Return to Transcripts main page


Pope's First Christmas as Catholic Leader; Risky Emergency Spacewalk Under Way; Hamas: Girl Killed in Israel Airstrike; Snowden Says He's "Won"; Russia Releases Prisoners; Storms Strand Brits; NORAD Tracks, Escorts Santa

Aired December 24, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: NSA leaker Edward Snowden leaks new details about his life in Russia, saying he raised concerns to his superiors before he went rogue. Well, now, how he is living off ramen noodles and why he says I already won.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: More than 200 miles above your head right now, the two astronauts are dangling over the earth, a critical repair job being done to the International Space Station. The space walk under way.

MALVEAUX: And heading into the holiday with divine popularity. The pope gets ready for his first Christmas mass and his approval ratings are soaring.

Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: And I'm Michael Holmes. Happy Christmas Eve.

For those of you who marked the occasion, we're going to start at the Vatican fittingly perhaps where Pope Francis is getting ready to celebrate his first Christmas as leader of the Catholic Church. How much do his followers love this man?

Have a listen.


MALVEAUX: Wow. Wish I could be there actually. Pope Francis is "TIME" magazine's person of the year. He has popularity ratings a lot of politicians would love to have. Our new CNN/ORC poll says 72 percent of all Americans love and approve of Pope Francis. Almost 90 percent of Catholics actually do.

HOLMES: Boy, politicians would love those numbers. Right now, thousands of the faithful are in St. Peter's Square counting down the hours till tonight's mass.

And our Erin McLaughlin is lucky enough to be there.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tree is trimmed. The nativity scene is set to be unveiled and everyone seems excited for the pope's very first Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to share this special moment with a person who is beloved person and we appreciate all he's doing.

MCLAUGHLIN: Nine months into his papacy, much has been made of the pope's reforms. More scrutiny at the Vatican bank, changes to the church's bureaucratic structure, and a commission to deal with the abuse of minors. And that's to name a few.

GERALD O'CONNELL, VATICAN ANALYST: He tends to be a surprise, because he does things that are normal but are very abnormal in terms of the papacy. He brought three homeless men into the place where he's living to have breakfast with him on his birthday.

MCLAUGHLIN: The festivities began on Saturday with his Christmas message to the curia. Pope Francis urged the church's governing body to avoid gossip and to focus on service. Then he practiced what preached, spending three hours at a local hospital, bringing Christmas cheer to sick children.

For the first time ever on Monday, two living popes exchanged Christmas greetings. Francis met with Benedict for 45 minutes.

St. Peter's Basilica is the place to be on Christmas Eve. Pope Francis will celebrate the traditional mass. This year, there were a record number of requests to attend.

And then on Christmas Day, tens of thousands of pilgrims will flood St. Peter's Square to hear his message to the world.

O'CONNELL: People are listening to him because he's speaking in a language that's not Vaticanese. He's speaking the language of ordinary people.


MCLAUGHLIN: Pope Francis has already taken care of his Christmas gifts, 2,000 immigrants at a local shelter received special packs complete with a Christmas card signed by the pope that contained everything they might need to be able to contact loved ones over the holidays including prepaid international phone cards, proof that this pope's message this Christmas really is we all should be helping others -- Suzanne and Michael?

MALVEAUX: Erin, give us a sense of the mood, the tone, how different is it this Christmas with this new pope?

MCLAUGHLIN: I think there's a definite sense of excitement and hope. Thousands of people here have come to Rome to celebrate with this Pope Francis. When I talk to people, there is a real sense of optimism, that change is coming to the church and that thing are really moving in the right direction. They've taken to him.

I spoke to one pilgrim who told me this is the people's pope is what they're saying. So they're definitely excited and they're excited to be sharing this particular celebration with him, as well. MALVEAUX: All right. Lucky assignment there. I'd love to be there. Really wonderful.

HOLMES: She gets all the wonderful gigs.

MALVEAUX: Merry Christmas to you. Tune in to live coverage of the pope's first ever of Christmas mass 6:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

HOLMES: Let's go 200 miles above the earth now, aboard the International Space Station or more correctly just outside it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, guys, we're working on the g tech removal from the M1, M2 lines, that should be the single detector.


HOLMES: That was tape from just a little while ago. Those two NASA astronauts out on an emergency space walk to replace a faulty pump. The pump that will cools down the space station. They're now five hours into the mission and these are live pictures.

Isn't that the extraordinary?

MALVEAUX: Wow, extraordinary that you can actually see that real time.

Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And three out of four fluid lines now connected to the new spare pump module.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be working with the M3 line now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's left is the so-called M3 line. This is a --

MALVEAUX: Alina Machado can explain all. But what we're actually hearing. What are we in for to see this? Is this a difficult mission here?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very difficult, Suzanne, as you would expect in a situation like this so far above the earth in conditions that are treacherous to say the least.

And then add a little bit of ammonia to that and you've got a very difficult situation. These astronauts have been working diligently for more than five hours. We've been monitoring this feed and we've heard mention of some ammonia flakes potentially touching some of the space suits. The significance of that however, we don't know.

As you just heard it seems like they are continuing the process of attaching this spare pump to the international space station. And the hope in all of this has been they'll be able to successfully do that just in time for Christmas. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MACHADO (voice-over): A few minutes ahead of schedule, NASA started another space walk to support the orbiting International Space Station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Mastracchio retrieving failure of an internal flow control valve.

MACHADO (voice-over): Today, astronauts will venture back out of the orbiting international space station. Their mission, to replace a pump needed to cool the vessel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if you guys believe in miracles, but I got the hitch pin on the first try.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's awesome, Rick.

MACHADO: Over the weekend, astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Michael Hopkins removed the faulty cooling pump, which is the size of a refrigerator. They now must install the new one. Their task is a delicate one. The equipment contains a noxious cooling fluid, ammonia.

CHRIS HADFIELD, RETIRED ASTRONAUT: Some of the danger is hooking up the big heavy ammonia lines there that are really thick and massive. And hooking those up, of course, if you were to leak ammonia, it's not a really pleasant chemical. You couldn't bring it inside. So, there's definite risk out there.

MACHADO: Mastracchio will be wearing a newly tailored spacesuit on today's mission, a replacement after a cooling issue with his previous suit during the last walk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only issue that I personally am having is it's very, very cold. I've got very, very good air flow in my boots, but my toes are quite cold.

MACHADO: NASA says there was never any danger to the astronaut. After five hours of meticulous work from Mastracchio and Hopkins on Saturday, day one of the space walk is being called a success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm ready to leave this work site.


MACHADO: NASA hopes by Christmas, all the work will be done, leaving the astronauts to celebrate safely back on the space station.


MACHADO: Now, these are live pictures from space. How cool is that to see this all happening it real-time?

HOLMES: It's amazing.

MALVEAUX: We love this stuff.

MACHADO: Yes. So, we'll be continuing to watch this happen throughout the day. We know that they are again, trying to hook up this the spare pump to the international space station. It seems like things are back on electric.

MALVEAUX: Alina, what does that do whether he they're all said and done? It's fixed or --

MACHADO: The goal is that they'll be able to step away from this project, that it will be connected.

HOLMES: Turn it on.

MACHADO: Turn it on and everything's back to normal.

HOLMES: Like a light switch. It's the cooling module, isn't it? That keeps the space station cool.

MACHADO: Correct.

HOLMES: All right. And from what they're saying, they've got three of the four lines attached. That's me speaking technical.

MALVEAUX: We got this.

Alina, thank you. We appreciate it.

HOLMES: I love that stuff. Live from space.

All right. Turning to more serious news now, violence flaring in the Middle East today. Hamas says an Israeli airstrike killed a 4-year- old girl and wounded three members of her family. This in Gaza, and this happened after Israel says a sniper inside Gaza fatally shot an Israeli citizen or civilian near the border fence between Gaza and Israel. He was working on that fence apparently.

MALVEAUX: Elise Labott is joining us from Washington.

And, Elise, first of all, give us a sense whether or not you think this is going to have any impact on the efforts for some sort of peace talks to move forward. Does this strike you as a move back, a significant move back?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Suzanne, it's been kind of quiet over the last several months on the border with Gaza. There really haven't been any Israelis killed or any additional fire into Gaza. We have to see now that the Palestinians are saying a 4- year-old was killed in this attack, clearly Israelis are bracing for some kind of retaliation.

Air force -- Israeli defense officials tell me there have been several incidents over the past couple days. They've had to defuse a couple of explosive devices. After this shooting which killed a civilian contractor working on the border they felt they needed to contain this and send a message to Hamas that this won't be tolerated. So, they struck at six targets which the IDF says are Hamas and Islamic jihad rocket launchers and training facilities. Now, we have to see if there's going to be some kind of escalation.

HOLMES: It's the classic tit-for-tat, isn't it? Has Hamas admitted anything here in the problem in Gaza, Hamas isn't the only show in town. It's sort of running the place if you like, but there's plenty of other groups that happens do operate independently. Has there been any admission?

LABOTT: Well, Hamas seem to be saying on twitter they thought this man was a soldier that was killed. The Israelis are saying he was a civilian --

MALVEAUX: Lost Elise Labott.

And, of course, the State Department weighing in as well. John Kerry trying desperately to get the two sides to talk to each other.


MALVEAUX: He has not been successful. He has been back to the region many, many times.

We're also following this. Two explosions that hit an Egyptian government building today -- this is in the city of Mansour -- killing at least 12 people, more than 130 were injured. Egypt's interim prime minister called it a terrorist attack, indirectly blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, the party that backs the ousted president Mohamed Morsy.

HOLMES: Yes, the Muslim Brotherhood (INAUDIBLE) tweeting it strongly condemned these bombings. Now, the blast comes as see Egypt is set to vote on a new constitution in the next few weeks. It's a draft constitution, it would ban religious political parties and put more power in the hands of the military. This is also significant because this is a very secure part of that area. Government buildings hit, obviously a major breach of security.

MALVEAUX: And now to the world's newest country, South Sudan which many fear could be on the brink of civil war. U.S. marines are on stand by right now ready to move in and rescue Americans who are now stranded there.

Situation there is volatile. The United Nations warns today that there are reports of ethnic killings and mass graves.

I want to get the latest from the correspondent Barbara Starr who you just got word Secretary of State John Kerry has talked with what, a key rebel leader who used to be South Sudan's haven't. What do we know about this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, U.S. government officials are confirming the Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken to the rebel leader who used to be the vice president of the country. A lot of people in South Sudan believe he was behind what is believed to be a military coup attempt several days ago that sparked all of this fighting that is now turned into somewhat of ethnic warfare across the country.

Reports by United Nations of mass graves, of continued violence.

As for the Americans, the reason the marines are now nearby, 150 Marines, if an order comes to evacuate them or reinforce the embassy, this time they'll have the marines nearby to carry that out. They believe they've evacuated most of the Americans that want to get out of the most troubled area, but there still are Americans there, and they want to be able to deal with whatever arises in the coming days.

HOLMES: It's a crazy political situation there. Riek Machar, the opposition leader, says he didn't carry out a coup. But the sectarian nature of this, the tribal nature of this is what's really worrying people looking in. Something like 80,000 people have fled their homes, a lot of them hanging out at U.N. bases.

What's the U.N. working on?

STARR: Well, this is the big concern, as you say. These U.N. areas now are trying to shelter upwards of 40,000 South Sudanese trying to escape the violence and get any safe shelter that they can.

Yesterday, in fact, the U.N. was reinforcing its camps to avoid attacks. They were digging, putting up security barriers, doing whatever they could, trying to ensure their camps were safe from the fighting. They have been attacked in the past. We saw two Indian peacekeepers, two Indian people murdered just a few days ago when they were attacked in this area. So this is part of the concern.

A lot of talk that the government has been able to be retake some of these areas. But that's very uncertain whether any of that will hold for the moment. I think the United Nations is very convinced that the fighting will continue, and they are calling for hundreds if not thousands of more peacekeeping personnel to move into the region.

HOLMES: Yes, and the government saying it has, as you say Barbara recaptured a town of Bor, a very strategic place. Barbara Starr at the pentagon, thanks so much. Also point out to people the U.N. is going to be meeting a couple hours from now to talk about sending more, several thousand more peacekeepers into South Sudan there. They're worried about it.

MALVEAUX: We're also following this for AROUND THE WORLD. Watch.

Fears of violence rising in Uganda. This is after the parliament there passed a bill that could lead to people being sent to prison for life. Just for being gay.

Plus this.


MALVEAUX: Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoning those critical of him. Is it a change of heart or a P.R. move before the Sochi Olympics?

HOLMES: And we're tracking big red today. If you've been naughty, well, you have a lot. It's too late. No hope for you.

Santa is on the way. He's loaded up with the presents and cold probably.

MALVEAUX: We're tracking his movements up ahead.


TECH SERGEANT JORDAN APPLEGATE: I'm Tech Sergeant Jordan Applegate stationed in (inaudible) Air Base, Turkey, and this is my lovely wife Mallory (ph).

During this holiday season, we especially remember Jesus who gave us life and our families who add value to our lives.

MALLORY APPLEGATE: We miss you, family in Arkansas and we love you. We wish we were with you this Christmas.

J. APPLEGATE: I love you guys. We miss you.


MALVEAUX: Here are the stories making news AROUND THE WORLD right now.

For the first time since he arrived in Russia in June, NSA leaker Edward Snowden sat down for an interview, spilling the beans and the secrets, as well.

Talking to a reporter for "The Washington Post," Snowden says his mission is already accomplished. And that he's already won.

HOLMES: Yeah, Snowden says he did what he set out to do, let the public know about the NSA's wide-ranging surveillance program.

He says he raised concerns about the NSA spying operations with colleagues and his superiors.

He also revealed details about his life in Russia, says he doesn't go out much, he doesn't drink and for some reason pretty much lives off Ramen noodles and chips.

MALVEAUX: Less than two months till the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin is easing up on critics.

Two members of the all-female punk band Pussy Riot members were released after serving almost two years behind bars for a performance that was critical of Putin.

HOLMES: Mr. Putin also pardoned the oil tycoon and longtime critic and once Russia's richest man Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

So, why now? Is this just a p.r. move ahead of Sochi?

Let's bring in Jill Dougherty. Jill, we've been talking about this the last couple of days, whether this sort of mass release of people, this forgiveness of those who opposed him, is -- I don't know -- sort of airbrushing Russia before the Olympics.

What's the sense in Russia?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIR CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think partially that is what it is.

There's no denying that all of these three events, you know, Greenpeace, Pussy Riot, Khodorkovsky, all of them are happening just a month or so before the Olympics, so that could be one factor.

But, you know, I think it's too simplistic to just say that Vladimir Putin wants to brush off the reputation of Russia or himself.

There are other things at play, and I think in each case, each of those three, he is sending a message.

Let's begin with the Pussy Riot girls. They are unrepentant, even though they're out. Let's listen to them first. This Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.


NADEZHDA TOLOKONNIKOVA, FREED PUTIN CRITIC (via translator): The political situation is sad at the moment, really sad. And the political regime in Russia is leading the country to a collapse.

So, of course, if the Western countries would show the strong, political ethical position, they will need to boycott the games.


DOUGHERTY: OK, so she wants the rest of the world to boycott the Olympic Games in Sochi.

But what's the message? The message seems to be, as President Vladimir Putin said at a news conference that I attended just a few days ago, he said, I don't feel sorry for the girls being in prison, but I do feel sorry for the girls denigrating, lowering the image of women.

So the message is out there. They are being punished because they had a moral trespass, a trespass against morality. They're punished, and that's the message. It goes over well in Russia, right now.

Khodorkovsky, business, don't even try to get involved in politics if you're involved in business. And there are others.

MALVEAUX: And Jill, real quickly here it, because Michael and I were talking about this before, Edward Snowden, why the change here in his lifestyle, that he's eating Ramen noodles?

Do we really believe that that's the case? Have they done something with Snowden to indicate that they're not really in good favor?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I mean, I don't know. You can find Ramen noodles in Moscow, too, and maybe that is what he eats.

But there, that -- he has really been pretty quiet up until now. He's saying more things.

But I think you'd have to look at what President Putin continues to say, which is NSA spying, in a way, it's not good. There should be controls on it.

However, as he put just a few days ago, it is important for protecting against terrorism.

So, even in that, is Mr. Putin is playing the role of kind of the nice guy.

But behind all of this, I really do want to stress, there is a message to people who are taking any type of action against the Russian government, that you had better watch it.

MALVEAUX: All right. Jill Dougherty, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

And thousands of holiday travelers in the U.K. now stranded because of bad weather.

We're going to take a look at the impact of flooding, high winds on southern England. up next.


MALVEAUX: There are actually a lot of angry holiday travelers in Britain.

Why? One of the strongest storms to hit the U.K. in years has stranded thousands of passengers. Planes, trains, automobiles, you name it. The ferry service has now been disrupted, forcing folks to spend the night in their cars.

HOLMES: Yeah, if you were watching yesterday, we told you this was coming. Winds were up to 80-miles-an-hour. Flooding throughout parts of England and Wales, that's left tens of thousands of people with no power.

France getting a bit of a battering, as well.

Two people have died because of this weather.

MALVEAUX: Here's hoping that the weather doesn't impact Santa on his journey delivering gifts around the world.

HOLMES: Of course not.

MALVEAUX: Of course not.

The U.S., Canadian governments have been tracking Santa's reindeer flight for more than 50 years. We want you to check this out.

This is the Web site, That's right. We're serious, very serious here. This is the North American Aerospace Command's powerful radar system, not only warning of possible missile launches, tracking Santa as he leaves the North Pole.

HOLMES: I wonder if the NSA is involved.

Right now, you can see where Santa is by tracking the little Santa icon on the globe. There he is. Look. Isn't that cute?

A counter actually keeps track of how many tens of thousands of gifts he has already delivered.

You know he was actually just over Western Australia an hour or two ago, my home state.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, I hope you were good.


MALVEAUX: Yeah. Not so naughty.

Joining us Major General Charles Luckey, chief of staff of NORAD. You've been doing this since -- what -- 1958?

MAJOR GENERAL CHARLES LUCKEY, CHIEF OF STAFF, NORAD: Yeah, we've been doing it since the '50s. In fact, the mission actually predates even NORAD. Back when it was the Continental Defense Command it started, and we've been doing it ever since.

And it is -- it's a wonderful time of the year. It's a great opportunity to make sure that Santa travels safely and securely, and it also gives us an opportunity to let kids all over the world know where Santa is and what time we expect him to be wherever it is that they're living.

MALVEAUX: I'm hoping he gets to Atlanta soon. Where is he now?

LUCKEY: He just -- he's just left the Maldives and he looks like he's heading over India as we speak.

HOLMES: I've been around the Maldives. That's a beautiful spot to the stop for Christmas.

And, listen, the fighter jet escorts that are in now -- in fact, let's have a listen to this and we'll chat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big Red One is moving over the Arctic Ocean with no problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, Aegis. We should be getting visual i.d. from the pilots at this time.

Papa Bear Zero One, what are you seeing from your vantage point in Canada?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, our main goal here is to get a radar lock and visual of Big Red One using information from NORAD sector controllers and onboard fighter aircraft systems.

HOLMES: It's all very official, isn't it? I suppose you do have to keep an eye on it.

But why the jets? I don't know. It seems a little sad, really. We've got -- we went into scramble here.

LUCKEY: This is part of NORAD's core mission. This is one of the things that we do all the time around the clock protecting the skies over North America.

But when it comes to Santa, we just want to make sure his travels are safe and secure wherever he goes, that he doesn't run into trouble with the Grinch just in case the Grinch's heart shrinks again.

Or. you know, we've got Bumbles may get his teeth back and we've got to deal with the Abominable Snowman.

So there's a lot of threats out there, but Santa has always been escorted safely and peacefully by NORAD.

It's a mission we're proud of, and we look forward to do it for Santa for as long as he needs us.

MALVEAUX: General, I hadn't thought about that, all the threats. That's true. The Abominable Snowman --

HOLMES: You're absolutely right.

MALVEAUX: Many kids, have they been naughty and nice? Is Santa making more or less stops this year?

HOLMES: Have you been naughty or nice?

LUCKEY: Who me?


LUCKEY: Always sweet.

MALVEAUX: Always sweet.

HOLMES: Awesome to speak with you, General. Great job you and the guys are doing there. Really appreciate that. Thanks so much.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, tracking Santa.

LUCKEY: Appreciate all of you, and have happy holidays, and thanks a lot for your support.

HOLMES: Thanks -

MALVEAUX: Happy holidays to you, too.

HOLMES: -- to you, General.

MALVEAUX: He's making a stop at my place. Is he making a stop at yours? I don't know.

HOLMES: Of course he is.

MALVEAUX: You think?

HOLMES: Of course he is.

You know, I had wondered about the whole fighter jet thing, and now we know, Grinch, Abominable Snowman, yeah.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, that's true. All you've got to do is turn on the Christmas special and we'll see.

HOLMES: Don't mess with NORAD.