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UAE To Free Jailed American; Kenneth Bae's Sister Reacts; Avalanche Kills Skier; "Duty" Pulls No Punches About White House

Aired January 8, 2014 - 08:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The big thaw, first the cold, now the snow, as much as two feet in places. Drivers stranded on highways. But will the nation finally be heating up? Indra Petersons tracking it all.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly avalanche. Four skiers caught in a massive snow slide in Colorado. Three miraculously rescued, but one person, a grandson of the founder of Vail Ski Resort, found dead. We're live with the latest.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The big game. A day after his heated interview on NEW DAY, Dennis Rodman and his team playing this morning in North Korea. Rodman had strong words for American Kenneth Bae held in that nation. Now his sister reacts live.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, January 8th, eight o'clock in the East.

We are still shivering -- I'm sure you are as well - in the grip of the polar vortex. But relief is on the way, thankfully. It has been a killer cold blamed for at least 16 deaths at this point.

Take a look at what happened when the temperatures dipped to 19 degrees in Tallahassee, Florida. Everything turned to ice, these pictures taken by one of our CNNi reporters. Thank you so much for that.

CUOMO: Something else for you, the aerial image of Chicago, the windy city frozen after windchill temperatures approached 50 below zero. Meantime, mother nature now adding insult to injury in upstate New York with what? Snow, at some point two inches an hour. Can you imagine that and the dangerous conditions resulting, of course.

We're gonna cover this from every angle. We have correspondents on the scene and meteorologist Indra Petersons' following it all for us from here.

Let's start off with Pamela Brown up in Buffalo. How rapid is the snow now? What's the situation? PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the snow is still coming down here, Chris. But it's let up significantly since we were here last night. We've seen about half an inch an hour here, but we are seeing signs of life here in Buffalo.

Take a look here to the roads. The travel bans have been lifted, a very different scene here ever since that blizzard began here in Buffalo Monday evening, basically causing the city to come to a stand still. In fact, if you can believe it, it was the first blizzard warning here in Buffalo since 1993.

But I want you to take a look here behind me. Hard to believe, this is Lake Erie. It looks like an endless sheet of ice and snow as far as the eye can see, an indication of just how cold it got during the blizzard.


BROWN (voice-over): Overnight, the bitter cold temps and howling winds creating white-out conditions over our nation's snow belts. Major highways shut down in Buffalo as gusts up to 40 miles an hour, snow piling up at the rate of two inches an hour. Police forced to use snowmobiles to rescue stranded drivers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still a very, very life-threatening situation if you should happen to be in a vehicle that gets stuck along the side of the road.

BROWN: A blizzard trifecta of biting cold, whipping winds, and in some areas, lake-effect snow, which happens when bitterly cold air passes over a warmer body of water. The cold air sucks up the moisture and heat, dropping into the snow when it moves over land.

Adding to the misery, the windchill, plummeting at times to a frigid 20 degrees below zero. A massive snowstorm on the heels of a nation- wide deep freeze.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I couldn't last much longer out here.

BROWN: All 50 states recorded temps below freezing on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really, really freezing. And I'm not really prepared for this.

BROWN: In New Jersey, live powerlines collapsed onto a transit train after the frigid air caused them to sag. A thousand passengers were delayed for hours.

Windchills are so cold the zoo animals were brought inside in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if they're used to the outdoors, this temperature's just a little too cold for them.

BROWN: The bone-chilling cold closing schools and snarling traffic across the country, canceling thousands of flights, and icy roads making driving treacherous and terrifying.

Watch as the driver of this pick-up truck loses control, plunging from a Minnesota overpass, crashing dozens of feet below onto a frozen pond.


BROWN (on-camera): And officials are attributing 16 deaths across the country to this polar vortex. Here in Buffalo, officials saying there haven't been any deaths, and they're attributing that to the fact that people just heeded warnings. They stayed inside. It was really a ghost town. We were here last night. I think that says a lot, Chris and Kate, because these western New Yorkers, they are tough when it comes to weather winter. And they were not venturing out in these weather conditions yesterday. I'll tell you that.

BOLDUAN: They sure are tough, but those sure are tough temperatures to be dealing with.

Pamela, thank you so much.

So you may not feel it yet, but the great American thaw-out is about to begin, thankfully. Let's bring in Indra Petersons once again.

So Indra, what's it looking like? When are we gonna feel that thaw?

INDRA PETERSONS, METEOROLOGIST: You know, I'm glad that I'm inside today. Because I thought I was tough, but not yesterday. I mean, this chill was devastating. It was miserable out there and so many people are still dealing with these temperatures below zero again today.

But believe it or not, 30 degrees below zero in Deluth. That is still a 20 degree warm-up from where they were just 24 hours ago. And again, still seeing the northeast at sub-zero temperatures.

But yes, it is changing. First, let me drop you down in the southeast, notice still below freezing. So everyone from the northeast down to the southeast, really the entire eastern half of the country needs this warm-up, and it is finally. Yes, it is here. It's coming - notice the jetstream went all the way down, even in through Florida.

But yes, it is going to be rising. Look at the current temperature right now; 17 degrees in Atlanta. Now notice the change. Once this guy lifts out of here, we get some warm air coming off of the Gulf. So that's going to quickly warm us up to above normal temperatures. All you guys wanted was average.

I'm taking you way above that. I want some praise here; 63 degrees. That's what you're looking at for the weekend. Some places even seeing 70s and 80s. Notice Boston goes all the way up to 53, almost 20 degrees above normal.

Same thing for the southeast. I'm not leaving you out. Look at that. We're talking about temperatures close to the 80-degree mark. So yes, you know, you just wanted average. I just want to go with the big guys, so, off we go.

BOLDUAN: Good week.

PETERSONS: Kind of, yeah.

BOLDUAN: Starts bad, ends well, I guess.

CUOMO: So you want credit for the warming, but I do not remember you taking blame for the chilling.

PETERSONS: I get it anyways. Wanna check my Twitter there? Indra, Indra. And they're not happy comments.

CUOMO: And rightly so. Thank you.

New this morning also, a deadly avalanche in Colorado. It claimed the victims. It claimed as one of its victims one of Vail's own; 24-year- old Anthony Seibert, he was trapped with three other people. He was the one who didn't make it out alive. He happens to be the grandson of Vail's founder.

We have CNN's Ana Cabrera following the story in Denver live. Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Really is a tragedy here. Anthony Seibert, known to be a very experienced skier, loved the outdoors, spent a lot of time in the back country. He was with three of his buddies in an area that is known to be very popular for back country skiing and snowboarding, not inside the Vail Ski Resort, but we're told that the short hike from the top of Vail Mountain. So it is accessible.

It's also an area known to be avalanche prone.


CABRERA (voice-over): A scoured mountainside, trees tossed like toys, a giant avalanche leaving behind a deadly path of destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been described as a couple hundred yards wide and maybe up to 10 feet deep, running close to 1,000 feet vertical.

CABRERA: This is the back country not far from the Vail Ski Resort.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not on Vail Resort's mountain. It is for experienced skiers and snowboarders.

CABRERA: The huge slide trapped four people. Rescuers worked quickly to save three, but it was too late for their friend. The victim, now identified as 24-year-old Anthony Seibert, the grandson of the ski area's founder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are fabulous skiers. He was a fabulous skier.

CABRERA: It's now the second avalanche fatality in Colorado in just over a week. This amazing video is from the same area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that an avalanche?


CABRERA: Another avalanche triggered just days before Christmas.


CABRERA: Here Davis Lamare (ph) digs out his brother, saving his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we've been seeing over the last, say, 10 days or so is just a general increase in the size of the avalanches in the back country.

CABRERA: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have some very weak snow near the ground that formed early in the season. And we've been getting kind of consistent snowfall, so the slab over it is starting to get thicker and larger.

CABRERA: And it's happening all across the Rocky Mountain region. Three snow-mobilers triggered an avalanche in Montana last week. One of them was buried and killed.

And trails were closed at this Utah resort when an avalanche temporarily buried several skiers. All of them survived.

Experts urge anyone heading into the back country to be prepared for the power of mother nature.


CABRERA (on-camera): Now this is important. Write this down. That's a good resource for you to use if you are planning to head into the back country of the latest avalanche information. Also, a shovel, a beacon, and a probe, these are crucial items to have with you if you head into the back country, especially right now.


BOLDUAN: Ana, thank you very much.

So let's talk about that book. Former defense secretary Robert Gates pulling no punches in a brand new tell-all book called "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War". Gates writes of his war room deliberations with the president, sharply criticizing his White House, at one point calling it, quote, "by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon."

Joining us now to talk more about this, David Gergen, a CNN senior political analyst and former presidential advisor. David, you are the perfect person to discuss this book. Like Gates, you have worked for administrations, Democrat and Republican, dating back to the Nixon administration. What do you make of this book and the timing?

GERGEN: Well, actually, I welcome the book because Bob Gates -- I've had the opportunity to know him, privilege of working with him over the years. And in my judgment, he's one of the finest public servants of our time. He gave this country over half a century of service in very distinguished ways.

And I think what he tried to do in this book was be very candid about what's going on in Washington. It's not just the partisanship and the polarization between Capitol Hill and the White House. It's the fact that a man who came in to salvage two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, found it, as he said, "damnedly (ph) difficult to get anything done of consequence in Washington."

And he's trying to help us understand why that is. He's not attacking individuals, per se. Although it comes out with that, some of that. But I think rather to give us a sense of why is it so difficult for this country to be self-governing and to be effective, not only over - not only here at home, but overseas.

BOLDUAN: And look, we all - I think everyone, journalists and in - everyone welcomes the candor --

GERGEN: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- to come out. But when you look at the unusual circumstances of this one, he knows what he's doing. The president is still in office. He is a former Cabinet secretary. Do you think - it has many people wondering, do you think he is being disloyal? Does he owe some loyalty to the president who picked him to sit in his Cabinet?

GERGEN: Well, I think he - there's a reason he called this book "Duty". That is I believe he has a sense of duty that transcends that, that's a sense of duty to the young men and women that he sent into combat. He, after all, was in a situation where as the president of Texas A&M, he signed the diplomas for a lot of people who went to war. He then signed the papers that sent those young men and women to war. And then he had to sign the letters to their parents to say that they'd been killed.

And he felt - I think the book ends on a really - as you know, in a moving way. And he says I want to be buried among the young men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq. I would like to find my eternal rest there among my heroes. That's where I think he feels his duty is.

BOLDUAN: And he also knows, though, that there is some of that biting criticism of the president and the administration in this book. It has some in political and military circles wondering very loudly if he felt like he couldn't get anything done, if he was so dissatisfied and felt so controlled, why not resign? Do you think that's a valid question to be raising?

GERGEN: I do. I do. And even in the book he says there were several occasions when he came very close to it. But I have remembered, if you go back in the past, how many times did Henry Kissinger threaten to resign in the Nixon administration? A great number because he had frustrations as well.

It's not entirely new to be frustrated in government, of course. But I think the level of disfunctionality is something that deeply troubled Bob Gates. Because he came in at a time when government appeared to be able to do things and big things and America walked big on the stage.

And he left at a time when America seems to be sort of easing off the stage in the minds of many people. And the government is not running as well as it should. And I think, frankly, to go back to it, I think he feels this enormous sense of responsibility to the young men and women in uniform.

BOLDUAN: And we've been talking a lot of the criticisms targeting the president. But both Joe Biden and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they did not escape his criticism either. We have a couple of these quotes.

He said of Joe Biden, "I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy in national security issue over the past four decades.

Of Clinton, he says, "Hillary told the president that her opposition to the 2007 surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary."

GERGEN: Right.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that's gonna leave a mark?

GERGEN: Yeah, I do. I think she'll get some questions about it. Look, he does about Vice President Biden that he's a man of integrity, but there's no question that they had deep conflicts over policy. I was surprised by that sentence, and I also think, frankly, it's unfair to Joe Biden. I think, in fact, he has been right on a number of issues.

But the book, I have to say, Kate, is a much more positive book about Hillary Clinton.

BOLDUAN: Very right on that.


GERGEN: I've talked to him several times about this. He has an extraordinarily high regard for her. And I think when he said, you know, she told the president, he was just revealing the depth of her own, that she shared a lot of his frustrations, as did Leon Panetta. And, as you know, they all felt that the White House was too controlling, most controlling White House since the days of Richard Nixon is what he said, and the national security apparatus there. That's a pretty strong indictment.

BOLDUAN: We have yet to hear from Bob Gates, himself, about the book. We're reading, it's very candid in these excerpts that have been released, but what questions would you have for him when he comes out to release his book --

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you've got -- your first line of question is why he would write the book? I think that's important to understand, but (INAUDIBLE) because I do think it has everything to do with this higher sense of loyalty -- but I also think it's important to ask the question of how can we manage our public institutions well? You know, he has led major, major public institutions in the country. Texas A&M, I think -- biggest school in the country --


BOLDUAN: If he couldn't do it, what could be done?

GERGEN: That's a really good point. If Bob Gates couldn't do it because he is so effective and he's wise. He's one of the wise men of our time now. They call him Yoda inside the Obama White House, but there may be a reason why that's true. And I think we have to understand how can we -- he can help us sort out, I think, how can we get this right so that we have a government which is operationally effective as it should be.

I do think it's important to understand that as much criticism as he has in here, he doesn't seem to be saying that the White House was too political or so political or so controlling that we distorted policy. It's more operational and how hard it is to get things done. I don't think he's saying the president cut and run Iraq or Afghanistan. Those are important distinctions.

BOLDUAN: And nuance that is important to get out and will be important to hear from him once you get beyond the headlines. And important to point out what can be learned from this, I think, is a great point there --

GERGEN: Absolutely. I think it's -- I think this is a public -- I know people are going to feel stunned -- at the end of the day, this is not a man who's looking for financial gain by writing a book. This is a man who's trying to help the country. He's trying to contribute one more big effort of public service.

BOLDUAN: David Gergen, always great to see you. Thanks for coming in, David.

GERGEN: OK. Take care.

BOLDUAN: Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Kate, thank you. Let's take a look at our headlines. New developments on a story that we have been following closely.


PEREIRA (voice-over): Shezanne Cassim, the American locked up in the UAE over a parody video about Dubai teens, well, he is close to freedom. A family spokeswoman says he'll be released this week. He could be back in the U.S. as early as tomorrow.

New shocking developments coming to light in a New Year's Day arrest. Prosecutors say an Indiana guardsman stopped for speeding up at a Columbus, Ohio had close to 50 bombs inside his vehicle. That man also reportedly had four loaded guns, the blueprints for a navy seal facility, and a remote control detonator. Investigators now trying to figure out why he had that arsenal.

A chopper accident in the United Kingdom has killed four American service members. The military helicopter crashed last night near Clay on the eastern coast of England. It went down while it was flying low on a nighttime training mission. The chopper was a Pave Hawk modified Blackhawk that typically carries two pilots, a flight engineer, and a gunner.

Another example of the desperate measures undocumented immigrants take. Customs and border patrol agents on the U.S. -- border discovered this, a woman squeezed into a suitcase. The 48-year-old woman was hid in the back of a vehicle driven by an unidentified Phoenix man. She is now being charged with re-entry after deportation.

Now, Kate, Chris, I want you to come -- too many cheese lovers at liquid gold (ph). We're talking about Velveeta, of course. Kraft Foods says supplies of the popular processed cheese products are running low. They're not sure why. Bad timing really. This Velveeta shortage is coming right around west Oscar viewing parties, Super Bowl. Now, this is my deal. I'm committed to finding an alternate cheese source for the two of you.



BOLDUAN: You're never going to --

CUOMO: Not going to be east.

PEREIRA (on-camera): -- temporary.

BOLDUAN: It's called liquid gold for a reason.

PEREIRA: It's going to be temporary solution.


PEREIRA: I'm going to work with you.

CUOMO: A Band-Aid fix.

PEREIRA: Just a Band-Aid fix. Think about it as that. Those are your headlines for now.

CUOMO: Online, you were very strong in your enthusiasm for Velveeta and --


CUOMO: -- that it is not a standalone cheese. We melt it, mix it.


CUOMO: And that's why we love it.

BOLDUAN: You're not a true enthusiast, unless, you can eat Velveeta straight.

PEREIRA: And you have to really call it a cheese, right?

CUOMO: Yes. It's --


BOLDUAN: Always speak in truth, Michaela.


CUOMO: That's the rule. Discuss amongst yourself and then please do tweet.

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY, when we come back Dennis Rodman visits to North Korea and gets even stranger. We have new images of him singing happy birthday to leader Kim Jong-Un, this, as we get reaction from Kenneth Bae's sister live about his situation after Robyn (ph) seemed to blame her brother for his detention in North Korea.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, JetBlue fighting back after major flight cancellations. Can they restore the faith of passengers?


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: You are the guy behind mic right now. We are the guys here. We do one thing.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": You know, usually, the only time you see a face like that on NBA players is when the paternity test results come back.



CUOMO: When you act the way Rodman did, they're going to make fun of you, and certainly he became instant late night material. But you know, this situation could not be less funny to one American family, the family of Kenneth Bae. He has been held hostage in North Korea for over a year. And now, Dennis Rodman is adding to their torment with his shouting and with his singing.

Why do I say that? Breaking just moments ago, this is an AP image of Rodman singing happy birthday to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. So much for the basketball game against the North Koreans not being a birthday gift, I guess. A game the American team lost, by the way. But most disturbing to the Bae Family was that Rodman, in our interview, seemed to suggest Kenneth Bae is in prison for a good reason.


RODMAN: Do you understand what Kenneth Bae did?


RODMAN: Do you understand what he did?

CUOMO: What did he do, you tell me? You tell me. What did he do?

RODMAN: No, no. You tell me. You tell me. Why is he held captive?

CUOMO: They haven't released any charges. They haven't released any reasons.


CUOMO: We're joined now by Terri Chung. She's Kenneth Bae's sister. Terry, thank you for joining us. Give me a favor, let's just take a walk down the road of instability for one second with Dennis Rodman. That particular outburst was meaningful to me and here's why, and I want to get what you think about this. Somebody obviously told him something about what your brother did that he found compelling.

It is easy to dismiss Dennis Rodman and you probably should. However, are you concerned that his vehemence about your brother reflects the North Korean regime's confidence in their prosecution of him?

TERRI CHUNG, SISTER OF KENNETH BAE: I was shocked by his words, and I think -- Dennis Rodman. I'm not sure where he's getting his information, and I'm not sure how much credence I would give to his outbursts. I don't think -- he's certainly not a diplomat and not an authority on this case at all. And, I don't think he has any kind of position to remark on this case especially after making it clear he has no intention to help.

CUOMO: Right. My concern is that somebody must have told him something because he was very passionate that he knew something, that Kenneth Bae is bad, and that's why he is there. And that's why I ask the question, because obviously, the challenge here will be getting North Korea to re-assess its position.

CHUNG: Right. Right. Yes. It's hard to know who he was talking to and what the opinions that he was reflecting. I certainly hope that's not the case. We understand and have to accept that North Korea has passed judgment on my brother in their courts. I'm not in position to dispute that. However, you know, we do know for certainty that Kenneth Bae had never any hostile intentions against the DPRK. I'm sorry that his intention to help were interpreted unkindly, and you know, as deemed hostile against the state. But I can say with certainty that he never had any intentions to overthrow the government.

CUOMO: The silver lining is that because of Rodman's outburst, your brother's situation is getting attention. So, some -- many may be coming to it for the first time. So, let's remind, the North Korean regime says that he was an enemy of the state, essentially. They used phrases like Jericho Operation and plus to overthrow in China and see (ph) people out of the country.

Can you -- and your brother, they say, admitted to these allegations. Do you believe your brother's confession? Do you believe he had anything to do with any of these types of allegations?

CHUNG: You know, it's hard to say. About the confession, it's hard to say. But, you know, Kenneth was there legally with permission as a businessman and he led 18 tours over two years as a tour operator into North Korea.

And he had built working relationships and he didn't have any reason to suspect that he would have any kind of trouble because that was his livelihood and he had a passion for introducing the west to this side of North Korea he found to be, you know, what he called purity of the people and the land. And that was his job and his passion. And, you know, he is a man of faith. And, I'm afraid that his Christian convictions might have gotten him trouble.

CUOMO: But he was not running an underground railroad? That's your understanding?


CUOMO: Because that's important, right? That goes to the substance of what they say. So now, it gets to the idea of how do you get him out. Unfortunately, this is not the UAE where we just saw Cassim get released, the man who made the spoof video. The U.S. has very well- developed relationships with the UAE. Here, with North Korea, there is almost no diplomatic energy going on. What is your best information about the U.S. state department, what they're doing and what they say they can do?

CHUNG: You know, we can beg our case and plea all that we want to the leaders of DPK and to please show mercy and grant amnesty and let Kenneth go, but I don't think that's going to happen all on its own. I don't think it's going to -- I think it's going to take more to bring him home and I think it's going to take more immediate intervention by the United States government to bring Kenneth home.

And I don't know exactly what that's going to be look like and what it's going to take. But one thing that's been made clear through communications from Kenneth through all of the letters and a couple of phone calls he's been allowed to make over the last 14 months that it's going to take help and intervention from our government to secure his release.

CUOMO: And do you believe you're getting any help? Is it about just more help or the right help? Are you satisfied with what's happening on our state side?

CHUNG: Kenneth is my brother. I love him. And, you know, he's been there way too long. And every day he's there is too long. And I do believe the U.S. government wants to see him home but I do -- I Implore with our leaders to take more urgent action, more proactive measures to secure release for Kenneth Bae.

At 14 months, he's the longest detained American and the only one to have served time in the labor camp until his health failed and it's long past time for him to come home.

CUOMO: We are making calls to the state department every day to find out what's going on with this situation. We will keep attention on this story, because it deserves and we'll do it as often as we can. And I guess for that, we do actually have to thank Dennis Rodman for giving us an opportunity to bring your brother's story back into the media. Terri, I know these are always difficult conversations for you, but your advocacy is for the best of reasons. Thank you for joining us on NEW DAY.

CHUNG: Thank you.