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Beirut Car Bombing; Holiday Shopping; Russian Ship Stuck In Antarctic

Aired December 27, 2013 - 05:30   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news. A former ambassador to the U.S. killed in a deadly blast on the streets of Beirut. Several more dead and dozens others injured. A live report ahead.

And the death toll climbing in the wake of a massive ice storm. Thousands without power for days. So, of course, the question, is there any relief in sight? Chad Myers is tracking the very latest.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And thousands of celebrating Christmas without presents after a massive delivery disaster. Now, Amazon is doing something to make amends with furious customers.


MARQUEZ (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.

BROWN (on-camera): And I'm Pamela Brown. It so nice to have you along with us. It is 5:30 in the east.

And we are following breaks new at this hour. Downtown Beirut rocked by a car bomb that killed five people and injured more than 70 others. Among the dead, a former Lebanese ambassador to the U.S., Mohammad Chatah. Lebanon's news agency says Chatah's convoy was struck. So far, no claims of responsibility.

Joining us now from Beirut is journalist, Mitchell Prothero. And Mitchell, you were actually at the scene of the bombing just after it happened, is that right? Tell us about it.

MITCHELL PROTHERO, JOURNALIST: Yes, it was. What happened was shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning, a large explosion rattled all of Beirut. You could pretty much hear it all throughout downtown and the surrounding areas. At the scene which is in a five-star area of downtown Beirut surrounded by luxury hotels and nightclubs, the parliament is close by as are a couple of residents of the prime minister, things like that.

It was clear that a convoy had been targeted by either a car bomb or a roadside bomb that, you know, killed as it turns out the former minister of finance and a close adviser to the former Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri.

BROWN: And if you were just kind of set the scene for us. I can imagine it was very chaotic.

PROTHERO: It was. It's not the largest bomb I've ever seen in Beirut. It was clearly a professional hit intended to sort of get somebody inside maybe a convoy or inside an armored vehicle. About a dozen cars were on fire. Emergency personnel were running around. Windows had been blown out throughout all of these luxury places.

There's a number of very expensive stores and hotels and restaurants in the area. So, it was quite chaotic. Probably saved a lot of people's lives that had happened this week when things are a little slower and people aren't going to work quite as much or quite as early.

BROWN: Interesting. You say it's not the largest bomb you've seen in Beirut. I mean, how many, Mitchell, have you seen there?

PROTHERO: Well, I've been here for about ten years and political violence is, you know, a small thing, but it does happen fairly frequently in Lebanon. What we've never seen at least in the last eight years is a bomb that targeted downtown Beirut. Earlier this summer, we saw a couple of suicide bombings in Hezbollah areas that people thought might be retaliation for their involvement in the Syrian civil war.

There's been some bombs in the northern city of Tripoli, but, this is one of the first ones in a long time to target somebody is downtown Beirut, which is a relatively peaceful.

BROWN: All right. Mitchell Prothero, thank you so much for being here with us and sharing what you saw there. We appreciate it.

MARQUEZ: Now, here at home, crews are making steady progress restoring power to tens of thousands of people from the Great Lakes to New England and up into Canada.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): They've been in the dark for nearly a week due to paralyzing winter ice storm. The storm is blamed for at least 19 deaths.

BROWN (voice-over): And officials in Toronto say they have never seen a storm like this. Living with no heat presents a real health concern.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad used the barbecue charcoal to heat up the house and there's a lot of carbon monoxide.


BROWN: Toronto authorities report several people being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning there as well.

MARQUEZ: In Maine, utility crews say progress is slow but steady in restoring power to the people. Many, though, are shivering for a seventh day and trying to make the best of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was tough. I mean, it was dark. Candles can only do so much. I mean, the fire, you got to keep that going. That's our only option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've done this before.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been on this rodeo before.



BROWN: And snowy ice covered roads in Michigan led to a crash on Interstate 96 there. A consumer's energy truck slid off the road and tipped over. The driver was taken to a local hospital. His injuries said to be nonlife-threatening.

MARQUEZ: And a burst of snow in Pennsylvania causing a massive pileup on I-78 in Berks County near Reading, Pa. Nearly three dozen cars were involved in a multiple crashes on the slick roadway. Police say more than 40 people suffered injuries. Many of them had to be transported to local hospitals.

BROWN: And it was a similar scene on I-90 in Ohio. A multiple car pileup. About 15 to 20 vehicles involved in this. Eight people were taken to the hospital. Thankfully, none of their injuries were serious, we're told. One driver says she started to slow down when the road ahead started to look like something right out of a movie.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It started looking like the" Day After Tomorrow" so I had made a decision to get off the next exit, slow town to about 25, 30 miles an hour. Cars still whipping past going normal speed. As soon as I made the decision to get off the next exit, that's when everything just happened. I tried to steer my car into the wall to avoid hitting the car in front of me and it didn't work, but the accident had already happened long before I got to it.


MARQUEZ: All right. Well, here's a little good news this morning for hundreds of households in the upstate New York area. Many now have power back after days in the dark, following last weekend's ice storm.


MARQUEZ (on-camera): Let's check out the big weather picture for the weekend with our big weather picture man.


BROWN (on-camera): Chad Myers is tracking it all in for Indra Petersons. Hey there, Chad.


BROWN: Good morning.

MYERS: The warmest day of the week in Toronto where they don't have power for a lot of people.


MYERS: Twenty-nine, the warmest day they're going to see.


MYERS: Now, it's 40 in New York City. It's going to warm up a little bit, but the next couple of days begin to get a little bit better, then the next batch of very cold air comes in. So, enjoy it while you can. Watch out for falling ice now that we're getting above 32. That's going to be a problem. If there's ice above you, it could come down.

Thirty-five Toronto, 43 New York City and then into Monday back in the icebox again, so you want your power back on Detroit up into Northern Michigan and Chicago, 8, 15. Bangor only up to 30 degrees. Now, this is the good news. There's going to be some warm air in the east and that's because it's good because here comes the next big weather maker and it could be significantly white if the cold air gets here first.

Right now, the forecast is for the warm air to stay into New York City, to Philadelphia, to Boston, all the way down to D.C. If that doesn't happen, this large area of snow slides just a little bit farther to the southeast. A hundred miles it makes a huge difference in your forecast in New York City whether you're going to get significant, significant ice and snow or just the rain like we hope for. Guys, back to you. We'll take the rain instead of feet of snow here in the city.

BROWN: And ice.

MARQUEZ: Yes. I'll take that.



BROWN: Speaking of deal. Holiday shopping is still in season with people flocking to the stores for after Christmas deals, you know, the bargain. New figure suggests it really has been a very merry holiday shopping season, kind of surprising in some ways.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It was. Everybody was expecting consumers not to come out and spend a lot this holiday season. So, this is one of the first reports we're going to get, and it looks like it's really good, because you look at the goal for retailers really was for shoppers with deep discounts and extensive store promotions. And it looks like at least with this report, the basic seated (ph).

According to Master Card, total holiday spending is up 3.5 percent over 2012. Amazon is actually having its best holiday season ever. They report nearly 37 million items ordered worldwide on Cybermonday alone, that's the Monday following the Black Friday. So, what exactly were people buying?

The holiday winners, shoppers spent more on jewelry and children's clothing. The holiday losers, consumers held back on their spending on electronics and luxury items. And people apparently shopped less on the final weekend before Christmas which could mean more bargain hunters are out there during a post-Christmas frenzy than retailers saw last year.

About those Christmas gifts that didn't make it under the Christmas tree in time, well, U.P.S. and FedEx say they should be there today by at the latest. The delivery giants have been under fire with customers and some lawmakers demanding they offer refunds for the late deliveries. One customer, though, is actually defending these companies.


BRAD JOHNSON, UPS CUSTOMER: You know, it's probably not the driver's issue. You know, maybe they didn't have enough drivers or bring in enough, you know, temporary employees or something like that. You know, they can only do what they can do given the conditions. Things like this, you usually learn from the example. So, I think that they would figure things out for next year a little better.


KOSIK: Yes. There's always next year. Amazon, for its part, is offering customers $20 dollar gift cards. Not bad. And a refund of shipping charges to customers whose UPS or FedEx packages weren't delivered in time for Christmas. Or you know what, the lesson could be the customers, you know, get your order a day or two early.

MARQUEZ: Just perhaps a day or two earlier.

KOSIK: -- procrastinate. Feel like you, start your Christmas shopping today --

MARQUEZ: That's right.

BROWN: Exactly.

MARQUEZ: And I'm still waiting for my flat screen television from you --

KOSIK: You'll be waiting a long time for that. (LAUGHTER)

MARQUEZ: Well, technically, he's on vacation, but President Obama made some time for the people's business, signing the budget and defense bills.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): The bipartisan budget will use automatic spending cuts over the next two years and prevent another government shutdown. The defense bill cracks down on sexual assault in the military.

BROWN (voice-over): More than a million Americans are about to lose unemployment benefits. Those long-term jobless benefits expire this weekend, because Congress hasn't extended them. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed a short-term tension for three months. Well, that will make it to the floor of the Senate until Congress returns to work next month.

MARQUEZ: And a Russian expedition vessel about to be unstuck, well, at least they hope, from the frozen ice off Antarctica. The ship's been trapped there, but a Chinese ice breaker is coming to their rescue. CNN's Diana Magnay is following developments there. She's in Moscow for us. This ship -- can be seen but it's a long way away, yes?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's in sight but not there yet. And the Chinese ship which is called Snow Dragon says that it'll probably be seven or eight hours until it can cut through the ice to reach the Akademik Shokalskiy which is the name of the ship that's been stranded now for four days stuck in the ice when the sea literally froze around it on a climate change scientific expedition.

So, they've been looking to rescue for a while, but they seem to be in high spirits. We've just had a tweet, a sort of joke from the expedition leader with his friends saying "What's on the horizon, Chris?" And he goes, well, it's an ice breaker coming to rescue him and they all go brilliant. So, spirits are high. They said they had a great Christmas on board the ship. It's been warm. They've had enough supplies.

But clearly, four days, frozen in the ice, they're glad to see that help is finally not just on its way but within eyesight.

MARQUEZ: All right. Diana Magnay in Moscow for us. Thanks for keeping up with it.

BROWN: It's like they did try to make the most of their time there.

MARQUEZ: It's pretty amazing.

BROWN: Yes. Well, coming up right here on EARLY START, a security scare at two separate U.S. airports. Men managing to get on the runway unnoticed. Details on this up ahead.


BROWN: New questions about security at major U.S. airports after two brazen incidents on Christmas Day.


BROWN (voice-over): In Phoenix, 49-year-old Robert Bopp (ph) scaled a nine-foot barbed wire fence at Sky Harbor Airport running on to the tarmac and banging on the engine of a plane as it arrived. He was arrested after another pilot spotted him and alerted the tower.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): That mug shot is mug shot of the year, I think.

BROWN: It might be.

MARQUEZ: The other incident at Newark Liberty Airport. Radar motion detectors, surveillance cameras, none of them prevented a man in women's clothing from scaling a fence and walking on to the airport runway on Christmas Day. Police are investigating, of course. It's the second apparent failure of a sophisticated security system which is used at New York area airports. A little disturbing.

BROWN: Yes. Very disturbing.

We're going to learn more today about the official investigation of the Newtown school massacre. Connecticut State police are said to release records which include text, photos and 911 calls concerning the Sandy Hook shooting. Prosecutors issued a summary of the investigation last month that portrayed Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, as obsessed with previous mass murders but didn't give a motive. Lanza killed 20 first graders and six educators at the school before killing himself.

MARQUEZ: Now, Paul Ciancia accused of fatally shooting a TSA agent at Los Angeles International Airport is pleading not guilty in court. Ciancia faces 11 felony charges, including first-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Geraldo Hernandez (ph). If convicted, he could face life in prison without parole or a possible death penalty. Ciancia's trial is set to begin on February 11.

BROWN: Freedom for Monsignor William Lynn, the first U.S. catholic priest convicted of covering up clergy sex abuse crimes. A Pennsylvania appeals court overturned Lind's conviction, ruling that a lower court had misapplied child endangerment laws. Lind has been in prison since last July serving a three to six-year sentence. The state plans to appeal.

MARQUEZ: And a Texas man, 27-year-old Conrad Barrett (ph) is now facing federal hate crime charges for an alleged knockout game style attack in Texas. Prosecutors say he videotaped himself sucker punching an elderly Black man in Houston last month. Someone who witnessed it couldn't believe what he was seeing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His face was swollen on this side. You've seen here a three plates (ph) -- you know, he's sucking out of a straw. What's the world coming to?


MARQUEZ: Indeed. What is it coming to? Authorities say Barrett wanted to see if a knockout attack on an African-American victim would make national television.

BROWN: Just beyond words.

Well, the 911 operator in Seattle is being praised after she helped prevent a mother from jumping off a bridge on Christmas Day. The would-be jumper's seven-year-old daughter was in the car and would have seen her mother kill herself. The woman called 911 and told a dispatcher about her plan. Mindy Mezek managed to keep her on the phone for eight minutes, long enough for a state trooper to arrive and grab her.


MINDY MEZEK, 911 DISPATCHER: I kept saying, "We don't want your daughter to see you jump." I mean, she's not going to want her daughter to have that last image of her. So, I did keep saying that over and over again. "We don't want your daughter to see you jump. We don't want her to be unsafe on a street. We need to know where she is."

SGT. CURL BOYLE, WASHINGTON STATE PATROL: Caught up to her and she was going up over the rail and getting ready to pike over the top to jump off the bridge. So, I dove, grabbed her by the waist, and took her to the ground.


BROWN: The woman told Mezek she was a victim of domestic violence and felt like she couldn't go on with her life. She is now in the hospital and her daughter is in protective custody.

MARQUEZ: Delta Airlines says it will honor some incredible web deals. Lucky bargain hunter spotted rock bottom prices on Delta's website, another travel sites Thursday. They're taking fares -- we're talking fares as low as 25 bucks for around trip. Delta says the tickets are good even though the prices were clearly incorrect. The price fixing glitch is now fixed.


BROWN (on-camera): Yes. When I saw the story, why wasn't I buying a flight yesterday between 10:00 and noon? Darn it!


MARQUEZ (on-camera): All right. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "New Day."

BROWN: Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan joins us now.

MARQUEZ: Hello there.

BROWN: Hey, guys. Happy Friday to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Happy Friday, and I'm flying Delta today. So, when I saw that, I was --


BOLDUAN: I know, right?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela has an excuse. You were working between 10:00 and noon yesterday.

BROWN: I was working. It made me feel a little better. I'm like, I had a valid excuse. You guys, on the other hand.


BOLDUAN: I know.


CUOMO: All right. So, we've been following what's going on with this ship that's stuck in the ice in Antarctica, right? It's been there since the 23rd. Well, we're going to be talking to the leader of the expedition on board. He's got new video for the conditions there. There is a rescue vessel coming, but when will it get there? You can see the conditions they're dealing with. Stuck in the ice for days at the bottom of the earth. We will take you there.

BOLDUAN: And also that story that you guys were just mentioning, The Monsignor William Lynn from Philadelphia. He spent 18 months in prison after a jury said he covered up for priest accused of sexual assault. But now, an appeals court has ruled that he should never have gone to jail.

His lawyer is going to be joining us live to discuss this latest development in the case and probably not surprising, victims are outraged at what's happened in court and we'll see then if the prosecution decides to appeal.

MARQUEZ: Pretty interesting case. Thank you, guys, very much. We'll see you in just a short little while.

Coming up, stocks soaring after Christmas. One company that may have gotten what it wanted from Santa? Twitter. "Money Time," next.


MARQUEZ: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's "Money Time," kids.

KOSIK: And did you see stocks yesterday? Wooo! But let me tell you about what happened. You know, maybe Santa forgot that Christmas is over because the Santa Claus rally, yes, it continues to power on. The Dow Industrials scoring their 50th record close of the year on Thursday. The NASDAQ ending at a 13-year high. The S&P 500 also finishing at another record.

Got to mention Twitter. Twitter has quickly gone from flapping its wings to jet flight. The stock is up 76 percent this month alone. On Thursday, its shares surged five percent. Twitter's market cap right now is at $40 billion. Just some perspective there, that's more than Target and Time Warner Cable. Investors seem to be happy about the prospects for the micro bloggers advertising business. It also helps to have big funds buying up your stock.

Performances like that, they've helped to get us to where we are in the major markets and if you're clocking and taking note, so far this year, the Dow is up 26 percent. The NASDAQ up 38 percent. The S&P 500 up 29 percent. So, I'd say it's safe to go look at your portfolio. It puts the overall market on track to have its best year since 1997 and it may be no wonder that the amount of money flowing into stock funds has reached an all-time high.

Investors stashed $346 billion this year into mutual funds and exchange traded funds that owns stock (ph). That's more than the 324 billion investors put into these funds in all of 2000 which was the biggest annual inflow on record. The only hitch right now is the fact that the rate on the ten-year treasury, which is an important measure for mortgage rates, it's touched the three percent mark, its highest level since September when we see these rising long-term rates.

It usually crimps consumer spending and that's about the economic equivalent of, I don't know, receiving a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking. But just to put it in perspective, three percent does seem high, because lately, we've gotten used to these really, really low rates. Three percent is still pretty cheap.

MARQUEZ: The stock market is so high it just seems like that's invoked on the future, but you're going to have to wonder if it's a bubble or something else is going on there. Amazing.


MARQUEZ: Very interesting. Alison Kosik, thank you very much.

KOSIK: Sure.

MARQUEZ: Coming up, an American jailed in Dubai for making a parody video on YouTube sentenced to a year behind bars. The new push from U.S. lawmakers to get him freed next.


MARQUEZ: New efforts underway to free Shezanne Cassim the American sentenced to a year in prison in the United Arab Emirates for making a YouTube video -- life of the U.A.E. Minnesota lawmakers want secretary of state, John Kerry, to intervene. More on that coming up on "New Day." Chris and Kate will talk with Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, in the eight o'clock hour. Speaking of Chris and Kate, "New Day" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CUOMO: Breaking news. A massive car bomb is used to kill the former ambassador to the United States in Beirut. Many dead and injured. Who is behind the murder and growing threat there?

BOLDUAN: Happening now. Rescue at the bottom of the Earth. An ice breaker linking up with a stranded ship in Antarctica and set to break it free. We hear from the crew and passengers on board.

CUOMO: Security breach at Newark Airport. A man dressed as a woman makes it over the security fence and onto the runway. And in Arizona, this man, running across the tarmac. Is airport security up to snuff?

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." TGIF. It is Friday. We made it, December 27th, six o'clock in the east. We have breaking news. A car bomb takes out a former ambassador to the U.S. A powerful explosion in Beirut has killed at least five people, 70 more were injured. Who was behind the plot to kill the official and why? Mohammed Jamjoom is live in Istanbul with the latest. What do we know?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, this is a very disturbing development at a time when Lebanon is already on edge. This happened just in the last few hours, an assassination targeted today was Mohammad Chatah. He's a former finance minister in Lebanon, a former Lebanese ambassador to the U.S.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility, but all indications seem to show that this was yet more spillover of violence from the Syrian civil war, which is raging right next door to Lebanon. Now, in the last few months, you've had several car bombs in different parts of the country, some targeting militant Shiite group Hezbollah, some targeting Sunni areas in the country. Now, Chatah was a Sunni politician.

He was a former aide to former prime minister, Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. If you look at this very alarming video that's showing up on Lebanese television, you see plumes of smoke coming up from a densely populated area in Beirut (ph). This is a commercial district. This is where a lot of people live.

Again, everybody I'm talking to very alarmed about what this means for the future of Lebanon.