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NEW DAY

Severe Snow and Ice Storms Knock Out Power for Many; Ship Stuck in Ice in Antarctica; Two Airport Security Breaches Raise Questions about Security; Former Ambassador to the United States Killed in Beirut; Flu Strain Hitting Younger Adults; Piranha Attack In Argentina; Interview With Sen. Klobuchar

Aired December 27, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Snow and ice storms earlier in the week have claimed at least 19 lives. Many because of carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. The electric troubles will run into the weekend, and the forecast could pose more problems for people working to get it fixed. Chad Myers is in for Indra Petersons this morning with a look at this nasty weather. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know what it's like when the power goes out in your house for a couple of hours. It's a real inconvenience. You think about your ice cream melting, and now what are we going to do, we're bored. Think about that same thing for four straight days, but the temperature outside is well below freezing. People now are getting extremely dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MYERS: Talk about another blow -- hundreds of thousands of residents in the northern tier of the country are still waking up with no power. This, as another blast of arctic air is on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was tough. It was dark. Candles can only do so much. The fire -- you got to keep that going. That's our only option.

MYERS: This morning, people in Pennsylvania are recovering from multiple mass casualty pileups on state highways. As the dramatic scenes unfolded Thursday, first responders rescued more than 40 people injured, transporting a couple dozen to area hospitals.

More snow is expected from Michigan to Maine. This comes as a blow to power crews who have been rapidly working against the ice and below freezing temperatures to try to restore power some of those left in the dark since last weekend. Crews have finally been able to fire up their electrical grids, but are warning some people won't have power until at least the end of the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been challenging.

MYERS: Crews even sacrificing their Christmas to restore the city's power. After being hit by what Bangor Hydroelectric Company is calling the most damaging ice storm in Maine since 1998.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is probably the worst time of year to have something like this happen.

MYERS: This Portland inn opened Christmas Day to feed crews racing to bring back power. Up in Canada, another cold weekend is in store, leaving citizens in Toronto icy cold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The trees are still down. Power lines are still down. Nobody's been to our street to fix anything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MYERS: What have we heard? How are people getting dangerous? They are bringing charcoal-lit fires into their house to warm them up. No. Carbon monoxide. They are bringing propane stoves or propane grills from outside into the house to bring them up. No, carbon monoxide. Turning on your oven with no other venting, no, your furnace can vent the carbon monoxide, your ovens cannot.

We always lose people, many, many more people after the storm than during it. So please don't do those things. Find a warming shelter or a friend with power because now at this point in time, five, six, seven days without power, temperatures well below freezing, I know everybody's getting a little desperate.

Forty-nine in New York City, 54 for D.C., though, for tomorrow. Warming up here. That's good news because a storm will run up from the south, and that could have caused a big snowstorm. It will just be a rain event for New York City. That happens on Sunday and Monday. If you're traveling on those days, expect some very, very slow airports. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you for the good advice. I know it gets tempting, but people have to follow it. You have to stay safe. The cold snap will end.

Another story dealing with cold for you his morning, help is oh, so close for 74 people on a ship stranded in the ice off Antarctica. It's been four days since the expedition trip got trapped in ice that just keeps getting thicker. Now a Chinese icebreaker ship can be seen in the distance, but the agony will not end for hours thanks to slow going in that deep ice. We've been tracking it all morning. CNN's Diana Magnay has the latest. What do we know?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we know that the Snow Dragon, that Chinese icebreaker, is about five hours away now. It is slow progress, but because it's summer in the Antarctic, it's light all night long and is pretty much midnight there now. So, they can watch as the vessel comes toward them, as their rescue gets closer and closer. Let's take a look at how this started off.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAGNAY: Just hours ago, joy on board the ship, passengers pointing out into the distance as a Chinese icebreaker set to rescue them slowly makes its way toward them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the horizon, Chris -- that's the icebreaker coming to rescue us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brilliant.

MAGNAY: This Russian-flanked ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy stuck in the ice for four days now after weather conditions turned bad. Help is on its way. Behind it, two more icebreakers, one French, and one Australian, if the Snow Dragon gets stuck, too.

On board are 74 researchers, a mix of professional and amateur scientists, who decided to spend their Christmas checking out the effects of climate change in the frozen Antarctic. They sailed around 100 nautical miles east of their starting point, the French Antarctic base of Dumont D'Urville, when they got stuck.

Despite blizzards with wind speeds of nearly 45 miles per hour, we've heard morale remains high. While they wait, they've had a few friendly visitors checking in to say hello. This morning's visitors are far more welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MAGNAY: Apparently they had a great Christmas on the ship. They've got lots of heating, they've got lots of supplies. Of course, they're looking forward to this coming to an end. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Hopefully that will come soon enough. A slow go. We'll be watching it. Thank you very much, Diana, great to see you.

Now to two airport security breaches on opposite ends of the country. At Newark airport in New Jersey, a man scaled a fence and walked onto two runways. In Sky Harbor, in Phoenix, you see the video. Airport workers say they saw a man climb over a barbed wire fence and then run onto the tarmac.

CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend is here to talk more about the situations and what it means for our airport security. She's a former homeland security adviser for president George W. Bush. Fran, great to see you.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We've got two different incidents, two different security systems that we're looking at. In both situations, when I look at this, I wonder how did they let these men get so far. What do you make of it?

TOWNSEND: You know, Kate, we've got to remember, an intrusion detection system is a piece of technology that enables the human response. So it's not that the intrusion detection systems failed. They're not really meant to keep people out. What they're meant to do is alert authorities at the airport that someone has breached their perimeter.

Now, you know, we get different reports depending on which airport you're talking about, but those systems are usually manned by contractors, contractors who then alert the port authority and security officials at the airport.

The question in the case of Newark, we're looking at the video at Phoenix where you can actually see the man. And that's what those -- the intrusion detection system is supposed to do. It takes a picture, it sets an alarm, and it allows an immediate response. That didn't happen in Newark. It -- the system alarmed, they did take photographs of the guy who scaled the fence, but this guy made it, in the case of Newark, all the way to a terminal before there was a human response. And so port authority is investigating what -- where that failure took place. Was it that the contractor took too much time to alert port authority, was that port authority took too much time? So they need to understand how this system failed and why it took them so long to understand someone was inside the perimeter.

BOLDUAN: A coincidence that both incidents happened around the same time, but I guess it leads to my question of do you -- do you see these as one-off incidents, or does this expose to us that there are real holes in security around our airports that we would assume are pretty foolproof?

TOWNSEND: Here's the real problem -- not only does it expose to Americans and you and I the vulnerability, but by the way, there are bad guys who are going to watch this and see that there's a vulnerability here.

When you think about it, Americans have the right to be really pretty outraged over the fact we've spent billions of dollars on transportation security coming in the front door. We have TSA and explosive detection screening as you go to get to your gate. All the while, if a guy sneaks in over a fence, he's running across the tarmac.

They need to understand what is the problem with this intrusion detection system and how do they improve it? By the way, we haven't really heard from TSA. TSA points this is a port authority problem at the airport. While that's true, we expect, and Americans have the right to expect, TSA will look at this in terms of why it has -- has this been a continuing problem across the country, and what needs to be done to fix it.

BOLDUAN: That kind of leads -- another lingering question I had. Local authorities, they kind of are in charge of the security around the airports. Everyone is familiar with TSA inside the airports. What do you think is the role of the federal government here? Do you think they're just pushing this off? Because when you want to look at the solution, when we see that there's a problem, it doesn't seem that throwing more money at it is going to solve anything here.

TOWNSEND: No. That's exactly right, and I'm like you, Kate. I'm no suggesting that you throw more money at it, but what you also cannot do is say, well, we're going to throw technology at it.

BOLDUAN: Right.

TOWNSEND: What you have to do is make sure you've got the process, the human process that takes advantage and leverages the technology. There's a real role for TSA to play to ensure that these systems are adequately deployed, that there are best practices to ensure that they're leveraged and work properly, and to test them. And so, I think we ought to expect to hear from TSA about how they'll work with local authorities to better ensure these systems, these intrusion detection systems are used appropriately and made to work right.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And improving kind of the minimum standard of the best practices and getting their -- the standard there across the board will be helpful. Fran, great to see you. Thank you very much.

TOWNSEND: You, too.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's get back over to Pamela Brown in for Michaela for more of the top stories this morning.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you both. Making news today, the death toll is rising from a car bombing in Beirut that killed Lebanon's former ambassador to the United States. At least six people have been killed, dozens are hurt. Let's go straight to Mohammed Jamjoom in Istanbul for the latest. Mohammed, what do you know?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, this is a very disturbing attack that took place in Beirut today, at a time when Lebanon is already so on edge because of the spillover of violence from Syria's civil war which is raging right next door to Lebanon.

Targeted in today's attack, according to officials, Mohamad Chatah a former Lebanese ambassador to the U.S., a former academic, and a former finance minister in Lebanon. He's a Sunni powerhouse, he's considered a moderate. Nobody's quite sure why he was targeted, and nobody has yet claimed responsibility for This killing.

The fact of the matter is that at least six people have been killed, over 70 injured. Many officials I'm speaking with believe that the death toll could rise throughout the day.

Speculation in Lebanon already building that perhaps Mohamad Chatah was targeted because he is staunchly against the Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, and Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Islamic group in Lebanon.

Again, nobody has yet claimed responsibility for this attack. Groups across the political spectrum in Lebanon, all condemning the killing, but this goes to show how much Lebanon has been affected and continues to be by the war in Syria which continues to spill over its borders into Lebanon. Pamela?

BROWN: Mohammed Jamjoom, thank you for the latest there.

We're expecting final word from the Connecticut state police from the Sandy Hook massacre today. The department plans to release thousands of pages of documents about the investigation into the mass shooting. It's expected to include photos and emergency 911 calls. The state already released its report showing Adam Lanza acted alone and was obsessed with mass shootings. The shooting spree not far from New Orleans has left at least three people dead including the suspected gunman. Police say Ben Freeman went to two homes, killing his former mother-in-law, former boss as well, and wounding several others. His current wife also was found dead. The cause is not yet clear. Police say the families of his ex- wife and former boss had restraining orders against Freeman.

And check out this surveillance video right here. Thieves back a van through a glass wall and into an Atlanta DMV. So what were they after? That's the question here. Two ATM machines that weren't bolted to the floor. Three suspects loaded the ATMs into a second stolen vehicle in about three minutes. Police arrived less than a minute later. A security guard was in the building during the heist but she ducked for cover and called 911.

CUOMO: Smart. These guys obviously saw the Fast and the Furious. They just didn't realize it was just a movie.

BROWN: They were on a mission for sure. And that's your morning headlines.

CUOMO: Very good.

BROWN: Thank you. I appreciate that, guys.

CUOMO: I like ending on that -- I like when criminals are dumb. They get caught --

BROWN: Always a good note to end on, right?

CUOMO: And her being alert, calling 911, staying safe. Good always.

Coming up on NEW DAY, put down your coffee for this one. It's important. The flu is ripping through the U.S. it's already proven deadly. It's baffling doctors because of who it's targeting. We'll tell you who and tell you how to keep your family safe.

BOLDUAN: And later, you've got to think some people will never step foot in the river again after a school of vicious, hungry fish with razor sharp teeth came after them. We'll talk about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Well, here's some news I wish I didn't have to report, but it is true. Flu season is here, and it's already shocking doctors. Now, normally, the illness is a big concern for seniors and the very young, but this strain can be particularly dangerous for young adults. Multiple deaths have already been reported. Victor Blackwell is covering the story for us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Good morning. What do we know, Victor?

Victor Blackwell, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. You know, a lot of families are waking up this morning. The kids are home from school because of the winter break, maybe mom and dad have the day off. Federal officials would like for you to take your entire family to get a flu shot. Of course, check with a doctor to make sure it's right for everyone in the family.

But here's why, as many as one in five of us will get the flu this season, that's according to federal health officials. And this season is proving to be especially danger us on, not just for the typical suspects, the very young and the very old, but for some unusual suspects, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): The flu season is officially upon us. Although it is just the beginning, the CDC is already reporting widespread infection rates in several states including Alabama, Louisiana, and New York. But Texas has been the hardest hit, reporting at least five deaths from the H1N1 strain also known as swine flu.

DR. MICHAEL JHUNG, MEDICAL OFFICER, CDC: The majority of hospitalizations for influenza occur in people 65 years of age or older, and the majority of deaths also in that group. But we know that H1N1, this particular influenza virus, does cause more infections in younger adults.

BLACKWELL: H1N1 first made headlines back in 2009 causing a pandemic that the CDC says infected 52 million people and may have killed hundreds of thousands worldwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try and relax this arm.

BLACKWELL: Health official say if you have not gotten a flu shot, you still can.

JHUNG: Every formulation of vaccine that you can get this year will protect against H1N1, and it also protects again other influenza viruses that we think are also circulating.

BLACKWELL: Health experts also recommend these simple steps to help stay healthy. Wash your hands often, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home from work and school if you're ill. The CDC says flu season is expected to reach fever pitch in February. Last year, 380,000 people were hospitalized by the virus. Medical officials advise take warnings seriously.

JHUNG: Many people think that flu causes sniffles or cold-like symptoms for about a week. But it can cause very serious illness in people. It puts people in the hospital every year, and unfortunately, it kills people every year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL (on-camera): Now, for people who are still on the fence about getting a flu shot, consider this from the CDC, again, consult your doctor, but a recent study shows that last season, 79,000 hospitalizations were prevented by people who got the vaccination. That's enough to fill a football stadium, more than a field, and 6.6 million illnesses were prevented by those vaccinations -- Kate. BOLDUAN: Wow. Another -- you need to hear it again, another reason why if you haven't gotten it yet, go out and get it. Thanks so much, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Now to Argentina, and we're talking about a very bizarre attack by a school of carnivorous piranha. Dozens were injured when the fish went after people that were taking a dip in the river on a 100-degree day. Pamela Brown is here with much more. We've been talking about this all morning. You're digging in more details of why this happened.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. This is really a sad story. It sounds like something straight out of a horror movie. These men, women, children were bathing in a river aptly named Piranha River about 300 km north of Buenos Aires on Wednesday when, all of a sudden, a school of piranhas basically attacked them. Seventy people injured including seven children who apparently lost parts of their fingers or toes.

In fact, some lost their entire fingers and toes in this fish attack, according to a paramedic that was on the scene there. So, really, really disturbing. But these piranhas were known to be in the river. I can only assume that's why it was called Piranha River, but apparently, because of the unusually warm weather, they were congregating on the river's surface right before the attack. Still, these types of attacks from carnivorous fish like this is very rare.

CUOMO: They don't usually attack people. They usually attack live things.

BROWN: They usually go after carcasses of fish, that kind of thing. But this --

BOLDUAN: Is this like a common threat in this river, aptly named Piranha River. Is this like a common threat the folks know about here?

BROWN: Well, I mean, they knew that this is where piranhas like to congregate. In fact, it didn't really deter a lot of people because if you can believe this, 30 minutes after the attack, people went back into the water because it was so hot there. Apparently, there's a heat wave moving through there --

CUOMO: And it's unusual. People know that about this fish and even the word in Portuguese, (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) to cut. So, I mean, they all know the reputation of this particular fish.

BROWN: Right. And there have been other attacks. In fact, in 2011/2012, you all might remember this, there was an attack in the Amazon River basin. So, these do happen. But again, usually, these piranhas don't go after people. It's exceptionally rare event as one specialist put it. So --

BOLDUAN: Thankfully. BROWN: Very, very disturbing. I think bottom line, experts saying, you know, avoid swimming in South American waters during the dry season when food is sparse. They're thinking that might have played a role in this, as well.

CUOMO: They're only like this big. But they come in hundreds and hundreds --

BOLDUAN: If you have big teeth and you're going to munch on my toes, I'm going to stay out --

CUOMO: I've seen them feet (ph). The water boils around what's going -- what they're attacking.

BROWN: A horrific scene.

BOLDUAN: That is enough for me.

BROWN: I just still can't get over that people went back into the water after --

CUOMO: Because they know it's so rare, you know?

BROWN: But they just saw it happen.

CUOMO: I know. But it's like when a shark attacks, when the threat's gone, they go back in.

BROWN: OK. Would you go back in?

CUOMO: Me? Of course, I would. Completely reckless.

BOLDUAN: Please.

CUOMO: I make bad decisions all the time.

BOLDUAN: This is true. That's true.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: With your own safety, you are reckless.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I'm the one who has a kid with --aw! Aw!

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: It won't hurt again --

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: All right. We're going to take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, has been working for months to try and help free an American man held in Dubai. Now, that Shezanne Cassim has been sentenced, what's her next move? What can the U.S. do to try to get him back? We're going to talk to her about it.

BOLDUAN: Now that Christmas is over, we'll tell you what U.P.S. is doing to prevent a ghost of Christmas past. We're going to tell you what they're considering to make sure they deliver next time. Customer anger still on the rise and packages still not there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's get right to Pamela Brown in for Michaela with the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

BROWN: Hey there, Chris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): At number one, hundreds of thousands still without power in the northern U.S. and Canada after this week's deadly ice storms. More rough weather is in the forecast as crews work to restore service.

And two security breaches at two airports on opposite sides of the country. A man jumped the fence at Newark Liberty and a similar incident happened in Phoenix on Christmas Day. Both men were arrested.

And at least six people are dead, dozens more injured after a car bomb ripped through Beirut. Among those killed, Lebanon's former ambassador to the U.S. No claim of responsibility yet.

And we're going to learn more today about the Newtown school shooting when Connecticut State police released documents, photos, and 911 calls from the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty first graders and six school employees were killed.

And at a number five, a surreal moment involving the secretary of state and Snoop Dogg. Snoop posting a video to Instagram showing the two fist bumping at the Kennedy Center honors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (on-camera): Well, we are always updating the five things you need to know. So, go to NEWDAYCNN.com for the latest -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Pamela, thanks so much.

Now to the latest on efforts to free Shezanne Cassim, the American jailed in the United Arab Emirates for making a parody video and only that. He was sentenced Monday to one year in prison. Cassim's family is desperate to get him home. They've been here on NEW DAY saying exactly that.

Senator Amy Klobuchar from his home state of Minnesota has spoken to secretary of state, John Kerry, about the case and has been working with the state department for month now in the continued effort to free Shezanne. Senator Klobuchar is here to talk more with us this morning. Senator, thanks so much for coming in. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: Well, thank you so much, Kate, and thank you for focusing on this case. It's very easy to forget one guy in jail very far away, but this has been an outrage. As you said, all this was was a parody video making fun of youth acting tough and what would sort of be like the suburbs of an American city, in this case, Dubai.

Didn't attack the government, didn't attack religion, and there he is in jail. So, I've been working with his family and the ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Corbin, U.S. ambassador to the UAE, as well as the ambassador from the UAE, Ambassador Otaiba, to try to expedite his release.

BOLDUAN: Now, a lot to try to get to on this this morning. We know that he's been sentenced to one year in prison, but there is a lot of confusion how much time he will actually serve. He's already been in prison behind bars for eight, almost nine months. Our reporter on the ground has a source telling her this morning that one of the UAE nationals that was arrested along with Shezanne has now been released. What are you hearing, senator?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I heard the exact same thing from his brother, Shervon, yesterday. And I believe that it's true and that one of these Emirates (ph) has been released. They got shorter sentences. It's our understanding they got eight-month sentences which is also, we think, unfair. But the point of it is, I try to look for the silver lining here.

And if we're starting to see some releases, maybe it improves his chances of either being released by being deported which we understand may be part of the sentence here and trying to expedite that security process so he can come home to his family.

Also, the credit he gets for time served. He's already been in jail since April for simply posting a video. And so, we're trying to figure out how much credit he can get. So that, again, we can expedite his release.