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Deadly Bombing In Beirut; At Least 19 Dead After Storms; Help Coming to Stranded Ship; Unemployment Benefits Ending; UPS, Amazon Try To Make Amends; Trapped In Antarctica; Flu Season Hits Full-Force; Growing Divide Between Main Street and Wall Street

Aired December 27, 2013 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to "New Day." TGIF. It is Friday. We made it, December 27th, six o'clock in the east. We have breaking news. A car bomb takes out a former ambassador to the U.S. A powerful explosion in Beirut has killed at least five people, 70 more were injured. Who was behind the plot to kill the official and why? Mohammed Jamjoom is live in Istanbul with the latest. What do we know?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, this is a very disturbing development at a time when Lebanon is already on edge. This happened just in the last few hours, an assassination targeted today was Mohammad Chatah. He's a former finance minister in Lebanon, a former Lebanese ambassador to the U.S.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility, but all indications seem to show that this was yet more spillover of violence from the Syrian civil war, which is raging right next door to Lebanon. Now, in the last few months, you've had several car bombs in different parts of the country, some targeting militant Shiite group Hezbollah, some targeting Sunni areas in the country. Now, Chatah was a Sunni politician.

He was a former aide to former prime minister, Rafic Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. If you look at this very alarming video that's showing up on Lebanese television, you see plumes of smoke coming up from a densely populated area in Beirut (ph). This is a commercial district. This is where a lot of people live.

Again, everybody I'm talking to very alarmed about what this means for the future of Lebanon. People that I've spoken to that were miles away said they felt the blast and are very concerned about what this means for Lebanon at a critical time. Back to you, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mohammed, real quick, is the situation under control? I know we see that video, but is the situation now under control?

JAMJOOM: We're being told that there are still investigators on the scene. They've cordoned off the area. When this kind of thing happens in Lebanon, there are oftentimes fears there that will be secondary explosions. That's happened in the past. Today it has not happened, but the officials I'm speaking with concern there could be more violence throughout the day and they are concerned that the death toll my rise throughout the day as well. Right now, we hear at least five people killed over 70 people injured so far -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Mohammed, thank you so much for that update. We'll clearly be checking back in with you. It's a developing situation this morning.

We're looking at four days and counting without electricity for hundreds of thousands in the Northern U.S. and Canada, all because of the snow and ice storms earlier in the week. At least 19 people are now dead. Many succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators that they had to resort to, to stay warm. Some will be without power at least into the weekend.

Let's get a check in on the forecast with Chad Myers in for Indra Petersons this morning. So Chad, how's it looking now?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, when the power goes out, I have a 9-year-old, just think of it like we're camping. It's OK. When the power goes out for four days and never gets above freezing, that's when it gets dangerous.


MYERS (voice-over): Talk about another blow. Hundreds of thousands of residents in the northern tier of the country are still waking up with no power, this as another blast of arctic air is on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was tough. It was dark. Candles only do so much. The fire, you have to keep that going. That's our only option.

MYERS: This morning people in Pennsylvania are recovering from multiple mass casualties pileups on state highways as the dramatic scenes unfolded Thursday, first responders rescued more than 40 people injured, transporting a couple dozen to area hospitals. More snow is expected from Michigan to Maine.

This comes as a blow to power crews who have been rapidly working against the ice and below freezing temperatures to try to restore power to some of those left in the dark since last weekend. Crews have been able to fire up their electrical grids, but are warning some people won't have power until at least the end of the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been challenging.

MYERS: Crews even sacrificing their Christmas to restore the city's power after being hit by what Bangor Hydroelectric company is calling the most damaging ice storm in Maine since 1998.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is probably the worst time of year to have something like this happen.

MYERS: This Portland inn even open on Christmas day to feed the crews racing to bring back power. And up in Canada, another cold weekend is in store leaving citizens in Toronto icy cold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The trees are still down. The power lines are still down. Nobody's been to our street to fix anything.


MYERS: Crews have a couple of days to get things back up with temperatures at least above freezing or at least close, 29 in Toronto today, 33 Chicago, 40 in New York City. There are some good news and bad news here. When you warm it up like there, almost 40 degrees Toronto for tomorrow, that ice that's sitting on the trees, the trees that are bent over will snap back up and knock the power lines back off for the power lines that just got put back up.

We talk about the cold blast, Bismarck, Minneapolis zero, this is Sunday, here goes Monday. You are back well below freezing. Chicago gets to a high of 8 so more cold air is on the way, that's winter. It goes up and it goes down. We just need more up than down until we get this power back on, guys.

CUOMO: Ice is bad but everything is relative. You know who knows that? People stuck on a ship in Antarctica. It's been going on since the 23rd. An expedition ship with 74 people aboard has spent four days trapped in the ice. Someone on board the stranded vessel has sent CNN video showing the reaction when they finally saw a Chinese ice breaker approaching the ship. Even though it's still hours away, they saw it out on the horizon. CNN's Diana Magnay has the latest from Moscow -- Diana.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. That's right. It's been a very frozen Christmas for the 74 people on board this ship, stuck in the ice in frozen Antarctica. As you say, help not only on its way, but also in eye shot.


MAGNAY (voice-over): Just hours ago, joy on board the ship, passengers pointing out into the distance as a Chinese ice breaker set to rescue them slowly makes its way towards them. This Russian flagship, stuck in the ice for four days now after weather conditions turned bad. But help is on its way. Behind it, two more ice breakers, one French and one Australian, if the snow dragon gets stuck, too. On board, are 74 researchers, a mix of professional and amateur scientists who decided to spend their Christmas checking out the effects of climate change in the frozen Antarctic.

They sailed around 100 nautical miles east of their starting point when they got stuck. Despite blizzards with wind speeds of nearly 45 miles per hour, we've heard the moral remains high and while they wait, they've had a few friendly visitors checking in to say hello. This morning's visitors are far more welcome.


MAGNAY: And Chris, this trip is recreating the steps of an Antarctic explorer who made this mission 100 years ago. He spent two years here. He got stuck here. These guys clearly are very glad that they won't be staying anywhere near that long themselves -- Chris. CUOMO: A 100 years have passed but the threat remains. Diana, thank you very much. Let's turn now to Pamela Brown, she is in for Michaela. More of the top stories for us today.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here with you. Happy Friday, everyone. Making news today, a deadly crash in Fresno when a small Cessna plane slammed into a front yard just a few hundred feet from an airport runway. The pilot and 9-year-old boy on board were killed. Authorities believed the plane hit a tree and then stalled, and the pilot was unable to recover.

Unemployment benefits will end tomorrow for 1.3 million Americans. Funds are set to run out for a program created during the recession, the supplement state benefits. Another 1.9 million people will lose benefits by the middle of next year. Some say the funding should continue, but others argue it's not needed with the economy improving.

President Obama has given his OK to a new defense policy law that changes how the military deals with sexual assault cases. And also makes it easier to transfer detainees out of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The president called the Guantanamo provisions an important step towards closing the facility.

Disturb -- an alleged knock out game attacker is expected in a Texas courtroom today. The 27-year-old Conrad Barrett now facing federal hate crime charges. Prosecutors say he videotaped himself sucker punching an elderly African-American man in Houston last month. The criminal complaint says the victim suffered two jaw fractures and was hospitalized for several days.

Christmas feasts aren't over for goats at least. A farm in Colorado is asking people for their leftover trees. The couple that runs the farm says the trees are a great form of roughage for the goats because they have four stomachs and are fast eaters, apparently. Their goats completely devour trees in less than an hour. Who knew? Who knew, right?

BOLDUAN: The things we learn some days, four stomachs.

CUOMO: Reuse, recycle.

BOLDUAN: That's one of the suggestions that had been -- how to reduce the federal budget, instead of cutting grass, bringing in goats to manage the loans.

CUOMO: Because that's where we're at.

BROWN: It would work.

CUOMO: That's the main fix we need. Take care of that and we're good.

BROWN: I'm just going to sit here and smile.

BOLDUAN: That's what we do.

CUOMO: It's like they have four stomachs down there. They can't eat enough I my tax money.

BOLDUAN: That was good.

BROWN: That was fun. Thanks, guys.

BOLDUAN: Pam is like, and I quit.

New developments in the Christmas delivery debacle as many customers still wait for packages from UPS and FedEx, there are new promises of refunds, but the anger directed at the shipping companies isn't going away. CNN's Nick Valencia has more details this morning. Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two days after Christmas and some of you still don't have your packages. UPS says the issue was so widespread, even some of its employees didn't get their gifts on time. The world's largest package delivery company today still dealing with the fallout of its broken promises.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Better late than never?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says it hasn't been processed yet.

VALENCIA: Not quite, especially when it comes to Christmas gifts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell you how many countless hours we have spent on the phone dealing with this issue.

VALENCIA: FedEx and UPS are delivering normally today, after delays in Christmas shipments. Neither company has released any numbers, but it's estimated thousands were affected. Both companies have apologized, but a UPS spokesperson couldn't even guarantee all delayed packages would be delivered by Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can only do what they can do given the conditions.

VALENCIA: UPS says it hired 55,000 seasonal employees to keep up with their projected demand of 132 million packages. FedEx says it hired 20,000 people and they, too, admit they had minimal service disruption despite the increased volume. UPS blamed, quote, a "perfect storm, bad weather and an increase in online sales." FedEx noted a shorter holiday shopping season.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weather is always going to be a factor somewhere. That's not a good enough excuse.

VALENCIA: Experts say shipping companies can't simply look into the past as predictors anymore. The internet is changing things.

MARSHAL COHEN, CHIEF INDUSTRY ANALYST, NPD GROUP: This is really about underestimating the power of online now and stores as well as online retailers were driving so much traffic and so much opportunity to buy gifts and use it as a vehicle to ship it. VALENCIA: Online sales broke records this year with sites like amazon leading the way reporting sales of over 36 million items on Cybermonday, promising on-time shipments. UPS says they will absolutely be looking at changes in policy during the holiday season, but couldn't say what kind of changes they might be. Neither UPS nor FedEx made deliveries on Christmas day, but after this, it's something they might reconsider.


VALENCIA: A Congressman from Connecticut is now calling on UPS to issue shipping refunds to those customers affected. UPS says it will give refunds to some of its customers. No telling how much this will cost them financially, but it's already damaged their reputation -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Nick, can't put a price on goodwill. If they don't deliver on time, it hurts going forward. Thank you for the reporting. Appreciate it.

VALENCIA: You bet.

CUOMO: All right, we want to turn back now to the story we are telling you about the ship trapped in that ice around Antarctica, the leader of the stranded expedition, his name is Professor Chris Turney. We got him on the phone right now so let's check in. Professor, can you hear us?

PROFESSOR CHRIS TURNEY (via telephone): Yes, I can. Sorry about earlier.

CUOMO: Listen, don't worry about it. You're stuck in the ice on the bottom of the world. A little bit of communications problem is the least of the concern right now. What is the condition of the vessel and the souls on board?

TURNEY: The vessel is fine and safe and everyone on board is very well. Moral is really high. And I don't know if you saw our YouTube footage but we got hit by a heavy blizzard yesterday with wind speeds in excess of 70 kilometers an hour. Fortunately the winds, the low pressure have moved away. A lot of the pressure has moved away from the hull now. Just on the horizon is the Chinese ice breaker. It is approaching us, which is fabulous news.

CUOMO: If I understand you correctly, even though conditions picked up yesterday, you were mentioning 70 mile-an-hour winds from a blizzard. You're saying the pressure on the vehicle has eased as the wind has shifted. That's better to for the integrity of the hull, makes it easier to get you out. You can see the ship. How much longer until help arrives?

TURNEY: I don't know. This is multi-ice that's built up around us, unfortunately over the last few days. We have 2 to 3 meters with maybe 4 in places surrounding us. At one point yesterday, the ship was tilting a little bit because of the pressure on one side because of strong winds. It eased back a bit (inaudible) -- CUOMO: What has been the greatest difficulty to handle on board since the 23rd?

TURNEY: Basically it's been maintaining a science program, keeping a sense of objection and objectivity. This is a science experiment to see how much change has taken place. This is a newly discovered concept. The amazing data -- it's a fabulous comparison to today. A group of scientists, we can bring measurements and comparing to measurements a century ago and communicating as best we can, using social media.

CUOMO: I think this is the first time I've ever heard that the power of science was able to delay the dread of being stuck in the ice and waiting to be rescued. I would have never thought of it as a way to counter all the anxiety that must be on board.

TURNEY: You're going to say --

CUOMO: Not at all. I can't think of what would be tougher to do, to be in those conditions for that long and not know if help was coming. It's amazing you've all been able to keep your heads. Luckily you got the blessing of objectivity as you said.

TURNEY: You had a great relief to know the vessels are in the vicinity. We kept the team busy, briefings, let them know help was coming and we just made sure we kept things working forward. That makes a huge difference. It just gives you a sense of humility and also inspiration to those amazing teams a century ago in the wooden ships.

CUOMO: Imagine being back then, the fate what would have, what the chances would have been. Certainly progress has helped us in that regard. We see the people outside the hull. Hopefully they'll be home soon. We'll check in again, hopefully with good news. Stay warm.

TURNEY: Thank you very much, and if people are interested, they can follow us on a lot, eh.

CUOMO: All right, thank you very much professor. Spirit of what? What's it called? Just so we can tell people?

BOLDUAN: I've got no (INAUDIBLE) hold on. We'll make sure they know after the break.

CUOMO: We'll give it to you because I'm sure you'll want to follow along. There's a website where they're putting out live pictures, live feed. You might as well check it out. We'll take a break here on NEW DAY so I can figure out the website. When we come back, we want to talk to you about the flu, it's here and it's having unusual impact. It's especially dangerous for younger adults. We have the latest information for you.

BOLDUAN: Also, we're going to be talking about two major breaches of airport security. One in Newark, the other Phoenix where a man got on to the tarmac and ran up to a jet. You're seeing video of it right there. The question this morning, is security failing and what's being done to keep you safe when you fly?


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. That website we had mentioned when we were speaking to the professor aboard the stranded ship in the Antarctic, it is You can see it at the bottom off your screen. So, you can track their progress. Hopefully they'll be getting out of there soon.

All right, changing gears though, we haven't talked much about flu season quite yet. Maybe that's thankful, maybe it hasn't been so bad, but it is underway and it has already proven deadly in at least one state. Experts say the time to get your flu shot is now, before the virus hit its peaks. CNN's Victor Blackwell has more details on the coming flu season.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The flu season is officially upon us. Although it is just the beginning, the CDC is already reporting widespread infection rates in several states including Alabama, Louisiana, and New York. But Texas has been the hardest hit, reporting at least five deaths from the h1n1 strain, also known as swine flu.

DR. MICHAEL JHUNG, MEDICAL OFFICER, CDC: The majority of hospitalizations for influenza occur in people 65 years of age or older, and the majority of deaths also in that group. We know h1n1, this particular influenza virus, does cause more infections in younger adults.

BLACKWELL: H1n1 first made headlines back in 2009 it caused a pandemic that the CDC says infected 52 million people, and may have killed hundreds of thousands worldwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try to relax this arm.

BLACKWELL: Health officials say if you've not gotten a flu shot, you still can.

JHUNG: Every formulation of vaccine that you can get this year will protect against h1n1 and also protects against other influenza viruses that we think are circulating.

BLACKWELL: Health experts also recommend these simple steps to help stay healthy: wash your hands often, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home from work and school if you're ill.

The CDC says flu season is expected to reach fever pitch in February. Last year, 380,000 people were hospitalized by the virus. Medical officials advise take warnings seriously.

JHUNG: Many people think that flu causes sniffles or cold-like symptoms for about a week, but it can cause very serious illness in people. It puts people in the hospital every year and unfortunately it kills people every year. BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Atlanta.


BOLDUAN: Victor, thank you.

CUOMO: All right. It is Money Time. The markets are up big time, housing, jobs, all these other indicators we hear about, all up, up, up. But the most telling thing may be about how you feel about the economy. Our new poll shows that metric is not good. A new CNN/ORC poll shows most of you think things are pretty poor in the economy, and many don't think the economy will be much better a year from now. Why this disconnect? Stocks soared again yesterday. Alison Kosik is here. Main Street, Wall Street, we say it all the time. They are not the same thing. What do you see in these numbers?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's like one America and two economies. The most obvious disconnect right now is the stock market, the Dow reaching its 50th record high of the year. That's incredible, the S&P 500 hitting records almost on a daily basis. But then you've got this CNN/ORC poll showing Americans are not getting it, even though signs that the economy are getting better. GDP for the third quarter showed markedly much improvement, four percent. Mind you, it is just one quarter but it does show that there's improvement in the economy.

Home prices are up. Jobs are being added. You would think that people are feeling good. Well, guess what, they're not. In fact, only half Americans -- actually a third of Americans think that the economy is in good shape.

CUOMO: Doesn't it lead us to the inevitable conclusion, that we are misanalyzing what matters and impacts on the families who need help the most, that they don't did the benefit from the market and even the companies that get more equity from what happens in the market aren't hiring them. They're not getting better jobs. So the main swath of the country doesn't benefit from all this glory that we're hearing about.

KOSIK: Most Americans aren't invested in the stock market. They're not reaping the rewards.

CUOMO: And their companies aren't hiring.

KOSIK: Right, and that's another thing. The kind of jobs that are being added to this economy are low-paying jobs. That doesn't make people feel confident. One of the best gauges on how Americans feel is really if people are putting off purchases. Guess what, they are putting off big purchases like buying big ticket items like furniture, appliances, and clothing. Because people don't feel confident about where the economy is going.

There's even been a small increase in people who cut back on food and medicine in the past four years since the recession. That's really stunning, and really scary, too because these are necessities. It shows that either people done the have the money or they don't have the confidence in the economy.

CUOMO: That's why most of what I'm saying right now comes from Alison. You are dogged about this in understanding the disconnect and showing there's still a lot of work that needs to be done, and not to be fooled by these numbers, but that's the reflection. The polls are what they are no matter what we see.

KOSIK: Go knock on your neighbor's door. I bet you anything they don't see what the stock market is showing.

CUOMO: Alison, appreciate the analysis. Thank you for breaking it down as always. What do you think? tweet us #newday. What do you think about the economy? Is it getting better for you?

BOLDUAN: We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY, but coming up two scary security breaches at two major airports. Men jumping the fence at Newark and Phoenix airports. One man even running across the tarmac right up to a plane. What went wrong and what are the airports doing to make sure it doesn't happen again?

CUOMO: And, Pope Francis back in the news, embarking on another first. Now, the faithful will get to pray with him in person at his own private chapel.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY once again, let's get straight over to Pamela Brown, in for Michaela for some of our top stories this morning.

BROWN: Good morning everyone. Making news on this Friday morning, at least six people, including a former ambassador to the U.S. are dead in Beirut after a powerful car bomb hit the city's central business district. Dozens more about have been hurt. The bombing happening in an area not far from the hotels where many foreign tourists were staying. No claim of responsibility yet.

More than 200,000 power customers are still in the dark in below freezing temperatures right now. Utility companies are issuing a warning. Many of them may not get power back until the weekend, at least. Parts of Michigan, northern New England, and southeastern Canada dealing with a brutal winter storm that's now blamed for at least 19 deaths.

Another study linking concussions to Alzheimer's disease. A study published in the Journal of Neurology suggested elderly people who have had serious conditions showed symptoms typically linked with Alzheimer's. The findings also suggest the amount of time since the head injury is irrelevant. The study's author acknowledges the findings are complex and more work is need.

Egypt continues its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, now arresting dozens of supporters, a day after declaring the group that backed ousted President Mohamed Morsi a terrorist organization. The government now saying anyone caught taking part in protests organized by the brotherhood will face five years in prison and promoting the group will be considered terrorism.