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Fourteen Dead in Another Terror Attack in Russia; Arctic Blast for New Year's Eve; Obamacare Enrollment Skyrockets; Benghazi Debate Rages

Aired December 30, 2013 - 08:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We have two days left in the year. It is 8:00 in the East. Chris and Kate are off on a much deserved vacation, I would add.

We begin with breaking news out of Russia. Two deadly terror attacks in two days are prompting questions about security at least 14 people are dead after a suicide bombing on a bus. This in the very same city where 17 were just killed in a rail station attack Sunday.

Officials there are scrambling to guarantee the safety of thousand athletes and fans at the Sochi Olympics. You can see it right here. The bombings and Sochi are separated by only about 400 miles.

Diana Magnay is in Moscow with the very latest for us -- Diana.


Well, Russian parliamentary officials are saying that despite these attacks they do not need to up the security measures around the Olympic games, they have taken all the necessary security measures such as giving fans a fan passport, some form of investigation and have very, very stringent security checks.

But that said, given these terrible bombings today and yesterday in the city of Volgograd, it does make you question authorities claim -- authorities claimed this will be the safest Olympics ever.


MAGNAY (voice-over): Two deadly terror attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd in less than 24 hours. This morning, it's attack on crowded trolley bus in morning rush hour. More than a dozen killed.

Authorities say the blast work of a suicide bomber, possibly detonating his device towards the back end of the bus where the damage seems worse. Many on board were students. This is exam time in Russia, among the injured, a baby in serious condition.

This follows another attack noon on Sunday in Volgograd's main railway station. The moment of the explosion caught on surveillance video. Seventeen people were killed in that blast. Authorities saying that was also the work of a suicide bomber.

These attacks come less than six weeks before the start of the winter games if Sochi, which is around 400 miles southwest of Volgograd.

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin has bowed the highest possible security around the games themselves from the town of Sochi, but it is clearly hard to police the whole of Southern Russia to the same level. Russia is fighting an Islamist insurgency in the north caucuses, not far from Sochi.

In July, Russia's most wanted man, Dokka Umarov, a Chechens extremist, a leader of an Islamist faction in the north caucuses threatened to unleash, quote, "maximum force" to prevent the games from happening. The U.S. State Department has a $5 million reward out for Umarov. Former intelligence officials believe further attacks are entirely possible.

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I think if we don't see one, an attempt on the Olympics, I'd be very surprised.

MAGNAY: Even if the high security around Sochi means terrorists may not be able to strike there, they are proving themselves more than capable of spreading maximum fear ahead of the games themselves, targeting other cities in the region with deadly results.


MAGNAY: Now, John, New Year is Russia's biggest holiday, perhaps one of the reasons why the railway stations was targeted on Sunday when thousands will be moving and traveling to see their relatives and loved ones.

New Year in Volgograd will start with three days of mourning to remember those that died and the death count may go up. There are several more still in critical condition -- John.

BERMAN: A tragedy to go along with the serious concerns, just six weeks before the Olympics.

Diana Magnay for us in Moscow, thanks so much.

Four minutes after the hour. We're going to talk now about the deep freeze, a large part of this country wrapping up 2013 with an arctic blast. Look at this map, that is a big chunk of the United States covered by a big chunk of arctic cold pushing down from Canada, across the Midwest and Northeast. I'm blaming Canada, Michaela. Yes, I am, it is all your fault.

The question is, will your New Year's plans be put on ice and can we blame Canada?

Jennifer Gray in for Indra Petersons --

PERERIA: You always do.

BERMAN: -- keeping an eye on the big chill. JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This one we'll definitely blame Canada for. It is a big push of arctic air and it's coming in very, very cold temperatures across much of the North and we are seeing highs below zero in the northern plains and anywhere from Chicago around the Great Lakes, highs will be one degree below zero to 30. So, all of us staying below freezing and when you factor in the wind- chill, 30, 35 degrees below zero is what it's feel like in Chicago, even feeling like 12 degrees below zero.

So, we'll stay 15 degrees below normal for the Northern Plains around the Great Lakes the next couple of days. This push of cold air will make it into the Northeast by the second half of the week, we'll stay close to normal until then in the Northeast, but highs still will be in the low 30s.

If you're ringing in the New Year in Chicago, one of the few cities that will have a chance of snow -- so, could see a white New Year's Day. By midnight, temperatures about 17 degrees, also with the chance of snow showers. So, it is going to feel chilly in Chicago, one of the many places that will be cold this New Year's Eve, but most of the country quiet. We're not dealing with those blizzards, all that we had trouble with a couple of weeks ago.

PEREIRA: You might want to revise your plans for New Year's Eve to indoors.

BERMAN: The best way to stay warm on New Year's Eve?

PEREIRA: How is that?

BERMAN: Join us on CNN. Spend your New Year's Eve with Anderson Cooper and comedian Kathy Griffin. They will ring in 2014 live from Times Square with a million or so of their closest friends. Tune in tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

PEREIRA: It will be a lot of fun.

The Obamacare rollercoaster is ending the year on an upswing. Officials say enrollment is surging in the final days of 2013. But they have to keep up the breakneck pace in order to meet their lofty goals, some might argue.

CNN's Athena Jones is covering the president in Honolulu. Not a bad assignment -- Athena.


Well, after the disastrous rollout of, the Web site is working much better now and health officials say the proof is in this big jump in enrollment numbers. More than 1.1 million people signed up for health care using the federal exchange between October 1st and December 24th and nearly 1 million of those, 975,000 came just in this month alone, in December alone.

Now, these numbers don't include new Medicaid enrollees. They also don't include the state-run marketplaces. But we know many of those statewide marketplaces also saw a surge in activity in recent days.

We also know the pace of enrollment on is picking up. The government saying December enrollment so far is more than seven times higher than October and November.

But even with this big surge it looks like they may still fall short of the goal of 3.3 million sign-ups by January 1st, looks like they're still behind that goal. But as we enter the next week, there will be a new push, a new Obamacare push. The White House are working with congressional Democrats, outside groups and high profile supporters of the law to share the story people are going to be covered because of Obamacare and to tout the law's benefits -- John, Michaela.

BERMAN: All right. Athena Jones for us in Honolulu, still three hours to sunrise in Hawaii out there. Thanks so much, Athena.

PEREIRA: But when the sun comes up, whoo.

BERMAN: I hear it's pretty nice.

PEREIRA: It's not bad.

BERMAN: All right. Let's go to Ana Cabrera now for some of the day's other top stories -- Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: John and Michaela, lots making news this morning.

We're finding about the NSA's top secret computer hacking team, an elite unit of the spy agency, specializing in obtaining information from the toughest of targets, think James Bond, according to reports from a German news magazine.

Now, the magazine says the spy agency actually intercept computer deliveries and outfits them with some special gear to spy on users. But it's not clear whether leaker Edward Snowden was the magazine's source here.

They spend the week stuck at the bottom of the world and folks on a research ship will have to wait a bit longer. An Australian icebreaker had to turn around because of bad weather and poor visibility.

Now, Michaela spoke earlier with expedition leader Chris Turney. Listen to this.


CHRIS TURNEY, EXPEDITION LEADER: Well, it appears a massive blowout, several-year-old thick ice came from the other side of a glacier, broke out and with the southeast winds trapped us in. So we were completely in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is not something that happened very frequently.

Now, as the result, the ice breakers are finding it very difficult to get through to us. And -- (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So far, he did tell us they have a lot of dry food on board so they are hanging in there. Rescuers may now turn to helicopters to get the people on board out. But again weather an issue for that as well.

A frantic search 15 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard is trying to locate a Canadian man who jumped off a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This was Saturday night, and it was the final night of the cruise for this family. Now, Royal Caribbean says the captain immediately turned around to look for the man, but still no sign of him.

If you think taxes are high here, we have nothing on France. The country's constitutional court has now approved a plan to tax salaries over 1 million euros at 75 percent. This tax will be paid by the companies offering the salary not the individuals receiving it. And each company can't pay out more than 5 percent of its annual revenue.

Still, many professional athletes of course, movie stars there, are all objecting and threatening to strike.

Perhaps he was up late studying films, but legendary NFL coach-turned- ESPN analyst Mike Ditka was seen dozing off on air. You see colleague Keyshawn Johnson kind of gives Ditka a little nudge, wake up, wake up.

BERMAN: That's a good co-anchor.

CABRERA: It's like, got your back, right?

This was the final week of the regular NFL season. Sometimes you just can't help it.

PEREIRA: We live in a glass house.

BERMAN: There are worst things you can do on TV than fall asleep.

CABRERA: He was taking a nap before the Bears game.

PEREIRA: Conserving energy, something like that?

BERMAN: Making sure he's fresh for the next segment.

PEREIRA: Yes. We'll go with that.

Thanks, Ana.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up for us next on NEW DAY, the controversy that will not go away, what sparked the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi? A new report has some answers but some members of Congress disagree with those answers. We'll speak about all of this with our national security analyst.

PEREIRA: And quite a bizarre mystery in the Midwest. Authorities have been looking for a missing medical student now for almost a month. New video surfaced online, police want to know who this missing student is talking with in this video.

Stay with us.


PEREIRA: Fourteen minutes after the hour. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Top House intelligence officials are taking aim at a new report that says al Qaeda was not behind the 2012 attack at the consulate in Benghazi. That attack leaving four Americans including a U.S. ambassador dead. "The New York Times'" report places much of the blame with an anti-Muslim video, but also raises new questions about early claims from the White House.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is at the State Department -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michaela, you know, Benghazi has moved beyond being just a news story. It's now a major political issue and this "New York Times" article is just heating it up.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): "The New York Times" investigation calls into question claims made by both Republicans and the White House about what happened in Libya on September 11th a year ago. The newspaper finds fault with the Republican case saying there's "no evidence that al Qaeda had any role," that local militias and looters were to blame, that an anti-Muslim video did play a role motivating the attackers at least in part, and that the attack was "not meticulously planned but neither was it spontaneous, or without warning signs."

A top Republican insists the intelligence shows al Qaeda was involved.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: There was aspiration to conduct an attack by al Qaeda and their affiliates in Libya. We know that. The individuals on the ground talked about a planned tactical movement on the compound.

DOUGHERTY: The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee agrees but says it's a complex picture.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was involved, but there were also plenty of people and militias that were unaffiliated with al Qaeda that were involved.

DOUGHERTY: "The Times" also says, however, it was not a copycat of street protests in Egypt against the American made anti-Muslim video as then U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, suggested on Sunday talk shows.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially, a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo. DOUGHERTY: The Obama White House isn't commenting or disputing "The Times" report which notably does not mention then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: What difference at this point does it make?

DOUGHERTY: But former White House national security spokesman, Tommy Vietor, blasted Republican demands for a Benghazi hearings and for their claims that the Obama administration was lying, tweeting, "they were wrong" and "we could have avoided months of discussing demagoguery."

This "New York Times" report uses the word "murky" saying that it goes beyond just the black and white picture that either Republicans or the White House present. And that guarantees that this controversy is just going to keep going -- Michaela, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jill, thanks so much.

Let's talk more about this. Let's bring in CNN's national security analyst, the former Bush homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend. We should also note that Fran is a member of the CIA external advisory board.

Now, Fran, one of the big claims in the story from the "New York Times," it makes this bold statement that al Qaeda was not involved in the attacks in Benghazi. You heard a Democrat and a Republican in that piece from Jill both say no, they think al Qaeda was involved. What kind of new light does this shed on this for you?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, and I think that really has become the big controversy over the "New York Times" article, that bold statement that al Qaeda was not involved. Look, clearly, Ansar al-Sharia was involved. It's a terrorist organization. In fact, we know that the Tunisians working with the Libyans arrested the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Misrata, in the east of Libya overnight.

And so, the notion that al Qaeda was not involved really begs credulity. I will say one of the things that they point to people who are taking issue with the article is the fact that there is signals intelligence, intercepts that did suggest al Qaeda's awareness involvement and that was referenced both by Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Adam Schiff, a Democrat who also --

BERMAN: Why does it matter if it was an al Qaeda affiliate as opposed to an al Qaeda inspired group as opposed to a group that admired al Qaeda. Why would those distinctions matter or do they?

TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure it does other than that leads you right into the sort of political controversy. Did people intentionally mislead the American public of that? What the cause of the attack was, because if it was spontaneous, it would have been harder to prepare yourself against. If it was a growing threat which is by all accounts is what it was, then you have to account for why you weren't better prepared for it and that leads you directly into what has become a tremendous political conflict.

PEREIRA: Does this of "New York Times" change your idea of what happened here at all? Does it get too -- does it further murky what we already see as a murky situation?

TOWNSEND: Yes. I certainly think -- I think the "New York Times" article does nothing to clarify what's already been said about it. And in some respects, it is sort of murky, suggesting that Ansar al- Sharia isn't really a terrorist organization, was the video really an inspiration for the attacks, that's sort of been put to bed. And so, in some ways, it just muddies up the water --

CABRERA: And Fran this report also suggests that what happened in Benghazi, regardless of who was behind it, it left some lessons behind that we should note carrying forward. Do you agree with that?

TOWNSEND: Well, certainly, look, as you're dealing with indigenous groups, right, who have their own motivations, I break it down. There are two kinds of enemies, if you will, when you're looking at a national security issue. There are those who hate us and there are those who hate us and want to kill us and making the distinction about which group -- and by the way, you know, it's not like there are membership cards in each.

These groups morph back and forth and alliances and allegiances can be very murky. And there's a danger is you're picking who you're going to work with. That's true in Libya. It's true in Syria. It was true in Iraq.

BERMAN: Has politics seeped into the discussion about Benghazi to the point where we will never have a satisfying explanation about what happened?

TOWNSEND: You know, John I fear that that -- what you say is true. I think that would be really unfortunate because I really do believe that, you know, it is unthinkable that an American ambassador, Chris Stevens, in fairness was a friend. I'd been with him ten days before he was killed. It would really be tragic if we didn't understand really in a very full and transparent way what happened not only this incident but for the safety and security of our diplomats around the world going forward.

PEREIRA: Why can't we understand that at this point?

TOWNSEND: Well, because at the moment, there's an awful lot of politics involved.

PEREIRA: The very least those poor families need that --

TOWNSEND: Absolutely.

PEREIRA: Fran Townsend, we appreciate you coming and staying with us --


TOWNSEND: Good to be here.

PEREIRA: Coming up next on NEW DAY, she vanished without a trace, a first year medical resident from Michigan. We're going to tell you what police say they found that could help them solve the mystery of her disappearance.

BERMAN: And Colorado making history about to become the first state to sell recreational marijuana. But the likely (ph) pot industry facing an uncertain future. We'll tell you why.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

PEREIRA: Well, he was one for three.


PEREIRA: John Berman, Ana Cabrera, and Michaela Pereira here. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is the 30th day of December. Chris and Kate are off. John and Ana are holding down the fort with me. Coming up, a mission to stand out fat prejudice. We're going to speak to the woman says it's every person's right to be comfortable and confident in one's body. We're going to find out what she's doing to try and make that happen and the reaction to it.

BERMAN: Plus, we love to watch them, we love to share them, and to talk about them. some inspire us like the upside and towering that inspired me. You know what I'm talking about. We're talking about all the viral videos that created the most buzz in 2013. We will take you through the top ones, the very best of 2013.

PEREIRA: They're not to be a hoax because there you saw.

BERMAN: It was still awesome. Hoax or not, it was awesome.

PEREIRA: All right. But first, we start with some breaking news from Russia. Suicide bombing on a bus is the second deadly terror attack in Russia in as many days. At least 14 people are dead a day after 17 were killed at a rail station in the very same city. Now, concerns are brewing about security for the upcoming Olympics. Diana Magnay joins us from Moscow with the very latest -- Diana.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Michaela. Well, President Putin has ordered his intelligence forces and his police to up tighten security in Russia throughout Russia and also in the Volgograd area where these two attacks took place. We're hearing from parliamentary officials, though, that security around the Olympics themselves and around Sochi is all taken and in care.

I mean, basically that it is sufficient and that no extra security measures will be taken as a result of these attacks. But as you said, there is a death toll now with 31 up to two days of attacks in the city of Volgograd. Sochi is around 400 miles away from Volgograd to the southwest to the southeast. You have this rested troubled region of the north caucuses, especially Dagestan, which has militant training camps in the mountain there.

Many of the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Russia since 2000 have emanated from Dagestan and it's highly likely that these attacks also emanate from there and that they may be planning more ahead of the Olympics -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Diana Magnay, in Moscow. Again, the Olympics six weeks away, these two attacks in less than two days a major cause for concern.

Twenty-eight minutes after the hour. Let's get to Ana Cabrera for the five things we need to know for our NEW DAY.

CABRERA: Good morning, John and Michaela. Good morning to you at home.


CABRERA: Number one this morning, severe weather forcing an Australian ice breaker to suspend efforts to reach a ship that has now been stranded in ice in Antarctica for about a week. Seventy-four people have been stuck on this research vessel again for a whole week.

New figures this morning showing a surge in enrollment for Obamacare. The White House says more than 1.1 million Americans have now signed up for that health insurance coverage.

And a German magazine says that it's lifting the veil on the NSA's hacking unit. According to the magazine's report, the spy agency actually intercepts computer deliveries and then outfits them with special gear to spy on its users.

The winningest Formula One driver in history is in a French hospital this morning after being severely injured in a skiing accident. Doctors say Michael Schumacher sustained severe head trauma and is currently in critical condition.

And at number five, Peyton Manning can have one more accolade to his already amazing career. The Denver Broncos' QB set another single season record this time for passing yards as Manning threw for 5,477 yards this season. He may be older when it comes to the NFL, but he is showing that he is like a fine wine, getting better with time.


PEREIRA: Are you from Denver?

CABRERA (on-camera): I am.



CABRERA (on-camera): Those are the five things you need to know for your new day. Go to for more as we continue to update them.

PEREIRA: We'll let it slide this time.


CABRERA: Go Broncos!

PEREIRA: Thanks, Ana. Thanks so much.

To a story we've been watching here. There's a new wrinkle in a missing person's case that has been baffling authorities for nearly a month. Teleka Patrick was in residency in medical school in Michigan. She was last heard from on December 5th. Her car was found in Indiana, but no sign of her

Now, new videos surfaced online of Patrick appearing to be talking to someone, someone very specifically. People want to know who that person is in hopes of finding her. Alexandra Field is here with more on this mystery.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Michaela, the family here is heartbroken, of course. Investigators have been stumped. Teleka Patrick had tickets to visit her family in Florida over the holidays. By all account, she was enjoying her work. Her family says she would never voluntarily not show up for work. So, everyone is hoping that these videos could finally provide a break in the case.



FIELD (voice-over): Investigators are examining new YouTube videos of Teleka Patrick serenading an unidentified love interest in their search for clues in her disappearance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi baby. Goodnight.

FIELD: In the video she apparently shot herself, Teleka repeatedly refers to someone as "love" and "baby."


FIELD: Investigators wonder if this person may have information about what happened on December 5th, the night Teleka vanished.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The search has been intensified, but to date, no leads.

FIELD: Surveillance footage from that night shows her trying to check in at the Radison Hotel.