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NEW DAY

Ethiopian Airlines Flight Hijacked; Michael Dunn Found Guilty for Attempted Murder; Winter Olympics Continue; Snow Storms Hit Parts of U.S.; U.S. May Be Reconsidering Syrian Policy

Aired February 17, 2014 - 07:00   ET

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


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, police tell CNN while in flight the pilot of Ethiopian Airlines flight 702 left the cockpit to use the restroom. That's when the co-pilot locked the protected door and hijacked the plane early this morning. The hijacker in his 30s is from Ethiopia. And investigators said he hijacked the plane because he feels threatened in his country and wants asylum in Switzerland. Police say at one point they were just hovering over the Geneva airspace and the hijacker asked the control tower if he would get permission for asylum.

And as if the situation wasn't dramatic enough, when the plane finally landed, the hijacker used a rope to escape through a cockpit window before surrendering to police. We should tell you 202 passengers on board, police say they were never threatened. They say they were all safe. The security scare, though, temporarily shut down Geneva International Airport. But flights have since resume. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Rene, thank you very much.

Breaking overnight Venezuela's president has ordered three American diplomats expelled from of the country, accusing of conspiring against the government there. It comes as concerns grow over frequent clashes and political turmoil in Caracas. Jessica Darlington has the details. We'll get to that report a little later in the show.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHRO: Now to the partial verdict in the loud music murder trial. A hung jury was unable to convict Michael Dunn for killing teen-ager Jordan Davis. He was, however, convicted on four counts, three of them attempted murder for the other boys in the car, once simply for shooting something that could be deadly. He's facing as many as 60 years in prison, but prosecutors are already calling for a retrial on that main charge.

Let's get the latest from Alina Machado. She is live in Jacksonville, Florida, this morning.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Angela Cory says she intends to retry Michael Dunn on that first degree murder charge. The jury deliberated about 30 hours. Dunn is on trial for the 2012 shooting that killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The attempted murder charges were for each of the three friends with Davis the night of the shooting. This conviction means Dunn will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, but his attorney says he is planning to file an appeal. The Davis family says they will continue to stand and wait for justice for Jordan. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much, Alina.

This also just in to CNN, Iran's supreme leader expressing a lack of confidence in the next round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. The ayatollah says while he has no objection to the discussions, he's not optimistic and thinks they will go nowhere. Talks are scheduled to resume in Geneva tomorrow.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: At least four people are dead and 14 more are injured after an explosion on a tourist bus in Egypt. Officials say 33 tourists were on their way to Israel after visiting the pyramids in Sinai. The bus driver along with three tourists were killed.

CUOMO: A stunning admission from an accused killer in Pennsylvania as 19-year-old Miranda Barber not on confessing she and her husband murdered a man they met on Craigslist but telling a local newspaper that she's killed many more around the country. How many? Barber can't say claiming she stopped counting at 22. She said it started after she joined a satanic cult at age 13. Investigators are taking the claims very seriously.

BOLDUAN: New developments in the search for a small plane that vanished after taking off from Colorado. The wreckage has been found a mile away and none of the three people on board survived. Officials say the plane crashed into a cliff shortly after takeoff yesterday morning. The identities of those victims have not yet been released.

PEREIRA: The bodies of two skiers have been found following an avalanche in the mountains of Colorado. Officials say rescuers braved terrain and risked triggering another avalanche while tracking signals from emergency beacons the skiers were wearing. The two were part of a group of seven skiers caught in the back country in Lake County, Colorado, Saturday night. Three other skiers were hospitalized.

CUOMO: The serpent handling star of "National Geographic Channel's" "Snake Salvation" has died. A bite from one of the poisonous snakes he handles grew fatal Saturday night. Authorities in Kentucky say Jamie Coots refused medical treatment and died in his own home. Coots and members of his church believe a passage in his Bible suggest that venom from snake bites won't harm believers as long as they are anointed by god.

BOLDUAN: The popular crowd funding site Kickstarter has been hacked. The site says user names and other information were compromised but no credit card information was stolen in that breach. Kickstarter did say how many accounts were effected but urged all users to change their passwords. The site allows people to raise donations for products, projects, inventions.

PEREIRA: Well, folks, just as one winter storm moves out another storm is moving in, and fast. With it comes more snow, more travel delays, and more headaches from Minnesota to Maine. Meteorologist Indra Petersons is here with more. What's up? INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Nobody wants to hear about any more snow, but unfortunately that is exactly what we're dealing with again today. Out towards Minnesota, potentially an inch an hour of snowfall falling, even some freezing rain out towards St. Louis. When all is said and done, a good four to six inches expected out toward Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, later this evening looking for two to five inches, and eventually one to three inches again making its way through New York City and Boston, still recovering from the storm just this weekend.

Keep in mind, on the backside potentially rain. Why? Because we're talking about a huge weather pattern change. This is going to be lifting to the north, warm air moving in, 10 to 15 below normal changing to 10 to 15 above normal by Wednesday.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

More, cold, hard proof that this has been an extreme winter. Scientists say nearly 90 percent of the Great Lakes are covered with ice because the cold has been so intense it hasn't let up. It's been 20 years since the lake has been frozen. The upside, less lake effect snow because there's less moisture for the cold air masses to swoop up and dump on land.

CUOMO: Chelsea Clinton says there's a lot more work to be done in this country on the issue of gay rights. She delivered the closing remarks at Sunday's Human Rights Campaign event in Las Vegas, insisting we should not mistake progress for success in the battle for equal rights. And the 33 year old Clinton says it's especially important to focus on you gays and lesbians who are most vulnerable to abuse and rejection.

BOLDUAN: And there is still hope for you folks. You still have a chance to get your hand on $400 million. With no Powerball winner over the weekend, the prize will be one of the largest in U.S. history. The next drawing set for Wednesday will be the fourth biggest jackpot and sixth highest lottery prize of all time.

CUOMO: The votes are in. When it comes to top first ladies of all time, Michelle Obama edges out Hillary Clinton. Siena College polled over 240 historians, scholars, and political scientists. But there could only be one number one, and that would be Eleanor Roosevelt, followed by Abigail Adams, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Dolly Madison. Michelle Obama was fifth, Hillary Clinton sixth.

BOLDUAN: Overnight Secretary of State John Kerry blaming the Syrian government for another round of stalls in peace talks. Kerry said the U.S. is reviewing its policy on the Syrian civil war, a policy coming under bitter attack by Senator John McCain on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday where he called current U.S. policy there an abysmal failure and shameful. CNN's Brianna Keilar is live at the White House. How is the White House reacting today to that?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's certainly more hawkish, as you know, Kate, when it comes to foreign policy, and he also said that the foreign policy is disgraceful. I think this is what's expected from the White House, but this is Senator McCain really putting pressure on the president at really a key time as he does consider some other options. We heard from Secretary of State John Kerry that the president has said he wants to go back and revisit and see exactly what he can do as this conflict really just appears to have no end. It appears to be getting worse, and certainly the civilian toll is just overwhelming at this point.

So what exactly is Senator McCain talking about? He's pressing President Obama really to kind of revisit some of the things in the past that he has said he's not going to do. Remember it was this fall ultimately where president Obama decided there would not be U.S.-led airstrikes. For his part, McCain says he wants to change the balance of power on the ground. He's talking about something far short of Iraq, so not clear specifics there. But what you're really seeing there is intense concern and frustration, be it from senator McCain, as well President Obama, as this conflict really comes to an end in its third year.

PEREIRA: Brianna Keilar at the White House, thanks so much for that.

Let's take a look at what's in the papers this morning, starting with the "Los Angeles Times." Companies behind generic drugs are fighting a proposal that would require them to warn patients of all known health care risks. They argue it would raise health care costs and create dangerous confusion for doctors and their patients. The FDA is trying to close a legal loophole that requires brand name drugs to warn consumers but not the generic drugs.

In the "New York Times," questions arise over the link between global warming and droughts. The article says that while some regions have documented a trend of increasing drought, which may be linked to global warming, there is no scientific consensus yet that it is a worldwide phenomenon. There is also no definitive evidence that global warming is causing the most recent drought problems that are happening in California.

And in "USA Today," a story about how the IRS is struggling and how that could affect you. Budget cuts at the agency means fewer employees to help taxpayers. The IRS chief says phone lines could be very busy and that you could spend a whole long time on hold. The IRS also won't be preparing returns for the elderly or the disabled this year.

CUOMO: In just a few hours, Michigan's Charlie White and Meryl Davis will attempt to win America's first ice dancing gold medal ever. The couple captured silver in the 2010 Olympic Games after a personal best performance in a short dance Sunday. Davis and White are on top with just the free dance remaining today.

BOLDUAN: And the NBC reporter who interviewed Olympic skier Bode Miller after his Bronze medal finish on Sunday has fueled social media outrage. Some say she went too far after bringing Miller to tears when asking about the death of his younger brother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We see you there and it just looks like you're talking to somebody. What's going on there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Bode Miller has since responded on Twitter, saying his emotions were very raw and it is not at all her fault.

CUOMO: An unfortunate mishap for Canadian bobsledder Christopher Spring who suffered quite the wardrobe malfunction after trying on his race suit. Officials had to scramble to get him a new suit. The caption there should read "Could be me."

BOLDUAN: It could be the Russian has not been riding. Maybe it will help in the bobsled. Who knows?

A spoiler alert as we give you an Olympic update. Today heavy fog, the weather again part of the story, heavy fog delaying some medal events in Sochi, adding to the list of weather-related challenges to the Olympic Games. Let get back to Rachel Nichols live in Sochi with more on the Olympics.

RACHEL NICHOLS: Kate, at the men's snowboard cross today, they put up a bunch of giant fans on the hills trying to chase the fog away. As most of us know, giant fans do not chase the fog away. And in fact they had to postpone the event until tomorrow. They also postponed the biathlon where they shoot with rifles and then do some cross country skiing. And you don't want to shoot into targets that you can't see.

But while this has been somewhat of a funny storyline, an annoying storyline, certainly, to the athletes, as you remember, these weather issues, the fog, the mushy soft snow, the warmer temperatures has caused more problems than just the joking. We've seen a rise in some of the injuries around here.

A Russian skier the other day broke her back. We had an athlete with a broken jaw, several head injuries, several athletes knocked unconscious as they've tried to perform certain jumps and tricks and they've lost their edge on the mushy snow. Lindsey Jacobellis said it was like landing in mashed potatoes when she fell and that's what cost her a chance to medal.

So definitely a rising amount of controversy at these games and a lot of chatter among the athletes who, frankly, don't want to get hurt, and they also want to be have given a fair chance to medal out there.

BOLDUAN: Landing in mashed potatoes is not something we're going for.

NICHOLS: No.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Rachel. And with some of this morning's events canceled, the medal count still stands with the Netherlands on top overall with 17, host country Russia, Team USA, Norway, and Canada follow in the top five.

PEREIRA: All right, let's take a look at what is trending. Jimmy Fallon taking the reins as new host of "The tonight Show." joining him is Will Smith and YouTube. What a show. Later this week Lady Gaga and First Lady Michelle Obama. Fallon has some big shoes to fill. His predecessor Jay Leno was number one for nearly all of his 22-year run.

If some of your friends have been radio silent, it may be because they're binge viewing the Kevin Spacey drama "House of Cards." Netflix all of season two episodes Friday. At least one broadband company has said more Netflix subscribers are watching this time around compared to season, so that could account for their missing in action.

Oscar nominated Actress Ellen Page revealing she's gay to Human Rights Campaign conference. Page said she decided to go public to make a difference. The actress says she suffered for years because she feared people would find out about her sexual orientation. Page was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of a pregnant teen in the 2007 film "Juno."

And a big night for "Gravity" at the BAFTA awards in London. But the British academy gave its biggest prize to "12 Years a Slave," which won best picture. The film's star Chiwetel Ejiofor was named Best Actor. "Gravity," meanwhile, took home the most awards, winning six, including one for best British film and one for its director. The two films are the top Oscar contenders for Best Picture. A lot of people are watching to see what happens in Europe, might be an idea of what Oscar will do. We're watching -- Chris.

CUOMO: I'm getting dizzy watching that picture.

I saw it and I'm still getting dizzy.

BOLDUAN: I do want to see it, though I just need to take some vertigo medication.

CUOMO: You should just watch it while spinning around.

Coming up on NEW DAY, a new war is being waged in Syria just as the U.S. says it's reevaluating our policy there. We're going to bring you an exclusive look at you haven't seen before, they are Islamic extremists even more brutal than Al Qaeda and what this new breed of radicals could mean for our involvement there.

Plus a partial verdict in the loud music murder trial is triggering outrage. The question now is this: are Florida's self-defense laws allowing people to get away with murder? We'll discuss.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back. Secretary of State John Kerry is blaming the Syrian government after another round of peace talks have hit a dead end. This as Senator John McCain called America's handling of the Syrian civil war abysmal and shameful.

Five thousand people have died in just the past three weeks. The most violent stretch in the three year civil war. And now a CNN exclusive for you. Syrian radicals have provided CNN with a disturbing collection of videos of interrogations and even executions.

This extremist group is called ISIS, has been disowned by Al Qaeda because of their brutality. An important warning for you of course in the morning, some of these images are quite graphic. CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Rome with the exclusive details. He worked with producers Gul Toysus (ph) and Roger Rozyk (ph) on this very important report -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, this video is disturbing on many levels. It gives an indication of who may be gaining the upper hand in parts of Northern Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): A voice off camera asks, "How old are you?"

"I was born in 1980."

"Are you married?"

"Yes," he responds. "I have two children."

"Do you want to see them again?"

"God knows I do. I have nothing to hide."

A man who calls him Bassem (ph) and a doctor, pauses, collecting his thoughts.

"So talk. Answer quickly. Are you cooking up lies?" shouts the other.

This video is one of eight interrogations, obtained by CNN from Syrian opposition activists. The interrogators speak with distinct Iraqi accents and ask questions about goings-on in the town of al-Beb (ph) northeast of Aleppo.

From the questions, it's clear the interrogators are not with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad but rather with ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It's not clear what happened to these men, but another chilling video we'll show you later may be a clue.

Early last year ISIS emerged as a major power in opposition-controlled areas of Northern Syria. Since then the ultra-extremist group has imposed strict Islamic law, held public floggings and executions and most recently has battled other opposition groups in fighting that has left well over 2,000 dead.

Even Al Qaeda's leader has demanded ISIS leave Syria. Missing in the interrogations is any mention whatsoever of the Assad regime. The only concern is the challenge posed by other opposition factions and the local populace to ISIS.

"Who is erasing the slogan and symbols of ISIS on the walls?" demands the interrogator.

"I swear I don't know, as God is my witness," responds this man, who identifies himself as Mohamed (ph).

Another interrogation: "What were they saying about the Islamic state?" he's asked. "Say the truth; save yourself."

"I'll speak the truth, even if I lose my head," responds this man, who says he's called Mustafa (ph).

All of these clips were found in the residence of this man known by his nom de guerre, Abu Ahmed (ph) (INAUDIBLE) or the Iraqi (ph). Activists describe him as an ISIS emir, a commander and an intelligence officer. They found the abandoned video in January after he fled fighting between ISIS and other factions.

Some of the clips and still shots show a young woman in the company of Abu Ahmed (ph), trying her hand at an AK-47 assault rifle.

"Steady," he tells her, "steady."

ISIS is imposing the strictest possible dress code on women in the areas it controls. Given that her face is uncovered, clearly this was for Abu Ahmed (ph) and this unidentified woman a private moment.

So what happened to the interrogated man? It's not clear from the videos but one of the last recordings documents in detail ruthless ISIS-style justice, execution by flashlight.

"Ready?" asks a voice off-camera.

Fourteen men, some apparently quite young, are shot one after the other. The scenes are too graphic for us to show. Some fall into the mass gave already dug.

The new boss in this part of Syria not unlike the old boss.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: And it's important to note that ISIS has attracted members from Europe and North America as well. The worry is that they will come back from that war when and if it ever comes to an end with a dangerous set of new skills -- Chris, Kate.

CUOMO: Ben, thank you so much for braving the situation and telling us the story. It's disturbing to watch -- there's no question about that. But it's also that important. This is a big set of future decisions the United States needs to make.

So it's important you have the information you need to know.

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, we're going to take on another pressing matter, "stand your ground." That was the basis in Zimmerman and the Dunn trial, right?

Wrong. Raises a question: is Florida's controversial self-defense law not just confusing not just to you but to jurors?

Is it allowing people to get away with murder? The loud music trial has sparked a debate and we're going to take it on. Hopefully you do, too.

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BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. This brutal winter weather just won't let up, yet another storm is in the works. Let's go to our meteorologist Indra Petersons, tracking the forecast.

But first, not like everyone needs reminding because everyone has felt it, but the snow totals are outrageous.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's horrific. When you talk about how much snow we've seen, many places already 50 inches of snow already this season. That makes New York City, yes, you're in the top eighth snowiest year since we've been keeping records.

Philadelphia, Indianapolis, the third snowiest and here we go, another storm is out there and good amounts here, 4 to 6 inches expected in Minneapolis and Chicago today.

By late evening it looks likes Pittsburgh 2 to 5 inches and yes, again, New York City and Boston looking for some more snow overnight tonight into the morning commute tomorrow but on the back side, rain.

That is key because that rain means we're warming up. There's a finally a huge shift in the weather pattern here, we're talking about warm air making its way in. So look at the temperature change. We're going from below normal to 10 to 15 degrees below normal to finally temperatures above normal, 50s, almost 60s in the Northeast, 70 -- how good does that sound -- in --

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSONS: -- Wednesday. Finally Hump Day is a great day.

Exactly.

BOLDUAN: And then we'll see how it goes into the weekend. But let's not get there yet.

PETERSONS: No word.

PEREIRA: Let's look at your headlines at this hour. Breaking overnight, an Ethiopian Airlines flight landed safely in Switzerland after it was hijacked by the plane's co-pilot. The flight was headed for Rome when authorities say the copilot, who was seeking asylum, commandeered the plane when the other pilot went to the bathroom. He landed that plane safely in Geneva and escaped through the cockpit window using a rope. He has since been arrested and thankfully none of the 202 passengers on board were injured.

Three Americans officials have been expelled from Venezuela on orders from President Nicolas Maduro.