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Sony Criticized for Pulling Controversial Film in Face of Threats; North Korea Claims It Is Being Falsely Accused by United States for Hacking into Sony Pictures; President Gives Yearend Press Conference; President Announces Normalizing of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba; Chicago Street Artist Profiled

Aired December 20, 2014 - 10:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea says "We were framed." Now the secretive nation is blaming America after that Sony hack attack. Their bizarre new request and threats to the U.S.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama change is coming to Cuba with a big change also coming to Washington. Some say this historic shakeup may be shot down.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and you think you've been on rough flights. Wait until you see the week of wild rides in the sky.

MALVEAUX: Good morning, everyone. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in for Christi Paul. Good to see you.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's 10:00 here on the east coast, 7:00 out west. You're in the CNN Newsroom. And we're starting with the breaking news. The rogue nation North Korea is coming out swinging this morning at accusations by the FBI that it's behind the massive cyber-attack on top film studio Sony pictures.

MALVEAUX: North Korea says it is being framed by the United States. And that is not all. According to North Korea's state run central news agency Pyongyang says the insults to its supreme leader Kim Jong- un shows America's hostile tendencies and it says, quote, "While America continues to point the finger at us, we suggest mutual investigation with America on this case." Pyongyang warns of serious consequences if that doesn't happen.

BLACKWELL: And all this is coming as a top Sony exec is defending the decision to yank the film satirizing the assassination of Kim Jong-un from theatrical release. President Obama calls that move a mistake.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake.

MICHAEL LYNTON, CEO, SONY PICTURES: We have not caved. We have not given in. We have persevered and we have not backed down. We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie.


MALVEAUX: We're going to bring in our senior media correspondent and "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter. And Brian, first of all, you hear this. Do you believe them? Do you think he's being sincere here because a lot of people roll their eyes when they hear that? And how does he make that happen if he really is serious about having this film shone.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It's been a stunning turn of events in the past couple of days because two days ago Sony said not only are we canceling this movie but we don't have any further plans to release it. Now Lynton is saying we only meant that about the Christmas release. We were so focused on that we hadn't had a chance to think beyond that.

But now the door has opened again to releasing this movie in some form in some fashion at some point. And Fareed Zakaria, who had that interview, said last night his impression from Sony is they are not talking about six months from now. They are talking about pretty soon. I just checked with the head of Sony's corporate communications. There is no update this morning on any distribution plan. But I do think we may hear about one in the days to come. There are active discussions going on with companies like Netflix and YouTube to see if they'd be willing to step up and help release this movie. I was just reading the "New York Daily News" this morning. The editorial in here is very clear. It says "Patriotism demands, show the movie, show it now."

MALVEAUX: And there's so much pressure on him right now, and that would be a real turn around if in fact we see this movie fairly soon. I want to play some more of Fareed's interview. Listen to this.


LYNTON: When it came to the crucial moment, when a threat came out from what was called the GOP at the time, threatening audiences who would go to the movie theater, the movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short period of time -- we were completely surprised by it -- and announced that they would not carry the movie. At that point in time we had no alternative but to not proceed with the theatrical release on the 25th of December.


MALVEAUX: So Brian, is he saying making a case this is just logistics? It is a timetable they were really boxed in here? Or was there another way that he could have found to actually put that out there and not make the announcement that it wasn't going to release it on Christmas?

STELTER: Right. What he said is my impression as well, that effectively what happened between Tuesday when that threat came out that invoked 9/11 and then Wednesday when the film was canceled, my impression is there was a series of dominos that were falling one after another. And Sony's decision to go ahead and cancel was the final domino that ultimately fell. I do think there were some other options here. And I think he will be pressed about that in the future once some of the dust settles here and he's not in this crisis mode. For example, there were some independent theaters that were willing to show this film and say they want to show the film still. And Sony has rebuffed them. And of course Sony has to try to get it on as many screens as it can to make as much money as it can. But was it possible, maybe, to release this film in a smaller way, in a more limited footprint? That is a question that no one in Sony can answer right now because they are so busy in damage control mode that we need to find out in the future.

And by the way, there are even websites like Gawker that have offered to have screenings of this movie. Gawker said on Thursday "We'll even buy the popcorn. Just give us a copy of the movie." So I do think whether it's that or whether it's something else, there are going to be a lot of outlets for this film if Sony is willing to help out.

MALVEAUX: People offering popcorn. Maybe we will end up seeing this film sometime soon.

STELTER: And it's not even a good film. You look on "Rotten Tomatoes" the reviews have been horrendous. It's the kind of thing now that is going to be a cult classic because it is going to be so controversial.

MALVEAUX: Lot of people are going to be watching it now. And, Brian, get back to us when you have anything from Sony on North Korea's latest statements.

STELTER: Will do.

MALVEAUX: They're now blaming the United States for being behind this hack. Thanks again, Brian, appreciate it.

STELTER: Of course you can watch the whole interview with Sony's CEO when it airs tomorrow on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." That is tomorrow, 10:00 eastern, right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: So was we said, North Korea is slamming the U.S. over the Sony hack investigation and threatening serious consequences if the U.S. keeps blaming it for the attack. The state run Korean Central News Agency says "Whoever is going to frame our country for crimes should present concrete evidence. America's childish investigation shows their hostile tendency toward us."

Let's bring in CNN global affairs analyst Bobby Ghosh. Bobby, North Korea is threatening these serious consequences against the U.S. if they refuse to work with them in some investigation. Is the world viewing these threats now differently, anything more than the typical rhetoric after this huge hack, or is it more of the same?

BOBBY GHOSH, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No, it is a little different. North Korea has demonstrated with this Sony hack that they are capable of doing damage. Until now the main threat from North Korea was towards South Korea where they have been hacking into the South Korean computer systems for quite a long time now. Now they have shown they can take this on the road, if you like. If they can attack a major corporation in the United States then they can attack pretty much anywhere.

So the threat from North Korea is now no longer just the prospect of a nuclear weapon or a missile test but it is now a hack attack. Companies and countries will be better informed now and will mount better defenses against it, but as we've seen with hackers in the past, they figure out how to get past defenses.

BLACKWELL: So the White House says that it is now considering options on how to respond to this hack, economic sanctions on the list of possibilities. Considering there are so many sanctions against North Korea already, what will work, if anything?

GHOSH: That's an excellent question. It's really hard to see how it is possible to punish North Korea anymore. They are incredibly isolated. There is some talk of a reverse hack attack. But it's an economy that is mostly analog, not digital. There are very few computers outside of government, and even within government much of the work is done outside of the traditional computers. They are not really plugged into the worldwide web in the way that most countries are. And they depend on only one country really, and that's China. The only way to punish North Korea is to get China to do the job, and China in the past has resisted all pressure from the international community to reign in their sort of puppet regime in North Korea. And I can't see China changing its mind now.

BLACKWELL: And Bobby, there is also this op-ed that came out in the "Global Times," the Chinese state run newspaper, "Making fun at Kim shows lack of taste" which they harshly criticize the decision to produce and potentially release this film. Should the U.S. expect some pushback from China? Should the U.S. film industry that relies on overseas box office receipts from China expect some pushback?

GHOSH: Well, yes, that is an indication that the Chinese are not interested in participating in any kind of punishment of North Korea. Hollywood has already kowtowed quite significantly to China. If you remember a couple years ago when they remade "Red Dawn" the movie, originally the bad guys in "Red Dawn" were meant to be China, and then quite late in the day the studio changed their minds and made the bad guys North Korea, ironically. So China, I mean, Hollywood film producers are already quite mindful of Chinese sensibilities, and now it seems that they have to be mindful of the North Korean sensibility as well.

BLACKWELL: All right, Bobby Ghosh, CNN global affairs analyst, thank you so much, Bobby.

GHOSH: Any time.

MALVEAUX: He's being described as the lame duck on the loose. And if you watch President Obama's news conference yesterday you might actually agree. Some say he seems less restrained, more on the offense, maybe even a man on a mission. So what is behind this turnaround? BLACKWELL: And two things that do not mix well -- storms and planes.

Can you imagine being on this flight? There is a camera on board obviously, and you get these heart-stopping images. But the turbulence here, it really shook up an American airlines flight and all the passengers. We'll have more on this and the story behind it coming up.


MALVEAUX: The Obamas are saying aloha to Washington and aloha to Hawaii, because we know aloha can mean "hello" and "goodbye." The first family taking their annual Hawaiian vacation, soaking up some of that sun on the beachfront home in Honolulu. They're going to be there for about two weeks or so.

BLACKWELL: Now, before the president headed out for a break there was some business to take care of in Washington that included how to respond to the cyber-attacks on Sony by North Korea and defending his new policy on Cuba. Erin McPike has more.


OBAMA: We take them with the utmost seriousness.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Condemning what he called a cyber- assault from North Korea, in his year end press conference, President Obama called out Sony pictures for pulling the movie "The Interview," following threats to theaters.

OBAMA: Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.

MCPIKE: He insisted Americans citizens and businesses cannot be bullied into the censorship and promised retaliation against North Korea.

OBAMA: They caused a lot of damage. And we will respond. We will respond proportionally and will respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.

MCPIKE: He also defended his most recent sweeping initiative, this week's surprise move to normalize relations with Cuba.

OBAMA: What I know deep in my bones is that if you have done the same thing for 50 years and nothing's changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.

MCPIKE: The administration hopes its actions, by helping to bring more western business to the communist nation, will open it up.

OBAMA: It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn't been before. And over time that chips away at this hermetically sealed society.

MCPIKE: And after a frenzied year's end, he's got his game face on for the last two years to come.

OBAMA: My presidency is entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter, and I'm looking forward to it. But going into the fourth quarter you usually get a time out. I'm now looking forward to a quiet timeout, Christmas with my family.


MCPIKE: And North Korea is now saying that it was framed and wants to work with the U.S. to get to the bottom of it. I have reached out to the White House this morning and they are saying they don't have a response just yet. But we do know that there are U.S. agencies trying to come up with some options to give to the White House on how to respond to North Korea. Those look to be in the form of economic sanctions and banking sanctions but not naming North Korea as the sponsor of terrorism, Victor and Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Erin, thank you so much. We want you to stick around, but we also want to show our audience live pictures out of Havana, Cuba. Right now the president Raul Castro addressing the Cuban national assembly. This is at the annual meeting that they have. Of course we're going to be listening in and monitoring some of the things that he has to say. If he makes any news of course we're going to bring that to you coming out of his speech.

I want to also bring in John Avlon, the editor in chief of "The Daily Beast" and CNN political analyst. John great to see you this morning. You know, the yearend presser, it was really remarkable, having seen him. It seems as if he's really changing, the tone, the style. I remember 2007, 2008 covering him when he had all these promises and he acknowledged he was going to disappoint because he wasn't going to be able to deliver everything. Now he's dusted it off and seems to be going line by line, issue by issue, taking on the last two years.

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Absolutely. This is one liberated lame duck we're look at.


AVLON: And I think the prospect of entering the fourth quarter, as he referred to it, of his presidency is focusing his mind and is in fact energizing him. The typical way we deal with lame ducks, i.e. the last two years of the presidency, is to consider the person diminished in importance. We focus our attention on the oncoming presidential campaign.

But presidents have the prerogative of changing history according to their actions, and this is clearly president who wants to play offense politically and have opponents respond to him and in some ways help shape and frame the debate for 2016. So I think this is going to be a very different script and it's going to be really interesting to watch such an energized, I think optimistic president going forward.

MALVEAUX: Sure, and his legacy as well. Erin, the president says the U.S. is going to respond to North Korea. It's also involved with ISIS in Iraq. And you have the Taliban in Pakistan, the Assad regime in Syria. Is the president at risk here of taking on too much, trying to do too much in the last two years and maybe just not being able to do anything all that well?

MCPIKE: Suzanne, I don't think so at all. And this year has been fascinating for all of the national security issues that he's been involved in. I also want to point out, of course you covered President Obama here during his first term, and I look forward to this news conference every single year because it is so very newsy. You may remember back in 2010 is that when he said that his views on gay marriage were evolving. There is always big news that comes out of this. This particular year he was very reflective and also looking forward to the next year, but it was newsy just for that style and the tone and what he hopes to be doing in the next two years.

MALVEAUX: And John, it was newsy, as Erin said. You are dealing with so many things here that are changing -- Cuba's policy, easing travel restrictions, opening the door to diplomatic relations, that was a huge move. And he's also using the executive orders to get things done on immigration reform, climate change. Do you think that he's abandoned in some way the effort or the optimism of working with a Congress that is going to be dominated of course by Republicans?

AVLON: I think he's made a decision based on the past six years that for all the rhetoric of wanting to end gridlock that he's not going to get put in a position where he's hoping Republicans will work with him but he is instead going to try to set the agenda. And the way he's acted since that shellacking in the midterms, he's gotten off the mat and he's played offense and put forward policy proactively, executive orders on immigration, as you said, climate change deal with China, and this historic reversal of policy with regard to Cuba.

These are all things that are within the president's prerogative the effectively put his political opponents on defense. Is there a cost? Absolutely. Any olive branch that the Republicans were opening, now that is a very difficult negotiation he's going to have to do. But I think part of the calculation is that Republicans are still going to have to deal with him on issues of the self-interest where there may be overlap. He mentioned something yesterday, tax reform, corporate tax reform, trade deals and possible infrastructure. And so as a result even if he alienates a lot of Republicans with these actions, they will still have to deal with the White House to get anything done on their watch over the next two years.

MALVEAUX: And Erin, I want to bring this up because you were there covering the White House now, and we saw for the first time, it was unprecedented, historic that the president addressed all female reports for his press conference. That has never happened having covered the White House for ten years. And there were so few women. We used to actually, literally, Ann Compton, Andrea Mitchell, Helen Thomas, all of us, how many women get questions on these occasions, it might be one, maybe two, but not everybody. The White House says it was also trying to make a point here, and you get to benefit from that, yes?

MCPIKE: Suzanne, of course. And we were noticing that throughout this press conference, you may have seen on social media, you tweeted about it, and so many reporters were noticing, six, seven, eight, it was over. And then after the fact, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest actually put out a statement in response to some of the questions that he was getting about it that they did do it on purpose to make this point. And Wolf Blitzer likes to say that we all have a front seat to history, and we did. And that's another reason why this press conference was so fascinating to cover yesterday, again, because it's newsy, and they made it newsy by doing just that.

MALVEAUX: Yes, highlighting the hardworking women who cover the president, Erin being one of them. Thank you, Erin, John, appreciate it. Good to see you guys.

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps admits he made a bad mistake and now he's owning up to what he is saying about his DUI and how he avoided jail time up next.

BLACKWELL: And for the first time we're seeing what happened after that infamous elevator attack between Ray Rice and his then fiance Janay Palmer. What surveillance video shows them doing just moments after police arrived.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back. Now the five things you need to know this morning.

BLACKWELL: It's 24 minutes after the hour. Up first, North Korea is slamming the U.S. at the same time it says it wants Washington's help. You see, the rogue nation says the FBI is framing Pyongyang for being behind the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures, and that it's an insult to its Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. It's calling for a joint investigation with the U.S. and says there will be serious consequences if the U.S. does not agree to that.

MALVEAUX: Number two, it his first extensive interview since the grand jury cleared former Officer Darren Wilson last month in the shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown, the D.A. who prosecuted the case said some of the witnessed obviously lied under oath, but he let them testify anyway. In a radio interview with KTRS Robert McCulloch said that he had no regrets about letting the grand jury hear from non-credible witnesses and that it was up to the jurors to make a final decision based on all of the evidence.

BLACKWELL: Number three, there is new video showing the moments just after Ray Rice punched his now wife in that infamous attack. You see the video here obtained by ABC News. Rice is seen trying to talk to Janay Palmer while she cries while being treated by a security guard. But then look at this. They are later seen kissing in another elevator before being escorted to separate police cars.

MALVEAUX: Number four, Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps will not spend any time in jail after being arrested for drunk driving. He has apologized for his behavior but the judge warned him that another slip up could put him in Baltimore city's detention center. He has also ordered Phelps to refrain from drinking any alcohol and undergo mandatory screenings. BLACKWELL: Today is super Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, otherwise known as the last Saturday before Christmas. And it'S going to be a busy one. One retail watcher says it will be even busier than black Friday with sales today expected to reach close to $10 billion dollars.

MALVEAUX: And you are looking at live pictures out of Cuba right now. President Raul Castro addressing the Cuban national assembly at the annual meeting here in Havana. We're going monitor the comments and bring you any news that might come out of that.

And of course you know there's been a lot of credit given to the Pope for opening up dialogue between the United States and Cuba. But is there someone else or something else to credit? Our next guest says yes. We're going to talk about that coming up next.



OBAMA: But change is going to come to Cuba. It has to. They have an economy that doesn't work. They have been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela. Those can't be sustained.


MALVEAUX: And that of course President Obama speaking at the last news conference of the year on Friday. As he mentioned, America's new friendship with Cuba comes when some of Cuba's old friends are suffering, in particular Venezuela. The oil dependent nation is in crisis and near default. We're going to talk about that with Ted Piccone, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who wrote "Shifting the Balance, Obamas and the Americas." Also here Chris Sabatini. He is senior director of policy at the Council of the Americas.

Chris, I want to start off with you first. Talking about Venezuela and Cuba and the fact it's actually been subsidizing Cuba, what is the relationship between the two? And why do we see this happening with Venezuela's crumbling economy? How does it play in into diplomacy between the United States and Cuba?

CHRIS SABATINI, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF POLICY, COUNCIL OF THE AMERICAS: First Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998 and when he assumed office in 1999 he really looked to Fidel Castro, in fact had actually spent time with Fidel Castro after he had staged a coup, as sort of his godfather, his ideological godfather, his model. And in fact the Castros really provided a lot of intelligence and a lot of support to Venezuela as Hugo Chavez ramped up his revolution, consolidated control over the state, and actually began to sort of disarticulate the media and other sort of forms of opposition. And in return basically Hugo Chavez and Venezuela stepped into the void after the Soviet Union and provides about 100,000 barrels of oil per day to Cuba, part of which it uses, part of which it also sells, which has a huge benefit to Cuba in terms of its economy. It really counts about 15 to 20 percent of Cuba's GDP. But they have been seen as being sort of ideological and even economic allies and sort of a front within the hemisphere that was very virulently anti-American.

MALVEAUX: Right. And Ted, let's talk about this, the influence here, Venezuela a major influence in Cuba's leadership. What was Cuba's motivations in reopening relations with the United States?

TED PICCONE, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think there was certainly a Venezuela factor there. The Venezuelan economy is collapsing. But there is also change under way in Cuba for their own reasons. They need to update and modernize their economy. So several years ago they began a process of change that would liberalize the economy and move from a heavily centrally planned economy to something a little more hybrid. A socialist economy with elements of what you might call capitalism but has a long ways to go.

And so they began to allow people to open their own businesses in certain categories. They are allowing people to travel on and off the island. They are allowing people to buy and sell property. And this is bringing new cash into the economy. And a critical piece of that has been U.S. cash, cash from Cuban Americans, family members who are sending money back to their family and goods. And that money is being invested in the Cuban economy in these small businesses and allowing new economic activity to happen.

MALVEAUX: Chris, when the president said that Cuba has to change because the economy doesn't work as was mentioned before, does he have a valid point here, because Cuba has lasted half a century with the economy it has? What is different now in the world that makes that a different?

SABATINI: The president is absolutely right. First of all the Cuban economy will probably only grow about one percent. It's expected that it need about $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year in foreign direct investment that it is not going to get from the current conditions. And as I was mentioning earlier, Venezuela's lifeline to the Cuban government is about to collapse. It has inflation over 60 percent. It's looking at about a four percent contraction in its GDP this year alone. And with oil now down to about $60 a barrel, Venezuela depends on 96 percent of its exports on oil. So it's economy that's really about to collapse. And Cuba had to look for other alternatives. Its own economic model is flailing and its largest benefactor is about that collapse.

And part of this also, as Ted was saying, Raul Castro has recognized he needs to modify elements of the Cuban economy that has sort of embarked on these changes, and part is also beginning to reintroduce Cuba to the world. And I think this is an important moment of change, modest but it's important.

MALVEAUX: And Ted, we're going to give you this final one here. What was really fascinating was the Summit of the Americas, and I actually covered this, when you saw President Obama deal for the first time with Venezuela's leader, former leader Hugo Chavez, and he put his hand on him, and it was warm, and people were wondering how is he going to react, how is he going to deal with somebody who our country has been fighting against, has been an enemy for some time. How do you suppose the Summit of the Americas is going to look when the president goes and reaches out to recall Castro, if that happens?

PICCONE: I actually hope it does happen. I think it's a great opportunity maybe not to have great brotherhood hugging and kissing, but I think it is an opportunity for both the two of them and the whole region to stand up and applaud them for taking the steps they are taking, to put the cold war hostility behind them and to engage each other as neighbors and have a respectful, mutually respectful dialogue. It's about time we do that.

MALVEAUX: All right, thanks to both of you, Ted Piccone and Chris Sabatini for giving us your insights this morning. Thank you.

SABATINI: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, just in to CNN, we're learning the U.S. has transferred four Guantanamo detainees back to their home country of Afghanistan. And the Pentagon says the transfer was a joint effort with the government there and that the release is part of an ongoing effort to close the detention facility there at Guantanamo Bay. We're get more on that throughout the day, of course.

And we all know about it and we fear it, but rarely do we actually feel it, at least when it's this bad. Heart-stopping moments aboard an American Airlines flight this week, broken plates, broken bones. But this one is not the only scary sight in the air this week. There were more. We'll show you those next.


BLACKWELL: An alarming warning this morning. If you are traveling during this holiday season, the State Department is advising Americans to be on high alert after a gunman in Sydney took 17 people hostage. Now, the alert says that U.S. citizens should be extra cautious, maintain a very high level of vigilance, and take appropriate steps to enhance their personal security. This travel alert expires on March 19 of next year.

MALVEAUX: And if you travel by plane this week and you made it to your destination without a hitch, consider yourself lucky. I guess I got lucky. I flew. But there were some passengers who had to deal with some really crazy, crazy stuff, including a midair brawl, severe turbulence as well. Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh she has all the details. It was ugly.

BLACKWELL: Watch this.


RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Severe turbulence. A midair brawl, a flight attendant scalded with hot water, and an emergency exit pulled open, a frightening week on board airplanes packed with passengers.

An American Airlines flight from South Korea to Dallas hit severe turbulence, 14 people hurt, five hospitalized. This woman struck in the head with a glass plate and food carts overturned. The turbulence caused by a strong winter storm off the coast of Japan. The plane makes an emergency landing. Everyone is now out of the hospital.

The problem on this Thai Air Asia flight, a passenger upset about her seating assignment tosses hot noodles on a flight attendant, scalding her.

SETH KAPLAN, "AIRLINE WEEKLY": Certainly airlines would always appreciate even stricter laws about this, they themselves can do a little more than they are doing, and it could come down to just announcing. Right after you talk about not smoking in the laboratory or you face a fine, why not remind passenger that there could be a $25,000 fine for causing a disturbance on a flight?

MARSH: Then there is this United Airlines flight from London to New York, a possible engine problem forcing the pilot to circle over the English Channel for three hours before dumping fuel before landing safely. And caught on camera two women in a midair smack down on board Air China, the fight reportedly stemming from a crying baby.

KAPLAN: The good news is these are still the exception, not the rule. Most flights go off with none of these kinds of problems. But it does happen.

MARSH: From 2007 to 2013 more than 28,000 cases of unruly passengers reported by the airline industry ranging from violence to not following safety instructions.

KAPLAN: You have people who presumably are nice people at other times in their lives but somehow you put them together on an airplane and they just lose their mind.

MARSH: Rene Marsh, CNN Washington.


BLACKWELL: It's unbelievable. You've got broken bones, broken plates, fights. You got to be safe out there. That's why --

MALVEAUX: Yes you got to follow the rules.

BLACKWELL: I take my noise canceling headphones and it keeps everything's fine.

MALVEAUX: Ignore the baby, the crying baby.

A new shocker this morning in the shooting death of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown. In his first extensive interview since a grand jury cleared Officer Darren Wilson last month in Brown's death, the D.A. who prosecuted the case says some of the witnesses obviously lied under oath, but he let them testify anyway.

BLACKWELL: St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCulloch said during a radio interview with KTRS, this is when it happened, it happened yesterday, that he had no regrets about letting the grand jury hear from non- credible witnesses.


ROBERT MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There were people who came in and, yes, absolutely lied under oath. Some lied to the FBI even though they are not under oath. That is another potential offense, a federal offense. But I thought it was much more important to present the entire picture and say, listen, this is what this witness says he saw even though there was a building between where the witness says he was and where the events occurred and so they couldn't have seen that, or the physical evidence didn't support what the witness was saying.

And it was on -- you know, it went both directions. I thought it was much more important that the grand jury hear everything that people had to say. And they are in a perfect position to assess the credibility, which is what jurors do.


MALVEAUX: McCulloch went on to say that witness who lied are not going to face perjury charges.

BLACKWELL: Earlier this morning I asked CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan if he agrees with that decision.


PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he's being pragmatic about the situation because remember, there were over 60 witnesses that testified in the grand jury, and at lot of them told lies. There is a lot of talk about one of the particular ones, witness 40 in the press the last couple day, a woman who's obviously a racist and gave a version favorable to the officer, which was a lie.

But on the other hand there were witnesses favorable to the Brown's version who said that Mr. Brown had been shot in the back, which he wasn't according to the autopsy, and other people who couldn't even see the scene and later said that somebody had told them what happened.

So if he started prosecuting everybody who told a lie in front of that grand jury, I don't think they would be prosecuting any other crimes in St. Louis for the next year. There would be so many people being indicted for perjury. So it's rare that this is done.

Could it be done, Victor? It absolutely could be done. And he has a right as a prosecutor to proceed against anybody who lied under oath. But from a practical standpoint, if he indicts one he has to indict them all, and I don't think he's going to do that.


MALVEAUX: Surprising notion there, so many people lying under oath. As for the timing of when the decision was announced McCulloch says he also has no regrets. BLACKWELL: The Department of Justice has taken possession of a gym mat that a Georgia teenager was found in dead. His body was found there almost two years ago. Now, I've reported extensively on the mystery surrounding Kendrick Johnson. The 17-year-old was found in the center of that rolled gym mat upside down there in the school gym on January 11, 2013. Now, local authorities ruled the death an accident but his family believes that he was murdered. And the feds, they began investigating this case in October of last year. The family also filed lawsuits against the county school board, the sheriff's office, the coroner, and they're pushing for Kendrick's law, which would require all coroners to be medically licensed.


JACQUELYN JOHNSON, MOTHER OF KENDRICK JOHNSON: We support the Kendrick law and we want to leave a legacy behind in Kendrick's name for the world to see.


BLACKWELL: Federal authorities were also given copies of three discs with audio recordings of the calls for service made the day Johnson's body was found, also some surveillance video. That federal investigation continues.

MALVEAUX: Some A-list Hollywood stars speaking out about that hack attack and the film that was scrapped because of it. Their message for Sony and their plea to get "The Interview" seen, that is coming up next.


BLACKWELL: President Obama is not happy with Sony's decision to yank to controversial film "The Interview" from theaters, and apparently neither is Hollywood. One its biggest stars said the studio should not have caved to North Korea. George Clooney told "Deadline Hollywood" that the movie should be scene. Quote, "Do whatever you can to get this movie out. That is the most important part. We cannot be told we can't see something by Kim Jong-un of all f-ing people." And Ben Stiller says "It's the audiences who are the big losers here."


BEN STILLER, ACTOR: I think our country is all about freedom of speech and freedom of self-expression. And so when we start to engage in self-censorship that's influenced by intimidation from people or governments who just happen to not agree with the point of view of the movie then I think we're denying the audience their right to choose what they want to see.


BLACKWELL: And there's a tweet from Steve Carell. He's weighing in, saying "Sad day for creative expression. Fear eats the soul." Joining us now is Kim Serafin, senior editor for "In Touch" weekly.

Kim, good to have you back. Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, he says to CNN's Fareed Zakaria in a CNN exclusive, that they did the right thing. Listen and we'll talk about it.


LYNTON: When the threat came out from what was called the GOP at the time threatening audiences who would go to the movie theaters, the movie theaters came to us one by one over the course of a very short period of time -- we were completely surprised by it -- and announced that they would not carry the movie. At that point in time we had no alternative but to not proceed with the theatrical release on the 25th of December. And that's all we did.


LYNTON: We have not caved.


BLACKWELL: But it sounds like the Hollywood stars disagree with that.

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": You know, you mentioned a few of the Hollywood celebrities that have come forward and mentioned this, whether in tweets or interviews that they're doing. But yes, I think a lot of Hollywood does feel like this movie should be shown. Whether it should have been released or whether theaters should have shown it, whether Sony should have shown it, whether it should be out On Demand or Netflix or something like that. You know, you mentioned some of the stars. Sean Penn came forward put out a statement saying this is putting short-term interests ahead of long-term. Judd Apatow has been very vocal. He is one of the first people to really speak out, saying this is disgraceful and that it really points to a dark future in Hollywood. Zach Braff, Jimmy Kimmel, Rob Lowe, the list really goes on of celebrities coming forward criticizing this. And the interesting thing is that you don't normally see Hollywood celebrities aligning with Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, but all of them are all kind of echoing kind of the same sentiment.

BLACKWELL: And George Clooney tried to circulate a petition but did not get a single signature. What was he proposing here?

SERAFIN: Yes, he did circulate this petition and talked about this in that interview that you mentioned he did with "Deadline." Basically he was saying they don't give to the ransom is essentially what this petition says. So he circulated this to industry leaders, and he said nobody wanted to be the first person to put their name on this petition basically out of fear. He said it is not just Hollywood. Any industry would be scared. But it just shows you how everyone is so scared in this industry.

He said they did this a calculated way, these hackers. They first embarrassed people by putting out the emails basically showing here is what we can do to you. And now nobody in this industry wants to really be the first person to go out there and support Sony because nobody wants to be in the same position as them. And everyone knows it's not just Sony. It could be any studio, it could be any industry.

BLACKWELL: So we know the theater groups, they declined to release the film on the 25th. Now there is some support at least to take this to a subscription service like Netflix. What is the likelihood that that will happen?

SERAFIN: You know, again, you are still dealing with who is going to sign on to put their name on this, to be willing to put it out there, and will people want to then give their credit card information to, say, yes I'm signing up. Yes, it is easy to tweet about it. Will people really do that? It probably will end up somewhere. It is hard in this industry or these to keep anything secret. It will probably end up on Torrent maybe.

But everybody wants to see this movie. I think everybody really wants it out there. Whether everybody is going to stand up and really be willing to put it out there to make money or just so everyone can see skit stand up and say we believe in freedom of expression, that is still a question that is out there.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kim Serafin with "In Touch Weekly," thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SERAFIN: Thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: And of course you can watch Fareed Zakaria's interview with Sony's CEO Michael Lynton tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. eastern here on CNN.

MALVEAUX: And out of one network straight into another, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert bids adieu to his show and makes some history before he leaves.


BLACKWELL: The final show of "The Colbert Report" was a smash. And 2.5 million people watched the comedian's last show hosting there on Comedy Central. And that number may even grow with of course people watching the sendoff later on their DVR. Colbert is replacing David Letterman, taking the helm of "The Late Show" next year.

MALVEAUX: And in December's "Ones to Watch" series, we're exploring the world of street art.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Meet a graffiti writer from Chicago who is painting legally for the first time on his own streets.


POSE, STREET ARTIST: I take really every day simple, basic, kind of throw away things and reposition them and put them back out into the world to try to communicate with people something much deeper.

I lived half a block from the train and the train would rattle my windows. The train line was sort of the main artery for this unique movement and art form that was being created before your eyes. When we used to run tracks, you run the grate, the third rails here. If you hit that you are fried, you know. So it's a really exciting place.

Being a young kid that had a need to express myself, graffiti was just naturally captivating and just completely consumed my entire life. It took over my life from about 12-years-old on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1993 Chicago's mayor Richard Daley launched a program to eliminate all graffiti from the streets of the city. It was called the graffiti blasters. Works were routinely painted over and a constitutional law was passed to ban the sale of spray cans.

POSE: I was always told no. I was always arrested and locked up or beat up by the police. It's a very rough city, one of the most anti- graffiti cities that I've ever seen in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But things are beginning to change.

POSE: You look around, like all the cool neighborhoods have street art in them. And graffiti coexists in that. And those are the neighborhoods that are being sought after for some of the highest property values.


BLACKWELL: All right, that will do it for this hour of the CNN Newsroom. Stay with us. We'll continue right now.