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Cracker Barrel Reverses, Resumes Selling "Duck Dynasty" Merch; Skier Lindsey Vonn Suffers Another Olympic Setback; Punk Rock Band Pussy Riot Released from Russian Prison; Second Spacewalk to Repair Pump Canceled at ISS; U.S. Marines Moving to Africa; Elf on the Shelf Story; Healthcare Deadline Today

Aired December 23, 2013 - 12:30   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And that's the problem is the speed with which things happen.


HOLMES: The companies react -

QUEST: Absolutely.

HOLMES: -- and sometimes it's very knee-jerk.

QUEST: Well, you say it's "knee-jerky." It's "knee-jerky" because they think that's what needs to be done.


QUEST: But what should the company have said? Well, I was looking at the "Duck Dynasty" Web site before I came on.

Now, if you looked at the number of companies whose products are on their Web site, from armor -- Under Armor, all of these products on their Web site where they say, We use their products, in every one of those companies, they have that dilemma and that debate. Do we? Don't we? Do we? Don't we?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CO-ANCHOR: So, Richard, do they have an investment here, all of those companies whether it's their reputation or not when it comes to the money to just get on board to get this series back on the air?

QUEST: Well, if only it were that simple, because they don't know. They're gambling.

Look, let's take A&E who make the series. Their first question is, oh, my lord, what do we do here?

If we keep him on, do we get a backlash? If we don't keep him on, do we get a backlash?

And now the story's gone to the next level, because, of course, they may lose him. I'm almost guessing there's some sort of clause in the contract about bringing the thing into -- but the rest of them can't get out of it.

HOLMES: Right.

QUEST: Because they are under contract. And -- and the program is the slot machine that's creating the profits for the -- for Duck Commander.

HOLMES: But when it comes to that show, though, when the company's making that decision as a corporate entity, A&E in this case, this guy and the audience that watches this guy, they knew exactly who he was and what his attitudes were.

So, does that impact their decision to pull off the guy, knowing that they're probably not offending anyone because they're the people who know him anyway, the ones who watch him?

QUEST: I think there's probably a difference between him saying the comments that he said on his program and saying them in an article in "GQ."

The question, of course, which is now being raised is, there was a publicity person from "GQ" at the interview.

HOLMES: A&E or "GQ?"

QUEST: Sorry. From A&E. I beg your pardon.

MALVEAUX: They all new before it became public.

QUEST: They got what they bargained for. The potato's become too hot, to mix metaphors completely, and now the cat's out of the bag.

HOLMES: Another one.

QUEST: And in the process, everybody else, the collateral damage, are these companies -- Do we? Don't we?

MALVEAUX: We got to let you go. We're two-stepping --

HOLMES: Time has flown to put another one in there.

MALVEAUX: Believe me, this is not a story that's going to go away.

QUEST: A stitch in time.

HOLMES: A stitch in time.

Questy, always a pleasure. Do pop back.

MALVEAUX: Lindsey Vonn --

HOLMES: He'll be appearing here all week.

MALVEAUX: We got to move on.

Lindsey Vonn's Olympic dreams, still alive, but she's still dealing with her knee issues.

The Olympic ski champion had another setback in France. She lost her balance, missed a gate during the weekend race.

Vonn said the same knee she had surgically repaired completely gave out.

HOLMES: Yeah, ouch.

She was in pain, obviously, afterwards. And as you just saw there, Tiger Woods was actually on hand. First time, he's actually been there to watch his now-girlfriend compete.

MALVEAUX: Two women who spent nearly two years in a Russian prison being critical of President Vladimir Putin, today, they are free. They're the members of the punk rock bad Pussy Riot whose political expression got them in hot water.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language)


HOLMES: Yeah, that is the demonstration that they did inside what is a revered cathedral in Moscow, offended a lot of people.

They were arrested. They were found guilty of hooliganism and two band members received two-year sentences.

Diana Magnay is in Siberia right now, the place where one of those women walked out.

Tell us about this whole amnesty thing, which is part of why they were released, and what they have said since they got out.

They're unrepentant. Activism is in their blood.


I talked today to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova who is the sort of lead in this group, and she said that the genesis of the group had come about at Putin's re-election in 2011.

And she obviously was the one who spearheaded the punk prayer in the cathedral, and for that, they were then sent for two years into a penal colony where she described the conditions as literally akin to slavery, where they were worked 16, 17 hours a day. They never got more than four hours sleep.

She said they were treated like cattle, that they had no hygiene at all. They were treated -- they were like filthy animals.

So, terrible, terrible conditions, and in September, she went on a hunger strike and became so ill that she was transferred from the penal colony where she was then to this town in the middle of Siberia to a hospital.

And she's just been released today, part of a much bigger amnesty that President Putin and his Duma implemented last week. And she qualifies and here -- the other band member who was the activist -- or, band member who was jailed also qualifies because they were both mothers.

I caught up with her just as she was about to go and talk to her grandmother for the first time. She told me that she felt similar to Mikhail Khodorkovsky in terms of wanting to use her freedom to try and promote the plight of those who are still inside an

And I asked her a few questions. Let's take a listen.


MAGNAY: Can you imagine joining forces with Khodorkovsky? Is that something you might do?

NADEZHDA TOLOKONNIKOVA, FREED PUSSY RIOT MEMBER (via translator): No doubt I'd be happy to do that. It would be a very productive relationship.

MAGNAY: And what about a boycott of the Olympics, of the Sochi Olympics? Is this something you think people should do on ethical reasons?

TOLOKONNIKOVA (via translator): The situation in Russia is very sad at the moment, really sad, and the political regime in Russia is leading the country to a collapse.

So, of course, if Western countries want to show a strong ethical position, then they need to boycott the games.


MAGNAY: Nadezhda feels, Michael, that the Olympics were really an excuse for Putin, a p.r. stunt.

This amnesty is a p.r. stunt ahead of the Olympics because the West has criticized Russia so much for its human rights record and Pussy Riot, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Arctic 30 have all been held up as examples of how this country tramples on the rights of people, especially people within its prison system.

So, she calls the amnesty just a pr stunt, but also interestingly, Michael, a gesture of weakness on the part of President Putin, she said.

HOLMES: Right, Diana, thanks, Diana Magnay there in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

MALVEAUX: A second mission to repair the International Space Station has now been delayed after water leaks into an astronaut's space suit over the weekend.

Up next, we're going to talk about what kinds of dangers astronauts face in tomorrow's mission.


MALVEAUX: A second spacewalk to repair the International Space Station has been delayed until tomorrow.

On Saturday, astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins successfully removed a broken coolant pump, but the pump prevents equipment from overheating and needs to be replaced.

HOLMES: Yeah, the five-hour mission was actually cut short when Mastracchio complained of cold feet after water leaked into the spacesuit.

Now, here to talk more about this is astronaut Ron Garan, joining us from Houston.

You know, you've repaired that broken pump. How tough is that?

You know, you've got 35-year-old space suit to blame for this, in a way. What kind of problems does that cause?

RON GARAN, ASTRONAUT: Well, you know, when we go out on a spacewalk, our spacesuits are really self-contained spaceships, and there is a lot of moving parts.

There's a lot of things that protect us, for one thing, but they also make our job a little difficult.

One of those things is the pressure in the suit itself. Everything -- every time we grab something with our hand, every time we move, we have to fight against the pressure of our suit.

And those suits when you put all the tools on it and all the equipment, they could be up to 350 pounds. Now, obviously in space, they're weightless, but we're still moving that mass around and we still have to deal with that.

And it really is a very fatiguing, physically fatiguing, adventure out there in space when you're on a spacewalk.

MALVEAUX: Ron, tell us about that, because you've actually had that experience.

For those of us who couldn't even imagine what it's like, give us a sense why that is so important that you have that -- that the liquid stays out of the suit because you had the Italian astronaut nearly drowning after a space helmet filled with water.

Describe why that's so important and what is it like.

GARAN: One of the things that we're concerned about on a spacewalk is keeping the astronauts cool, because you're doing all that work and there's nowhere for the heat to go.

And, so, we have cooling systems within the spacesuit, and basically we're wearing long underwear with tubes that go through it. And in those tubes is cold water that keeps us cold.

And in the case of Luca Parmitano's suit, we think -- there's not a smoking gun yet. We don't know exactly what happened, but we believe that some of the coolant, the water that was used to cool him, leaked out into the suit and ended up in the helmet. And that became a very dangerous situation.

HOLMES: Yeah, they put a snorkel in now in case that happens.

Again, something that I wasn't aware of and a lot of people might not be, there aren't that many of these suits. It's not like you get online to Amazon and get another one.

GARAN: No, exactly. We have a limited number of suits on board.

Right now, the crew is basically mixing and matching and making sure that Rick Mastracchio's suit is properly sized for him when he goes out the door since they're switching him to a different suit.

MALVEAUX: All right, Ron Garan, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. We'll be --

GARAN: Oh, my pleasure.

MALVEAUX: -- watching tomorrow, see how this all goes. Thanks, again.

We're also getting new information about the situation in South Sudan and possible U.S. military involvement in helping evacuate Americans.

That's up next.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to AROUND THE WORLD. Here are some top stories we're follow.

A bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv. Amazingly, nobody was on board because of a quick thinking passenger who noticed a suspicious bag on board, looked in, saw wires inside. The driver got everyone off the bus just in the nick of time.

HOLMES: The bomb went off just minutes later as a bomb expert was trying to detonate it safely. He was not seriously injured. The Israeli government says this is the first bus bombing in Israel in more than a year.

MALVEAUX: Wow. Punishing air strikes in Aleppo, Syria, have killed nearly 500 people in just a week. That is according to the opposition. More than 90 on Sunday alone. The government's helicopters have been dropping barrel bombs packed with explosives and shrapnel on that city.

HOLMES: These bombs are so powerful, they can level entire buildings with one hit. They are packed with all sorts of things from ball bearings to glass to explosives to fuel. The opposition has been calling for a no-fly zone backed by western powers to try to stop the Assad regime from using these things and harming civilians.

MALVEAUX: We are learning more today about the U.S. military's potential plans for a possible military involvement in the conflict in South Sudan. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been working her sources.

And, Barbara, we have some more details about what U.S. assets are going to be brought to South Sudan and how they're used?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed we do. Just in, in the last few minutes, what we have learned is that about 150 Marines on their way to Africa. They have been ordered there by the commander of the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees operations in that part of the world. About 150 heavily armed Marines will go to the nearby nation of Djibouti. They will be on standby for either reinforcing protection at the embassy or evacuating the Americans still there as this war rages out of control.

Thousands of South Sudan trapped in the fighting. There is a lot of concern about what will happen in the coming days. So the U.S. military getting ready, especially after what happened over the weekends. And we have more now about those four U.S. troops injured on Saturday when they tried to be part of an effort to evacuate Americans. We now know that the four injured were part of a Navy SEAL team that had gone in. Their aircraft came under fire as they were attempting to land.

We know the most seriously injured Navy SEAL. Really his injuries were so severe, there was concern about whether he would make it. He has. He was bleeding out. They put that aircraft flew 500 miles after it was hit backing to Uganda. They put him on another plane immediately, flew him to Nairobi, Kenya. This young man really was bleeding out, we are told and they feel it was -- it was really just amazing that they were able to save him on that 500-mile journey and get him medical care. At least three of the wounded now being shipped to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany where they will get care, the most seriously injured Navy SEAL awaiting evacuation.

Suzanne. Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Barbara, thanks.

MALVEAUX: That's miraculous.

HOLMES: Yes, Barbara Starr keeping an eye on things for us at the Pentagon.

And, yes, can't say it often enough too, tough neighborhood. Right next door you've got the Central African Republic that we've been reporting on too which is -- has its own turmoil.

MALVEAUX: The brave, brave soldiers.

And on to a happy story perhaps. Recognizing this guy making the way around the world just in time for the holidays. There he is. His mission, to tell Santa who's been naughty and who's been nice. Kind of like a spy actually.

HOLMES: He is ubiquitous. We're going to talk to the co-creator of "Elf on the Shelf" and talk about what is becoming a global phenomenon.


MALVEAUX: All right. We've got to warn you here, you might want to get the kids out of the room for the next segment. We're serious about this because this is a Christmas sensation, a household name, and we don't want to spoil the fun, of course. It's kind of like a Santa thing, as well. But we've got this guy here, "The Elf on the Shelf," who made his way to the CNN headquarters this holiday season. Look, he even - he blow-dries hair as well.

HOLMES: He's been everywhere. He's been everywhere. Running the cameras. It's not that hard, see? Sorry.

MALVEAUX: He does it all.

HOLMES: Yes. Getting the evil eye now from a couple of cameramen.

Now, this little fellow actually helps spread holiday cheer to children during the days leading up to Christmas. He can direct, as well.

MALVEAUX: And there he is.

HOLMES: And no comment there. Hi, Mary. This is a tradition based on a book by co-author Chanda Bell. And here's how it works. (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: Yes. So give us a sense - I mean you came up with this idea. It has become a global phenomenon now. You've got letters getting to "The Elf on the Shelf." You've got, you know, many, many projects coming out of this. Explain to us, did you ever think this would catch on the way it has?

CHANDA BELL, CO-CEO, CREATIVELY CLASSIC ACTIVITIES AND BOOKS: Well, I grew up with this tradition. When I was a little girl, Santa used to send an elf to our home and the elf used to watch and listen and report to Santa. And I have a twin sister and a younger brother and I assure you he had plenty to say. So when I became an adult, I wanted an elf, you know, to talk to Santa for my own children. And so my mom and I wrote this book together based on our own family tradition. Of course, we had to get permission from Santa Claus. But it really -- it's one of those special family things that the entire family can participate in. It's a family moment.

HOLMES: There's rules, aren't there?

BELL: There are. There are. You know, Santa -- the elves are busy working when Santa sends them to your house.

HOLMES: Right.

BELL: So there are a few rules. You can't touch your elf or his magic might go. So it's a very important rule, especially once the elf has a name. That's how he gets Christmas magic and comes to life. And you -- the elf also cannot speak to children because he's busy working. You know, I'm sure he would love to play, but he can't. He's busy working. So those are really the only two rules. And then families adopt the elf and integrate him into their Christmas holiday. He kind of stays there then.

HOLMES: The other rule is being naughty. And he's going to dub you in, as we say in Australia, yes.

MALVEAUX: Yes. So the idea is really is to influence kids' behavior. To teach them what's naughty, what's nice by pointing out bad behavior, good behavior, that the elf is - that the elf is doing, yes?

BELL: Yes. I'm so glad that you said that because it's fun for families and it's a hide and seek game for children.


BELL: But it also really is a way for them to exercise self-control. And I think that's important. You know, the idea that Santa is watching goes back for decades. And now we know how he's watching. He's watching because "The Elf on the Shelf" sends their little elf from the North Pole. But it's important that people understand how much children love these eves. You name it. You adopt it into your family. You can register your elf's name on our website and you get a letter from Santa. So it is something that's really special and unique to families all around the world.

HOLMES: He -- there's one in my house and does have a positive impact, as well.

BELL: Good.

HOLMES: Are you interested in some of the - some of the - well, let's say, things he gets up to online?

MALVEAUX: Naughty and nice.

HOLMES: Naughty and nice.

MALVEAUX: Adults have him doing all kinds of things.

HOLMES: He's adventurous.

MALVEAUX: Naughty and nice.

BELL: Yes. You know, I tell people all the time that elves match the personality of their family. But clearly our intent is to create meaningful family moments. And this really is about children spending time with their siblings and their family and just getting a chance to talk to each other. You know, our kids are constantly telling us where they found the elf, what the elf was doing. So in our family, the elf is not quite as crazy as some of the things we hear about.

MALVEAUX: Yes, we do see some of the naughty elf pictures, as well. There is something that you're doing that is impacting just bringing clean water to kids and children around the world.

BELL: Yes.


MALVEAUX: Based on the birthday elf, as well. Tell us a little bit about this new project you've got going on.

BELL: Yes. We have -- we have a new product called "The Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition." And we had received letters from children all around the world wanting their special elf to come back for their birthday. So mom and I wrote this book really about how your elf can come back and visit on your birthday. And we were able to integrate a fabulous organization called Charity Water.

MALVEAUX: And where does the water go to? What are these countries specifically?

BELL: Well, there are -- there are 20 underdeveloped countries that Charity Water works with. And we have been able to partner with them specifically to build wells, bring clean drinking water to these communities. Many times this affects the mother and the children because they're the ones having to go get the water miles and miles away. And it also prevents so many illnesses and sicknesses. It can be easily avoided. And so Santa Claus donates $1 from every book purchased for "The Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition" to Charity Water. And we understand that there are communities where all they want for Christmas, you know, or for their birthday is the chance at life and clean drinking water.


BELL: And that's what we're about.

HOLMES: Couldn't be a -- couldn't be a more simple thing that saves many, many lives, and that is clean water. Yes, Chanda, thanks so much. Chanda Bell.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.

HOLMES: Appreciate it.

BELL: You know, guys, this was my pleasure. Merry Christmas. I hope you have a good one.

HOLMES: And you do -

MALVEAUX: We've seen them everywhere.

HOLMES: And you've heard plenty of stories about parents, you know, that moment before sleep going -- elf.

MALVEAUX: Elf anxiety.

BELL: Yes, we've heard that one too.

HOLMES: Check on the elf.

BELL: Yes, yes, check on the elf every night.


BELL: But, thankfully, they usually make it from the North Pole safe and sound.

HOLMES: Yes, they do. They do.

BELL: Yes.

MALVEAUX: We're trying to come up with our own creative ideas, Michael and I, so we can -

BELL: Oh, how fun.

HOLMES: I want an elf that watches her every day.

BELL: Yes, you know, that does - that does tend to help.

HOLMES: It makes her behave, yes.

BELL: It does.



BELL: Yes, you've guys got to give this elf a name, though. CNN needs a special name for their elf so maybe your viewers can help you out.

HOLMES: We'll work something out. Yes.

MALVEAUX: Chanda, thank you so much.

BELL: Bring a little Christmas magic.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.

BELL: Oh, you guys, this is my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

MALVEAUX: All right. Happy holidays.

HOLMES: Good to see you. Thanks so much.

BELL: Merry Christmas.

MALVEAUX: Well, several story caught our attention today, photos, as well. Want you to take a look at this. The world getting ready for the big holiday, of course, on Wednesday.

HOLMES: What holiday?

MALVEAUX: That holiday. You know the one I'm talking about.


MALVEAUX: That holiday.

HOLMES: Oh, I'll be here.

MALVEAUX: Christmas. Stunning images. This is out of the Philippines. Star-shaped Christmas lanterns made to resemble the star of Bethlehem. Believe it or not, they're made from just bamboo and paper. Very pretty.

HOLMES: Beautiful.

We're not quite sure what dressing up as a super hero has to do with Christmas, but what these workers did on their way to a Christmas celebration in the U.K. was to dress up.

MALVEAUX: And, finally, what better way to celebrate finishing all the Christmas shopping than a quick spin on a beautiful carousel. That looks kind of fast, actually. Then shoppers doing a quick (INAUDIBLE).

HOLMES: It's doing 100 miles an hour. Look at it.

MALVEAUX: I know. It looks good (ph), it looks pretty fast to me.

South Bank in London.

HOLMES: Oh, lovely. Yes, that thing is spinning around.

MALVEAUX: All right, thanks for watching AROUND THE WORLD. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now. Have a good afternoon.

HOLMES: See you tomorrow.