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Desperate Search for Abducted Schoolgirls; Crisis in Ukraine; Circus Collapse Investigation

Aired May 6, 2014 - 08:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Where are the children? More than 200 girls kidnapped from their school. Their captor threatening to sell them. Parents are helpless.

What is their government doing? Will the U.S. help, before it is too late? We're live on the ground in Nigeria, pressing for answers.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking this hour, a blockbuster new report from the White House set to re-ignite the debate over climate change. What's in it? And will it lead to changes in policy? We're live with the breaking details.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A free man. A Missouri man is released from prison after only serving a few weeks. He was supposed to have served 13 years but never did because of a clerical error. Should he have been set free? The man in the middle of the debate, joins us live.

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 to NEW DAY once again. It is Tuesday, May 6th, 8:00 in the East.

"I will sell them", those chilling words triggering global outrage this morning. The head of al Qaeda affiliate Boko Haram threatening to sell more than 200 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, girls that he also calls slaves in a new released videotape.

U.S. offering to help Nigerian authorities bring the girls home safely, but how? Will the girls be found?

CNN's Vladimir Duthiers is live in Nigeria this morning.

Vlad? VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is the parents' worst nightmare. Ever since arm attackers stormed this girls college, taking these girls in the middle of the night, the parents have told us they were worried their children might be in this very dense forest bordering Cameroon and Nigeria. But now with the release of this despicable video by the supposed leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, where he says, as you mentioned, he's going to sell these girls, the parents fear their children may now be in Cameroon, Niger or Chad.

Here's how the story unfolded.


DUTHIERS (voice-over): His is the face of terror, the leader of the group, Boko Haram, bragging that he was behind the kidnappings.

"I abducted your girls," he taunts with a chilling smile. Calling the girls slaves, he adds, "I will sell them in the market by Allah."

Nearly 300 schoolgirls ages 15 to 18 taken at gunpoint from their boarding school in northeast Nigeria three weeks ago.

Another malicious attack orchestrated by this violent Jihadist group, which authorities say has terrorized Nigeria since 2009, killing thousands of innocent civilians. The disturbing comments and behavior underscoring their twisted ideology repeatedly calling for the end of western education saying girls, quote, "should go and get married instead of going to school."

Families in anguish, too frightened to speak to the media or share pictures of their daughters fearing retribution.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a young mother. So, I can't imagine anymore they're going to do. It's happening. It's shocking.

DUTHIERS: Still unclear, the total number of girls missing, whether any have been sold and exactly where they might be. Triggering anger and raising questions about whether the Nigerian government can rescue these girls.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is an outrage and a tragedy and we are doing what we can to assist the Nigerian government to support its efforts to find and free the young women who were abducted.

CROWD: Not for sale! Not for sale!

DUTHIERS: The repugnant act of terror igniting international outrage. Protesters taking to the streets in cities across Africa, Europe and the United States.

CROWD: Our eyes are watching! Our eyes are watching!

DUTHIERS: The #bringbackourgirls has gone viral online, galvanizing global support with famous faces calling for immediate action. (END VIDEOTAPE)

DUTHIERS: And, Chris, the Nigerian president spoke to the people for the first time in three weeks just a couple nights ago. He sounded confident when he said they would bring these girls home, but he also admitted he didn't know where they were, and many people believe now it's a question about optics. Three weeks, they haven't said a lot about what they're doing to rescue these girls and now just basically trying to tell the people as outrage grows they will do something but they've implored help from the United States and other countries in the region, Chris.

CUOMO: Often in politics, perception is reality. That's why we have to press for more answers. Vladimir, thank you very much. Be safe on the ground.

Let's bring in Jon Temin. He's the director of African programs at the U.S. Institute for Peace.

John, very good to have you here with us. Let's take one step backwards and explain how did we get to this place? About April 14th. What do we know about this group? How they were able to break into the school, the security there? What happened to enable them to take so many people?

JON TEMIN, DIRECTOR OF AFRICA PROGRAMS, U.S. INSTITUTE FOR PEACE: Well, so, Boko Haram's roots go back to the early 2000s but they really started this kind of violent activity in 2009. And for the past five years, they've been a menace throughout northern Nigeria, especially this year. We're looking at about 1,500 people killed by Boko Haram this year in northern Nigeria, probably around 4,000 or so over the last five years.

Now, how exactly they broke in to this school still, I think, is an open question. Still raises a lot of questions about the Nigerian government's capacity to respond to this terror.

CUOMO: Boko Haram is loosely translated is western education is sin, right? So obviously, this would be right in their wheelhouse in terms of what kind of example they want to make. The next level of it is, where could they be keeping them? Why would it be so difficult to detect such a large number? Is it about intelligence on the ground? Is it about the nature of the environment there? Why can't they find this group?

TEMIN: Well, Nigeria is a large place and a very populated place, about 175 million people, the largest population in Africa.

Of course, complicating this further as your correspondent said, is that there's three countries close by. Niger, Chad and Cameroon, and they could be in those countries as well.

There's also limited access to parts of northern Nigeria, because of the Boko Haram threat. Some of those states have been under a state of emergency over the past 11 months. So, unfortunately, it is quite a challenge to find even a couple hundred people in an environment like that.

CUOMO: It is a challenge.

Assuming you were trying, what do you make of reports that the government is lax here, that families and others have been intimidated for coming forward so as to not make it seem as though Nigeria's government is not up to the task? Do you believe those reports?

TEMIN: Well, there have been a lot of accusations that the government has not been as responsive to the Boko Haram threat as it should be, and this is not just related to this incident. This is over the past few years, and especially related to the tragedies that have happened this year.

And politics starts to play into this as well. The president is from the southern part of the country. Not the northern part of the country. So, that leads to accusations, and there's also elections planned in Nigeria for next year. So, the politics starts to complicate all of this.

CUOMO: Now, finding the girls. OK? That -- let's be honest. I keep calling them girls. That's the parent in me.

If they are from 15 to 18, these are young women, makes them even more vulnerable because they'll be more susceptible to attack by group of men like this and more marketable, perhaps, if they are trying to sell them.

What's the best way to know if that's just an empty threat or if there are markets available to that kind of sale, networks to be communicated with? What do we know?

TEMIN: Well, unfortunately, I suspect there probably are some markets for this kind of thing, sadly.

Another concern here is that Boko Haram is thought to have linkages to other extremist groups that operate a little further north, in the Sahil, and perhaps elsewhere in Africa. But, again, the intelligence here is really limited, I think. And some of the offers from abroad, from the U.S. and abroad and elsewhere to share intelligence is helpful. What's particularly important is that some of those neighboring countries are collaborating with the Nigerians as well. Especially if some of the girls have crossed over the borders?

CUOMO: Is the U.S. doing enough? Does it need to do more? If so, what?

TEMIN: Well, it does seem there's a sense of urgency within the U.S. administration and else to try to be as helpful and possible and Secretary of State Kerry was in Africa over the past week, and this was certainly on his agenda, and he answered several questions about it.

I think part of the question, too, is how willing is the Nigerian government to accept a lot of assistance from abroad, because that starts to raise questions about their own competence in responding to this, and it starts to look like their sovereignty might not be completely intact and it's a bit of an embarrassment for them. My hope were that they would be very willing to accept any sort of assistance given the gravity of the situation.

CUOMO: Right. Embarrassment has to take second seat to abject shame, what there must be on the ground there, that you have your children, must vulnerable, taken like this.

Jon, you'll know about this situation faster than probably even we will. Please, keep us in the loop so we can be asking the right questions to keep pressure on and bring the girls back home. Really young women.

Jon Temin, thank you very much.

TEMIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right. Deadly clashes are ramping in eastern Ukraine, as pro-separatists seem to only be digging in. Ukraine's military is lining up to protect key areas. The violence, though, has forced a major airport to shut down.

And with the situation only getting worse, a new CNN/ORC poll shows that even if Americans want to help they don't want any U.S. military action overwhelmingly opposed.

Let's get the very latest from the ground, though, Arwa Damon is in eastern Ukraine this morning once again.

Good morning, Arwa.


And we're at the Donetsk airport that had been shut down. Aviation authorities not giving any specific reason as to why, but we're hearing the shutdown is going to be indefinite. All of this, of course, understandably contributing to this growing atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty.


DAMON (voice-over): The city of Slavyansk, now the major flash point in the battle for Eastern Ukraine. Government troops are trying to force their way into the city, which is being held by pro-Russian separatists. Civilians caught in the middle of it all.

A woman was shot in the head, her husband raced her to the hospital. She did not survive. Militants blamed Ukrainian forces for the civilian casualties.

Throughout the eastern part of the country, the violence is growing. A Ukrainian helicopter outside Slavyansk shot down.

This is the Ukrainian government's strongest effort yet to clear out the separatists, but it's showing very little success. Russia, which is accused of fanning the flames of rebellion, instead blamed the violence on Ukraine in a statement from the foreign ministry, calling on the Ukrainian government to stop using armed forces against its own people.


DAMON: And, of course, despite all of the political rhetoric, it is the population here Michaela that is suffering the most. Not just having to deal with violence but practical things like access to money. Two key banks already shut don their branches in eastern Ukraine.

PEREIRA: So much uncertainty, such unrest growing there. Arwa, thanks for bringing us up to date on the situation.

Let's give you another look at headlines this hour:

A diver died searching for bodies in the sunken ferry off South Korea. Officials say the diver had some sort of issue with his oxygen supply. About five minutes into his very first dive. Other divers were not able to resuscitate him. More than 30 people remain missing in the ferry disaster, 267 bodies have been recovered.

Seems like there's no letup for fire crews in Oklahoma. Firefighters are battling flare-ups in a deadly fast-moving wildfire in Oklahoma. Unseasonably high temperatures and low humidity are expected to keep fueling that inferno into tomorrow. One firefighter suffered minor injuries Monday when a box of shotgun shells exploded in the fire. About 100 others were reportedly treated for smoke or heat inhalation, 3,500 acres scorched so far.

Despite overwhelming support for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to ban clippers owner Donald Sterling for life are and force him to sell the team, a new CNN/ORC poll reveals Americans are evenly split on the decision to sanction Sterling. Just 47 percent say forced to sell while 50 percent say he should not.

Meantime, in the first game of their playoff series, I'm taking it slow, because I want to savor it. The Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-105. Game two tomorrow night in OKC. Chris Paul, eight three pointers, Chris.

CUOMO: I know.

BOLDUAN: You have a future in sportscasting. I like that.

PEREIRA: Well, I like to make my sportscasting friends proud. He said, it just felt good tonight.

BOLDUAN: And the numbers you put up shows it.

PEREIRA: Yes. A good night.

CUOMO: Great players change as conditions change and he is a consummate point guard, usually distributes the ball, but that's why he's one of the best.

PEREIRA: He's showing tremendous focus, too, that these guys can sort of block out, hopefully continue to block out all that other stuff and do what they need to do on the floor.


CUOMO: It made them tighter, right, as a unit.

BOLDUAN: You never know, but I'm right there with you.

CUOMO: Nothing like a common enemy to bring people together. Kind of what bonded you two.

PEREIRA: Oh, wait. OK.

BOLDUAN: That's why I was being silent.

CUOMO: I know. Go ahead. Not anymore.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, they now know what failed causing the terrifying circus accident in Rhode Island, but why did it fail? And what will Ringling Brothers do to make sure nothing like this happens again?

CUOMO: And in just minutes, a major report on climate change is coming out. The White House is going to argue what is impacting the United States already, and what they plan to do about it. We'll bring it to you.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

This morning, Ringling Brothers is promising to make changes to the circus apparatus that collapsed Sunday, sending a group of acrobats plummeting some 30 feet to the ground. Eight of those performers remain in the hospital this morning. Investigators now say a single five-inch clamp is to blame for that accident and they're racing to find out why it failed. That clearly is a key question here.

CNN's Jean Casarez is joining us with much more.

What more we learned, Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the investigation continues. But new details are emerging as to what caused a circus act to go terribly wrong in Rhode Island over the weekend. Eleven people are injured and officials are saying it was equipment failure that causes horrific accidents.

First responders are now describing what it was like. We want to warn you, this video -- it is very disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were in shock. They didn't expect their equipment to fail.

CASAREZ (voice-over): But something did fail, causing performers of the Ringling Brothers Medeiros hair hang act to plummet 25 to 35 feet to the ground on Sunday. Eight women who performed acrobatics as a human chandelier along with one dancer on the ground were hurt with multiple compound fractures, including head and internal injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it is far too early to say what happened, but state investigators have determined a steel connection point made to hold 10,000 pounds just snapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A D-shaped metal ring that has a gate that opens and closes and allows you to connect two other pieces of equipment, that carabiner failed. It was a single piece of equipment that failed.

CASAREZ: Licensing regulations do not require any state inspections. Last year in Las Vegas, a performer with Cirque du Soleil fell to her death during a show at the MGM Grand, similar to the one seen here.

In October, OSHA cited the circus and the venue for violations.

OSHA tells CNN they require that a competent person selected by the employer must recognize potential hazards and make corrections before every performance. A circus spokesman says that was done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an entire safety crew that's dedicated to traveling to all our units to make sure that steps are taken. All our equipment is inspected each and every time we load into a new arena.

CASAREZ: But OSHA says one of the things they will look at in this investigation is whether there should be more. "OSHA says we will provide a safe workplace for all Americans. If it involves more regulations, that is important."


CASAREZ: And the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, they canceled all of their remaining performances in Rhode Island. The circus will move on now to Hartford, Connecticut, on May 8th. And according to a circus spokesperson none of those performances will include the hair hang act -- Chris.

CUOMO: They have to make sure they know what's happening there before they bring it back. That's for sure.

CASAREZ: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: Jean, thank you very much.

All right. It is money time. Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with the latest on the fight to raise the minimum wage, even more important now, right, Christine, with what we know about the new jobs?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, and it is interesting. Corporate America is fighting against raising that wage, Chris. The National Retail Federation ramping up its lobby campaign against raising the wage to $10.10 an hour.

And this commercial now playing for another group, it shows a fortune- teller predicting job losses if those wages rise. The Justice Department is close to a settlement with Credit Suisse, the big bank, over allegedly helping Americans dodge the IRS. The deal would be notable because the bank is expected to admit guilt -- to admit guilt -- something that almost never happens in a settlement.

Coke -- Coke is ditching in a controversial ingredient from its drinks. A flame retardant chemical calls BVO. It's going to take it out of its drinks now. The move is a reaction to a viral campaign launched by Mississippi teenager to get the chemical out of Pepsi's Gatorade. Now, Coke is getting rid of it, too -- guys.

CUOMO: How does this stuff wind up in what we eat? I don't get it. Remember the --

BOLDUAN: The more you know, the more you're terrified.

CUOMO: In the food we eat.


PERIERA: The only thing that would have been handy is if you really, really hot wings. That would --

BOLDUAN: A solution. Problem/solution.

CUOMO: But coming up on NEW DAY, the big bailout. A big report on climate change has just been released. What does it say about the future of our country? We'll give you are the details.

BOLDUAN: And what could be a critical meeting in the search for Flight 370 is expected tomorrow, with nearly all of the leads so far exhausted. Nothing really to show for it. Is it back to square one? We're going to talk to aviation experts in minutes.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Time for the five things you need to know for NEW DAY.

At number one, the Obama administration offering to help the Nigerians find more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by an al Qaeda affiliate that's vowing to sell those young girls.

More deadly clashes are deepening the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Troops are trying to push back against pro-Russian separatists and regain ground. The violence has forced a major airport to shut down.

The FAA says it was a cold war spy plane flying through Los Angeles airspace that triggered air traffic chaos last week causing flights across the nation to be delayed or canceled. Today marks one year since Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and another woman broke free from their Cleveland house of horrors. Two of the women will be honored by the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.

Be sure to tune in for part two of Knight's interview with Anderson Cooper. That airs tonight on "AC360."

Ringling Brothers is promising to make changes to the circus apparatus that failed Sunday injuring nine acrobats. Investigators now suspect the accident happened when a single clamp snapped.

We're always updating those five things to know. So, be sure to go to for the latest -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Michaela, thanks so much.

Just into CNN, a major White House report on climate change has just been released. The Obama administration unveiling its national climate assessment detailing how climate change impacts every part of the country.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live at the White House with all of the details.

So, Jim, what is in the report? What's it telling us?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the president is going to be issuing, really, a call for action later today when he sits down with a group of meteorologists from around the country, trying to get the word out that the weather for this country is going to be getting worse and worse over the coming decades as a result of man-made climate change.