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More Snowstorms for American South; Convoy with the U.N. Aid Coming under Fire in Syria; New Book about Beatles Released; Nik Wallenda's Walking High Wire at the Top of Georgia Dome

Aired February 9, 2014 - 06:30   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Number four now, the CEO of AOL is apologizing for comments he made about the company's benefits programs. Tim Armstrong had cited the cost of Obamacare and too expensive pregnancies. And to explain why AOL would cut the frequency of 401(K) matching payments. Now, he said that the new system would save money, but employees complained and now the old policy is back.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And number five. Thousands of you in Pennsylvania, you get to wake up this morning to power after last week's snowstorm, that I know has left you in the dark for several days. Wednesday's wintry weather downed trees and power lines, as you see here. Really difficult, then, for utility workers to get to damaged areas. Officials say about 78,000 people still do not have electricity or heat, but they're hoping that they will have power restored by tomorrow. So we're keeping our fingers crossed for you as well, because that's miserable for. They would be going into a fifth day without it.

BLACKWELL: And you know, other people were keeping our fingers crossed for the people out west dealing with this drought. Maybe some states are going to get a break from the dry weather. This is what it looked like in Portland yesterday. Freezing rain, snow there bring some slick conditions on the roads.

PAUL: All right. Obviously, it didn't stop people.


PAUL: They live there, they know what to do.

BLACKWELL: Move it through.

PAUL: They just get the skis out. Look at them go. Another round of snow could be pushing east, too. So, let's bring in CNN's meteorologist, Karen Maginnis. Hi, Karen.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Christi and Victor. Did either one of you get stuck in the Atlanta traffic that made news worldwide?

PAUL: Yes, ma'am!

BLACKWELL: No, I was out reporting in it. MAGINNIS: Yes, miserable, huh?

PAUL: He was stuck on the side of the road. It's ...

BLACKWELL: Yes. That's the nice way to say it.

PAUL: With his hat and --

MAGINNIS: Well, here we go. Round two.


MAGINNIS: It's true. I know. There's a lot to tell you about. It's still evolving. We were mentioning this yesterday, because the computer models were not very specific about what was happening. We knew something was going to, but now, we're kind of pinning it down. Things could change. All the way from Springfield to Oklahoma City to Tulsa, to Little Rock, into Russellville, extending into Memphis. Ice, freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Where you see these watches and warnings. That's where we have the potential. When does this happen? It looks like going into Monday and Tuesday. That will be the big event. Extending along the interstate, interstate 40, interstate 55, conducting right at Memphis. Memphis, kind of notorious for those big snow events or starting out as ice, changing over to snow. That's what happened in Atlanta. We didn't see freezing rain, but there was enough heat in the ground that some of the precipitation that fell on the ground just kind of froze in place. And then a couple of inches of snow. And it was just a disaster. Well, across the southeast, we'll watch a couple of weather systems come together, and it's round two with ice and snow in the southeast. We'll keep you updated.

PAUL: Ugh!


PAUL: Karen Maginnis, I'm still going to say thank you to you.



BLACKWELL: Although I didn't want that, but thank you, Karen.

MAGINNIS: All right.

BLACKWELL: We want to get you up to date on what's been unfolding in Syria. This is how one U.N. official describes it. A day in hell.

PAUL: Yeah, an aid convoy was trying to deliver much-needed food and medicine in the city of Homs, but here's what happened. Take a look.



(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: You hear all the gunshots there? The convoy came under fire as it was rolling into Homs. It was shelled on. The team had to take off. Sam Dagher is the Middle East correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal" and he joins us on the phone from Homs now. Thank you so much for being with us. Can you give us an update on what the situation is there right now?

SAM DAGHER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, I'm sorry, I can barely hear you, but I'll try my best. I'm standing near now at the front line between the government house - government (inaudible) of Homs and the rebel held section which is in the center of the city. What's going to happen today is the United Nations along with the (inaudible) is going to try to take food that weren't able to take in yesterday, and it's going to pack everything in the U.N. SUVs, armored SUVs. And so they'll try to take them in that way. Because yesterday they fight to take them in in two big trucks. I'm sorry, in four big trucks. And they were shot at, and they were, you know, mortars were fired after them and snipers shot them. So today they're trying to do it differently. And they seem to be determined. And they're going to try to evacuate those civilians, they believe in the besieged area. This is an area that's been under siege for almost 18 months.

BLACKWELL: And Sam, we know this has been going on for some time, but I'm reading your reporting for the journal, and you write that rebels insisted that four red crescent trucks go in, Damascus insisted only two trucks go in. I mean, was this specific incident started just because they couldn't agree on the number of trucks that would go in? It's got to be more than that.

DAGHER: No, no, no. Yesterday, four trucks tried to go in to deliver food, flour, and medicine and hygiene kits. And two made it in. Two big trucks made it in. And two others were shot at and had to retreat and didn't make it in. So what they're doing now, is that the same, you know, the same that was on the two trucks that didn't go in are, you know, it's going to be, you know, the same stuff is going to be put into a bunch of SUVs that belong to the United Nations. These are armored SUVs. And they're going to be taken that way in like different batches, basically. Throughout the day.

PAUL: OK. OK. So, Sam, real quickly, one, was this, you know, team deliberately targeted? And two, do we know who's responsible, specifically?

DAGHER: Good question. Yes, it was deliberately and consistently. I was just speaking this morning again with the head of the U.N. mission in Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, and he said it was a deliberate targeting of this convoy and it's a breach of international law and humanitarian principles. And - but he fell short of, you know, loaning, you know, either side of the conflict here, the government or the rebels. But I speak to three, three people, including one senior U.N. official, who was part of this mission yesterday. They were part of that convoy. And they told me, there's no doubt in their mind that it was government forces that fired at them. Pro-government forces. Then, again, of course, the authorities here dispute that and say that it was the work of a rival rebel factions. One of them, you know, one faction didn't want the civilians to get out and another faction wanted the civilians to get out in exchange for food. And that they planted IEDs along the path of the - sorry, improvised explosive devices along the path of the convoy. But Mr. Hillo himself, the U.N. chief here in Syria said no way these were IEDs, these were mortars. And he's actually in charge of security himself for the whole Syria operation.

PAUL: OK, Sam Dagher, Middle East correspondent for the "Wall Street Journal," boy, you and your crew, take good care there. Sam, it's really chaotic, but thank you so much for taking the time to let us know what's happening.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Sam.

Hey, still to come, a mystery at sea. Have you been following this? It's now sparking fascination, a lot of skepticism. This castaway that claims he drifted in the Pacific for more than a year, living on turtles and rainwater. No one knows how he could have survived so long.


PAUL: Good Sunday morning. I want to make sure that you are in the know, as you head into your new week here. So on Monday, the loud music trial is continuing in Florida. Michael Dunn, of course, on trial for killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis after a dispute at a gas station back in 2012. And also starting Monday, we should point out, the Westminster Dog Show. Yeah, you dog lovers, this is your version of the Super Bowl. It's going to be a good one. On Tuesday, a heated runoff in the San Diego mayoral race. Councilman Kevin Faulkner was the top vote getter in November's first round with 42 percent. He's going to face off with David Alvarez, who gained 27 percent. A recent poll showed the two in a dead heat for the runoff. And then on Thursday, we have new Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen testifying before the Senate banking committee regarding state of the economy. This is a semi-annual report by the Fed, by the way. And on Sunday, I know, sports lovers, NBA, all-star game in New Orleans. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Folks will be watching. Thank you, Christi.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: So, you know, this story of the man who was lost at sea for more than a year, people around the world are just fascinated by this story. However, some people are asking, come on, did this really happen? Jose Salvador Alvarenga says that he was blown off-course in Mexico back in December of 2012 and survived 5600 miles of shark- infested waters living off turtles and birds and rain water. After some reported health scares he's been released from the hospital. Here he is. He could go home within days. And CNN's Miguel Marquez is in the Marshall Islands following this story for us.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Victor, I want to give you a sense of just how unbelievably lucky Mr. Alvarenga is for even finding one of these islands. This is Majuro, this is one of the larger islands here. It's about 30 miles long, but very, very narrow. That's the south side of the island, and the north side, it's just across the street here. That's the north side. Thousands of miles of Open Ocean that way as well. The fact that he found himself on these islands, absolutely amazing. His health is better. Doctors saying that he has one more checkup before he will be cleared to take off and get out of here. Diplomats from not only the Marshall Islands that have been taking care of him, but from El Salvador, Mexico and the U.S., all here trying to figure out what is the best way to get him home. We believe his journey, his next journey, begins Monday evening, out of here to Honolulu, then maybe on to the U.S., and then finally to his home in El Salvador. Christi, Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you.

PAUL: All right, so I want to let you know about this California company that's recalling nearly 9 million pounds of meat today. Federal officials say it came from diseased animals that weren't properly inspected. The recall affects meat processed by the Rancho Feeding Corporation. The questionable meat was sent to distribution centers and retail establishments in several states, so it's not clear which companies received it, nor whether the meat ended up being sold in some form. But just something to, you know, be aware of.

BLACKWELL: Yeah. It's been a half century since the Beatles invaded America. So we're going to talk this morning to a veteran journalist who traveled the States with them after their historic appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Next.


PAUL: So 50 years ago today, the Beatles exploded on to the national stages and they appeared on "Ed Sullivan Show" for the first time.


ED SULLIVAN, "ED SULLIVAN SHOW" HOS: Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!


BEATLES (singing): Oh, yeah, I'll tell you something I think you'll understand.


BLACKWELL: This started the love affair in the U.S. Our next guest, Larry Kane, was the only American reporter to travel in the Beatles official entourage for their first U.S. tour. You can read his memories of the Beatles in this week's issue of "Closer Weekly." Now, Kane takes us down memory lane and Beatlemania, that crowds going wild. He also reveals special memories of what it was like to travel with the Beatles in those early days.

PAUL: So he's joining us now from New York. Larry Kane, thank you for making time for us. Also, the author, I should point out, of three Beatles books, including "Lennon Revealed." So, Larry, I mean we heard the screaming fans. You were with all of them in their first, you know, moments. Were they -- could they even grasp -- could they even grasp what was happening?

LARRY KANE: They never grasped in 1969 what was happening. They always felt the bubble was going to burst, and they didn't realize what Brian Epstein said to me on the plane in 1960. He said, Larry, let me just tell you something. The Beatles will be -- this is exactly what he said. "The Beatles will be listened to by the children of the 21st century." And I thought he was on something. I traveled to every stop, 72 concerts. I probably saw more concerts than anybody except them and I lived with them on the airplanes and the hotel suites. They tried to smother me at night when I was sleeping. I stand my back. But they were four really remarkable young men who really rose to the occasion. There is a lot of people who don't know that they made some history that was pretty amazing. On August 20th, 1964, the second day we were traveling on the big summer tour, I advised them that the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, which was going to be close to my station, was going to be segregated. Segregated in 1964. And they, to a person said to me, we're not going. I won't tell you the language, but they said, we are not going. And they, therefore, there was the 17-day struggle with the outrage of the Gator Bowl. And finally, on September 11TH, 1964, the Gator Bowl was integrated for the first time.

There were a lot of messages they took to the world. Yeah, they were wild and they were a little crazy and you know, there were three of them were single and one of them really didn't care. And it was, you know, there was, you know, nights in Hollywood with Jane Mansfield and John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Peggy Lipton.


KANE: And all that other good stuff. And closer, you know, "Closer Weekly" has a lot of that material in it. But my new book, "When they Were Boys," just tells you how they got started. But let me just explain something to you. The people, everybody says to me, didn't you know when you were traveling with them that they were going to be giant and iconic? And the answer is no. If I knew that they were going to be giant and iconic 20 or 30 years later, I would have brought along a better camera than my little Kodak instamatic. And I want to tell you what the adults felt. Because people need to know how it was. While the girls were going crazy because each one of them thought they were singing to them, my father pulled me aside, just before I left on the tour, and this is a World War II veteran, tough guy. And he said, Larry, watch your back. These guys are a menace to society. They will destroy America, as we know it.


KANE: But that's the way they felt. I know it sounds funny, but that's the way they felt.

BLACKWELL: We had some folks who knew them early on in their career on a few weeks ago. And they said that, you know, when they saw them for the first time with the mop of hair and they came over, they said, this will never work in the U.S. Of course, so many people have their favorite memories. What's your single favorite memory from your time traveling with the Beatles? KANE: I think the single favorite memory is what they did on the airplane at night. They had opening acts. Some of them were the Righteous Brothers, great artists, still with wonderful music. The Exciters, who came from the Bronx in New York. Jackie Deshannon, who is the Katy Perry of her time. And these groups were ground out. I mean nobody wanted to hear them and the girls and boys would yell, we want the Beatles, we want the Beatles. And I was fascinated that every night, and I told this story at the Beatles fest in New York last night, where I'm at for the rest of the weekend, every night they would walk up to the front of the plane, if you can imagine this in our business, the television business, or anywhere, and they said to those artists, how are you? Are you OK? They knew the artists were being drowned out. They knew they were sublimating them just by their stardom, and they had the sense and the sympathy and the compassion to go and talk to these people and do this.

PAUL: Wow.

KANE: And I was just amazed at that level of maturity. And you know, yeah, look, they were boys and you know, it was when they were boys, and that's the name of the book, but they were wonderful to me. I'll give you one final example. My -- I was in the service in 1966, and I got on the tour for a few visits. And John Lennon and I got into this heated argument. He yelled at me. How can you possibly be in the military? And I explained to him that it was an obligation of mine, as an American citizen. And he called McCartney over and he said, Paul, when we get to New York, this is a plane from St. Louis to New York, we're going to spirit Larry away, we're going to give him a job in our organization, and we're going to make him an expatriate, so that he can avoid the war. Well, first of all, I wasn't going to avoid anything, but secondly, I was so touched.

PAUL: Larry, thank you so much. I mean you have brought such personal prospective at this moment that we never would have had another way. Thank you. Larry Kane, he's an author, you can go look up his books as well, but we appreciate you being here. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Larry.

Here's what's coming up next on "NEW DAY SUNDAY."


NIK WALLENDA: I'm Nik Wallenda and coming up on CNN, you're going to see me walk across the top of the Georgia Dome on a 5/8 inch wire rope. Stay tuned.


BLACKWELL: For this morning's must-see moment, we're checking out the one and only daredevil, Nik Wallenda.

PAUL: And his newest feat, the king of the high wire, you know, I mean he's crossed the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, brought his skills now to Atlanta last night to cross the Georgia Dome.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: High above the indoor field of the Georgia Dome, wire walker Nik Wallenda dazzled the crowd below.

WALLENDA: I love what I do, I have passion for it. My great grandfather said it best. He said, life is on the wire, everything else is just waiting. So when I'm on that wire, that's life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a life that's led him to feats in far more dramatic settings.

WALLENDA: You know, you don't expect it to be this windy, but right on the water here, you know, it just makes it that much worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From walking 1800 feet above a Sarasota, Florida, highway, to crossing Niagara Falls, and his 1,500-foot stroll above the Grand Canyon. Nik Wallenda has traversed some tricky terrain. But Wallenda says every walk has its unique set of challenges, including those indoors.

WALLENDA: Because of all of the curtains that were in the way, there's a lot of trussing and lighting that was in the way, we had to angle them at funky angles. So, the wire moves a little bit more. And you really don't know what to expect until you get out of there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His walk was part of the Winter Jam, a Christian concert series, and one spectator was praying for a safe finish.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just like, oh, my gosh, you're going to die, you're going to die, you're going to die, and he finally made it out, and I was just like, yay!



PAUL: Oh, that just makes me queasy looking at it.

BLACKWELL: When it started, Christi went, oh, I can't do it.

PAUL: I can't do it. Better him than me. Thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

BLACKWELL: We've got a lot more coming up ahead. And the next hour of your "NEW DAY," starts right now.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will never stop working to ensure that equality under the law is protected by the law.


BLACKWELL: America's top lawyer makes a new promise to same-sex couples in America expanding equality regardless of where they live.