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NEW DAY

Hero Target Worker; JetBlue's Weather Woes; UTEP Sports Gambling Scandal; Who Will Shine In Sochi?

Aired January 8, 2014 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Authorities say he was trapped in the snow with three other people. They managed to survive. Seibert is the grandson of the man who co-founded the Vail ski resort.

Shocking new developments coming to light in a New Year's Day arrest. Prosecutors say an Indiana guardsman stopped for speeding outside of Ohio had close to 50 bombs inside his vehicle. The man also reportedly had four loaded guns, the blue prints for a Navy SEAL facility and a remote control detonator. Investigators are trying now to figure out why he had that arsenal.

More than 100 police officers and firefighters from New York City have pleaded not in a massive fraud scheme. It's alleged they built Social Security out of hundreds of millions of dollars. More than half the defendants claim bogus post-traumatic stress claims from 9/11. But photos showed many of them playing basketball, doing martial arts and other activities. We'll have more on this in our next hour.

Check this out. Wow. Really close call for a state trooper in Utah. His dashboard camera captured a way ward semi-trailer veering off the interstate. Jack Knight crashing into that concrete barrier. The driver said he became distracted and didn't see traffic slowing down for an accident.

It shows you how quickly that can happen and how fortunate those center dividers are. They can make such a difference because that would have been a head-on coalition.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: They're big enough for my car, but to stop the semi -- it even stopped the semi. Thank goodness.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Strong infrastructure point.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Many of these, that could have been much worse.

All right. JetBlue, how about them? Under fire this morning. Why? The company is trying to defend itself from canceling flights, more than 1,800 over just the last week. Now, the carrier blames bad weather and new pilot rules for many of the delays, but how will they get out of this logistical and PR nightmare.

CNN's Rene Marsh is at Reagan National Airport. Good morning, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

You know, JetBlue became the story in the midst of all of this winter weather, because those customers, they were criticizing the way they were dealing with the weather delay. Well, at this point now, JetBlue is trying to make good with those customers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Thousands of JetBlue passengers are finally reaching their destinations, as the airline tries to get back on track following their unpopular decision to ground outline planes scheduled to depart New York City, New Jersey and Boston airports Monday night into Tuesday.

KRISTA HOBISLAN, PASSENGER: I had to find out through the news that my flight was -- they shut down completely.

MARSH: JetBlue canceled more than 1,800 flights since Thursday, stranding thousands of passengers in the U.S. and the Caribbean, and bruising the public's opinion of the airline. Now, it's in damage control.

ROB MARUSTER, JETBLUE CHIEF OPERATING: I absolutely think we did the right thing, because when you're doing things for safety reasons, not only of our people, but of our assets and inevitably our customers, I think we're doing them the best service possible, no matter how hard the short term pain is.

MARSH: In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, the airlines had cancellations impacted 150,000 passengers. Operations are returning to normal, but JetBlue predicts the backlog could take another day to work through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got the last seat, first flight out.

MARSH: Almost every major airline was impacted by the now infamous polar vortex, but JetBlue bears the brunt of the criticism.

DANIEL BAKER, FLIGHTAWARE.COM: They're certainly a victim of their location. The vast majority of their flights from the Northeast, and I believe the plurality are from JFK. They were more affected than the carriers that they're being compared with.

MARSH: JetBlue has a history of weather troubles. In a 2007 storm, passengers sat for eight hours on the tarmac in New York prompting new federal rules. But the airline says it has changed and takes steps to protect passengers.

MARUSTER: When weather is going to win, we let weather win.

MARSH: To make good with angry passengers, JetBlue is offering compensation based on how many times their flights were canceled. One cancellation, 5,000 frequent flier points or $50. Up to 20,000 points and round trip fights, or $200 for four or more cancellations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: All right. Well, the good news is things look really good here and around the country. There are still delays and cancellations. But again, things are looking a lot better than they looked days ago -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank goodness. Starting to see a turnaround. Thank you so much, Rene.

We're going to take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY: a target employee spots a suspicious looking customer. And what she did then that helped police rescue a 7-year-old kidnapping victim, coming up.

CUOMO: And now that Lindsey Vonn has been forced to withdraw from the Winter Games, you know she would have done anything to be there, it races a question. Have we ever had a Winter Olympics with so little star power? Who's going to fill the void? We discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Let's go around the world now.

The first shipment of chemical weapons material has been taken out of Syria to be destroyed. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is following that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A milestone in the international effort to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that on Tuesday, the first batch of important chemical materials had been loaded onto a ship for permanent removal from Syria.

This was supposed to have happened a week ago. The U.N. blames the delay on the overall volatility of the security situation in Syria. All of Syria's chemical weapons are scheduled to be eliminated and removed by the end of June.

Back to you, Kate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Mohammed, thank you for that update.

Let's go to England now. Prince William goes back to school to prepare for the day he becomes king.

Erin McLaughlin has more from London.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost half a century after his fair went to Cambridge University, Prince William is following his footsteps. Yesterday, he began a 10-week course in agricultural management designed to prepare him to eventually take over Prince Charles' estates. And he arrived at school just like any other school commuter, on a 46-minute train and was given a campus tour.

As for the kind of privacy he was afforded as a student at Saint Andrews, well, not so much as Cambridge. The student paper has already given him his own hashtag, #whereiswillie?

Back to you, Kate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: You know you've made it when you've got your own hash tag. Thanks so much, Erin.

PEREIRA: All right. We have an amazing story to tell you about this morning. Bizarre suspected kidnapping with an even more unusual and happy ending this morning. A Target store employee is being hailed a hero. Her swift action helped to save a little girl and put that suspect behind bars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROXANNA RAMIREZ, HERO TARGET EMPLOYEE: He was just fidgeting around. I wasn't getting a good vibe off of him.

PEREIRA: Twenty-two-year-old Roxanna Ramirez was working at a Target in Antioch, California, Friday night when she noticed a bizarre man in the parking lot.

RAMIREZ: At one point, I've seen him grabbed on his steering wheel and start to shake it, like something was wrong with him. So, then, I thought, OK, there's something wrong with this guy, like he was not at all there.

PEREIRA: She wrote down the car's license plate number. When she got home that night, a friend told her about an Amber alert that had just been issued.

RAMIREZ: The car looked the same. It looks like it might be the same person and I was like I wrote down the license plate number. My girlfriend was telling me, you should call, you should call.

PEREIRA: Police were on a hunt for a man they say had stopped a mother and her 7-year-old daughter at a Walmart earlier that night and followed them home.

LT. JOHN VANDERBILT, ANTIOCH POLICE: There was a weapon used. The mother attempted to stop the male from abducting her daughter. And when she approached him, the male produced what's been described as a rifle and the mom stopped. He was able to force the child into the car and then fled the scene.

PEREIRA: Based on Ramirez's tip, police were able to track down the suspect in just four hours. Forty-three-year-old David Douglas was arrested. The 7-year-old girl identified as Natalie Calvo was recovered safely in his car.

DAVID DOUGLAS, ACCUSED KIDNAPPER: I did not hurt her, no.

PEREIRA: Douglas is now talking in a jailhouse interview. He says the kidnapping was a cry for help. He claims the government, his neighbors and his family are conspiring against him, and he believes the mother may have been in on the conspiracy.

DOUGLAS: The mother made a very, very obvious effort of turning and looking right at me. Not just glancing at me. She looked right at me as if she was signifying to me as though she were a part of this.

PEREIRA: Douglas now says he feels remorseful.

DOUGLAS: I have a son of my own. Sure, absolutely. You have to appreciate how desperate I am.

PEREIRA: But this little girl is now safe thanks to one quick- thinking young woman.

RAMIREZ: I wanted to keep this to myself, and it was a good thing I didn't because I just saved a little girl's life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PEREIRA: Thank goodness she did not.

David Douglas, the suspect, is being held on suspicion of kidnapping. Right now, the bail had been set at $4 million. Formal charges are expected to be announced as early as today. Meanwhile, the suspect says he welcomes a psychological evaluation.

Again, look at how quickly that all helped happened. She acted, four hours later, they were able to track him down and able to get that little girl home, safe and sound. Amazing.

CUOMO: You got to make the decision.

PEREIRA: See something, say something, right?

CUOMO: Absolutely. That's a good one, Mick. It's a good one.

So, we're all about the weather, right? Where is still cold? When is it going to warm up? What are we seeing with this snow? What's all the impact? So many questions. If only there were answers.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons --

(CROSSTALK)

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, we're talking about these temperatures. This look horrible, but this is actually 10, 20 degrees better than it was just yesterday.

Things are actually improving. And, of course, I'm going to start you off with the bad. I want to point out, how much lake effect snow we saw off of Ontario? We're talking about snowfall amounts, about two inches per hour. They had blizzards in the area.

Today, yes, they're still seeing some more snow. But I want to quickly get you to the better stuff. The temperatures that are going to be going up, I mean, no matter where you are in the country, even you guys can see this. You're talking about New York City going above average by the weekend, 56, does that look, after negative 14 yesterday? I'm going to say yes, Tallahassee, also, we're seeing freezing temperatures yesterday. They're looking at 70s by the weekend.

So, no matter where you go, what they were calling it, Chiberia, yes, they're actually --

CUOMO: Chiberia.

(CROSSTALK)

PETERSONS: I can't take credit for it. I wish I could. So things are going to be improving for most everyone. The only thing you need to know, yes, there's a storm today kind of going out towards the South. That's going to be going to Arkansas, some freezing conditions there. Look for delays, for icing possibly, and through tonight, if you're going in through Little Rock. Otherwise the big story is yes, rain and snow as you go through the weekend.

But again, I already showed you the temperatures, so this is no longer bad news. It's all fine, even though we make it rain an snow on the weekend.

BOLDUAN: It sure is relative and we're like it's going to get into the 20s and 30s, that is crazy.

PETERSONS: Even I've changed. I would have complained, like it's cold (ph).

CUOMO: Vortex is bad.

BOLDUAN: I know. No more vortex.

CUOMO: Vortex is bad.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, Olympic sized disappointment for skier Lindsey Vonn. Now that she won't defend her gold medal in Sochi, can you name anyone on the U.S. Olympic skiing team at this point? Consider that. We're going to look at that the possible fallout from some are calling a no-name Olympics.

Plus, a football fan taking the NFL into court claiming the league has priced the average fan out of the Super Bowl. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A surprising story coming out of West Texas yesterday. Three UTEP men's basketball players have been kicked out of school for gambling on sporting events. Let's bring in Andy Scholes with this morning's "Bleacher Report." Andy, what's going on with this?

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes. It was pretty surprising. You know, gambling on sports while you're a student athlete, it's a big no, no. And once UTEP, they got win that some of their players were making bets, they got the FBI involved in this situation. Now, yesterday the school announced their leading scorer, McKenzie Moore, Jalen Ragland, and Justin Crosgile were off the team, and they were no longer enrolled at the school.

Per NCAA rules, any type of sports gambling is not allowed and it does result in a one year suspension and loss of a year of eligibility. Now, according to UTEP, there was no evidence that these three bet on the school's games.

All right. A New Jersey man is suing the NFL because he says the league is pricing the average fan out of the Super Bowl. Josh Finkleman (ph) claims the NFL made only one percent of tickets available from fans and that violates the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. Now, he is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The NFL says they're reviewing the suit.

But, the league did point out that the majority of Super Bowl tickets are given to teams which then sell them at face value to fans who win lotteries.

All right. The lineup section on BleacherReport.com, today, Heat taking on the Pelicans last night. Lebron is going to get the bucket plus the foul. And after being helped up by his teammate, this elderly fan just wanted a pic of Lebron, but he was going to go in and gave her the nice big smooch on the cheek. That's probably the best souvenir anyone's taken home from a Heat game this season, guys.

BOLDUAN: That is definitely one sweaty, although, unforgettable kiss. Maybe all sweaty kiss --

CUOMO: Probably won't wash her face for a week.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: I like it. Thanks, Andy.

PEREIRA: Imagine that coming at you. What is happening?

All right. Let's stay with sports for a minute. Olympic dreams have been dashed for alpine skiing sensation, Lindsey Vonn. The gold medalist posted a gut-wrenching statement to her Facebook page saying that she will not compete in Sochi because her knee is just too unstable. So now with Vonn out, here's the question, what we make of the U.S. Olympic team going in to Sochi, is that our only star that we have lost?

Here with more NPR Sports correspondent, Mike Pesca. Good to see you. Happy New Year.

MIKE PESCA, NPR SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, you too.

PEREIRA: So this -- let's talk about Lindsey first and then we'll talk about the Olympic team. Devastating. We know that she fought to come back. She fought hard to come back and wasn't able to do it. What do you think her outlook is?

PESCA: Oh, I think -- I mean, she's competitive among the most competitive people ever. You have to be -- Lindsey Vonn, of course, has everything, speed, beauty, danger. It's what makes me so compelling. I think she's going to want to do and win more World Cups. She's won for (ph). The Olympics, she's 29, she's got another Olympics in her if her health -- if her knee holds up.

PEREIRA: That's the thing. Is the knee going to hold up? OK. And then, let's talk about the Olympics. I think there's been a lot of focus on and we've had this discussion around our hallways. Do we have any stars for the Olympics -- U.S. Olympic team going to Sochi? Are there any big stars we're following?

(CROSSTALK)

PESCA: Of course.

(CROSSTALK)

PESCA: Yes. He's the Sampson of the slopes, right.

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: I think with the Winter Olympics especially, since it's usually in a beautiful place and people love looking at the slopes, the games themselves are the star. I know that NBC and the supporters of the games are always going to want to fall back on that. Now, if the games are the star and you can put Lindsey Vonn up there, and they've already invested so many resources in promoting her, it's going to be devastating.

You know, they paid so many millions of dollars. Right. And it's hard to pull up states and say, hey, let's focus on this other Olympian, one who's may be less likely to win a gold. I mean, we don't have too many show-ins (ph) for a gold medal. So, yes, it is going to be hard to focus attention, but people just love -- I mean, the sport you've never seen before, curling (ph), and it becomes strangely mesmerizing --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: All the stuff you learn about ice skating. That was a --

(CROSSTALK)

PESCA: That's right. And two guys in bars arguing -- you know, he hit it, he hit it, no he didn't.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Isn't the whole thing that stars are born out of the Olympics and the personal stories?

PESCA: Yes.

PEREIRA: That's what we sort of find ourselves moved by, you know?

PESCA: So, the people who broadcast the Olympics has been NBC almost exclusively during my lifetime. Great at this. They're great at telling the personal story, and they're great at hawking (ph) in the casual viewer. They've actually gotten better at it. I remember 12 years ago, everything was a triumph over adversity.

But now, there's a lot of humor and there's -- but you get to know the people and you didn't know them beforehand. And so, going into the Olympics, let's look at the summer games. Did anyone know that, you know, McKayla Maroney was going to give a smirk and become like the biggest meme ever that Obama would one day copy?

So, this will happen. This will inevitably happen with the winter games. And except for hockey, which people will inherently be interested in and if the USA hockey teams get to the medal rounds or the gold medal rounds, that will be a huge story. But except for hockey, they have to sort of wait to see what's going to happen, who's going to pop, who's going to do well and say something crazy in a post-race interview.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: What about Bode Miller?

PESCA: OK. So, Bode is, right now, there's even a question if he can even compete, because --

(CROSSTALK)

PESCA: But the skiing federation has these odd rules --

CUOMO: Right.

PESCA: That they're not even sure he can compete. The head of the skiing federation --

CUOMO: Because he was hurt and they don't know if he's --

PESCA: But he is Bode Miller. He has not done well, so far. And so, right now, if NBC had a choice between Vonn and Bode Miller, I mean, one is this odds on favorite one healthy and one is kind of like ranked 18th in the world or something.

PEREIRA: I feel like we're going to see a lot of you at this table. We look forward to it, healthy, good, fun, lot of competition.

BOLDUAN: Go review the curling rules.

PESCA: Yes.

PEREIRA: Canada and the U.S. come up in hockey. That's the whole --

CUOMO: You may be the star of the winter Olympics.

PESCA: I hope to be. You know --

(CROSSTALK)

PESCA: I had this ingrown toenail. I don't want to get into it too much.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Appreciate you coming by to talk --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: Let's go to "Must-See Moment." I want to show you this little adorable piece of video. Little one rocking out in the backseat of mom's car. He's trapping the car seat. "Wrecking Ball," Miley Cyrus playing just as the hook drops. Looks what happens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): The mom has definitely seen this happen before.

(LAUGHTER)

PEREIRA (voice-over): And in fact, can sing a lot of performance complete with a tiny clench fist. Mom caught the whole thing on camera. We may have just witnessed the birth of an internet star or the next "American Idol."

CUOMO: You see, they say Miley is not a role model.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: You see why I get so upset when people attack her.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I also feel him because that's normally the only part of the song that I know. It's just that one part. You don't know any of it. Pesca, you feel the same way. You don't know -- and then it's, I came in --

CUOMO: First of all, I saw Pesca singing along with the kid when the hook was dropped.

PESCA: I just don't want to see a little infant size wrecking ball for her to swing on. That would be --

CUOMO: Yes.

BOLDUAN: OK.

CUOMO: That's true. Thanks, Mike, for that --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: A man who can make a Miley situation more disturbing, that's a special man.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Gold medalist of the segment.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're about to get a break from the arctic blast that's left millions of Americans shivering, but don't tell that to people in Buffalo whom are just getting hit with a blizzard. We're going to have another live report ahead.

CUOMO: Plus, former U.S. ambassador will be here and we're going to have a former NBA star to talk about basketball diplomacy. Is there a potential upside? Could Rodman have any positive impact? And of course, why did this interview resonate the way it did? We'll review what everyone's saying. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: Blizzard. First the epic cold, now the snow. Up to two feet in places. Highways closed, drivers stranded rescued by police on snow mobiles and the deep freeze sending cars skidding off the highway. Is the end anywhere in sight?

BOLDUAN: Blistering attack. Former defense secretary, Robert Gates, takes on the Obama administration fighting criticism of the president's management, calling Joe Biden simply wrong on key foreign policy questions and what he says about Hillary Clinton.

PEREIRA: Caught on camera. Imagine coming home to find intruders in your home. What happened to this man who then began recording and questioning them until police came. We have that bizarre interrogation.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

(END VIDEOTAPE)