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Russian Suicide Attack; Rocket Attack on Israel; Trapped in Antarctic Ice

Aired December 29, 2013 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: A deadly explosion at a train station in southern Russia. Officials believe a female suicide bomber is responsible for this blast that killed more than a dozen people so far.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Rockets rip across the Lebanon border into Israel and artillery fires back. The unrest comes as Israel prepares to release some Palestinian prisoners and U.S. Secretary John Kerry heads to the region.

PAUL: And trapped in the ice. An update on a difficult rescue operation at the bottom of the world as ice breaker ships are turned away, a helicopter becomes another option for the stranded passengers.


PAUL: Thank goodness that you're not stranded to day. But I hope you're just sitting back and relaxing on a Sunday morning at home. I'm Christi Paul. We'll get you inform of what's going on.

BLACKWELL: And there is no rush to get out in this weather for a lot of people. I'm Victor Blackwell. Eight o'clock here on the East Coast. This is NEW DAY UNDAY.

First up this hour, help for 74 passengers who are stranded on the ship in Antarctica. I mean, it's so close yet so far away. This morning, an Australian ship is en route to help.

PAUL: A Chinese ice breaker was forced to turn around yesterday just six nautical miles out. That Chinese ship is known as the Snow Dragon. It is still nearby and it actually has a helicopter onboard to assist rescue efforts of that's what it comes down to today.

BLACKWELL: And the winds have been fierce. The icy conditions we've seen them for days, that I already forced also a French rescue ice breaker to call off its mission.

CNN's Rosie Tomkins joins us live from London.

So, this Australian ship, how far out are they now?

ROSIE TOMKINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, as far as we know, it's getting really close. I mean, we had several hours ago that the ship was due to arrive close to the Russian vessel at around this time exactly 8:00 a.m. ET. But we're not going to get any updates until we hear from the ship.

The biggest question is whether or not it will be able to breakthrough the ice, because the ice is very thick. As we know, it's thwarted the efforts to these two other ships to get close enough to help.

We do have the helicopter standing by as you mentioned. So there are various plans in place to get the people off the vessel. And we are he really standing by now hoping for news any minute.

PAUL: OK. So, Rosie, I understand, first of all, that the folks onboard, you know, they're not suffering too badly, let's say. In fact, they're actually having a good ole time as I understand it. But how long will rescue crews let them stay where they are before they're going to go to plan B or C or whatever it is we're talking about at this point?

TOMKINS: Yes, Christie, we don't have an exact time frame because we don't know when the ship will reach them. We do know it will be today. They're not willing to leave them on there any longer. That's party because they don't have any other options.

If the Australian ship can't cut through the ice and reach them, there are no other ships anywhere near close enough to try this approach. So they'll revert to the other option, the helicopter option.

In the meantime, you know, from what we've been seeing, these people are not in any rush to get off the ship. They're having a great time. They're all sending YouTube updates of themselves and their friends and families to show how they're doing.

One of them this morning sent a message saying she's having a very special day. Let's have a listen to that.


MARY REGAN, STRANDED PASSENGER: Hi, everybody. It's Mary from Antarctica having a wonderful time. You can see we have this wonderful snowy wonderland. It's my birthday today. It couldn't be a better day to have a birthday with my 80-something new friends, blew out all the candles on my birthday cake, which is fun. And I'm here out on the ice today.


TOMKINS: So, they're having a great time. As you can see, they've got plenty of food and water. And they're just waiting to see how and when they're leaving that ship.

Back to you.

PAUL: All right. Rosie Tomkins, thank you so much. We appreciate all the updates this morning.

BLACKWELL: So, we've got just a couple days left in 2013. This is the last Sunday of the year.

PUAL: That just brings it all back you to, doesn't it? The last Sunday of the year.

BLACKWELL: It's almost over.

A lot of the country still dealing with this rough winter weather. Not getting a break at all. Look.

PAUL: All right. So this is for folks in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota. Look, your best bet as we understand it, just stay indoors. I know you've been dealing with blinding snow, brutally cold temperatures this weekend.

The wind making it feel worse. I mean look at this.

You don't want to drive in that.

BLACKWELL: No fun at all, no.

PAUL: You don't want to venture out. Blizzard conditions making those roads obviously really dangerous at the end of the day.

And to make matters worse, thousands of people from Maine to Michigan and eastern Canada still don't have power. After last weekend's big ice storm, that's a long time to be without power.

BLACKWELL: Especially in these temperatures. They're trying to keep everybody warm.

So, you know, a lot of people have plans. They go out and enjoy something. Having a few drinks.

PAUL: They want to get out at some point.

BLACKWELL: To celebrate the New Year.

Let's check in with meteorologist Alexandra Steele for a look at the forecast.

Who is dealing with what as we head to the first of 2014?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right. Hi, everyone. Good morning.

You know, this is really where it's the worst. Wind chill warnings -- we're going to see and field wind chills today up to about 50 degrees below zero.

Currently, in Fargo and Minot, walking out the door on this Sunday morning, it's like 30 degrees below zero. That's what it feels like.

So we're going to see the winds abate. The temperatures will come up, but certainly brutally cold. Through the afternoon, the winds will settle down. We're going to watch this cold air drop south, drop eastward and make it to the Eastern Seaboard, just in time for New Year's Eve.

So, as we look toward today, temperatures are 24 degrees below where they should be. But watch the warmth. Chicago, the cold air settles to you. By the time we hit tomorrow, 20s and 30s and then the cold there. By Tuesday, it kind of settles in here to northern New England and even farther south.

So the cold air is brutal, dropping south and east. It will moderate though. It won't be the same arctic air but it will be colder than it's been.

A very wet day in the Southeast yesterday. Today, it's the mid- Atlantic's turn. Washington, Baltimore, Annapolis. By the time we head toward tonight, moves through New York. But as a rain maker, that cold air getting a day late.

The rain moving in first and then the cold air. But where those two meet will be right here. So, maybe watching us through Stratton or Bromley or White Face, the green and white mountains, northern New England, Maine the biggest winner with this snowfall. Maybe three or eight inches for Maine. But that's where it will be confined to.

Also wanted to show you here's where the accumulations are. And again, it's all really north of Boston.

So I want to take a quick look, show what you we're expecting. That cold air will be in New York City. Here's your forecast for New Year's Eve, and Chicago as well.

All right. Let's take a look at something else. Incredible pictures out of Mexico. This is a combination of a series of earthquakes, seven small ones, and a barrage of heavy rain. What happened, it forced the collapse of a highway in Mexico near the U.S. border, about 58 miles south. No injuries, but the road completely collapsing. Traffic, of course, being rerouted around.

But the earthquake and then of course that heavy saturating rain just kind of allowing the earth to just crumble under that road.

PAUL: Glad no one was hurt.

STEELE: No, no injuries at all. The traffic is rerouted around.

PAUL: All right. All right. Alexandra Steele, good to see you this morning. Thank you.

STEELE: You, too. Happy New Year.

PAUL: Happy New Year to you, too.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And this morning, the breaking news out of Russia, a blast at a train station. It's in the southern city of Volgograd. It killed at least, the number we're getting this hour, 18 people.

Now, initial reports saying a woman carried thought suicide attack.

PAUL: And did you see that right there? This is video that we're getting in from Russia. An outside security camera took this that showed that huge fireball inside what appears to be the main entrance to the train station when that bomb went off.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Diana Magnay is following all the developments from Moscow for us. Anyone claiming responsibility for this yet, Diana?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at this stage, no, Victor.

In October, in the town of Volgograd, there was another female suicide bomber carried out an attack on a bus killing six people. Again, there was no claim of responsibility that time either. But in July the most wanted man in Russia (INAUDIBLE) who is a Chechen militant issued a video statement saying that ahead of the Sochi Olympics, his people should use maximum force to disrupt the Olympics.

If you look at this region where Volgograd is, down sort of southeast you have -- sorry, southwest, you have Sochi, about 400 miles away. Southeast, you have the north Caucuses, where (INAUDIBLE) is based, and where these female suicide bombers have been carrying out numerous attacks.

So you can see the sort of nexus of where this attack happened and, you know, in that context, in the context of the Islamic insurgency that is fought so close to Sochi. Of course, this plays into the security concerns around the Olympics.

PAUL: Well, Diana, I'm wondering, how detailed do they think this might have been in terms of targeting this particular train station at this particular time of day?

MAGNAY: Well, normally, what we've heard from police is that, you know, attackers tend to want to travel out to Moscow. Volgograd is a major rail hub for that region. If you're traveling from Sochi, or if you're traveling from the north caucuses, you would have to come through Volgograd to go to Moscow.

It is also major holiday season. You know, New Year's Eve is the biggest holiday for people in Russia. So to target a rail hub like that midday on a Sunday an every day about 3,500 people go through that station. It was presumably to target as many people as possible at this holiday time.

And because she was stopped just before going into a metal detector, authorities are saying that they prevented this from being far worse, for example, if she actually been in a waiting room or in a crowded train.

BLACKWELL: So, Diana, you mentioned the Chechen militant who's calling for attacks leading up to the Sochi Olympics. There's also, we know, the militant in the caucus states who was killed over the weekend.

Is there any way to know and it's still early, if this is in line consistent with what the militant who was killed over the weekend typically calls for? This could have been retaliation for that militant's death?

MAGNAY: It could have been retaliation. And the man who was killed on Saturday was affiliated with his group. The phenomenon of the black widows, you know, normally they are the widows of people who have been caught killed in the region.

They could have been acting independently, also instead of revenge simply on a more generally basis. So we don't know whether it's retaliation. That said, there is little literally an on going conflict where dozens of people are killed each week in the North Caucuses.

So, you know, it's very difficult to relate specific events to each other at this stage.

BLACKWELL: All right. Diana, we'll let you get back to work. As we get more information about the explosion at the train station there. It happened overnight U.S. time, middle of the afternoon on a Sunday there in Volgograd.

PAUL: All right. The other story that we're watching, 26 Palestinian prisoners -- they are about to be free as Israel makes good on a pledge from earlier this year.

BLACKWELL: Now who they are and when they'll be released, that's coming up.

And that comes as Secretary of State John Kerry, he gets ready to head to the region to try to make head way in the quest for peace.


BLACKWELL: Fourteen after the hour now.

Let's take a look at headlines around the world.

An exchange of fire today in the Middle East. First, rockets from Lebanon landed in northern Israel, and then Israel responded, firing at least 20 records into Lebanon, who are the source of the launch. Now, fortunately, no reports of injuries on either side of the border.

And that's just one of the many developments in the Middle East. The Secretary of State John Kerry announces he is now heading back to the region.

PAUL: He is leaving New Year's Day, actually, for Israel and Palestinian territories to continue talks on a peace deal. His trip comes as Israel prepares to release 26 Palestinian prisoners as promised last summer, the outset of the talks.

BLACKWELL: Ian Lee joins us from Jerusalem. Ian, who are these prisoners, and can you tell us when they're expected to be released?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, there are 26 Palestinian prisoners. We're expecting them to be released Monday night, around midnight. And these are men who've been convicted of violent crimes by an Israeli court, although the Palestinians call them political prisoners.

This is the third batch out of four that will see a total of 104 Palestinians released. This is all part of the peace negotiation that are currently taking place.

PAUL: OK. So, Ian, what about the violence you've seen overnight with these rocket strikes? What might that do with these peace talks if anything?

LEE: Well, if there is a large escalation of violence on the border, there could be -- this could delay the peace talks because a full scale war, any sort of war, would have that kind of effect on it.

Kerry is coming to the region. He's going to be talking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. But the peace talks seem to be in trouble. One the two Palestinian negotiators, Mohammad Shtayyeh effectively resigned, complaining that process isn't moving forward and that the United States hasn't been a fair arbiter.

Israel on the other hand has been fairly tight-lipped about what's been going on behind the scenes but with such pessimism from the Palestinian side, Kerry will have his work cut out for him to keep a peace process alive whether he meets with the two leaders.

BLACKWELL: Again, as Christie said, leaving on New Year's Day to try to revamp these peace talks and we'll see what gets done.

Ian Lee for us this morning in Israel, thank you.

Also this morning, hopes for peace in South Sudan. But the world's newest nation is facing the reality of war if the government and opposition forces don't lay down their weapons.

PAUL: Yes, that situation is escalating to the point that a lot of civilians are crowding into in U.N. compounds and terrified to leave.

Well, get this -- CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon joining us live now from one of those U.N. compounds.

Arwa, what are you seeing there?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is one of the compounds that is in the capitol, Juba. The people who fled here, and there is around 20,000 of them just seeking shelter at this one compound alone, tens of thousands in other areas. Many of them with just the clothing on their backs.

They sprawled throughout the entire compound which is fairly sizable. There are tents, if we can call them, mostly made out of sheets. You can see the wire behind me turned into something of a make shift clothesline.

They have been receiving some assistance, things like thin mattresses and these food packets that really contain supplements that are very high in nutrients. But just to give you an idea of how traumatized and terrorized the population here is, the capital Juba has been fairly stable for well over a week at this point. So, we were asking people why they weren't going back home. Well, it's because they don't feel safe.

One woman who is pregnant, she is actually due this month. She told us that her husband after the first days of fighting when they thought the situation was stable went back home to try to retrieve some essentials, try to get water because there weren't supplies here and he was killed. And it's stories like that, fear like that that is still so very real for the population that has these refugees choosing to live like this rather than even attempt to go back home, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Arwa Damon there in Juba, in South Sudan, as this conflict continues. Arwa, thank you.

And still to come on NEW DAY, you know it's always a good time to save some cash.

PAUL: Never a bad time for that, right?

BLACKWELL: Never at all. We'll tell what you need to be shopping for in the post holiday sales.


BLACKWELL: Yes. The holiday shopping season is just about done. But there are still some deals out there to be found.

PAUL: Yes. You can think of it as let's say more civilized, less elbows to the face kind of time to shop.


PAUL: But here's the question. There is a season for everything, right? What should we be buying right now?

We're joined by Brad Wilson. He is the founder of Shop Smart and publishes

All right, Brad. Give it to us. What should we be looking for right now that's going to give us the best bang for our buck?

BRAD WILSON, SHOP SMART: Yes. This is one of my favorite times to shop. You want to be focused on seasonal apparel, coats, jackets, hats, gloves, those kind of things, toys as well. I'm seeing toys at 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent off. The toy season is basically five or six weeks long and it's over. So retailers are just dying to get rid of those. Perishable items, so talking about Godiva chocolates, Harry & David pears, they're probably 50 percent, 60 percent than they were just 10 or 15 days ago. And then, you know, the other thing I focus on is electronics.

There are a lot of new tech products that are launched in January so those are sort of burning a hole in retailers' warehouses and balance sheets right now.

BLACKWELL: You know, this is also the time of year where I buy my Christmas cards. I buy the boxed Christmas cards and wrapping paper and all that. Because it is on great discount this time of the year.

You know, the big story of the shopping season was this hack at Target, the 40 million customers whose information was stolen.

What can people do to keep themselves safe?

WILSON: Yes. So, you really have three moves.

So, the first is to simply request a new number. Basically, you get a new card issued to you. But you'll keep the same account. The second move is to actually cancel the entire account. And, you know, that's obviously more effort.

But there is a ton of great signup bonuses for new cards right now. I've seen a bunch of offers where you get $200 or $300 in cash or 40,000, 50,000 frequent flyer miles and that kind of thing. The banks are very competitive. So, that's worth the look.

And then, you know, the third thing is you can just do nothing. So you're not actually -- you're not on the hook for the charges. So, the catch there is that if you don't get a new card or cancel the account, I would recommend certainly monitoring the account going forward.

I wouldn't -- I wouldn't assume that your credit card company is going to catch every last charge on your behalf. But if there is fraudulent activity, it's not on you. It's on them.

So you can sit tight and procrastinate like I'm sure many of us will.

PAUL: All right. Let me ask you something. I know that -- isn't it after the first of the year furniture and home goods are also another option where everything is going to go on sale? I mean, if people are weary of going out right now, there are some good stuff coming up seasonally, yes?

WILSON: That's right. It's a great time to shop overall. The week after Christmas into January and, you know, you're right. You hit it right on the head -- appliances are another category that I throw-in there that are discounted heavily.

You know, the irony of this whole Target situation that I think many folks are reasonably spooked by is that Target is actually likely one of the best places to shop now. They're going to have to be promotional to draw us back in. So, you know, it's funny how that sort of flips around sometimes. But it's -- you know, it's a great time to find deals for several more weeks.

PAUL: OK. It will last for several more weeks, people. Don't be afraid to go out and shop. Hint, hint, husbands don't worry about it. Your wife when she comes -- because my husband always says how much money did you save me today?

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's a good way to say it. That's a good way to put it.

PAUL: Brad Wilson, thank you so much.

And still to come, the hunt is on for this giant python who's killed at least one man in Indonesia.

BLACKWELL: Wildlife expert Jules Sylvester joins us live to tell us just how dangerous these snakes are and, yes, he has a live python.

Stay with us.


PAUL: Bottom of the hour right now. And we are so glad to see you on a Sunday morning. I hope that you're staying warm wherever you are. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: And dry in some parts of the country. I'm Victor Blackwell.

Here are five things you need to know for your NEW DAY:

Number one, at least 18 people are dead after an explosion at a Russian train station. Look at this again. We're going to play it again. The blast happened overnight in the city of Volgograd. Look close -- you see the video, it shows the moment the bomb went off.

Well, according to initial reports, the attack appears to have been carried out by a female suicide bomber. And this is the second bombing in Volgograd since October.

PAUL: Yes, and this is number two. This year is ending in parts of the U.S. was miserable weather. Much of the Upper Plains, Upper Midwest getting blasted this weekend with snow, ice, and you heard the fierce winds. This heavy rain in other parts of the country as well. So, do be careful out there.

BLACKWELL: Number three, some big time support for incoming New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Former President Clinton will preside at his inauguration. And will swear him into office January 1st ceremony.

Now, these two, they go way back. De Blasio served in Clinton's administration as a regional director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

PAUL: Number four, the New Year could push Florida into the third most populous state in the country. Right now, New York is number three. But Florida's population has been growing at a much faster rate. At last count both states have under 20 million people. New estimates come out tomorrow, and that could push Florida ahead.

BLACKWELL: Number five, is this uncertain future for more than a million Americans who lost their jobless benefits Saturday. Congress failed to extend a program for long term benefits when it passed the latest budget deal. The president is pushing for a three-month extension asking Congress to act immediately after the winter break.

PAUL: Well, this morning, we finally have a bit of a better picture as to how many people signed up for Obamacare, at least 1.1 million. Now, this is according to new numbers from administration, of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

BLACKWELL: So just what can these Americans expect from the Affordable Care Act when it all becomes reality on New Year's Day?

Well, CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has the details.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A White House toast in 2010 when its health care bill passed in the House. But at the stroke of midnight this New Year's Eve when that legislation becomes reality will the President again pop the champagne?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I now have a couple million people, maybe more, who are going to have healthcare on January 1st. And that is a big deal. That's why I ran for this office.

SERFATY: And a big debate for years.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's been a fiasco.

SERFATY: Come Wednesday, the program gets its first full test. Those who could sign up on the new insurance marketplaces will now be able to use their coverage although they now have until January 10th to make their first payment.

OBAMA: We've screwed it up.

SERFATY: A Web site plagued by glitches is now improved but shifting deadlines and canceled policies have created more confusion. At this library in northern Virginia Saturday, that confusion still bringing people, needing help enrolling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you try to do it by yourself and you sit down at the Web site and work through it, it can be a little bit difficult.

SERFATY: This past week the Web site has seen a surge in traffic -- nearly 900,000 visitors Christmas Eve alone. But it's still unclear whether insurance companies are getting reliable information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has this been the worst year of your presidency?

SERFATY: After the botched Web site rollout October 1st, the President took heat for not paying close enough attention. Now while he's on vacation in Hawaii, the White House is taking pains to show that he's not dropping the ball as New Year's approaches. Saying the President reiterated to his health care team that minimizing the disruptions that have come from switching plans in the past and maximizing consumer flexibility must remain the priority.

But on January 1st, will there be something to celebrate?


SERFATY: And the administration did announce this morning that 1.1 million people are now enrolled. We previously had not known exactly how many people were able to sign up. And they say the majority of these signups nearly one million of them were in December alone. And they called that no surprise, Christie and Victor, welcome surge. Back to you.

BLACKWELL: All right Sunlen Serfaty for us this morning in Washington thank you Sunlen.

SERFATY: Thank you.

PAUL: So have you heard about this frightening story out of Indonesia? The hunter on for a killer python. This thing strangled a hotel security guard in Indonesia.

BLACKWELL: Yes and this is no small snake. It looks like this. And apparently it suffocated the man. He was trying to capture the snake.

PAUL: So you might be wondering OK how dangerous are these things and how in the world does anybody catch it? Well wildlife expert Jules Sylvester is with us live in Los Angeles with Steve, the snake. So obviously --



BLACKWELL: Good morning.

PAUL: Steve, good morning. Steve isn't so dangerous. But I mean generally let's talk about this. How dangerous are they?

SYLVESTER: A snake like this size, this one is only eight feet long, but he's been born in captivity for what probably five, six generations. But this is the type of snake that apparently has killed that gentleman in Bali.

Sadly, this is actually a very, very powerful snake and it can be quite dangerous. Steve of course as you can see is quite good- natured. But this is a Burmese python. Now there are two types of pythons that live in Bali. You've got this guy which grows up to just over 20 feet and probably weigh over 200 pounds. And then you've got another one called a reticulated python which can grow up to 32 feet. But it looks skinny but I believe this is the -- this is the culprit that took this gentleman out.

BLACKWELL: So Jules I --


SYLVESTER: There are two types of -- yes?

BLACKWELL: I understand that these snakes are strong. I get that. But this gentleman was trying to capture it. How quick are these things?

SYLVESTER: Well, pretty quick. If you try catch this snake and he's a wild one, he will react -- he'll react pretty violently because he doesn't want to get caught. And, of course, he's got a large -- he has a head in here, and he's got about 75 good sharp teeth.

All pythons bite. That's the first thing they do is they try and get a-hold of you. And if he is being defensive, which he was probably was when this guy tried to catch him, he turned around and bit the guy and within two seconds he is wrapped all over him. We don't know how big this guy was.

The Indonesian guard I'm assuming is probably 5'3," probably 130 pounds soaking wet. The python, if it's anything like this size -- this is only eight feet and then they can get to 11, 12, 14, 15 feet -- he would have had this guy in about two or three seconds. And if it gets around your neck, you're unconscious in seven to 15 seconds.


PAUL: Wow.

SYLVESTER: And he will not let go. He will not let go until your heartbeat stops. That's it.

PAUL: So where -- where do officials look for these snakes? I mean where do they generally hide?

SYLVESTER: They'll hide just about anywhere. I mean I've been catching snakes for 40-odd years. I've pulled them out of toilets, people's rest rooms and take them out of churches. They can be found anywhere. Anywhere where there's rodents like where human habitation is-- get off me here big boy -- wherever they find human habitation. You've got rodents, wherever the rodents of course, you've got the cleanup crew which comes along and looks for them.

This is where we run into trouble. So we come across -- you come around the corner at 3:00 in the morning and there is a 15-foot snake across the road, the best thing to do is leave it alone. But of course if you can't leave alone there's always somebody that wants to catch it. And we have the results there of this gentleman being killed.

BLACKWELL: Jules, we know that there are some people who are not fond of snakes, who fear snakes --

SYLVESTER: Yes. Yes, yes.

BLACKWELL: -- is there any way to know which ones we should fear? I mean that old wives tale about the colors that touch and don't touch?

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Is that -- is that true?

SYLVESTER: Pretty much. If it's 15 feet long, you should probably leave it alone.

BLACKWELL: Oh, yes, anything that big, yes.

PAUL: I think so.

SYLVESTER: Yes, yes. Yes there is no real -- you know in America we've got you know the coral snake which is red and yellow killer fellow; red and black you're OK Jack. But when you get a fright like this, red and black, I think it's right jack, I am not sure you'll lose that -- you'll lose that firm --

But basically anything with an arrow shaped head -- but I mean that's an arrow shaped head it's not venomous they'll give you a nasty bite. But there is no real general rule. If when in doubt, leave it alone.


SYLVESTER: These things have been around for millions and millions of years. And so we still don't get it. We still walk up and say what is that and give it a poke. And you know we're pure primate. We are very inquisitive. That's what we do for a living we go and poke at things and see what happens. I'm always surprised when the animal tries to poke back.

PAUL: Yes.

SYLVESTER: And you know it's not the fault of the snake, it's nobody's fault. There is no fault in here. It's just bad decisions probably.

PAUL: And instinct, sure.

SYLVESTER: You know sometimes they end up in a very, very sad -- I mean it's a terrible way to go. It's quick. In fact, you know, these guys will actually kill you quicker than a cobra.

PAUL: Really? All right.

SYLVESTER: It puts you unconscious in 15 seconds. Well if you don't have friends and you're on your own this thing wraps around you, 15 seconds you're unconscious and then you die. You're done.


PAUL: Well Jules Sylvester, boy you've given us a lot to think about this morning. Thank you so much. And thank you to Steve.

SYLVESTER: You're very welcome.

PAUL: Your little buddy there.

BLACKWELL: Thank you Steve.

PAUL: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right still to come, preaching to a flock of sinners and saints -- emphasis on the sinners. We're going to introduce a bold and brash preacher who is packing her church with believers.


BLACKWELL: We've talked about it in the past that a lot of people are turning away from the church. And churches are fighting to bring people back through the doors. The congregants though at the House for All Saints and Sinners in downtown Denver is fighting for every last empty seat. They're filling up.

PAUL: I know. At the pulpit too is Nadia Bolz-Weber she's bold, she's brash, she's covered in tattoos and her fans give her the rock star treatment wherever she goes. So her message has gone all the way now to the "New York Times" bestseller list.

BLACKWELL: We're joined by Nadia Bolz-Weber now. She's the author of "Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saints". Nadia thanks for joining us this morning. I want to first talk about --

NADIA BOLZ-WEBER, AUTHOR, "PASTRIX": It's my pleasure. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: I want you to talk about actually the title, "Pastrix". Explain that for us.

BOLZ-WEBER: Yes, so "Pastrix" is actually a term of insult that my detractors started to give me because they think women shouldn't be pastors. And so when they would write hateful things about me on their little blogs, they wouldn't use my actual title which is Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber.

So they start calling me "Pastrix" Nadia Bolz-Weber and so then I just thought well screw it, I'll just use that as a title of my memoir which I think technically means I win.

PAUL: Yes. I was going to say. I think you kind of put them --



PAUL: -- in your place with that one.

So your church -- I understand is in downtown Denver. The name, the House for all Sinners and Saints is wildly popular. What do you think it is about your church that has people gravitating towards it?

BOLZ-WEBER: I think it's a -- I mean it's something I'm really curious about myself. I can't say that I have maybe definitive answers about that. But I have a lot of curiosity why these people keep showing up. Because when we started it, it really was mostly like urban young adults. And now it's just expanded. There are all sorts of different kinds of people there.

I mean we have -- we have soccer moms who drive in from the suburbs. And we have baby boomers and corporate people and then we also have a lot of GLBTQ folks and young adults. And I mean it's just -- you walk in and you go, you know what? I am really unclear what all these people have in common.

And I think that the thing that they have in common is not so much maybe they all share one particular very specific belief. But I think they all have in common the practice of having an open table. The fact that everyone's welcome to receive the Eucharist in our church is a really central part of who we are together.

And so we don't ask people to check part of their personality or part of their story at the door in order to be accepted. I don't. I don't have like my pastor personality that I put on at church -- right? They have a leader who is just who I am. And I'm not really apologetic about it. And I really want to help create spaces where other people can be who they are, too.

BLACKWELL: And you've been really open about your past drug addiction and a lot of people actually say they appreciate the openness and that space to tell your entire story. But I wonder is there still maybe a rift between your church and traditional houses of worship?

BOLZ-WEBER: Well, I don't know that there's a rift. I mean I think in some ways we're doing the same things. We're just doing them differently. So I have a lot of respect for traditional churches. I can't sort of say wow they're really doing everything wrong. I think that those churches really thrived in a cultural context that we see waning in the cultural context that we're living in now that I think is only going to be -- we're going to only see it increase. That millennial context -- this is the way of doing church that's native to that.

We just had the benefit of being able to start out, you know, six years ago to where we're really rooted in a millennial context rather than quickly trying to adapt to something we don't understand. And, you know what? Maybe the way we're doing it will be completely irrelevant in ten years. I can't really speak to that. I don't know. But right now this is what's working. And I think one of the things -- one of the things that's really critical to understand is the way in which the people in this congregation are participants, not consumers.


BOLZ-WEBER: They're helping to create what it is that they're experiencing. They're not passively coming in and consuming a religious product that the authorities have assembled for them, you know, in a sort of patronizing way. So they really are participating in what it is that they're experiencing. I think that's important.

BLACKWELL: Well, Nadia Bolz-Weber -- what you're doing is working. Again, when a lot of churches are struggling to bring people back in, people are struggling to get a seat at the -- I want to say it again -- The House for All Saints and Sinners in downtown Denver.

Thank you so much for speaking with us. The book is "Pastrix" -- thank you.

PAUL: Thank you so much.


BLACKWELL: And for more stories on faith, be sure to check out our belief blog at

That's really interesting.


PAUL: All right.

A report on last year's attack in Benghazi shoots down much of what the GOP claimed in accusing the Obama administration of a cover- up. But the administration isn't completely off the rails here either. Details on the report and how Republicans are reacting -- next.


BLACKWELL: An in-depth investigation by "The New York Times" into last year's attack in Benghazi -- it shoots down much of what Republicans have said about the incident in accusing the Obama administration of a cover-up. It finds that al Qaeda was likely not involved in the attack that killed four Americans and it suggests independent Libyan militias played a key role instead.

PAUL: Now, the report finds, too, that it was fueled in part by a U.S. made anti-Muslim video but not solely as the Obama administration suggested -- so some wrongs perhaps on both sides of the aisle here. The attack and questions about circumstances surrounding it have been, as you know , the subject of a long-running battle between the White House and Republicans.

So we want to go to "STATE OF THE UNION" anchor Candy Crowley now. Candy, good to see you this morning; how is this likely to change the talk about Benghazi and how it's used in the political arena? What do you have for us on that?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: I'm not sure it will. Next year is an election year. It is not a presidential election where I expect that Benghazi might play a part. But the fact is as you kind of point out there is a little something of everything in here. There is, of course, that sort of belief that there were, in fact, not just no al Qaeda involvement, it appears through this investigation, but no international terrorist group.

This appeared to be a band of militia of which there are many bands within Benghazi. The idea that it was the tape in part sparked others to join this ban and that it was being stoked by the leaders of the militia. But it was not solely that. There had been a plan -- preplanned attacked as Republicans have said. But it wasn't clear that this was when they were going to do it. Perhaps they took advantage of it and brought other people in.

So it's pretty murky. And there are also, I probably suggest to you that Republicans will say well the people we've talked to say it was clear it was terrorist borne or whatever. So I'm not sure it will change the parameters of the debate which have hardened as you know over time since the attack.

PAUL: Certainly. So we're getting word that there is, should I say, some serious girl power maybe coming up on your show today? Tell us about it.

CROWLEY: We do. We have four of my favorite gal pals who are coming on to talk about 2013 moments -- the top ten political moments. And kind of spin it forward in the 2014. What does it mean for the elections? What does this moment mean if anything for how congress will react. So it's -- it will be a fun show.

BLACKWELL: All right. Looking forward to it, Candy. Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: You bet.

BLACKWELL: And stay here for "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley. It starts at the top of the hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

All right. So there's an Australian ice breaker that is now getting closer to this group of stranded passengers in Antarctica. But rescue teams face really strong weather. The icy conditions continue.

Up next, the science behind why it's so hard to breakthrough the ice.


BLACKWELL: So you're waking up this morning warm in your bed. Nice and toasty, maybe some tea or coffee. Yes, this morning 74 people are stranded at the end of the earth in the bitter cold as they're waiting for help. That's how they're starting their day. An Australian ship is en route to assist the rescue efforts in the Antarctic.

PAUL: Meanwhile, we know there is a Chinese ship that failed to reach the vessel yesterday. It's standing by to help as well with a helicopter on it in case they have to do some aerial rescued. But you'd think a ship designed to break through the ice would be able to do just that.

Well, as CNN's Carl Azuz explain in this week's "Science Behind", it's not that easy.


CARL AZUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You'd think that because this is a glacial environment, sea ice would move at a glacial pace, not the case. Wraps of ice moved quickly, rushed over the sea by wind. They can expand and grow thicker, rise and fall with the waves beneath them. And blizzard conditions common to Antarctica even in summer don't help.

You might remember this scene from Minnesota when wind blew icy shore from Mille Lacs Lake climbing and cracking into doors and windows. Think of this same principal in a massive frigid sea and you can see how a Russian research vessel en route to the Antarctic got trapped.

How Ernest Shackleton and the "Endurance" were surrounded and how that ship was eventually crushed. Even animals used to these conditions like the trapped whales dramatized in last year's movie "Big Miracle" are vulnerable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see that?

AZUZ: So what does it take to get through the ice and rescue whales, cruise ships or anything else that gets stranded? Wait. Sea ice as thick as ten feet can be broken and the sloping holes of some ice breakers are designed to actually wedge up on top of the ice so the heavy ship can crush down on it. The boughs are also designed to then move the cracked ice to the side, plowing a path that other ships can follow. A crusty road to open water out of a frozen maze.

Carl Azuz, CNN.


PAUL: Boy -- and good luck to them. All right. An engagement ring missing for more than six years is found just in time for the holidays. Adam Tiller says his then fiancee lost the ring a month before their wedding. That was back in 2007.

BLACKWELL: Now about two weeks ago one of the Tiller's friends Jacob Hickman took his car to the auto shop -- ok. Now when Hickman went back to pick up his car an auto technician told them they found a diamond ring during that service.

PAUL: And that's when Hickman realized, hey, it's the long last ring that belonged to Tiller's wife. Hickman returned the ring to Tiller who surprised his wife with the ring Christmas morning. I want to know how that ring got in his friend's car?

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's a good question.

PAUL: You've got some explaining to do, Lucy. I'm kidding. I kid.

BLACKWELL: So a New York man, he claims a lottery prize more than a year after he stumbled upon a winning ticket. Now here's why. We're going to tell you in a moment. But you have to understand where he found it. It was hidden in a pile of leaves.

PAUL: Marvin Rosales Martinez was cleaning up debris after super storm Sandy when he found this ticket which is worth more than half a million dollars. Here's what the 27-year-old landscaper says he's going to do with it.


MARVIN ROSALES MARTINEZ, LOTTERY WINNER: I'm going to buy me a house, help churches and help my family.


BLACKWELL: Now he had to wait a year because the ticket wasn't his.

PAUL: Right. Right.

"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now. Have a great morning.

BLACKWELL: Happy Sunday.