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Holiday Travel Nightmare; Arrests in Deadly Mall Carjacking; Emergency Spacewalk Underway; Target Apologizes After Hacking Incident; President Obama Hold Year-End News Conference; Support Growing for Suspended Reality Star

Aired December 21, 2013 - 07:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're looking at Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins. They are the two American astronauts who will be conducting a spacewalk here on the truss of the international space station. Starts in about ten minutes. Right?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, and this is the first of three emergencies spacewalks to repair a critical cooling system coming just six months after that terrifying incident on another spacewalk, where one astronaut's helmet filled with water nearly drowning him.

BLACKWELL: Yeah, and these are live pictures courtesy of NASA TV, and as a result NASA has put in a special water absorbent padding and a snorkel device in to the helmets in case this drowning threat comes back. So as soon as the astronauts venture outside, of course, we're going to bring that to you live along with the play-by-play analysis from veteran astronauts Mike Massmino (ph).

BROWN: Yeah, we'll definitely be keeping an eye on that. Good morning, everyone. We appreciate you waking up with us on this Saturday. I'm Pamela Brown.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. 7:00 here now on the East Coast. It's the first day of winter.

BROWN: Although it's been feeling like winter well before now.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And for a lot of people, back here in Atlanta, though, we're hitting the 70s.


BLACKWELL: Hey, listen, you might be dreaming of a white Christmas with family, but it is going to be a nightmare out there on the roads to get to the family.

So get ready for the crowds at the airport, too. More than 5.5 million will take to the skies starting today and already we're seeing the delays and the cancellations mostly across the Great Plains.

BROWN: More than 85 million people will be traveling by car to see family and friends. That is more than one in four Americans.

BLACKWELL: We've got team coverage tracking this latest storm. Nick Valencia is live in Kansas City in Missouri for us.

BROWN: And Jennifer Gray is in the CNN Severe Weather Center, but Nick, we're going to start with you. Go ahead.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Pamela and Victor.

The worst is yet to come here, but officials here that I've spoken to say they'll be prepared for that storm when it does get to the nation's midsection.


VALENCIA (voice-over): From cars skidding on frozen roads and some flipping over, to flight delays at the nation's airports and expected power outages, it's beginning to look a lot like a holiday travel nightmare.

Here's the wild forecast. Ice storm warnings in Oklahoma. Severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes across the south. Heavy snow and flooding in the nation's midsection.

Who's going to be impacted? More than 94 million Americans traveling this week. Already dangerous driving conditions this morning in Kansas and Iowa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just try to stop. I mean -- safest, but I couldn't, my car just went out like this.

VALENCIA: And if you're flying, watch out for possible flight cancellations in the Midwest and up to two-hour delays in Kansas City, Chicago and Dallas. With more delays expected up the East Coast on Sunday. Travel experts say it's best to check ahead before leaving home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really recommend that travelers be smart. They plan ahead. They take advantage of smartphone technology, by keeping up-to-date on travel conditions and road conditions.

VALENCIA: And while the weather can be a pain for millions around the nation, for some football fans in Green Bay, Wisconsin, it's provided a $10 an hour job to sweep Lambeau Field for Sunday's game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you get the chance to get out and meet people, and get some good exercise and enjoy the cold.


VALENCIA: And that freezing rain and snow is expected here in Kansas City later this afternoon. The cold here in Kansas City kind of caught folks by surprise. Just a couple of days ago out grilling in a T-shirt and shorts. So welcome to -- winter. Right?

Pamela and Victor, back to you.

BROWN: Yes. BLACKWELL: Nick, we need to get you some earmuffs or a hat or something.

BROWN: I know. Some gloves.

BLACKWELL: Because it is -- I know it's freezing there.


VALENCIA: The beanie doesn't look good on camera. So you've got to brave the conditions out here.

BLACKWELL: And that will do the earmuffs?

BROWN: Beauty is pain, I guess.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We got to deal with it.

BROWN: All right. Nick Valencia. Thank you.

And by the way, heavy rains are expected across the Ohio River Valley today. The majority of Indiana is under a flood watch right now and many across the region are getting those sandbags ready. Bracing for the storm.

Jennifer Gray is here with what you can expect. Not great timing with this, Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, not at all. A lot of people traveling this weekend, as you mentioned, and we're already seeing a lot of rain come down anywhere from Dallas all the way through Little Rock. Even into portions of Indiana, Illinois. We're also seeing that ice come down in Oklahoma City.

So it is going to be a mess especially for Interstates 40, 44 and 35. If you are traveling by road, also by skies, it's going to be a nightmare around Oklahoma City with the ice.

Rain is a huge story across the country's midsection. The Ohio Valley seeing a lot of rain this morning, and that's going to continue to track to the east as well.

The biggest story in all of this is probably the severe weather. We have a moderate risk of severe weather anywhere from Shreveport to Jackson, even up around Little Rock, including Memphis and then a slight risk including much of the Mississippi River Valley. That's going to cause possible damaging winds, even isolated tornadoes as we go through the late afternoon today, and then we also have that flooding threat.

Could see up to five inches of rain for areas like St. Louis, Indianapolis, even up near Detroit. The last couple of systems have mainly had a wintry component to -- to them. This one is mainly a rain event. However, we will have that ice, possible accumulation. Quarter of an inch to half an inch across places like Oklahoma City, and then we could see four to seven inches of snow through Kansas City, Des Moines, including Green Bay.

So, guys, just be patient this weekend.


GRAY: Take it easy. It should clear out by the end of the day on Sunday. I know that's not the best news, but if you can hold off, I would.


BROWN: Yes, we can afford Christmas --

BLACKWELL: Anything before the 25th --

GRAY: Yes.

BLACKWELL: -- helps.


GRAY: Exactly.

BROWN: All right. Jennifer Gray, thank you.

GRAY: All right.

BLACKWELL: New Jersey Police may have -- made a huge break in a carjacking theft that left a young husband and attorney dead. Four people are now under arrest in that fatal shooting of Dustin Friedland. He was gunned down after Christmas shopping with his wife at a New Jersey mall. This happened last Sunday.

CNN's Alexander Field joins us from New York.

Alexandra, tell us about these suspects? Four under arrest?

ALEXANDER FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Victor. Initially police said they were looking for two suspects. We now know they have more. Later this morning during a press conference being held by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office we'll hear about a case that they are making against four people who are now under arrest.

The news of these arrests comes less than a week after Dustin Friedland a 30-year-old attorney from Hoboken, New Jersey, was shot and killed outside a New Jersey mall in an apparent carjacking.

Police launched a massive search for the suspects following the attack on Sunday night. On Monday, they found Friedland's 2012 silver Range Rover parked in Newark, but there was no sign of the suspects who had driven off in the car.

Earlier this week, police announced a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of those suspects. People who they described as armed and dangerous. Friedland has been out Christmas shopping with his wife at the New Jersey mall on Sunday night. Police say he had just helped her in to the car, opening up the door for her. They say he was confronted when he walked back behind the car. They say there were some kind of struggle, shots were fired, Friedland's wife got out of the car, and that's when the suspecting drove off in it -- Pam, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Are we expecting some comments and more information later this morning?

FIELD: Absolutely. We're going to find out how they have identified these four people who are now arrested and what kind of evidence has led to these arrests. Again, little has been said. We know that there was this large search for these suspects following this very heartbreaking crime during the Christmas season.

By Monday again there was no word of the whereabouts of these potential suspects and as far as we in the public knew police were looking for the two people who the wife had reported seeing getting into their car and driving off. So who these other three suspects are, we still don't know.

That's information that, Victor, we should have for you later this morning.

BROWN: All right. 9:00 a.m., Eastern Tim, that press conference.


BROWN: Of course. We will keep you updated on that.

Alexandra Field, thank you.

And the emergency space walk at the International Space Station has just gotten under way.

BLACKWELL: Yes, next how NASA plans to keep its astronauts safe this time around after a scare earlier this year.

These are live pictures courtesy of NASA TV of the International Space Station. The space walk expected to last 6.5 hours. We've got some veteran astronauts who are going to join us to talk to us about the risks and that drowning threat from just a few months ago.

Stay with us, this is NEW DAY SATURDAY.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: A live look at the International Space Station where a spacewalk has just begun. Now this is risky but all of them inherently are risky. Two astronauts embarked on first of three emergency spacewalks just a few minutes ago. This is to repair the International Space Station. BROWN: And these two astronauts, Mike Mastracchio -- I'm sorry, Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins, they're two Americans. They are embarking on this mission and they're going to try and fix a broken coolant pump over the next several days. Now this pump prevent equipment from overheating. It failed last week so it's very important that they -- they fix this as quickly as possible.

BLACKWELL: Hey, before we take these two shots with our guests I want to tell our viewers that this is NASA TV. They're going to bounce back between the ISS and we're going to see also mission control. But if you look at left of your screen, just before that fogging on the left side, you could see the astronauts occasionally pop in and out of the screen.

But let's bring our guests in now. Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins are the astronauts. We've got John Zarrella, with us, also Mike Massimino, who joins us to talk us through what's happening.

I want to start with you, John. Tell us what's happening now. We're just a few minutes into this.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's it. And tight now the astronauts have just exited the air lock there and they are going through some preps and checkouts. And Mike Massimino, of course, knows all about this from the spacewalks that he's done, and ultimately what's going to happen is Mastracchio is going to be on the end of the robotic arm for much of this day.

And this first day out there while they are working is -- what they're going to be doing is preparing to change out that whole cooling pump box and put the new one in, but today is just disconnecting wiring and hoses and pumps and electrical connectors so that they can then get to that box, take it out and put in the new one, which is a spare that's stored outside the International Space Station.

So a lot of work today. Just prepping to do the change-out of the bad box with the new pump, and, you know, Pam and Victor, this is considered one of the top dozen critical items that require immediate attention from NASA, and from the astronauts on the space station, because there are two cooling pumps. You have one go down. Puts a lot of stress on that second cooling pump. So this is something they had to get replaced.

They tried to do it remotely, to make these valves open and close. Couldn't get it to work properly. So they then ultimately had to go with this space walk. And of course you'll notice, the astronaut with the red stripe on his suit is the lead astronaut today, Rick Mastracchio, and eventually we'll see helmet cam video, and the helmet cam that has number 20 on it is Mastracchio and Hopkins' helmet will say 18 and he's in the all white suit.


BROWN: Well, obviously, this mission is inherently risky.

Mike, I want to go to you now because you know firsthand that the risks that these astronauts face. Remember six months ago when that an astronaut almost drown because of water that got into this helmet.

What is NASA doing, Mike, to minimize the risk for these astronauts?

MICHAEL MASSIMINO, NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, first, Pamela and Victor, thanks for having me on. John, it's good to hear your voice.

They've done a couple of things. The problem that Luca Parmitano, my friend, the Italian astronaut, the problem he had, they're still looking into the actual cause of that, but they know that whatever happened to cause the problem affected this pump fan assembly that circulates air and water through the spacesuit. And that air and water kind of got mixed, and the water got into the air and floated into was forced into Luca's helmet area. And that's what caused the problem.

So they removed that little fan pump assembly. It's very, very small. They removed that and replaced it with the new one is the suit is perfectly fine. So the suit it good. The other thing that NASA did is they never takes any chances. All right, yes, sure, they replaced the faulty part in that suit and it checks out good, but in case this would happen again, very unlikely, they have an absorbing pad that's going to be -- that is placed in the back of the helmet of each of the astronauts.

Mike Hopkins, by the way, is wearing a suit Luca was wearing last time. So it's an absorbing pad, it's going to be behind his head and they also have something they call a snorkel. But isn't like a snorkel. It's a piece of tubing that just in case the astronaut, water gets in there and he needs air, Mike or Rick can lean forward and take some air out of this, breathe air very easily out of this snorkel device.

They call is a snorkel, really it just looks like a tube. So those guys are confident in their suits and they're ready to go do their spacewalks.

BLACKWELL: I think we've got video actually of the tube, the snorkel. And while we get that video up, if we have it, I want to ask you, Mike, what was the water used for? Was it used for cooling purposes or was it like a tube for drinking water? We know this is 6.5 hours.

MASSIMINO: Yes. So for the -- you're talking about the snorkel itself?

BLACKWELL: The water that flooded the suit?

MASSIMINO: OK. The -- that flooded the suit. We have two sources of water in the suit.


MASSIMINO: One is a drink bag that's right in front of you. Kind of a camel back when you're exercising. It's right in front of you. You have a bite valve that you can open and drink water because you want to stay hydrated. What they're going to do today is like an athletic event. But that's not where the water came from in the case of Luca's problem. You also have two water tanks in your backpack and what that does, it circulates cooling water.

You can get -- it can get really hot inside your spacesuit. It can be very hot outside and you're building up a lot of heat and you're in a contained -- you're like in your own little spaceship. There's no air. Nothing can come in or out of that thing. So the heat that you're -- as you're working, you're going to build a big heat load, you're going to get really hot unless you can cool yourself.

We wear a fancy pair of underwear under those big suits, and just like fancy long johns, it's called a cooling garment, and has all these tubes in it, and the water circulates over your body to take away the heat. And that's the only way you can do a spacewalk. If you don't have that cooling water working, you're going to overheat. And it's game over. You've got to come inside.

So that's where the water came from. It was the mix of the air and the water inside of the backpack. It's a very complicated system, but it works -- it does miracles that hold the spacesuits that we have. But that was where the water came from. It was from the cooling water. They got mixed with the air incorrectly and ended up coming into the suit.


BROWN: OK. John, I want to go back to you quickly. You touched on earlier how serious the shutdown of this coolant pump is, but what happens if the astronauts can't fix it? I mean, that's certainly a possibility.

ZARRELLA: Well, you know, bottom line is, you have -- it's a backup, a spare, and they're pretty confident the spare's going to work once they get it in there, but they can limp along with the one that they have working right now. And, of course, if God forbid they were to lose two of them, then they would have to rely on the Russian. Remember the Russian side of the space station is totally independent of the -- well not totally. There are some interreliance.

But for the most part they could rely on the Russians to help them out with cooling system, but -- so they would not evacuate the space station if they lost the second cooling system.

You know, as NASA said in the briefing a couple of days ago, they said, look, we're not leaving the space station if that happens. We've got to fix it. We've got to figure out a way to fix it. So they're pretty confident that with the spare, when they put it in, it will work. And you know we are starting to see some of that helmet cam video. I believe we just saw Mastracchio.

You'll notice number -- the number 20 on the bottom right-hand side of the screen and when you see that, there it is. They put it up there now. That's 18. So that's Mike Hopkins, and his helmet cam that we're looking at now.

Again, what they're doing, Pam, is they're prepping everything. Getting ready. Checking their equipment. What they need to do the space walk right now. BROWN: I guess they need about 45 minutes or so to prep before they can --


BROWN: -- begin the spacewalk. So we'll keep an eye on it. Unbelievable video here courtesy of NASA TV.

And --

BLACKWELL: John Zarrella and Mike Massimino, thank you both.

BROWN: Thank you.

MASSIMINO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Target says, sorry with a 10 percent discount, and, of course, that's not it.

BROWN: Yes. It's not at all. It's also offering customers, after millions of shoppers got their credit and debit cards hacked, offering customers a credit monitoring.

BLACKWELL: We'll have details on that, next.



BLACKWELL: Twenty-two minutes after the hour now. Good to be with you this Saturday morning.

You might call this the nightmare before Christmas for Target.

BROWN: The retail giant is scrambling to fix things after hackers accessed credit and debit card information for some 40 million of its customers. This weekend, it's offering a 10 percent discount to every single shopper at its stores.

So just how bad is this data hack and what could it mean for you? Find out now from CNNMoney tech correspondent Laurie Segall in New York -- Laurie.


Forty million customers affected by this Target hack. We wanted to take a look at what information is available about you on that magnetic strip on the back of your card. Take a look at what we found.


SEGALL (voice-over): If you've done some holiday shopping at Target -- you might be wondering what a hacker could learn about you from your credit card. When you swipe, here's what a hacker could learn from the data in that magnetic strip. Your name, your credit card number, the card's expiration date and the CVV code on the back.

JOSE PAGLIERY, CNNMONEY: All of these key data that can be used to falsify that card and go ahead and fraudulently use it online, they can access that just by taking what's on the strip.

SEGALL: In the case of the Target hack, that data may have been enough for hackers to make a counterfeit card. One security researcher who showed us the different credit card hack explained. To the employee, everything looks normal.

MIKE PARK, TRUSTWAVE: I just have to log in. I could make a selection here. And then I can do a credit card swipe. It will ask me for the CVV. I can put in a CVV. Whatever numbers I want. And then click pay. Right? Nothing seems untoward.

SEGALL: For the customer, pretty standard.

PARK: You're paid. You get your receipt. You move on.

SEGALL: But for the hacker.

PARK: I have access to the entire magstrate data that's on this device and I can -- I can get all of this and enough information to actually create a whole different card.

SEGALL: The Target hack has some saying that the U.S. is a little behind the times in terms of secure payments.

PAGLIERY: Well, one secure -- more secure solution that they have in Europe right now is this chip and pin system in which the card doesn't actually have a strip. It has a chip within it. And every time you use it, you also have to use a pin.

SEGALL: According to the Federal Reserve, credit card fraud in England plummeted 34 percent in the six years after English banks and merchants implemented chip and pin cards. During a similar period in France, fraud from in-person card fell 35 percent. But this holiday season, millions of American shoppers might have been the target.


SEGALL: And, guys, Target put out a letter saying that in the case this hack, PIN numbers on debit cards weren't affected. They also said the CVV data obtained was not the three or four digit code on the back, instead it's information on that magnetic strip on the back of your card. And that means you wouldn't necessarily be able to use the card to make an online purchase -- Pam, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Laurie Segall, in New York for us.

BROWN: And still to come right here on NEW DAY, if you're traveling this week and you're going to want to stay with us because we're going to tell you about a blast of wintry weather that's complicating plans for holiday travelers. From airport delays to cities getting slammed by rain, we've got your forecast.

BLACKWELL: Hundreds of thousands of people demanding A&E end the suspension of "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson. Is the future of his wildly popular show now in jeopardy?


BROWN: Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back, everyone. Great to have you along with us on this Saturday morning, I'm Pamela Brown.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Let's start this half with five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Up first, Target rolling out a 10 percent discount for all of its customers today and tomorrow. The company says it wants to make things right after 40 million of its customers had their credit and debit card information breached.

Target CEO says shoppers will not be held financially liable for anyone who illegally uses their card info to make some purchases.

BROWN: And number two, a Massachusetts mother and her boyfriend are in jail this morning. This as fears mount that the woman's 5-year-old son is dead. Jeremiah Oliver, seen right here in this picture, hasn't been seen in three months. But authorities only learned he was missing last week. The state had been monitoring the family and make claims of child abuse. A social worker and a supervisor have been fired.

BLACKWELL: Number three in New Jersey, prosecutors say police now have four people in custody for a fatal carjacking. Thirty-year-old Dustin Friedland was shot point blank in the head last weekend. He and his wife had been holiday shopping at the mall at Short Hills and they were ambushed in the parking garage.

BROWN: Sad story.

And at number four if you're headed to the airport this weekend, you will want to check the status of your flight ahead of time. An ice storm in Oklahoma is expected to cause some delays and cancellations today. Tonight and heading into tomorrow, Chicago will see a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain, which, of course, could snarl flights out of O'Hare Airport. And for Sunday, expect major delays for hubs like Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

BLACKWELL: Hey, you know, those delays, at number five, are being caused by a nasty winter storm making its way across the U.S. This weekend's storm will bring everything from the ice to the snow to the sleet, even some record highs across the country.

Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is here with details of all of it.

Jennifer, what are we seeing?

GRAY: Well, right now the big story is the ice as we roll into this afternoon. The big story will be the severe storms. Already seeing showers firing up from Dallas through Little Rock. We are seeing ice and we've already had reports of about quarter of an inch of ice in parts of Oklahoma. You know what happens when we see that.

It doesn't take much before we'll start to see those power lines go down. We've already seen power outages in Oklahoma. So a gold morning for you and definitely dangerous on the roads.

Slight risk of severe weather for a large portion of the south, moderate risk right in the Mississippi River Valley from Shreveport to Jackson, Little Rock, even Memphis as we go through this afternoon.

Guys, we could see isolated tornadoes and damaging winds. So something that you'll want to pay attention to.

BROWN: Yes. You don't normally hear about tornadoes this time of year.

BLACKWELL: No, you don't. Hey, Jennifer, thank you.

BROWN: President Obama is trading the cold luster of Washington for the warm Hawaiian sun.

BLACKWELL: He and his family will spend the next 16 days on Oahu. But before he left town the president answered reporters' questions in a yearend news conference, and they had lots of them.


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Has this been the worst year of your presidency, when you look at polling, and you talked to Americans, they seem to have lost confidence in you, trust in you. Your credibility has taken a hit.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So my question is, do you have personal regrets?

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's been a tough year. You may not want to call it the worst year, the polls gone up and down but they are at a low point now.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You talk about the issues with health care and the Web site rollout. But there have been other issues. How do you expect Americans to have confidence and certainty in this law?

KARL: What do you think has been your biggest mistake?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With respect to health care specifically or the general?

KARL: The whole thing. The fact it's been a tough year.


BROWN: CNN's Athena Jones traveling with the president, she joins us now from Honolulu this morning. We heard the president address in that press conference. Obviously, it's been a tough year punctuated with problems associated with the Web site.

Athena, hi. What can you tell us?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, the president said that was at the top of the list when it comes to questions about what was his biggest mistake of the year. Despite his desire to make sure that shopping for health insurance online was a positive experience for consumers. That's not what happened.

Let's listen to what he had to say.


OBAMA: The fact is, it didn't happen. In the first month. The first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable, and since I'm in charge, obviously, we screwed it up.


JONES: Now, despite these problems with the Web site, the president said that the basic structure of the health care law is working, and he gave us a little headline on numbers. He said that as of three weeks into December, more than half a million people had signed up on showing that the pace of enrollment on that Web site is speeding up.

BLACKWELL: The president plans to review the parameters of this NSA surveillance. Tell us about that.

JONES: Well, the president asked for a review of the National Security Agency's programs after these revelations from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that the agency was tracking Americans' phone calls and even listening in on the calls of world leaders. The result of that review came out on Wednesday. Here's what he had to say about that at the press conference.


OBAMA: I have confidence in the fact that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around, but I also recognize that as technology has changed and people can start running algorithms and programs that map out all the information that we're downloading on a daily basis into our telephones and our computers, that we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence, and I'm going to be working very hard on doing that. And we've got to provide more confidence to the international community.


JONES: Now the president said over the next several weeks he'll be reviewing the 46 recommendations from that review panel and he'll give a speech in January talking about his plans going forward.

Back to you, Pam, Victor.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Athena Jones in Honolulu. Athena, very fortunate assignment there.

BROWN: I know, right?

BLACKWELL: Are you there for the whole 16 days?

JONES: That's the plan.

BLACKWELL: All right. Sixteen days in Hawaii. Traveling with the president. Enjoy it.


BLACKWELL: Thank you, Athena.

BROWN: Everyone here is freezing.


BROWN: We're not so bad, but elsewhere.

BLACKWELL: That's true.

BROWN: All right. A big story we're following at this hour, two astronauts trying to repair the International Space Station.

BLACKWELL: Yes, coming up, we'll tell you what NASA is doing to keep them safe as they embark on this very risky mission.


BLACKWELL: Live pictures now of the International Space Station, courtesy of NASA TV. Just moments ago NASA started the first of three emergency space walks to repair a broken coolant pump.

BROWN: This pump is very important because it prevents the station and equipment from overheating. NASA is taking an extra safety precaution on today's mission after an Italian astronaut nearly drowned back in July when water from his suit leaked into his helmet.

BLACKWELL: And speaking of helmet, we're looking at helmet cam right now from one of the two astronauts who are doing this. Today both astronauts are equipped with a MacGyver-type device made of towels and snorkel tubes to prevent a repeat of that potential drowning threat.

So how dangerous could this spacewalk be? Astronaut Michael Massimino joins us live from New York. He's also a visiting professor at Columbia University.

Good to have you back with us.

MASSIMINO: Thanks. Thanks, Victor and Pamela. Good to be with you again.

BROWN: Mike, you've been on four spacewalks. Tell us what it's like. Bring us there on that mission. What it's like for those astronauts right now? Obviously, it's risky.

MASSIMINO: It is -- it is risky but it is a wonderful opportunity. I mean, they'd rather not be going out to fix something that needs to be replaced on the station. They'd rather have a full working space station. But when you're out there doing a spacewalk it really is just a remarkable unique experience. There's really nothing like it.

You step out from the -- from the space station, from your spaceship, and now you're in your own little spaceship inside of your spacesuit. The view around you is tremendous but you really have to concentrate on your job. So right now what these guys are doing is they're concentrating 100 percent on doing their job, making sure that they're safe. Working together. Talking to the ground and going through each of the steps they need to go through in their procedure to get their spacewalk done.

But it's really for -- on a personal standpoint for the astronaut, this is really a career highlight that they're experiencing, particularly for Mike Hopkins, because this is his very first space walk.


BLACKWELL: So you've trained these astronauts and you have trained for the actual logistics of doing this and fixing this part. Well, what if something goes wrong? How do you train for the emergency?

MASSIMINO: We constantly train -- in fact, when we train to do spacewalks, a lot of what we're doing is training how to work around problems. And you've come up with a lot of problems in our different training facilities. One of which, for example, is our big pool. The Neutral Buoyancy laboratory where we -- a big pool that we practice our space walks in, we commonly come across problems when we're doing these procedures in the water, and you learn how to work as a team.

You might not get the same exact problem in space, but since you've worked as a team with your control team and with your instructors and with your flight director with your space walking partner you know how to work around the -- a problem. So just about anything that comes up, you know how to work through it and hopefully come through with a good resolution.

BLACKWELL: He looks like he's upside-down here.


BLACKWELL: But I guess in space it doesn't matter that he's upside down.


BROWN: Yes. What's going on right now, Mike?

MASSIMINO: No real upside down.

BLACKWELL: Yes. MASSIMINO: So what they're doing is they're still -- they've come out of the air lock now. They've been out I think about maybe 30, 40 minutes at this point, and they've checked out their suits. Everything is working fine. They've set up their work site, and now they're getting to work throughout their procedure.

So they're still going through some of the setup phases and then they're going to start preparing the old pump module to come out and the new one to be ready to go in. So they're not going to do that exchange today but they're getting a lot of prep work done in today's space walk.

BROWN: But they will be there for 6.5 hours today.


BROWN: A long time.


MASSIMINO: That's the plan.


MASSIMINO: Yes. You plan these things so they're 6.5 hours and sometimes if things go really well, you come in a little early. If things don't go quite well, you might come in a few minutes late. But the target is six and a half -- six and a half hours and I think these guys are running a little bit ahead. They're really -- this is a very strong space walking team out there. Rick Mastracchio has done six before. Mike Hopkins, this is his first one. But I've been in the training pool with him.


MASSIMINO: And he is an excellent space walker. So I think the space station is in great hands.

BLACKWELL: All right. Michael Massimino, thank so much. We'll check back with you later in the morning.

MASSIMINO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So here's the other question a lot of people have been talking about this week and will talk about for the next couple of days, was suspending the star of "Duck Dynasty," or one of the stars, a brilliant PR move or a knee-jerk reaction?

BROWN: Some people are now saying both the star and A&E could benefit from all of this. So we're going to have more on this story that everyone seems to be talking about right after this break. Stay with us.


BLACKWELL: The widow of an American teacher killed in Libya this month has a message for her husband's murderers and her words might surprise you.

BROWN: Thirty-three-year-old Ronny Smith was working at the International School of Benghazi. He went out for a jog on December 5th and was shot to death.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Ronny's four attackers have not been caught, but his widow, Anita Smith, wants them to know how she feels and she spoke on "AC 360."


ANITA SMITH, WIDOW OF SLAIN TEACHER: I honestly do not have any anger towards them and I want them to know this. I don't have -- I don't want any revenge. I just really want them to know that I do love them, and I forgive them, and Ronny would want this. I pray and hope that our son Jose will believe this and I pray with all my heart that the attackers, that maybe this incident would call them to know the love and the forgiveness that's found in Jesus. I really do.


BLACKWELL: And Anita Smith also wrote an open letter to the Libyan people. She said her husband was Libya's best friend.

A P.R. nightmare. This has gone viral on Twitter. Have you been on in the last few hours?

BROWN: Yes. Really blowing up.

BLACKWELL: The hash tag -- yes. -- has Justine landed yet? It's exploding. And here's why. Justine Sacco. She's the top PR exec for Interactive Corps. It's a media conglomerate run by billionaire Barry Dillard. Yesterday this tweet appeared on Sacco's account.

"Going to Africa, hope I don't get AIDS, just kidding. I'm white." Then her account went silent. And now that tweet is gone, the account is gone. There's been a lot of outrage and reaction, as you'd expect.

Someone created the Web site, and it links to African charities. IAC, which Sacco, works for, currently, we haven't got an update on her employment status. Well, the company did say that the tweet was offensive and outrageous. We're still waiting to hear from Justine Sacco herself.

BROWN: Or perhaps her publicist.


BROWN: Which may be she --

BLACKWELL: Or her new employee. Whomever it is.

BROWN: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: As you can hear them laughing, we've got the folks in the studio -- BROWN: Yes, we do.

BLACKWELL: -- to talk about this and the next one, support for the suspended star of "Duck Dynasty," it is growing.


BLACKWELL: The reality TV show network A&E is still staying quiet, though.

BROWN: So more than 200,000 people have signed petitions demanding that A&E end Phil Robertson's suspension. But an A&E executive told CNN the network is not second-guessing its decision to suspend him and there is that conversations about Robertson and the show will continue after the holiday, although A&E is continuing to air re-runs of "Duck Dynasty" featuring Robertson.

BLACKWELL: A marathon, in fact. He was suspended indefinitely after "GQ" published an interview in which Robertson made comments calling homosexuality illogical sinful and he said black people were happy before the civil rights movement.

Joining us to talk about this, Jimmy Alexander, co-host on the radio show "Mornings with Cindy and Jimmy" on Star 94 and David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a branding and public relations agency.

Good to have you both.


BROWN: Good being here.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk first about the decision to suspend Phil Robertson. Jimmy first to you. Why do you think it was so quick?

Well, first of all I want to say about that interview with "GQ" magazine, I don't think they told him who read "GQ" magazine or they might not have done the interview if the first place.


But when he said, what is sinful? And the first thing he went -- and he said was homosexuality, and it's like, well, the murderers, rapist and child molesters are like, hey, we got the pass this timing. Because really? Don't you think those things are worst that, you know -- and you would think in the good book?

I mean -- homosexuality, really? That's the worst sin you can think of automatically? But I think They knew it would offend a great deal of people. And they said let's nip this at the bud. Not let's have this go on and on and groups come out and say you -- you need to get rid of them, but I don't think they realized what kind of backlash they were going to get from all the fans from "Duck Dynasty."

BROWN: What a following "Duck Dynasty" has. So they can't be that surprised by this backlash. And considering, and we were talking about this, I think we would have been more surprised has he come out perhaps in support --

BLACKWELL: I wasn't surprised by that.

BROWN: Right. I mean, it's not --

BLACKWELL: I mean, this goes -- this goes to his brand.

And, David, I want to come to you with this. I mean what I think surprised a lot of people about Paula Deen is that it contradicted her brand.

BROWN: Right.

DAVID JOHNSON, CEO, STRATEGIC VISION: Exactly. That was the whole thing in that. Let me begin off since I do own a PR agency, if Jennifer is watching, we're taking --


But you're right. And part of the appeal for "Duck Dynasty" has been his branding. He comes across this authentic, tell-it-like-it-is, this Christian person and that's his brand. That's his appeal. That's why the fans are reacting. They're not shocked. A&E shouldn't have been shocked either.

He's made similar remarks. We've seen videos of it over the past three years. There was actually a PR person from A&E going to that "GQ" interview. Why they ever set him over that demographic with "GQ", I don't know, but the three big winners from this as far as brands are of course "Duck Dynasty," we're all talking about it, A&E, everyone is going to be tuning in.

BROWN: Right.

JOHNSON: And "GQ," more people are going to be buying that magazine that comes out than ever before.

BROWN: Right.


BROWN: And let me -- you touched on Paula Deen. You know, there have been others that had been on a similar situation -- Alec Baldwin, more recently Mel Gibson, Don Imus, the list goes on. But isn't this a little bit different because he is a reality TV star? Don't people want him to be real?

JOHNSON: To be real, and the other thing is, too, what we're seeing with this, more than anything is the power of social media. If social media wasn't around, we wouldn't be talking about this right now. It wouldn't be driving the narrative. And social media is going to keep this alive because as you know it's a slow holiday news time.

BROWN: Right. JOHNSON: And that's all we're going to be talking about for the next weeks. "Duck Dynasty."

BROWN: It -- go ahead. I just --

BLACKWELL: Yes. Go ahead.

BROWN: No to preempt you there, but also we were talking about this, too, since when do reality TV figures -- values or what their opinions or have to align with the network that the show is airing on?

BLACKWELL: Yes. What about that?

BROWN: There are plenty of controversial reality TV shows out there.

ALEXANDER: Exactly. Well, I know I work on Star 94 Mornings and have been on radio for nearly 20 years, and I know when I signed a contract there's a morals clause.


ALEXANDER: That there's comments that we make. You know, you do have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is you won't get arrested for your comments. It has nothing to do with you won't lose your job for your comments.

BROWN: Right.

ALEXANDER: And I feel bad. This family seems like a very nice family. Phil seems like a really good man who really has values. But I don't -- I think maybe it's a generational thing that he doesn't realize how these comments hurt a lot of gay people and members of -- members who have gay family members. It's like, oh, my gosh, really? We're not that bad of people. And I think it's just a sad situation all the way around.

BLACKWELL: But does it hurt? I mean, to me, and I've said earlier an hour, I'm a black gay man, and when I read his comments, I wasn't surprised. This is a man who calls himself a bible thumper. These are -- they call their culture red neck culture. I would have been surprised if he had endorsed gay marriage.

ALEXANDER: Well, no, and I -- I think it's -- by looking at my jacket, it may surprise you that I'm gay, too. And I think that they don't realize that if they met gay people, that gay people would love them because right now, and you probably don't know this, hairy men are very popular in the gay community.


And I don't know if he'd be a bear, maybe a duck bear daddy, I don't know. But they would love him.

BLACKWELL: An otter? Maybe?


BLACKWELL: With this jacket, I also would not be surprised if you're a White House --

BROWN: Oh man.


BLACKWELL: Let's talk -- let's talk about Justine Sacco and this tweet about going to Africa.


BLACKWELL: And not getting AIDS. First, as employer, we expect to hear to lose her job but Monday --

JOHNSON: Exactly.


JOHNSON: I mean, the one thing -- I mean, just because I'm in PR, just because of this world that we live in, employers are very concerned about what employees place on Facebook, on Twitter, on anything because you're working 24/7. You reflect the company. That reflected the company.

The other thing, and I told clients this all the time, the power of social media. Once you post something out there, yes, you can delete it, but guess what, it never goes away. And lives with you. And that's what we're seeing. Social media drives narratives, whether it's with Justine, whether it's with "Duck Dynasty." Social media is now almost replacing traditional media in some ways.

BLACKWELL: And this is not just some start-up PR exec.



BLACKWELL: I mean, this is -- she works for Barry Diller.

BROWN: Director of communications.

BLACKWELL: Yes. For Barry Diller's IAC. I mean they represent some of the biggest countries -- some of the biggest companies in the world and the idea that she would go to Africa and say that representing her company.

BROWN: It makes you scratch your head.

JOHNSON: It really does. And I mean, I'm sure she's probably updating her resume right now as we were speaking, but that's the problem with social media. It becomes a news story. You tweet something and all of a sudden it goes viral.

BROWN: Right.

JOHNSON: And if it's so controversial.


JOHNSON: People are going to be talking about it and it becomes a major news story.

ALEXANDER: She should instantly, when she's in Africa, she goes to Africa and she should instantly go to one of the hospitals and visit these kids who have AIDS and find out that it's not funny. That there's nothing funny about that whatsoever. And maybe she'd open her eyes.

BROWN: Right.

ALEXANDER: You know, next time I tweet something, maybe I should have a little more heart and compassion for others.

BROWN: Right. I mean, because that tweet was wrong in so many ways. Sort of making light of AIDS and then it also had a racist --

BLACKWELL Yes, and try to be fodder -- yes.


BLACKWELL: I'm like, it won't happen.

BROWN: Yes. It's like --

JOHNSON: It was, and I mean, somebody's working in public relations also works with crisis communications. And they know when you tweet something like that so offensive when it deals with race, and everything, that's something you can't recover from. The three things you never can recover in a scandal are something that involves animals, something that involves children or race. And I mean, she is basically now out.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jimmy Alexander --

BROWN: Yes. We're still waiting to hear from her, by the way.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we're still waiting to hear from her.

BROWN: So anxious to see how she's handling this.

ALEXANDER: She's one animal away from that being a trifecta.

JOHNSON: You got it. Let me reiterate. We're not taking resumes at Strategic Vision.

BLACKWELL: No. David Johnson and Jimmy Alexander, thank you. It's been a great conversation. And more to come after the break. Stay with us.


BLACKWELL: Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul, is back. She canceled all of her concerts last spring and summer because she was sick. She never said what was wrong.

BROWN: We are glad to have her back regardless.


BROWN: And today's Franklin sings at the Detroit Casino. Fans will be pleased to know that she's also making a new album and plans to hit the concert circuit to promote it.

BLACKWELL: Love Miss Aretha.


BLACKWELL: It was a homecoming she will always remember. Cameron Wood thought she was attending a pep rally at her middle school in Gaffney, South Carolina.

BROWN: But when she was called up to help unwrap a gift, she got the surprise of a lifetime. Her soldier dad, Air Force Major Jason Wood was home just in time for the holidays. I weep for these stories. Cameron and her little brother thought they wouldn't see him until way. But he managed to get a two-week Christmas break.

BLACKWELL: I love these stories especially when, you know, it happens at school. They've got the crowd around them.

BROWN: I know.

BLACKWELL: The teachers are all in on it. You see Dad is turning red. He is happy to hold those kids. He's going to enjoy those next two weeks.

Hey, thanks for starting your morning with us.

BROWN: And the next hour of NEW DAY starts right now.

BLACKWELL: And this is what's happening right now. Breaking news. Live look at the International Space Station. Right now astronauts have begun the first of three emergency space walks. This is to repair a critical cooling system.

BROWN: You may remember this. This comes just six months after that terrifying incident on another spacewalk where one astronaut's helmet filled with water, he nearly drowned.

As a result, NASA has put in just a few water absorbent padding and a snorkel device into the helmet, in case this happens again. We're going to have a live report in just a few minutes along with a little play-by-play and analysis from veteran astronaut Mike Massimino.

So stay with us for that. BROWN: Yes. Can't get enough of that video.


BROWN: With the upside down like that, too.

BLACKWELL: It's amazing we've got a live shot through space.

BROWN: I know. Is that not incredible. Courtesy NASA TV and they're helmet cam as well.