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Winter Storms Hitting Parts of U.S.; Homeland Security Department Releases Warning of Terrorists Targeting International Flights; Protests Continue in Ukraine; Sitting Hazardous to Your Health?; Olympics Update; Interview with Angela Corey, Prosecutor in Dunn Trial

Aired February 20, 2014 - 07:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators are scrambling to figure out why two American security officers turned up dead on board the Maersk Alabama. That is a container ship hijacked by Somali Pirates in 2009 and profiled in the film, "Captain Phillips." Both are former Navy Seals. They were discovered in a ship cabin by crew members while the vessel was moored at a port in the Indian Ocean. Autopsies are expected this week.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, vice president Joe Biden acknowledged the rollout to Obamacare was rocky during an unannounced stop in Minneapolis Wednesday. He also said enrollment may not reach the enrollment the administration hoped for. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think that although, you know, initially we talked about by the end of this period having 7 million people lined up, we may not get to 7 million, but we're going to get to five or six. And that's a hell of a start.


CUOMO: The Obama administration says about 3.3 million have signed up through the end of January.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A major setback for supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. A judge in Nebraska overturning a local law that would allow the pipeline to run through the corn husker state. Nebraska's attorney general is appealing the ruling now. If the project wins final approval the Keystone pipelines would carry over 800,000 barrels of oil from Canada to Texas every day, but it has been a political football for years.

LEMON: A major breach of privacy at the University of Maryland. Digital records of more than 300,000 faculty, staff, students, and personnel dating back to 1998 were hacked. The university says only personnel data was targeted and financial data wasn't compromised, but it's offering one year of free credit monitoring to anyone affected. No word yet on how the break occurred.

CUOMO: In a somewhat related story, the Department of Homeland Security reversing course and dropping plans for nationwide license plate database. This would have allowed a private company to collect data that could track cars from coast to coast. The Homeland Security Secretary has now ordered a review of the contract, again, a nod to security concerns.

BOLDUAN: And in Mississippi, 11 teenagers taken to the hospital and another 14 were hurt after a church floor collapsed Wednesday night. It happened at the Freedom Baptist Church. As many as 79 people including children in grade seven through 12 were inside attending a service when the floor just suddenly gave way. All of the injuries, though, are described at minor.

CUOMO: New this morning, a shoe bomb terror alert for the U.S., specifically the airlines. Homeland Security officials say terrorists may be working on sophisticated new shoe bomb designs. While there is no specific threat, overseas flights into the U.S. could be targeted. Let's bring Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. There may be no specific threat, but let's be clear. Al Qaeda and affiliates, especially in Yemen, have never given up on their desire to attack the United States.

The department of homeland security warning these terrorists may be working on that new shoe bomb design. They may be targeting overseas flights heading into the United States. A number of cities re mentioned where those flights of concern could originate, including Johannesburg, Paris, London, Cairo, a number of cities in the Middle East. This is 13 years, of course, after the failed shoe bomb attempt on a flight from Paris to Miami. Richard Reid tried to ignite his shoes with explosives. That has led us all to the reality of taking our shoes off at the airport. You may notice more scrutiny as you travel. Officials are not saying exactly what they will do, but they certainly are on the watch for this new threat.

BOLDUAN: On old threat that is new once again. Barbara, thank you very much.

More severe weather could make it a miserable day. There are tornado threats from the Midwest to Louisiana. Blizzard conditions are possible in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and then there is, of course, the melting snow problem which could cause major flooding in areas. Let's get back over to meteorologist Indra Petersons for a look at all of this mess that's going on, Indra.

INDRA PETERESONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's exactly it. We have so many concerns in the weather world today. First let's start with flooding in the Ohio Valley. Remember, we have warm temperatures and a lot of rain making its way through the region today. So look for flooding again in the Midwest and Ohio Valley, even upstate New York.

Then there is the blizzard conditions, looks like up state portions of Wisconsin and really the Midwest looking for heavy amounts of snow and strong winds, especially overnight. We could see winds as strong as 50 miles per hour. And that is not even the biggest story today. Heads up if you're in Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham, all the way south around the gulf right around New Orleans. We are talking about the threat for severe thunderstorms. That means straight-line winds and even the threat for tornados will be out there. Overnight hours we'll be looking for the threat to spread even farther east so by tomorrow to the mid-Atlantic straight down through Florida.

LEMON: Thank you, Indra, we appreciate that. We're going to get news in now. More than two weeks of unrest coming to a head in Venezuela where tensions are rising and casualties mounting after the arrest of a key opposition leader Wednesday. Leopoldo Lopez facing arraignment as reporters release a prerecorded video of Lopez urging protestors to fight on. Venezuelan authorities have expelled three U.S. diplomats, blaming them for really forming the chaos there. At least five have now been killed in those clashes.

BOLDUAN: And a possible standoff brewing over aid to Syria. Western and Mideast countries that support a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding immediate access throughout Syria are calling for a vote tomorrow. They want to force warring sides to let humanitarian aid in. Russia says aid shouldn't be politicized. Russia and China have vetoed three previous resolutions backed by western countries.

CUOMO: This conflict between Russia and the U.S. now echoed by the stop story of the morning, breaking news out of Ukraine. New clashes overnight between riot police and anti-government protestors in Kiev's Independence Square. The results, deadly. Take a live look at the crowd still gathered there, a sign of how little control the political players have of the situation. This violence comes just hours after the president and the opposition group agreed to a truce and the start of peace talks. Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is in the thick of it.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, Kate, the worst violence we've seen so far in Ukraine. Live gunfire used against protestors here in central Kiev. Something happened this morning that caused police to rapidly pull back from their positions, not quite sure what it was. But then protestors moved forward.

At that point, we understand live gunfire was used here. We've seen bodies dragged being away from the street near the hotel in the hotel lobby where I'm standing, 11 bodies counted by colleagues, 20 dead according to medical personnel. The concern here is the police have moved away from Central Square. Activists have taken up new positions. The worry is what's the response going to be from security forces. That's why protestors behind me are fortifying barricades, really terrified about what might come next. Chris, Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Nick, thank you very much.

Developing as we speak right now, these deadly clashes, you may remember, though, have escalated since they first began at the end of last year in November. Protesters then accusing the Ukrainian president of backpedaling from a trade deals with Europe, instead bowing to pressure from Russia. Now President Obama is also telling Russia to stop meddling in the region, saying this yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our approach of the United States is not to see these as some cold war chess board in which we're in competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future.


BOLDUAN: Joined now by Fareed Zakaria, the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" which airs every Sunday morning. Fareed, it's great to see you. We've been talking about this a lot. But I think it's important to remember you have followed this crisis very closely, but many of our viewers have not. Remind us why -- why is this -- what is this fight about in the Ukraine and why does it matter so much to the United States and Russia?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": If you think of Ukraine, we think of it as a country, we assume it's always been the country with the same borders are the same people, but Ukraine is really divided and historically has been divided between a western half and eastern half, roughly speaking. The western half has historically been part of what is now Ukraine used to be part of Poland. So it was only joined after World War II. So that point is in a sense longing to reunite with his European history and heritage.

The eastern part, on the other hand, has long been attached to Russia for 300 or 400 years. So this is a struggle between east and west for the soul of Ukraine. And of course, naturally, Russians feel a natural affinity to the eastern part, and westerners, including in Europe and in the United States, feel that the western part of Ukraine deserves to be in Europe. So it's really a struggle for the soul of Ukraine. As you say, it involves the rest of the world because each side is searching for an identity.

BOLDUAN: So interesting. At the beginning of this, we do know that protestors were calling for a close relationship with Europe. But now, we're hearing protestors call for really almost the overthrow of the Ukrainian government, calling for President Yanukovych to resign and step down. Is that at all a possibility here?

ZAKARIA: It seems unlikely. It really depends really which way the Ukrainian army goes.

BOLDUAN: That's the key, don't you think, the key factor in tipping the balance in how this is going to go?

ZAKARIA: If you think about it, look at -- remember Egypt. That was a case where when Mubarak was president, the army decided they were not going to obey any instructions that involved firing on their own people. So the question is, will the Ukrainian army go the way of the Egyptian army, or will it do what the Syrian army has done, or the Iranian army, right, which is when there was protests on the street, the government says disburse them by whatever means necessary, they did it. We don't know, but we know that the head of the army, a key general, was fired. So clearly there's tension there between the government and the army. BOLDUAN: I saw reports that U.S. military officials, they've been unable to reach the Ukrainian counterparts for several days, which they say is of some concern to them. I want to get your take on what President Obama said yesterday. He said there will be consequences if people step over the line. I don't think it's too far -- people will remember, not too far in the distant past, the president talking about crossing the red line in Syria. Do you think folks take another line seriously? Does it mean anything at this point?

ZAKARIA: My experience, and there's a lot of good studies that show that people in international relations look at their specific situation more than they look at all these analogies. In the media, we like to think about it that way, but people in Ukraine are listening and watching to what's going on in Ukraine. The reality is we don't have many options. There is no prospect, as there was in Syria, that the U.S. is going to send troops into the Ukraine or the Europeans are going to send troops. So really the question is could we do something short of that, sanctions? But remember, what would sanctions do? They would isolate the west even more from Ukraine and tie Ukraine and its economy even more closely with Russia. The big mistake the Europeans made, frankly --

BOLDUAN: I wanted to ask you about that. You said the Europeans really miss played their hand leading up to this.

ZAKARIA: In a sense both sides were trying to woo the Ukraine. The Europeans laid out this economic package for Ukraine, but they said you got to reform your economy. You have to make it more market oriented, all good stuff. But it was sort of like a slow economic gain.

BOLDUAN: Very long term.

ZAKARIA: Very long term modernization of Ukraine. The Russians put $15 billion on the table, no questions asked, and then they put another $2 billion on the table. So they were playing the kind of a fast geopolitical came. We were playing this much slower economic modernization game. And as a result of it, the president, who had not wanted to be part of Europe, said the Europeans are being too fussy, I'm going to go with the Russians instead.

So we should have recognized the stakes were high. We needed to woo Ukraine. There wasn't a sense of strategic urgency, mostly on the part of the Europeans. I think the U.S. was actually prodding Europe to go faster. Europe tends to act in geopolitical terms very slowly.

BOLDUAN: You'll continue to cover this on your show. But I think the problem they're facing now, you can look at long term, near term goals, but there are people dying in the streets. The violence is picking back up. When you talk about sanctions, I think many people are concerned what kind of immediate difference or influence can sanctions play on the fighting we're seeing in the streets? I think people say very little. It's really up to the Ukraine to figure itself out right now.

ZAKARIA: But we do have this reality, which is Ukraine and large parts of it and probably part of the army think of themselves very differently than Syria or North Korea. And so if there is international condemnation, frankly if the media shines the light, if there are condemnations from President Obama --

BOLDUAN: It will have more of an impact.

ZAKARIA: It will have more of an impact. Ukraine wants to think of itself as a modern, developed country. Large parts want to be part of Europe. They don't want to be seen as a third world dictatorship where troops are spraying tear gas on their own people.

BOLDUAN: Fareed, great to see you, thank you so much.

LEMON: Kate, thank you very much. Let's look at what's happening in the morning papers right now. We're going to start with the "Wall Street Journal." Beware of the law of unintended consequences. Officials say the government could expand the NSA's controversial collection of America's phone data as a result of the lawsuit seeking to put a stop to it. Some government lawyers say court rules of preserving evidence requiring the agency to stop destroying older phone records, which would actually expand the database beyond its original scope.

We're going to go now to "The New York Times" where regulators have introduced new rules to discourage internet providers from letting companies stream content faster for a price. For example, Verizon and Time Warner Cable could be discouraged from allowing Netflix, Amazon, and others pay for the right to stream music and movies faster. But Internet providers say after spending billions on upgrades, they should manage their broadband networks as they wish.

And "The Los Angeles Times" reporting that the Obama administration is trying to strengthen relations in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The president will be traveling to Saudi Arabia next month, and the State Department is calling on all Gulf nations to overcome their differences with the U.S. Gulf leaders have expressed concern about the White House scaling back its commitments in the Middle East. Chris?

CUOMO: All right. Thanks, Don.

If you're sitting down right now, stand up. Here's some news for you that sitting with can be hazardous to your health. A new study says it is a major risk factor for obesity, heart disease, cancer and premature death. It makes sense, right? I mean, you want to move. You want to be active. Researchers say every additional hour that you spend sitting increases risk. For seniors in particular, it doubles the risk of being disabled, regardless of whether or not you exercise. Get up if you can.

BOLDUAN: Happening today, the three men charged with setting a massive wildfire near Los Angeles are due in court. Jonathan Jarrell, Steven Aguirre and Clifford Henry Jr. allegedly set an illegal campfire last month despite an elevated risk of wildfires. The flames grew to nearly 2,000 acres destroying or damaging a dozen homes. CUOMO: And we give you Olympic watch. Three medal events already in the books today. Five to go in Sochi. Most notable, Team USA taking on our neighbors to the north, Canada, for the gold in women's hockey. Also later, the women's figure skating finals. Three Americans in contention entering the freeskate. Let's bring in Rachel Nichols. She's live in Sochi with a look at what is making headlines. Rachel?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the headline this morning, one of the Russian papers was failure with a picture of, of course, the shocking ouster of the Russian hockey team.

After that game, the coach met with Russian reporters and said, "I know you guys are going to eat me alive," which, frankly, I didn't know it's also an expression here in Russia, but it is. And it was part of just one of the highs and lows here in Sochi. Take a look.


NICHOLS (voice-over): First, there was shock, then came a waive of national angst. The Russian hockey team favored to win gold here, instead knocked out of the games by Finland. This was the medal President Vladimir Putin had made clear he most wanted for the motherland. Now attention turns to Friday's semifinal between remaining power houses Team USA and Canada.

On the slopes, a much more for celebratory mood for American Ted Ligety. Ligety's gold-winning performance, breathtaking, ahead after the first run by nearly a full second. Ligety blazed his way through his second run using a revolutionary turn technique. Every other man who ever won the Olympic giant slalom had been born in Europe. Not anymore.

Ligety's teammate Bode Miller tweaked his knee in that same race and decided not to compete in Saturday's slalom, an event he'd been on the fence about anyway. Now, though, it's official. His Olympics are over, and we may never see the 36-year-old Miller on this stage again.

Over on the bobsled track, American Lauryn Williams became only the fifth athlete to ever medal in both the summer and winter Olympics earning a silver to go with the track and field hardware she owns from the Athens and London games.

And right behind Williams and Elana Meyers on the podium, two more Americans, Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans with the bronze.

Meanwhile, at the figure skating rink, battle has commenced. Queen Yuna Kim, as she's been dubbed in her native South Korea, glided to the top of the leader board in defense of her 2010 crown, unlike Russia's 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya and American Gracie Gold who both stumbled, leaving room for improvement in today's freeskate.

And in snowboarding, a love story. Russian Alena Zavarzina the bronze in parallel giant slalom, then 10 minutes later, her 27-year- old husband, Vic Wild, grabbed the gold in the men's portion of the event, the sweetest embrace of all atop the Olympic podium.


NICHOLS (on-camera): Now that Russian snowboarder you just saw won the gold is actually an American, or at least that's how he was born. His American parents grew up in the state of Washington. But he fell in love with a Russian girl, married her.

And when he decided the U.S. snowboarding association was not giving him the resources and support he needed to make it to things like the Olympic Games, he decided to apply for Russian citizenship. They did support him, and then he won a gold medal here. So an interesting story in Sochi, guys.

CUOMO: Well, you know what they say, Rachel, happy wife, happy life. He went with her country, her nationality. Now he won an Olympic. It's all gravy.

So as we've been covering the Olympics, obviously we care about the games but there have been a lot of parallel story lines coming out of there as well, whether it started with security and then all the high jinx about how it is to stay there. What's the latest?

NICHOLS: This has got to be one of the more unusual ones for you, guys. Take a look at this video from U.S. luger Kate Hansen. This is in her room --

BOLDUAN: Oh my God.

CUOMO: That's a wolf.

NICHOLS: -- at the athletes' village. She's shooting out from the door. And that is what she thinks is a wolf.

Now, we don't know for sure. It could have been a very large husky. Either way, not really something you want to encounter when you're in your slippers. Definitely something that felt dangerous to the U.S. athlete. They've since gotten it out of there, but that is crazy. We know they've had a stray dog problem here in Sochi. Stray wolf problem, we don't know, but it's not good.

BOLDUAN: I can't wait to hear what's next. Vampires are next I'm sure. Who knows?

CUOMO: Holy cow. (audio gap) puppies, that's so cute. That's a wolf. That's a wolf right there is what that was. That's a wolf.

BOLDUAN: Be careful, Rachel. My goodness.

CUOMO: The rules of get down low and put your hand down flat do not apply when it's a wolf.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Rachel. That was a surprise.

All right, let's give you a quick check of the medal count while we have you. Team USA still leading with 23 medals followed by Russia and the Netherlands. Norway with a gold last hour in the men's Nordic combined cross-country team race, still in fourth. Canada rounds out the top five.

LEMON: You know what I keep thinking about when I see that? Remember the old "Saturday Night Live", the delivery? And it was the land shark?


CUOMO: Oh yeah!


CUOMO: But that's a wolf prowling the hallways. I was late. Why? Wolf in the hallway.

LEMON: Yeah, right.

BOLDUAN: Good excuse.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, the Dunn verdict. It's being called the loud music trial, but it's not really about music, is it? It's about how the law punishes or does not punish gun violence in Florida.

Despite the convictions in that case, many are disappointed with prosecutor Angela Corey. Was this about poor strategy? Will she do things differently when she retries the main counts? Her thoughts on the hot debate about the self-defense law itself. She says it is missing something that's critically important. Exclusive answers to the questions that matter to you ahead.


CUOMO: Welcome back. Fair or not, a lot of people believe the prosecution is 0 for 2 in Florida. Zimmerman and Dunn. Dunn, even though there were multiple convictions on attempted murder, still, the Michael Dunn trial, they wound up hung on the most important count, first-degree murder for the death of Jordan Davis.

The prosecutor is taking another shot at it. Now, in a NEW DAY exclusive, Angela Corey opens up about everything from Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law to the people calling for her resignation. Can she hang on is a real question. She also talked about the self defense law itself and what it is doing to justice in Florida. Here's what she had to say.


CUOMO: People look at Zimmerman, they look at Dunn, the outcome in those two trials, and they say young black men aren't be protected by the law. You disagree.

ANGELA COREY, PROSECUTOR IN MICHAEL DUNN CASE: I completely disagree. The focus needs to be on all violence against all races, all ages, and it doesn't matter who's on either side of that gun. It's all a violation of Florida law if the facts are supported by what the law says is illegal.

CUOMO: The speculation is Trayvon Martin shoots George Zimmerman in the same situation Jordan Davis shoots Michael Dunn in the same situation, they wind up getting thrown into jail and the key is somewhere else. But when you flip the races the way they are now, people walk.

COREY: That's completely false. That's not what our cases show. And until the media focuses on all cases or a sampling of all cases, the public will never understand that that's simply is not true.

Trayvon Martin's death was a tragedy. Jordan Davis' death was a tragedy. All victims who die at the hands of illegal actions are tragedies. And we need to put the focus on all of them, not just isolated cases.

CUOMO: But can you understand why when you hear about a case like Trayvon Martin, where the kid's doing nothing wrong, he gets followed, we don't know what happens, but they wind up getting into a fight. The kid winds up winning a fist fight, basically, being in control of it, and he gets shot and killed. And yet, there's no punishment. You can understand why that outrages people.

COREY: Oh, absolutely. I can understand that. I do. But what people have to understand is we have a high burden of proof, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Self defense is a tough law for us to overcome. It's an affirmative defense that we have a huge uphill battle overcoming, especially where there's injury to someone. We fought so hard for that conviction, and the jury simply could not find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Why would the prosecution ever, ever take a hit for that?

CUOMO: Because people feel it's a pretty obvious situation in that, whether it was the law or how the case was argued, a man who killed somebody when he didn't need to is walking around free and a young man is gone.

COREY: I understand that, Chris. I do understand their sentiment, and we were hurt by that as well. But what they have to understand is that had nothing to do with race. It has to do with the laws of justifiable use of deadly force.

CUOMO: A lot of criticism about all this stuff we've heard of coming out of prison about Michael Dunn, the letters he wrote, the phone calls that seem to show such obvious character assumptions that he held, you say, "We didn't put those in trial because we couldn't put those in trial." Explain.

COREY: There was a motion in limine filed by the defense on the numerous jail phone calls and letters. The judge granted it in part and denied it in part. So to all the people out there, again who are saying that we should have put in all of the phone calls and letters, they might want to read the Florida rules of evidence.

CUOMO: You're going to retry the case. I mean, many of us, including me, thought that this was an easy case for the state to win. I was shocked by the verdict.

COREY: This is our system. This jury got a lot of time to deliberate, and we believe they did the best they could considering Florida affirmative defense of justifiable use of deadly force.

CUOMO: Does the law need to change?

COREY: You know, Chris, I believe prosecutors and the sheriff's association are in favor of the former laws that we had on justifiable use of deadly force. And we do believe that before someone should engage in a physical altercation, or especially an altercation where deadly force is used, we do believe there should be a duty to retreat.

CUOMO: Who's keeping the law from changing? We had Sheriff Judd on who was saying "Stand Your Ground" works just fine because before you decide to use your weapon, realize if you're wrong, you're going to jail.

No, that's not true. That's what the Michael Dunn case just showed. He was wrong. He used his weapon, and he's not going to jail. Who's stopping this law from being changed to reflect what most of the states have, which is, you have to think before you kill somebody? You have to think about getting out of a situation before you think about taking lethal action.