigned today. Paul Ciancia faces 11 felony counts including murder in the November shooting. He's accused of killing Gerardo Hernandez and wounding three others. And Beyonce made this a holiday season to remember for a young girl who's battling cancer. This little girl right here has an inoperable brain tumor and she asked the Make a Wish foundation if she could dance with Beyonce. A few days ago it happened. Beyonce swooped down and the two shared an embrace before they performed a rendition of "Love on Top" together. And Beyonce sang "Survivor" to her.

BOLDUAN: It breaks your heart that we have to talk about these Make a Wish.

BROWN: I know, it really does.

BOLDUAN: But it is truly beautiful.

BROWN: It is. And it's nice to see people in Beyonce's position to use their power in a positive way to really make a meaningful difference.

CUOMO: Yeah. Amazing organization. It really does, for so many families very often the patients wind up enduring, and even if it's not a terminal illness, they wind up enduring in part because of this momentum and this goal of this enthusiasm for whatever the wish was. So, it's just a great - any chance we can to expose what they do.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, retailers are pulling out all the stops to try and draw customers in for post-holiday sales. So where are the best deals and what should you be looking out for as we head into the end of the year? We're going to bring in the experts to help when we come back.

CUOMO: And if you think traveling by plane has gotten even less comfortable, you'd be right. We'll tell you the many ways airlines are packing more of us in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: And less now that Christmas just came and went.

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Yesterday many of you opened your presents, now you're figuring out what stays and what goes back. The temptation of after-Christmas sales are calling us all. But is it really the best day to go out and get the deals? Hitha Prabhakar is here, joining us to talk this through. She is a consumer spending analyst for AitchPe Retail Advisory.

This is a heavy burden on you. People need to know, they're waking up now, drinking their coffee, getting ready to go. Is the day today?

HITHA PRABHAKAR, CONSUMER SPENDING ANALYST, AITCHPE RETAIL ADVISORY: Yes. I can't tell you how many e-mails and Facebook messages I've been getting. Today I tell people -- today isn't the day.

According to the National Retail Federation, the big takeaway number is 264 billion. That is how much retailers lost in returned merchandise last year.

BOLDUAN: 264 billion?

PRABHAKAR: Billion. And they're expected for that to be even more this year. So basically what people are returning the most of are clothes, toys, if you can imagine, believe this, jewelry is the last on the list. No one really wants to return their jewelry and watches. Gee, I wonder why. If you want to get that merchandise, return that merchandise, I'm telling people to just wait a couple days. Because a lot of that needs to get restocked and a lot of the retailers will discount it even more as we get closer to the new year.

BOLDUAN: What do you think of return policies? Because as I've been looking around this year, it seems like they've gotten even more lenient with return policies this holiday season.

PRABHAKAR: You're absolutely correct. And the reason why they're doing that is because retailers wanted people to go into their stores before Christmas. They wanted to spend, and people thought if they had, and were dealing with a lenient return policy they were more willing to buy at that moment. So now it's going to get even easier for people to return. But that's to the cost of the retailer. As a consumer, we're doing really well. We have lenient return policies, we were able to get great discounts. As a retailer they're now dealing with potentially losing out on that revenue because their policies were so lenient.

BROWN: Right, it seems like the customers have really had the edge to this shopping season in general. Right?

PRABHAKAR: Absolutely. We were also talking about the discounts they were getting as well. We were talking earlier, some of the discounts people were getting prior to Christmas was up to 70 percent off. Now that the holiday is over, expect to see those same discounts, 70 percent, almost to 75 and 80 percent off.

BROWN: Which means that some of them will be losing money just to get the inventory off the shelves, right?

PRABHAKAR: Exactly. The last thing retailers want to see are full stocked shelves. A lot of -- according to Paypal, a lost people went online this holiday season; about 53 percent did most of their shopping online. These brick and mortar stores, the last thing they want to see are stocked shelves. Once they start seeing that, they go into panic mode and start discounting even deeper.

CUOMO: Depends what the margins are, what the goods are. You know because the margins could be really big. They usually wind up making money. I mean that's what the business model is. And the bad news is, the reason there are so many steep discounts is because demand is so low.

PRABHAKAR: Exactly.

CUOMO: So, the question becomes, when you buy returned merchandise, you don't know that it's returned merchandise, right? PRABHAKAR: No. That's what's interesting. Especially because a lot of these stores charge a restocking fee. If you are returning merchandise, a lot of the electronics stores.

CUOMO: So it's like something that Kate tried on, brought back. People don't know that. She's putting on a T-shirt, I'm buying it, I think it's fine.

PRABHAKAR: Exactly.

CUOMO: It's not fine.

BOLDUAN: Stop giving people such a window into -

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Can you get more of a discount? Can you ask and say was this restock? Is there any way to know?

PRABHAKAR: That's a good point as well. We were talking about negotiating before. And a lot of people have been going into stores and asking for lower prices on items, bigger discounts. If you're seeing an item that's been restocked, or if you ask that it's been restocked, sure, why not ask for a deeper discount on that. The main mission is to get the merchandise out of the store.

CUOMO: Wait a little bit because all the returning is going on right now. That stuff will have to be more deeply discounted after it's restocked, and that's when you hit it.

PRABHAKAR: If you can wait five or six days.

BOLDUAN: Closer to new years?

PRABHAKAR: Yes.

CUOMO: I'll be going then because I have to buy a new round of gifts to make up for what I just said to Kate. I can tell you right now, it ain't going away.

BOLDUAN: I love ya. Thank you so much. I'm going to get more gifts. Just made my day.

CUOMO: Great to have you here.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, talking of Christmas and Christmas gifts, a Christmas gift for people who have had trouble signing up for Obamacare on the internet. Some more time they'll be getting as their Christmas gift. Is that enough to help turn around public opinion of the healthcare overhaul?

CUOMO: And I don't know about you, but my stomach just dropped out when I read the tweet that Justin Bieber was retiring.

BOLDUAN: You lost sleep last night.

CUOMO: Look, he pulled back on it, but I'm just not really sure now. So this morning, should we beliebe him? And we will take on this question, because if he leaves music, I don't know what I'm going to do.

BOLDUAN: The world will not be the same.

CUOMO: I don't know who I am without him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's get to Pamela Brown in for Michaela, for a check of the headlines.

BROWN: Great to be here with you. Making news today, a new video message from an American being held captive by al Qaeda. Warren Weinstein right here was kidnapped in Pakistan more than two years ago, working for the Agency for International Development. He says he feels abandoned and wants the president and secretary of state to help bring him home. Weinstein says his captors will let him see his family and some prisoners are released.

U.P.S. and Fedex getting sleighed on social media over delivery delays. Thousands of packages didn't reach destinations by Christmas because of bad weather an a surge in demand, making social media complaints explode. The companies promise, they are working through the backlog.

The family of the California teenager declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy might move her to another hospital where she can stay on life support. Officials at Oakland's children's hospital declared 13- year-old Jahi McMath brain dead earlier this month. Her family says she is still alive and will recover. That's what they believe. A legal order for the hospital to continue Jahi's care expires on Monday.

A dramatic Christmas day rescue on a major Los Angeles freeway, and it was all caught on camera. Take a look at this here: the driver of this car was trapped after a crash. The car burst into flames. That's when an LAPD bomb squad officer and two good Samaritans stepped in to help, pulling the man out and saving his life as the car was on fire. The officer says it was just a matter of seconds. The driver is in the hospital right now, but still doing okay with just some minor injuries, we're told.

And it was a very merry Christmas for an upstate New York man with downs syndrome. He can thank people across the country for that. Twenty-five-year-old Elliott Sherback told his mother all he wanted this year was some cards to lift spirits. So, what does mom do? She gets friends and family to post the request on Facebook. The message took off. By Christmas morning, more than 1,800 cards arrived. At least one from almost every state.

CUOMO: Love it. Love it.

BROWN: Love it, too.

CUOMO: Love it, people taking the time to reach out to others.

BROWN: Good stuff, right, Chris?

CUOMO: Right. That is good stuff. Good stuff, indeed.

BROWN: Glad it qualifies.

CUOMO: It does. It's not easy. You can't just throw around the good stuff. It's a high bar, high bar.