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THE SITUATION ROOM
Stranded in Ice; Russia Bombings; Search for Missing Doctor Continues
Aired December 30, 2013 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin this hour with growing fears and around the world that terrorists will attempt to strike at the Winter Olympics. Another deadly bombing rocked southern Russia today, the second attack there in two days.
Now the United States is offering to help Russia tighten security for the Winter Games in Sochi that begin in fewer than six weeks.
CNN's Diana Magnay joins us now live from Moscow.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake.
Russian officials had always maintained that these Olympic Games will be the safest Olympics ever, which is a very bold claim when you decide to host those Games in a city and a region that is not 200 miles away from an area where you have been fighting an Islamist insurgency for more than a decade.
That is believed to be where the attackers in this latest string of bombings came from. Let's take a look at what happens over the last 24 hours in the city of Volgograd.
MAGNAY (voice-over): Two deadly attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd in less than 24 hours. Monday's attack on a crowded trolley bus in morning rush hour, more than a dozen killed, authorities say the blast the work of a suicide bomber, possibly detonating his device toward the back end of the bus where the damage seems worse.
Many on board were students. This is exam time in Russia. Among the injured, a baby boy, now in a coma with multiple skull injuries. Authorities say they don't know who he is or whether his parents were killed in the blast. This follows another attack at noon on Sunday in Volgograd's main railway station. The moment of the explosion caught on surveillance video; 17 people were killed in that blast, authorities saying that was also the work of a suicide bomber.
These attacks come less than six weeks before the start of the Winter Games in Sochi. Russia's President Vladimir Putin has vowed the highest security around the Games themselves in the town of Sochi, but it is clearly hard to police the whole of southern Russia to the same level. Russia is fighting an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus not far from Sochi. In July, Russia's most wanted man, Doku Umarov, a Chechen extremist, and leader of an Islamist faction in the North Caucasus, threatened to unleash -- quote -- "maximum force" to prevent the Games from happening.
The U.S. State Department has a $5 million reward out for Umarov. Former intelligence officials believe further attacks are entirely possible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if we don't see one, an attempt on the Olympics, I would be very surprised.
MAGNAY: Now, Jake, of course, around Sochi itself, security is extremely high, and officials are saying they don't need to change the security irrespective of these Games, but think of all the other places in Russia where athletes and where visitors may be coming through, the major transportation hubs, rail hubs like Volgograd.
These are places also that need to be highly secured ahead of the Games in this vast country. You can be sure also that many Russians feel extremely vulnerable from these attackers in the North Caucasus knowing that security attention will be diverted towards Sochi -- Jake.
TAPPER: Diana, thanks.
Let's talk more about Olympic security. The CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, is on the phone with us, and here in our studios, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes and CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty.
Mr. Blackmun, I will start with you.
In the wake of the terror attacks in Russia and direct threats to the Olympics from this Islamist group, what measures are you taking to ensure the security of U.S. athletes and tourists?
SCOTT BLACKMUN, CEO, U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Jake, if I could, I would first like to offer our condolences to Russia, and particular the people of Volgograd, for the loss of life and violence they have experienced over the last 48 hours.
As you may or may not know, we do not bring our own security force to the Games. We rely on local law enforcement, the expertise and cooperation of the U.S. State Department, and we take security very, very seriously for each Games. Every time our athletes leave American soil, we have different challenges, and Sochi is one of those challenges. As I said, we really lie on Russian law enforcement working in cooperation with the State Department to make sure things are as safe as possible for our athletes.
TAPPER: Have you heard from your athletes and others in the last couple days expressing concern about how safe it will be to go to Sochi?
BLACKMUN: We have received questions from a handful of our national governing bodies as to whether we have gotten any updates from the organizing committee or from the State Department.
We have shared with them what we know. At this point our athletes are really focused on competition, and this is the most important competition of their lives, and the good news is that's where their attention is focused now.
TAPPER: Tom Fuentes, I want to turn to you.
The Obama administration put out a statement today saying -- quote -- "The U.S. government has offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games and we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation."
Translate that for us. What is the Obama administration saying? Are they saying let us bring our security forces in there to help you? What exactly are they driving at?
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, basically that's right, Jake. They're offering any assistance the Russians would be willing to accept, but again that's a political situation, because many countries, not just Russia in this case, but many countries don't want to admit they can't handle the security requirements.
They make statements, oh, yes, we're in command, we're in control, no problem, when really you can't in this situation, you just about cannot have enough security personnel in Russia to handle this situation.
TAPPER: Especially when the Sochi Olympics will be held a roughly three-hour drive away from an area of the world that Russia has been fighting with for a decade.
Jill, when President Obama went to the funeral or the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the U.S. relied upon South Africa, and we saw what happened there, thankfully nothing serious, but somebody who should not have been able to be close to the president, that translator, the sign language translator was able to get there. How are the Russians handling this?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They have a lot of people they're going to be using.
They say it's going to be secure, but one of the problems -- and this is from personal experience. They can say something is locked down, but often behind the scenes there's something that's really not locked down in the proper way. For example, we were just talking about this. You can right now in Russia sometimes goes through a magnetometer, a metal detector, and it looks as if everything is fine, and it's turned off. It's a figment of their imagination.
They actually will turn them off because somebody just either forget or didn't want to be bothered. That's the problem. It's very porous security.
TAPPER: You have seen this happen?
DOUGHERTY: I have. I can tell you other stories. One of the other problems is they are very -- when they begin to crack down, they become rather -- they can radicalize people by being so crude about it.
And right now there's a phenomenon of young Russians, actual Russians who are being radicalized towards Islam, believe it or not, because of this crackdown. That's another factor. So, before, the guys with the beards might stick out, now a Russian guy might get through.
TAPPER: Scott Blackmun, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee.
When you talk about how the Russians are in charge of security, are you talking about taking other steps in any way, hiring a Russian security firm, trying to get permission from the Russian government to allow U.S. security to accompany your athletes? What more can you do?
BLACKMUN: Yes, it's not prudent to get into any discussions around our individual security plans, but we have a customized plan for each Games that we attend.
It's a plan that evolves as we get closer to the Games, and, you know, on this issue, the interests of American and Russia are probably more aligned than they are on any other issue. They have the will, and they have the means and they have the motivation to make sure the people who come to compete and come to watch the Games are protected.
We feel good about the information we are getting. We feel good about the fact that we have our State Department in direct communication with the Russian authorities, so we, you know, obviously -- these incidents are concerning to us, but I think we're doing everything we can to make sure that Americans are safe in Sochi.
TAPPER: Obviously terrorism at the Olympics is not. In 1972, there was Black September, those Israeli athletes and coach killed by Palestinian terrorists. You had the anti-gay, anti-abortion domestic terrorist in this country striking at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
How concerned are you?
FUENTES: Well, I'm very concerned. I was an assistant tactical commander at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
The planning that went into that years in advance was extensive, even though there was no specific information that ever came up that any group in the world was planning an attack. In this case, you have Doku Umarov, the leader of the Chechen terrorist group, announcing back in July that he's going to wage an attack on these Games.
So this is something -- this is the first time you have had a group publicly state that they're going to attack the Olympic Games, disrupt the Olympic Games, and in this case now it's widely assumed that the two attacks in Volgograd were generated by that group. TAPPER: Jill, last word. How concerned are you?
DOUGHERTY: I'm quite concerned.
It may be that they can lock down the venue, but there's a lot of transit for athletes from place to place. That's one problem. And don't forget, we talk about Volgograd, but Dagestan is the center, it's very close, right east of Sochi.
That is the center of all of this radicalism right now in Russia.
TAPPER: Jill Dougherty, Tom Fuentes, and Scott Blackmun on the phone, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Still ahead, a daring new attempt to save dozens of people who have been trapped on a ship in icy waters for nearly a week. Other rescues failed. This attempt will be different, they hope. It could feel like 50 degrees below zero in some places tonight. Stand by for the brutal forecast into the new year.
TAPPER: This just in.
We have new picture from a fiery train crash in North Dakota. Flames reportedly have shot as high as 100 feet in the air. At least a dozen firefighters are on the scene in Casselton. Conditions are reportedly very hazardous, because the Burlington Northern was carrying oil.
Officials say no injuries have yet been reported, but people in the area are being warned to stay inside. Authorities are not sure when they will be able to get the blaze under control. We will stay on top of that story as it develops.
A year of extreme weather is ending with a deadly blast of brutal cold that will spread across the U.S. in the hours and days ahead. In parts of the Midwest, the windchills could be as low as 50 degrees below zero tonight.
TAPPER: Rescuers are trying a dramatic new way to save 74 people trapped at sea for nearly a week. They're on board a ship that is stuck in the ice near Antarctica. So far, other attempts to rescue them have failed.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Sunlen.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, they have tried so many times to get to this shift, but they just can't.
Even this morning, an Australian icebreaker tried to get there, but it was stopped by a blizzard. So, today, they have given up trying to get a ship to them. And now they will try something new from above.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SERFATY (voice-over): Trapped by sea, nearly five dozen people on this research ship must now be rescued by air. This helicopter will be launched from the deck of the Snow Dragon, the Chinese icebreaker just 10 miles away, as soon as the weather improves. The conditions now, gusty winds and poor visibility.
CHRIS TURNEY, EXPEDITION LEADER: The wind is quite intense, not ideal for helicopters operations, unfortunately.
SERFATY: It's been nearly a week since the Russian ship was stranded, locked in ice between Antarctica and New Zealand. Three separate icebreakers attempted to rescue them. The closest got within six nautical miles, but all three missions failed. The ice is simply too thick.
TURNEY: Unfortunately, they couldn't get through. It's deeply frustrating.
SERFATY: In the meantime, the passengers have made life aboard the stranded ship seem fun.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to have some singing on the ice.
SERFATY: They have celebrated birthdays, taken up art, and bonded with the locals, but now that fun is over. Experts who knows the region say the sustained bad weather, now a nuisance, could become deadly.
CHRISTINE DELL'AMORE, NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM: The thing about Antarctica is, it's extremely unpredictable. So, you have no idea what can happen tomorrow. The ideal thing would be to get them out as quickly as possible. It's the most extreme place on Earth. It's the coldest place on Earth, it's the windiest place on earth, and it's the driest place on earth. If you put all those elements together, you have very dangerous conditions that could easily kill you in a matter of minutes.
SERFATY: It's not just the temperature that has those on board worried.
TURNEY: We have got about 10 days' worth of food. We just did a stock take of fresh food. We have got several weeks of delicious dehydrated foods in packets afterwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And when this helicopter does come, 18 people from the crew will stay behind to man the ship. And in the meantime, Jake, we did hear from one person on board today. He says that morale is getting lower by the day. People are just getting anxious.
TAPPER: I would be. My God. Sunlen, thank you so much.
Coming up, new video surfaces of a missing doctor. Who is she singing to? And could the answer crack the case? And it was one of the most popular videos of 2013 -- one man's stunning revelation after working up from surgery. He's married. Jeanne Moos is next.
TAPPER: Possible clues have surfaced in the search for a young doctor who vanished earlier this month. Videos posted on YouTube show the woman singing, apparently to a mystery love.
Here's CNN's Alexandria Field.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators are examining new YouTube videos of Teleka Patrick serenading an unidentified love interest in their search for clues in her disappearance.
TELEKA PATRICK, MISSING MEDICAL STUDENT: Hi, baby. Good night.
FIELD: In the videos she apparently shot herself, Teleka repeatedly refers to someone as "love" and "baby."
PATRICK: Hi, love.
FIELD: Investigators wonder if this person may have information about what happened on December 5, the night Teleka vanished.
IRENE PATRICK, MOTHER OF TELEKA: The search has been intensified, but to date no leads.
FIELD: Surveillance footage from that night shows her trying to check in at the Radisson Hotel. Authorities say this is the place where she was last seen boarding the hotel's shuttle bus that took her to her car parked at the Borgess Medical Center where she worked in Kalamazoo. The 30-year-old had just graduated from medical school and was only months into her residency at the hospital.
Just hours after she was captured on this surveillance camera, authorities found her car abandoned with a flat tire off Interstate 94 in Porter, Indiana, about 100 miles from where she worked. Inside, a credit card, some cash, and her driver's license. Her bizarre disappearance has investigators in two states stumped after their all- out searches have turned up nothing. These new videos are raising more questions than answers.
PATRICK: We are desperate to hear something.
FIELD: And you can just hear the desperation in that mother's voice. The family insists that Teleka would not just voluntary vanish. In fact, they say she had bought plane tickets to visit them in Florida over the holidays. So, the family is now offering a $15,000 reward for anyone who can provide information, Jake, that leads to her return.
TAPPER: Alexander Field, thank you so much.
Turning now to what was one of the most popular videos in 2013, a man who wakes up from surgery and comes to a fairly shocking realization. He's married.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He seemed to be waking up after a hernia operation, eating a cracker when his eyes focused on the woman beside his bed.
JASON MORTENSEN, HUSBAND FORGOT HIS WIFE: Did the doctor send you? Man, you are eye candy.
MOOS: The prettiest woman he's ever seen, he said.
CANDICE MORTENSEN, JASON'S WIFE: My name's Candice. I'm your wife.
J. MORTENSEN: You're my wife?
C. MORTENSEN: Yes.
J. MORTENSEN: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: The YouTube video "Entitled Seeing Her for the First Time Again" has women gushing."That time when you laugh and cry in your cub at the same watching a video at lunch."
J. MORTENSEN: Do we have children yet?
C. MORTENSEN: Not yet.
J. MORTENSEN: Man, have we kissed yet?
MOOS: Even female co-hosts were smitten over how smitten Jason Mortensen was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whatever he's on (INAUDIBLE), ask me on.
MOOS (on camera): Some skeptics cried fake. When we got hold of the love struck husband on the phone, and he assured us it was all true. He gave us the name and number of his doctor to verify the surgery.
(Voice-over): American Fork Hospital in Utah confirmed that Dr. Paul Robinson performed surgery on Jason back on August 21st.
Jason says his wife Candace has been by his side through five surgeries in the six years they've been married, but who's counting?
J. MORTENSEN: How long have we been married? C. MORTENSEN: A long time.
J. MORTENSEN: My god. I hit the jackpot.
MOOS: Not since the YouTube video "David After the Dentist."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this real life?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is real life.
MOOS: Has a sedated person awakened such interest on the Web.
J. MORTENSEN: Whoa, your teeth are perfect. MOOS (on camera): Jason told me on the phone that he was a little reluctant to post the video, because for one thing he didn't like that he swore.
J. MORTENSEN: Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
MOOS: Something he doesn't usually do. Blame it on the anesthesia.
(Voice-over): Might as well blame this on it, too.
J. MORTENSEN: Turn around.
C. MORTENSEN: No.
MOOS: Responded one poster, "Turn around. Men are all the same even when they're all doped up, LOL." But not many guys get to experience love at first sight. Twice.
Jeanne Moos, CNN.
J. MORTENSEN: You're my wife?
MOOS: New York.
TAPPER: That's Jeanne Moos. Thank you so much.
That's it for me.