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Another Storm Slams Midwest; Syria Crossroads?; Dunn Says He's The Victim; Mammogram Debate Rages

Aired February 18, 2014 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a guy lifted up and hit the ceiling of the plane.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Sky drama, screaming passengers tossed from their seats and knocked into the ceiling when a plane hit severe turbulence. At least five passengers and crew injured. We have the latest on the frightening ordeal.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Winter blast, right now more snow and ice plummeting the northeast from Pennsylvania all the way to Maine making a mess of the morning commute and creating more headaches for air travelers. When will we get a break from this relentless winter?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Startling words, the man who shot and killed a Florida teenager over loud music says he was the victim in newly released jailhouse phonecalls, as both sides promise to keep fighting.

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's Tuesday, February 18th, 8:00 in the East.

Up first this hour, five people waking up in the hospital this morning after one terrifying flight. An unexpected encounter with severe turbulence jolted a United Airlines flight as it was heading towards its landing in Billings, Montana Monday. Panicked passengers were tossed from their seats as the plane shook uncontrollably.

Aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is tracking the latest developments live from Washington. Rene, we spoke with one of those passengers last hour and it sounded like a terrifying ordeal.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It certainly did. I mean, the detail that she gave. I mean, Kate, if you've been on a plane and you've gone through turbulence, you know it's scary already.

But passengers say this was nothing like they've ever experienced before. They say there was lots of screaming as they were tossed around, items flying out of passenger's hands, the plane plunging and dramatically tilting to the side.

The shake-up was so violent, three flight attendants and two passengers had to be rushed to the hospital. One person was in intensive care and at last check, one person remains in the hospital.

Now, one man who was on board said a woman hit the ceiling so hard it that it cracked. And passengers say United Airlines flight 1676 from Denver to Billings, Montana hit that severe turbulence in a split second without warning. This of course happened as the plane was coming in for a landing.

For the airline's part, they say its flight safety crew will be reviewing exactly what happened. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Rene, thank you very much.

The latest storm to slam the Midwest is moving through the mid- Atlantic now as well as the Northeast. That's where it's going to head to today. It's making mess of the morning commute. But traffic is the least of concerns.

Some winter weary towns could see half a foot of snow. Maybe another difficult day there for anyone with a plane ticket, and most importantly those who lose power.

So let's cover this for you. Indra Petersons is live outside our building in New York. Indra, what's the situation?

INDRA PETERSONS, METEOROLOGIST: I think you said that pretty perfectly. I don't think anyone wants anymore snow at this point. It's been a tough winter. And again, this morning in New York City, right there in commute time of all you times, once again, we are seeing this steady snow falling down. It's a very wet snow.

I mean, temperature right now, I'm thinking about 29 degrees, so close to that freezing mark. It just feels wet as it hits the ground. A lot of it even melting as it hits the ground. But we've already seen an inch just across the street here at Central Park.

Let's talk about how much more we're expecting, shall we? Nothing anyone is looking forward to, but you know, it's not too bad. New York City just several inches expected. Now the low will develop and make it's way to the Northeast. So there we could see some heavier amounts, even four to six inches, even as much as eight once you get up towards Maine. Timing of this, by 10:00 a.m. or so, this will switch over to some rain here in towards New York City. Boston, around noon, starting to see the to see the snow and then exiting off the Northeast by the end of the day. But that is just system one.

Here we go, we have system two also expected by tomorrow. More rain, guys. Here's the good thing. That means temperatures, they are going up.

Finally, this is what everyone really cares about. Who cares if it's raining? Temperatures will be a good 15 degrees above normal in the Northeast. Check out the Southeast, by the way, 70s. How good does that sound? Just keep in mind, though, once you have warm air filling in along side the cold air, you have the threat of severe weather. So we're going to watching for the threat of severe weather from the Midwest all the way into the Northeast, pretty much the mid-Atlantic by Friday. Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's been so long, we don't know what it feels like. I can't even remember what it feels like to be the in the 70s.

PETERSONS: What is 70, right?

BOLDUAN: Exactly, I can't count that high anymore. Indra, thank you very much.

So turning overseas. Are we at a cross roads in Syria? It's a very important question, of course. Secretary of State John Kerry has harshly condemned Russia's support of the Assad regime. Russia, though, firing back with claims the U.S. favors military intervention.

And this morning, a CNN exclusive for you, a follow-up to our reporting on the on ISIS, the radical group that's so radical it's even disavowed by al Qeada for brutally terrorizing their victims.

CNN's Arwa Damon spoke exclusively with an ISIS defector. And she's joining us from Beirut this morning. Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. And the rebels are now fighting on multiple fronts against their regime and against ISIS. And so, we took an in-depth look speaking to this defector as to how it is that the organization was able to thrive and grow in Syria.


DAMON (voice-over): When ISIS fighters, Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, first arrived in Addana, they were welcomed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, they didn't come as warriors. They came as simply people who want to help people, educate people religiously.

DAMON: ISIS initially appealed to Syria's deeply conservative rebel units who entrusted protecting the town to them.

"We were all on the front lines fighting," Abu Jamal (ph) tells us. "And then we realized that with the situation and town under ISIS, they were exerting their control through terrorism and punishment," a tactic ISIS repeated in an effort to entrench itself.

Abwa Amadah (ph), not this man's real name, is a Syrian who wants his face and voice concealed. He defected from ISIS in Rocca (ph), their main strong hold in the East. They think he's dead. "The Syrian Wujahn Hedeen (ph) who were with ISIS thought they were the purest organization currently around," he says. "Their jihadi principles matched ours."

But he says they were manipulated and deceived. Initially, ISIS fighters and suicide bombers were a battlefield asset. But then suspicions began to grow. ISIS would organize missions as suicide bombers. We thought they were attacking the regime, only to realize their target was another rebel unit.

"When one of the martyrs pulled out," he tells us, "he was executed in front of everyone. Just because it was said about him that he was disloyal. He disobeyed the emir, so he was killed."

ISIS has one goal, to establish an Islamic state, and many Syrian opposition members are now accusing them of collaborating with the Assad regime.

"They have a lot of experience. They know what they are doing," he says. There were a lot of regime locations we could have taken without sustaining losses of our fighters. And we would receive orders to retreat."

In early January, Islamists and moderate rebels banded together to drive ISIS out of Syria. Abwu Amara (ph) says he and his group have sleeper cells within ISIS to bring the organization down from inside.

Defeating ISIS now is crucial as defeating the regime.


DAMON (on-camera): Kate, the big challenge of course is that as these rebel units are trying to fight ISIS, they're being forced to pull back from the front lines they have with the regime. And now we're seeing rebel units stretched incredibly thin, which is a reason there's a growing cry for some sort of military support. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Which is why the question of what can the U.S. do becomes more and more important as we seem to be at a crossroads in the civil war. Arwa, thank you very much for your amazing reporting that continues this week. Thank you so much.

Let's talk more about this. We have CNN Mid East analyst and former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren joining us from Tel Aviv. He's also the ambassador and resident for the Atlantic Council in International Affairs think tank.

Mr. Ambassador, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for taking the time.

MICHAEL OREN, CNN MIDEAST ANALYST: Good morning to you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course, and I hope you were able to hear Arwa Damon's truly amazing reporting on this radical group ISIS. I mean, it's just one example that I think really reinforces the very real concern over arming and aiding the rebel groups. What do you do? I want to get your thoughts on this. Because how do you ensure that these -- that any arms aren't going to get into the wrong hands? Or is that a risk you think is worth taking?

OREN: Well, it was a horrific report indeed. But if you're looking for easy answers, Kate, Syria is not the place for it.

America basically has three core interests there. And America and the West, I think in general, it is getting Bashar al Assad out of power, keeping radicals like ISIS out of power, and assuring that America's credibility throughout the entire Middle East is maintained.

And that credibility is going to be very important as talks begin to try to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. And as Secretary Kerry continues his mediation efforts between Israelis and Palestinians to gain that credibility, it's very important to be involved in Syria as well.

Now, keeping arms out of the hands of those radicals is not easy. But there are some forces in Syria such as the Syrian Free Army, which are not backed by hardly anybody. And there you could maintain good control over weaponry that could be used to prevent the radicals from gaining power and get Bashar al Assad out of power.

BOLDUAN: Well, Ambassador, when you talk about the three kind of key concerns that the focus is of the U.S. in Syria, with the Geneva talks essentially stalled, how do you even take the first step towards reaching those goals? I mean ,this is a conversation that it seems have been going on now for three years for the civil war. Yes, no easy answer, of course. But shouldn't there be some answer?

OREN: Well, it's very difficult to establish the rules of the game if you're not playing the game. If America had been involved in the game, say, three years ago, it would be in better position today to establish some of those rules.

Now, I don't think it's too late. I think America and the West can still get involved and back those factions within Syria whose values and whose goals are closely identified with those of America and the West.

And I think you'll find that if we can get to the negotiating table again with various factions in Syria, that America's leverage and credibility will be greater there. Because Bashar al Assad is not going to make any concessions now because he's got this unending lifeline of support from Russia and Iran. He will not make concessions unless he's convinced that there's a credible military threat on the battle field.

BOLDUAN: So do you support --

OREN: And that credible military threat just simply does not exist now.

BOLDUAN: And so, do you -- I mean, I hear you suggesting, kind of, the position the White House and the president is taking, especially with regards to the chemical weapons and the threats and then not taking military action against Syria after the existence of chemical weapons was known. I hear you suggesting that you're very critical of that.

But what should the United States do right now? The White House continues to say that any military option is still not on the table. Do you think that's simply the wrong option right now?

OREN: Well, we're dealing with the Middle East, Kate. Impressions are very, very important here. And the impression is that America has backed away. And that has impact on other fields. I mentioned the attempt to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the Middle East peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

And I think there's an opportunity in Syria to help reestablish that credibility by backing the right factions. Not everybody fighting Bashar al Assad is an Islamic extremist. And Bashar al Assad is closely aligned with Iran. He is responsible for the deaths of at least 100,000 of his own citizens. So I think establishing American credibility is a worthy goal and it's worth revisiting that policy.

BOLDUAN: And real quick, I want to get your final thought. Do you think we're past the point of any real hope of a peaceful political resolution to this?

OREN: Well, I think it's probably too early to assess how long this conflict is going to go on. Certainly all of us hope for an end to the suffering of the Syrian people.

But we can certainly look ahead and see an outcome that nobody wants. And that's a Syria that is either dominated by the Assad regime with Iranian backing or, conversely, dominated by Islamic radicals who are either backed by al Qaeda or even too extremist for al Qaeda like ISIS or a Syria which is divided between the two of them, which serves nobody's interest, certainly not America, not Israel, not the entire West. And I think it's not too late to step in and prevent that very disastrous outcome from occurring.

BOLDUAN: But what to do? That's the impossible question with no good answer at this point, that's for sure.

Ambassador Michael Oren, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for your time.

OREN: Pleasure, Kate. Have a good day.

BOLDUAN: Of course, you too. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate. This morning, Michael Dunn in the crosshairs of critics. Why? Prison phone calls he made just after the shooting that left Florida teenager, Jordan Davis, dead. In the phone call, Dunn sounds convinced the law is on his side. Let's get more on this from CNN's Martin Savidge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the victim here. I was the one who was victimized.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prosecutors releasing audio of jailhouse phone calls between Michael Dunn and his fiancee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I don't know how else to put it, like, they attacked me. I'm the victim. I'm the victor, but I was the victim, too.

SAVIDGE: The revealing calls recorded in the weeks after Dunn's arrest for shooting and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis after an argument over loud music at this Florida gas station. Dunn maintains that he was threatened by Jordan Davis and his friends. In one of the nine calls released by the Florida state attorney, Dunn complains to his fiancee about being housed alone in the cell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess, it'd be better than being in the room with them animals.

SAVIDGE: Dunn was convicted on multiple counts of attempted murder on Saturday, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the most serious charge, first degree murder. The mistrial on that count sparking outrage from some in Jacksonville. Protesters gathering at the gas station where the shooting occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I brought my grandson because this little man here, I love him with all my life. And I don't want him or no other Black child to have to continue to go through this. It has to end, and it has to be now. It has to come to an end now.

SAVIDGE: Michael Dunn's daughter, Rebecca, told ABC's "Good Morning America" she hasn't stopped crying since her father was found guilty on the three counts of attempted murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't imagine, like, living life without him.

SAVIDGE: Dunn says she has no doubt her father killed 17-year-old Davis in self-defense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going to protect himself if he sees another way than other -- you know -- that's what he's going to do.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN, Jacksonville, Florida.


PEREIRA: Seventeen minutes after the hour. Let's take a look at more of your headlines.


PEREIRA (voice-over): At least three people have been killed in violent protest that have broken out in Ukraine this morning. Police fired rubber bullets into the crowd. Thousands of demonstrators that fired to the headquarters of the ruling party in Kiev. Several protesters and officers have been injured. This fresh wave of violence comes after opposition members failed to get a constitutional vote that would limit the president's powers.

The U.S. is hoping an improved offer will help bring home the only American soldier held captive by the Taliban. Sergeant Beau Bergdahl was taken in 2009. Proof resurfaced recently that he is alive. Now, the "Washington Post" reports U.S. is prepared to release five members of the Afghan Taliban from Guantanamo Bay into protective custody in Qatar immediately. A previous offer called for them to be released over time.

President Obama is gearing up for a big speech on the economy today in Maryland. He is expected to announce new measures to reduce greenhouse gas remissions including a so-called next phase fuel- efficient initiative that use (ph) standards for commercial vehicles to take effect in 2018. And as promised in his state of the union address, the administration plans to do it all without congress.

All right. Spoiler alert from the Olympics. A Few results to bring you up to date on this busy morning in Sochi. A photo finish in the men's 15 kilometer biathlon. Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen took gold by the skin of his teeth after raising his hands early in victory. He recovered to cross the finish line centimeters ahead of the next racer.

Also, American Alex Deibold kept the streak of U.S. medal going. He won bronze in the snowboard cross finals.

Let's check the update of your medal count. After five events this morning, U.S. and the Russia were being tied with 19. Norway two behind. They got two medals in the last hour, or actually, just one behind jumps into third. The Netherlands and Canada round up the top five. Up next, men's 10,000 meter speed skate is underway right now. There should be results coming in soon.


CUOMO: Big game today.


CUOMO: Big game today. U.S./Canada for the gold, women's hockey. Big bet on the line here. Michaela Pereira, Chris Cuomo --

BOLDUAN: How do you actually go one-on-one in a shoot-out? Well, find some goalies --



CUOMO: You see what happened when we arm wrestle?


CUOMO: We arm wrestle, and yes, she almost tore my arm out of the socket.

BOLDUAN: I don't know why anyone should be surprised about that.

CUOMO: Looks so pretty and looks so nice. Not so much.


BOLDUAN: That's how you survive in this business.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the debate over mammograms backlash after a new study said the screenings don't help and may actually cause harm. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to help try to clear up all of this confusion.

CUOMO: And we are bust in the game for you down in D.C. The latest, is the Senate's top Republican in trouble? Find out who's calling on Kentucky's Mitch McConnell to step aside. Is it real? We'll tell you.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. The debate over mammograms is reigniting this week after a new study claims the screenings offer little or no benefit to woman and could even be harmful. Now, some doctors are up in arms over those findings, and many women are just plain confused.

Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining us now at the CNN Center. Sanjay, we were talking about this last week. I was confused then. I am more confused now. And I think a lot of women would agree, simply frustrated. Shouldn't there be clear guidance one way or the other, one to get screened and how often. Why all this back and forth?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I've got to tell you Kate, it's a fascinating thing -- also to stories to this network (ph) (INAUDIBLE) and natural disasters and this is mammography debate. It ends up being one of the most controversial things, I think, in public health certainly. Look, I think a lot of this has to do with expectations.

The expectation of this screening test from a lot of people is that it's going to find all cancers and it's going to be able to ignore any abnormalities that aren't cancer. The no screening test is going to do that. No screening test is perfect. You have what are known as false positives and false negatives. You find things that you think are cancer or are not and sometimes you miss cancers.

But that sort of the nature of the screening test. I've looked at this data now for more than ten years and what I will tell you is my -- putting it all together is that I think mammograms do find cancers early and do save lives and that benefit recognize starting around age 40. And it goes up a little bit when women are in their 50s. So, I think there's a benefit here.

Also, personally and admittedly anecdotally, Kate, my own mother was found to have breast cancer on a mammogram. She had no idea that she had it. She was very diligent about her checkups, but she found -- breast cancer, and she's doing well today. She believes that because of that mammogram. She is one person.

But I know there's a lot of other women out there who are listening who have had that same experience. So, the guidance and we should not have any confusion about this, because this is important that women don't stop mammograms because of a study like this. The guidance says starting at age 40, you get a mammogram. You do it every year. If it ends up being normal, then you get (ph) every two years starting at age 50.

BOLDUAN: So, with that guidance in mind, then I want to get your take on what really do you think was going on with that Canadian study that we talked about last week that essentially is trying --tried to debunk what you're saying right there? We're talking about it this week because a Harvard radiologist came out and really slammed that Canadian study saying they didn't know what they were talking about basically.

GUPTA: Yes. And look, as a -- this is one of many studies. I mean, there's been dozen studies sort of like this that have found different things. So, this particular study was a 25-year study started in the 1980s. The date has been out for some time, and they followed 90,000 women. You can take a look at the numbers here, but basically, half those women were put in one group where they got breast exam and mammogram.

And the other group got just the breast exam alone. And you can see the numbers there. The bottom number is very important which is that you had roughly the same number of deaths from each group. Now, this says all sorts of different things. I mean, you look at the study like this. You may conclude mammograms offer no benefits. And what I'm telling you is I think that would be too simplistic.

It is worth digging a little bit deeper. Let me show you, for example, that sort of nature of the studies, nature of the mammograms that were done back in the 1980s versus now. You can get an idea. That was circa 1980, the one on the left, and now, the mammogram in 2004. It's so much better in terms of being able to find cancers, and that sort of a nature of screening test as well. They're going to improve with time.

But also, there's a little bit of good news in here as well, Kate, and that is that those self-breast exams, they're actually pretty good at finding cancers. That's another thing you can conclude from the study. And also, the treatments for breast cancer have gotten better.

So then, even women who were found to have late stage cancer can still get pretty good results as compared to people who find it earlier. So, this is some of the good news in the study like this, but what you should not conclude is that you should stop your mammograms.

BOLDUAN: That's the last thing I want to hear. I'm going with your guidance. But regardless even though it's been confusing and frustrating, I'm sure for women, at least we are talking about it. The more you talk about it, the more hopefully women will get screened. I know I'm paying attention more to it because of our conversations. GUPTA: You'll help a lot of people. Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Sanjay. It's always great to see you -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Kate. Good conversation there.

Coming up on NEW DAY, trouble for the most powerful Republican in the U.S. Senate. We'll let you know who's behind a nationwide effort to run Kentucky's Mitch McConnell out of office and who he's asking for help.