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Pope Francis Person of the Year; Asiana Crash Hearings; NYPD Says Kenya Mall Attack Done by Handful of People for Little Cost; Missing Nevada Family Now Safe and Warm; Cuban Elian Gonzalez Says Castro His "God"; Police Crackdown on Ukraine Protesters Unsuccessful

Aired December 11, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: People's pope beating out the twerker, as appropriate, as well as the leaker Edward Snowden. Other newsmakers to be "Time" magazine's person of the year, the editors saying, quote here, "with a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church has become a new voice of conscience."

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: We wanted to find out what the people think. So here's some reaction from the streets of London.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad that he's being a pope and I'm glad he's being compassionate, but they're sitting on a sewer (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's doing a lot of innovative reforms, right, as opposed to his predecessor. And so, in that sense, I think that maybe it's valid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's a, you know, a great -- a good person. It's new ideas of the Christian church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He seems to be much more of a pope of the people than previous popes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seems like a really nice guy for a pope, actually, but I'm just not sure about being person of the year.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, he's hardly been in the job five minutes.


MALVEAUX: All right, let's --

HOLMES: Nice guy for a pope.

MALVEAUX: That has got to be the hands down winning line here.

I want to bring in our religious commentator, Edward Beck.

What do you make of the fact that she says something like that from -- comparing him to previous popes? That's pretty ironic, don't you think?

EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's kind of funny. What strikes me, though, is that this pope is making a difference to people who aren't even catholic. I mean you have atheists embracing this pope because they say at least he's willing to have the conversation.

So I think inclusion is really the hallmark thus far of this pope. Remember, it's only nine months. So he hasn't been on the world stage very long. And to do as much as he has done and change the perception so much in such a little bit amount of time, I think it's remarkable.

HOLMES: And you and I were talking on CNN International a couple of hours ago. And I want to put to you the same question. I mean before Pope Francis came along, the conversation, if you like, about the Catholic Church pretty much focused on the sex abuse scandal, it focused on things like the Vatican bank. How much has -- those conversations still exist, but really he has changed that conversation to other things. How much impact, broad impact, has he had on the church and what people, the faithful and otherwise, think of it?

BECK: I think the impact has been great. We've gone from being perceived as a church of thou shalt not, to a church that you shall and you should and you will because he's taking a very proactive stance about where the church needs to be in its mission, serving the poor, embracing the outcasts.

That line on the plane when he was asked about gay folk, he said, who am I to judge. And, I mean, that rebounds, rebounded across the world because this was a pope for the first time saying the word gay, by the way, and not in a disparaging comment, but in an inclusive one. And I think that that will be what will continue with this pope.

MALVEAUX: And what's amazing, he really does lead by example. A very humble life. He, you know, he's walking along. He's helping -- he meets and greets people.

HOLMES: Picks up the phone.

MALVEAUX: He pick - yes, he sends out -- writes letters to folks. Gives them a call. Do we think this is going to make much of a difference when you look at the big picture, when you look at the future of the church here? Is there going to be anything in theology or practice where, you know, things are really going to change?

BECK: Well, Suzanne, let's begin with perception. It really is a big thing to suddenly have people engaged with the church in very positive ways. That's a big start.

Now, people are saying, well, he hasn't done much doctrinally to make any changes. The real indication that we have that maybe something is afoot there, is in October he's going to meet with a commission, his cardinals, and talk about divorced and remarried people. And up to this point, they're not able to receive communion if there's not an annulment. And he kind of indicated that something needs to be done with divorced and remarried people. So that's a start. When asked in an interview about married priests, while he didn't say he was going to change that, his comment was, it can change, as if this is not doctrine that cannot change. So we don't know exactly what's going to be in the future. He's made a remarkable start. And some of the more particulars I think will still be coming.

HOLMES: I've got to ask you, you know, to look into your crystal ball knowing -- what we know of this pope, he's obviously being told, what do you think his reaction will be?

BECK: Well, I understand the comment from the Vatican was that if he was chosen, he's not looking to be famous. He's not seeking it. But if it helps the mission of the church, he's all for it. And I think he realizes he reluctantly steps into the spotlight. We know that. And we know his simplicity is all around in every story talking about his simplicity.

We know that he reaches people in a way that very few previous popes have. You saw those pictures of him hugging that man, that disfigured man, without giving a second thought to it. Hugging the man without a face. He goes to people that no one else seems to want to go to. And so I think this is what's really remarkable and what is changing people's hearts about the papacy and perhaps even about the church.

HOLMES: Yes, a very good point. Good to see you, Farther. Father Edward Beck there.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

I can't tell you how many people - being Roman Catholic myself -- who say, I really like this guy. I like this new pope. I mean --

HOLMES: And I'm not and I think he's pretty cool. I mean he's certainly saying the right things about inclusiveness and acceptance and broadening out the perspective people have on the church.


HOLMES: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: And we're also following this. This is the first officer, the guy who sits behind the pilot on the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed over the summer. Well he says now he warned the pilots about the plane's steep rate of descent. And that first officer sitting behind the captain as the plane was coming down. Now, three people were killed, more than 180 were hurt last July when the Boeing 777 hit a seawall, crashed at San Francisco International Airport.

HOLMES: Today, the NTSB is trying to find out, of course, what went so long. CNN's Rene Marsh is covering today's hearing in Washington.

And I guess a big question is, you know, did the pilots rely, as some have suggested, too heavily on automation, the computers that can run the plane?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is one of the key questions that investigators are digging into. And, you know, we just got some new video coming out of that hearing that we want to get right to.

We know that that video -- again, this is from airport security cameras -- and this shows us a different perspective that we have never seen before of this crash as it happened. That is the video that you're looking at there.

Now, some incredible details coming out of this hearing. The NTSB says that the pilot flying the plane was concerned prior to the crash. He told investigators that he found a visual approach difficult and stressful. We should mention, he was tasked with making a visual approach as he was going to San Francisco's airport.

Now, when asked how confident he was about his knowledge of the 777s automated flight systems, I'm quoting from the transcript, he said, he's not so confident. He felt that he should study more. Again, that coming from the pilot who was at the controls, saying he wasn't very confident with the automated systems inside that plane.

Now, NTSB investigators are concerned about pilots over-reliance on automated systems in the cockpit, specifically when it comes to the plane's auto throttle. It's the equivalent of cruise control in a car. And the pilot thought that the auto throttle was engaged, but it turned out it was not. And that caused the plane to fall to a dangerously slow speed.

It suggests a few things: the pilot didn't recognize that the auto throttle was disengaged; they weren't cross-checking possibly the equipment; or, again, they didn't fully understand how to operate the plane's automated systems. Anyway way you look at it, that is a big, scary issue if you are a passenger on that plane.

MALVEAUX: Yes, and, Rene, just looking at the new video here, I mean it is quite amazing to watch this, particularly in slow motion, because you see -- it almost looks like there is a successful landing until the when thing pivots around and turns and crashes there. What is the information about the guy, the first officer, who was behind the captain, who actually warned him about this? What do we know about that?

MARSH: Right. So we know that the problem with Asiana 214 was that it was flying too slow and it was also flying too low. But today we learned that the first officer, he warned he said more than four times about an excessive sink rate, meaning that the plane was coming down too quickly and that was not correct. It should not have been coming down at the speed that it was. He did that about 52 seconds before the crash.

We know that the pilots acknowledged hearing him, but we -- what we don't know is why wasn't it corrected.


MARSH: We know that the warnings came about 52 seconds before the crash. More than enough time to correct the problem, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Sure. All right, Rene, thank you so much. And when you look at those pictures, it's very interesting to see - it really is the middle of the plane that is most impacted. Those people who perished and both sides seem to be fine.

HOLMES: When down (ph) the tailend (ph). Yes.

Just reminds you that there's people flying those planes. So, yes, there's human factors involved still in the skies. But what a terrifying experience for those people.

All right, let's move on now. The joyous celebration we witnessed yesterday in Johannesburg at Nelson Mandela's memorial, replaced by a more somber mood today. Why? Well, because Mandela's body is now lying in state for the next three days.

MALVEAUX: His flag-draped coffin was taken to the government complex in Pretoria where he made history nearly 20 years ago as the country's first black president. Well, today, it was reserved for families and dignitaries to pay their respects, really to say good-bye to Nelson Mandela. Tomorrow and Friday, ordinary South Africans from all walks of life are going to be allowed to come by and give their respects, pay their respects to what he is known as the beloved Tata Madiba.

HOLMES: And there were thousands of people lined up to do this today.


HOLMES: But under custom in South Africa, they have to take the body, put it inside overnight. So they actually had to take the coffin, take it back to its resting place indoors at 5:30 p.m. before it got dark. Tomorrow it will be back out during daylight hours.

MALVEAUX: And Sunday he'll be buried.



The South African government is now investigating claims by the country's deaf community. This is something that is very unusual. That the hand signals that were used, right, by this interpreter at yesterday's memorial were, quote, this is according to some folks, "meaningless," because his performance was seen by millions of people around the world, but those who know South African sign language, they're outraged.

HOLMES: Yes. One of the many giveaways, those who know sign language were saying that this just basically didn't make sense. But also there was a complete lack of facial expressions, which are considered just as much a part of sign language as hand gestures. Now, have a comparison to show you, too. The sign language interpreter Lydia Callus (ph), when she worked for then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

MALVEAUX: Well, her animated performance during a news conference about Superstorm Sandy made her a national sensation. HOLMES: They're looking into that. I tell you what. And this guy apparently appeared at a couple of other AMC (ph) rallies and was criticized then. So everybody's going -

MALVEAUX: What's going on?

HOLMES: Yes. The government's looking into it.

MALVEAUX: Where'd you get this guy?

HOLMES: They are looking into it.

MALVEAUX: Here's more of like what we're working on for AROUND THE WORLD.

Well, he was just six years old when he became the center of an international custody battle. Well now Elian Gonzalez, he is all grown up. You see him there. He is leaving Cuba for the first time in years. Going to take a look at the life that he's been living since he was pulled from his relatives' house in Miami and returned to Cuba.

HOLMES: You see there police moving towards protesters -- this is in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine -- fighting with thousands of demonstrators tearing down the barricades. It was very tense for a few hours last night in Kiev.

MALVEAUX: And new details about the terror attack inside a shopping mall in Kenya. Why officials now say there may have been only four gunman instead of a dozen, like previously suspected, and how they might have escaped alive.


HOLMES. Welcome back.

An important update now to the Kenyan mall attack, you remember, last September, that killed 67 people, wounded hundreds of others.

Well, get this. A New York police department analysis of that attack found it was carried out by only a handful of people and cost next to nothing to carry out, probably less than $5,000. Now, that, of course, a far cry from the initial reports that suggested it was a highly sophisticated operation, long in the planning, and perhaps involving as many as 15 terrorists.

Now, in Nevada, a couple and four children, safe and warm today after they were stranded for two days in below-zero temperatures. Now, they went missing after their jeep overturned and slid down an embankment. Rescuers, though, says James Glanton and his girlfriend were able to start a fire. They did many of exactly the things you should do in such a situation, even heating rocks to keep the children warm. Now, after they were rescued, the six were taken to hospital to get checked out anyway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. DOUGLAS VACEK, PERSHING GENERAL HOSPITAL: Well, the father and mother and their four children are all doing very well, remarkably well, considering how cold it's been and the fact that they've been out in the elements for these past two nights.

I think, as you guys have already been briefed earlier, that they did a lot of things right by staying with the vehicle and they did have food and water available with them.

And as soon as they -- the vehicle suffered this slow rollover accident, the father jumped into action, knew they had to stay warm, and the first thing he did was build a fire. And he was able to keep that will fire going the entire time while they were out.


HOLMES: Some smart decisions there. At least 200 people, by the way, were involved in that search which spanned 6,000-square miles.

MALVEAUX: Good for them.

Elian Gonzalez says he is a Cuban revolutionary who looks up to Fidel Castro as, quote, "my god." That is what he said. That is exactly what his U.S. relatives feared when he was forcibly removed from American soil back in 2000 and deported to Cuba.

I was actually there when this happened. I had been there for four weeks, covering the controversy swirling around this young boy, and then this unforgettable moment, the terrified face of Elian Gonzalez with an automatic weapon in his face as he was snatched by federal marshals.

Nearly 15 years later, he is now speaking out, blaming the U.S. embargo for killing his mother who had drowned on his way there and countless other Cubans.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has the update from Havana.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Elian, his first name is enough to recall the story of the 6-year-old boy who miraculously survived a shipwreck leaving Cuba, only to find himself in the middle of a bitter international custody battle.

Now that boy is a 20-year-old man who says he isn't scarred by his mother's death at sea or the fight that ripped his family apart.

ELIAN GONZALEZ (via translator): I haven't had any long-lasting psychological trauma. It hasn't affected me, but it has been hard on my family because those were difficult moments.

But in spite of everything, I'm in Cuba. And that's great because it's been 15 wonderful years in which I have experienced great growth without precedent as a Cuban revolutionary youth, espousing the cause. OPPMANN: He spoke to CNN in Espanol in Ecuador where he's part of an official Cuban delegation to a youth conference. It's his first trip abroad since the U.S. government removed him at gun-point from his relatives' home in Miami and, following the legal battle, sent him back to Cuba to live with his father.

For Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Gonzalez's return was a public relations victory over enemies in the Cuban exile community.

Just behind me there in the distance is the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. And where I'm standing right now is the (inaudible) Cuban government built the house many of those massive demonstrations where tens of thousands of Cubans gathered to call for Elian Gonzalez's return home.

During that showdown, Castro promised that if Elian Gonzalez was sent back to Cuba, he would not be turned into a propaganda tool for the Cuban government.

Despite those assurances, Gonzalez's life was anything but normal. His seventh birthday was attended by Fidel Castro. His father, Juan Miguel, went from being a waiter to a member of the country's national assembly. Bodyguards protect Elian Gonzalez at all times. Now, he studies engineering at a military school in Cuba, and appears to be emerging as a new spokesman for the Cuban government.

GONZALEZ (via translator): The message for me is that many others have died while trying to reach American soil.

But it is because of the American government itself that, with an unfair blockade, causes a critical economic situation inside of Cuba.

OPPMANN: Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives said they tried to keep him from returning to Cuba to prevent him from being brainwashed by Castro.

But in a recent interview, Gonzalez said the Cuban leader saved his life and that to him, Fidel Castro is, quote, "his god."


MALVEAUX: Patrick Oppmann is joining us from Havana.

And, Patrick, I'll never forget those days outside of his home yelling, Elian, (inaudible). Elian, (inaudible). You know, don't go, don't go. He can't go. And then the riots that broke out afterwards when finally he was taken from that home.

Does he still resonate within the Cuban society and those in Miami, as well?

OPPMANN: Very much so, because, of course, Suzanne, here in Havana, people were saying, Elian, come home, demanding that he be returned, and he became a celebrity here in Cuba like he became a celebrity in the United States. But the interesting thing is, even here in Cuba, you see very, very little of Elian. The government has kept him, for the most part, out of public view.

Those appearances that we've seen over the years, those are all very carefully choreographed videos that are released, carefully edited videos, as well, that are released by Cuban state TV. So the government shows us pictures of Elian when they want us to see him.

That's changed, though. Now, he's been able to travel abroad, been able to give interviews to the international press. It's clear that the Cuban government has faith in Elian; they're letting him go in this delegation where there's some 200 members of the delegation, including one of Cuba's vice presidents. So it will be interesting what happens with Elian now. We know he's planning on going to a military career. It also appears he'll be having more of a public life, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, Patrick Oppmann, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

HOMES: When we come back, more violence in Ukraine, a lot of tension, this time police using bulldozers, chain saws and force, but the protesters stood their ground. We were there in the crowd. We're going to give you an up-close look how it all unfolded. That's coming up, next.

You're watching AROUND THE WORLD.


MALVEAUX: In the biggest police crackdown yet in the Ukraine, thousands of riot police used force to try to remove protesters from camps in Kiev's Independence Square.

I want you to watch this. Unbelievable pictures there, police using bulldozers and chainsaws to tear down those barricades that the protesters had actually set up. The protesters, they are angry that the president has refused to sign a European Union deal. The protesters say that deal would have opened borders to trade and set the stage for Ukraine becoming more modernized.

HOLMES: Instead the president, Mr. Yanukovych, has moved closer back towards Russia, which was against the deal because it won't have helped them. Russia supplies the Ukraine with natural gas which keeps the people from freezing every winter, so that's a pretty big stick to wield.

CNN's Diana Magnay is in Kiev and witnessed what went on last night.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's 2:00 in the morning, and it would appear that the riot police have decided that this is the time to go into the square in full force. I don't know how we're going to get in. This is the only way down, and there are police three deep, but we'll try.

Unclear how they're going to push through these barricades which have been up there for a long time, you can see the protesters manning the barricades. And there are hundreds of riot police here, but no easy access for them through into the square, which is exactly the way the protesters want it.

So the police have moved down here with chainsaws to try and saw through these barricades, and also use brute force to pull them back. And it does look as though, in that corner, it is giving way. Now, you have this sea of helmets, the red helmets of the protesters against the black helmets of the riot police, head on head. And we'll see what happens next.


HOLMES: You can see there, now, also, the protesters eventually won. The police withdrew. The protesters rebuilt those barricades.

And, actually, just in the last hour or so, President Viktor Yanukovych has announced that he's inviting representatives of all political forces to have a nationwide dialogue. Fingers crossed.

One other point there, it was down to minus-15 out there last night, so --

MALVEAUX: Yeah, and you were saying the protesters were actually spraying water on the police so it would freeze -

HOLMES: Ice up their visors, yeah. That was an interesting tactic -


HOLMES: -- when it's minus-15.

MALVEAUX: Hopefully, it'll be some peace.

President Obama's latest approval rating not looking good here. We've got some new numbers.