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Manhunt for Tel Aviv Gunman; Levees at Risk After Severe Flooding; Obama to Announce New Executive Action on Guns; ISIS Fighters Attack Iraqi Army Base Near Ramadi; Residents Flee Huge Methane Gas Leak; Camille Cosby Ordered to Testify; Legendary Singer Natalie Cole Dead at 65. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 2, 2016 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: If there were a Heisman revote, would you have picked McCaffrey, why or why not? Use the #NewDayCNN, or post on our Facebook page, and we're going to share some of your insights later in the show. We always love having you join us.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Looking forward to it. Coy, thank you so much.


All right. There's a lot of news to tell you about this morning.

BLACKWELL: The next hour of your NEW DAY starts right now.


BLACKWELL: A manhunt happening right now in Israel after a gunman fires an automatic weapon right outside a pub in Tel Aviv.

KOSIK: Plus, floodwaters in the Midwest are beginning to recede, leaving residents picking up the pieces. Well, now, the focus is on levees that are reaching their tipping point.

BLACKWELL: And ISIS militants launched a deadly attack on an Iraqi Army base near Ramadi, and this is coming days after the city was retaken by Iraqi military. We've got the details for you from Iraq.

KOSIK: Good morning, everyone. I'm Alison Kosik. I'm sitting in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: Seven o'clock here on the East Coast. I'm Victor Blackwell. Always a pleasure to be with you.

And we are starring this hour in Tel Aviv, where there is this desperate manhunt under way after New Year's celebrations turned to chaos. Two people, seven others injured. Two people killed, I should say, and a shooting spree that was caught on surveillance video. Local media reporting that the gunman is 29-year-old Israeli Arab, but so far, police have been silent on the investigation, issuing a gag order to the media and keeping any new details under wraps.

Let's go to Ian Lee following the story from Jerusalem.

What can you tell us about this expanding search for the gunman?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison and Victor.

We just heard from police, they're telling us that they're beefing up this operation. They're working closely with the Shinbet, this is the internal Israeli intelligence agency and that they are still pursuing that this is a very dangerous suspect. They are looking for him in the Tel Aviv area and elsewhere.

But they are telling residents, local residents of Tel Aviv to go about their daily lives, they're still saying that to alert but that they aren't any immediate danger and their daily life, routines can continue.

But this is still very much a very massive manhunt, looking for the suspect and the Israeli real media saying that this is a man from the northern part of the country. The uncle of the suspect has also told CNN that he recognized him from the surveillance video, although, a lot of these details we just can't tell you because office a current gag order that prohibits a lot of these details in the investigation from going out to the public.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ian Lee for us there in Jerusalem, thank you so much.

Let's continue the conversation now. We are joined by terrorism expert and international security director for the Asia Pacific Foundation, Sajjan Gohel, and CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes.

I want to start with the weapon used here and come to both of you on that.

Sajjan, you first. This being an automatic weapon, many of the attacks that have happened, October, November, December, in Israel against Israeli citizens have been stabbings or other attack. This now an automatic weapon. What do you glean from that?

SAJJAN GOHEL, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, certainly, in terms of the target, there is nothing different. In terms of the motivation that, remains unclear. Also the fact that the gunmen, although firing several shots, he then suddenly stopped and ran away. Why was that the case?

So, the weapon is different, and it's unusual that it's being used this time. So, more investigation are going to be required. Also, the ideological motivation perhaps could provide more information as to why this incident took place.

BLACKWELL: Tom, to you, does the use of an automatic weapon here instead of a knife or some other attack as we've seen over the last several months against Israeli citizens give any credence to either this being a simple criminal act or an act of terror? TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I don't think so, Victor.

I think we need more investigation into this, although the police may know, you know, if they have already been talking to relatives, his father and uncle, they may have a pretty good idea of what might have been going on in this guy's head, that did the shooting. So, it's a good question.

You know, it makes you wonder, someone with an assault rifle, why so few casualties? We see him standing in a grocery store and then suddenly jumped out on the sidewalk and opened fire, stopped, and run away. So, you know, that's a part of it is unusual in my mind.

BLACKWELL: Sajjan, as it relates to the potential for escalation here, we've heard from Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister there, speaking about the attacks as, you know the group of attacks that happened, kind of as a whole, that this is a wave of terror.

[07:05:00] Any indication that there will be any more forceful response from the Israeli forces, from Netanyahu, to try to tamp down what's happening there?

GOHEL: Well, if the Israeli authorities are able to establish that this was an act of terrorism, we will see a strong response, as is always the case in the aftermath of a terrorist attacks in Israel, itself. The authorities are hesitant to specifically designate this as a terrorist attacks. They are wanting more investigation.

I think the key is what your correspondent Ian Lee said that Shinbet, the domestic intelligence agency, is now involved in this, which means that they are taking this seriously. But they also feel there are a lot of answered questions behind this. Keep in mind that only recently ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for the very time mentioned Israel and every time, ISIS leader mentioned a specific country there's an attack in the work. This may not have any connection to it. But the way the investigation is proceeding means that the authorities in Israel are still unclear about it.

BLACKWELL: Local Israeli reports, Tom, question the mental health of the gunman, that he has a history of mental health issues, has a long history of interaction with law enforcement there.

How does that factor into this investigation?

FUENTES: Well, I think it gives the indication it might not just be terrorism. We have mentally ill people recruited by ISIS and terror grown-ups to go ahead and commit the act. If they already have violent tendencies, then it's not a big leap for them to step up and take human life.

BLACKWELL: All right. Tom Fuentes, Sajjan Gohel, we'll be following the story all morning long. Thank you both.

FUENTES: Thank you, Victor.

KOSIK: OK. Now to another big story we're following -- flood warnings now in effect for 8 million people in 16 states. Missouri just beginning its recovery, that's after highways, neighborhoods and schools were flooded this week.

Let's go to CNN's Allison Chinchar joining us live.

You know, Allison, we see that the rain has stopped with the flooding. It's going to continue with more than 200 rivers at or above flood stage right now.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. Yes, let's take a look at it again. You can see all of them plotted here. All of these dots indicate a river location that is either at or above a flood stages, again an incredible am.

Notice the ones the part south of St. Louis. That's where the real problem will be going ahead because all of these people need to be on alert, as all of that water continues to flow south.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You live near the water, you can expect anything. But I never once ever expected to be this high.

CHINCHAR (voice-over): Several interstates are now back opened in the St. Louis area. The recovery just beginning from flooding triggered by a downpour last week, up to ten inches of rain falling in some areas of Missouri. Water levels have fallen several feet. But many homes are still far from drying out. Those who live here say they've never seen this before in December.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not in my lifetime here. No.

CHINCHAR: As they watch the flooding in Missouri. Those down river begin stacking sandbags, knowing it's only a matter of time before they get hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we get to deal with it once it hits Illinois here.

CHINCHAR: Rivers in Illinois are running 15 to 20 feet above normal level, with more still to come. Two teens were swept away, their abandoned truck found in 17 feet of water. One body has been found, the search continues for the other teen.

ASSISTANT CHIEF ANDY GOODALL, TAYLORVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our best guest is they both swam out and the water was too high and moving too fast for them to battle that current for very long.

CHINCHAR: As Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner tours the damage, the people who live here know it isn't over year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just keeps coming higher than I thought it would come.


CHINCHAR: And the reason for this is where all the water is coming from. So here is the entire basement, all of the rivers that are in this area, Missouri, Arkansas and Ohio, end up in the Mississippi River. So, all of that rain we saw everywhere over the last 10 to 14 days has to eventually come in here.

Now, the good news for St. Louis is that we have finally crested. The water is not going to rise anymore from here on out. It can only begin to recede. But further south, it's an entirely different story. Cape Girardeau yet to crest until January 3, Cairo, again, around January 4th. So, these areas are still on alert as that water begins to come down.

Farther south, Memphis and Pine Bluff also again looking at a delayed effect for a lot of this water to make it down to the area. And the problem with that is you never fully understand what your crest is going to get to, because you have to understand how much water is coming from the other location.

Greenville in Vicksburg, it's going to be at least ten if not 14 days before we end up getting our crest. The concern here is any more rain that we get in the next 10 to 1514 days will only make these crests even higher than they already are.

[07:10:05] And then down near the very bottom, just before it gets into the Gulf of Mexico, we have Baton Rouge and again New Orleans, a problem is they're a city that does not deal well with flooding.

Here you see New Orleans, however, is an action stage. The reason for that is while they do expect a ton of water to come down, they are planning to the Bonnet Carre Spillway to hopefully, fingers crossed guys, be able alleviate some of the water coming down so that New Orleans doesn't have to deal with the major flooding that other cities upstream have already dealt with.

KOSIK: All right. Fingers crossed from here as well. Allison Chinchar, thanks so much. We'll continue monitoring this story all morning long.

President Obama is preparing to kick off the New Year with a controversial decision on gun control.

BLACKWELL: Plus, Iraqi forces fight for Ramadi after ISIS militants attacked an army base near there.

KOSIK: Also in Saudi Arabia, 47 people convicted of terror attacks were executed, some beheaded.


BLACKWELL: Thirteen minutes after the hour now.

President Obama is vowing to make 2016 a busy end to his eight years in office. One of the likely targets on his agenda -- gun control.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is traveling with the president in Hawaii.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Alison, during his vacation here in Hawaii, President Obama has been working with top aides on the upcoming State of the Union Address. The speech is expected to set an ambitious tone for what the president is vowing will be a busy end to his eight years in office.

And right at the top of the agenda is gun control.

(voice-over): For President Obama, the final round is about to begin.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2016, I will leave it out on the field.

ACOSTA: Up first on the president's eight and last year in office, Mr. Obama's long promised response to mass shootings in the U.S. Sources familiar with the plan say it will be a package of executive actions on gun control, expected before the January 12th State of the Union, and aimed at the gun show loophole, which allows some firearms sellers to avoid conducting backgrounds checks on their customers.

[07:15:03] OBAMA: All across America, survivors of gun violence and those who lost a child or a parent or a spouse to gun violence are forced to mark such awful anniversaries every single day. And yet, Congress still hasn't done anything to prevent what happened to them from happening to other families.

ACOSTA: The president will review the slated administrative changes with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday. The White House argues the president's actions will be within his executive authority, and in line with polls that show broad support for tightening background checks.

OBAMA: Change is going to overtake all of us. The gun lobby is loud and well-organized in its defense of effortlessly available guns for anyone. The rest of us are going to have to be just as passionate and well-organized in our defense of our kids. That's the work of citizenship. To stand off and fight for the change we seek.

ACOSTA: Vowing to fight the move, the nation's biggest lobby the NRA says the president is doing what he wants when he doesn't get his way, defying the will of the people and using executive action.

Another controversial proposal coming in the New Year, the president will ask Congress to shut down the terror detention center at Guantanamo. A facility Mr. Obama may close on his own if lawmakers balk at the White House plan.

OBAMA: It will be an uphill battle.

ACOSTA: The president also hopes to travel to Cuba and perhaps more than a dozen other countries in what's shaping up to be a global farewell tour.

But the president's agenda could be upended by setbacks on the war on ISIS -- a foreign policy crisis that could complicate White House plans to have the president campaign heavily with the 2016 Democratic nominee, a prospect that may well put him and Hillary Clinton on the trail together again.

OBAMA: I think we will have a strong nominee. I think that Democratic nominee will win. I think I will have a Democratic successor.


ACOSTA: But, first, the president will lay out his plans for his final year in office at a fast-approaching State of the Union Address, which is less than two weeks away. White House officials say don't expect a laundry list of proposals, in part because the president is almost out of time -- Victor and Alison.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jim, thanks so much.

CNN political commentators Errol Louis and Ben Ferguson join us now.

Thank you both.

And, Errol, I want to start with you. It's been roughly three years since the president's full press that failed effort to get stricter gun laws enacted after Sandy Hook. Beyond this being the final year, why is this happening now? This was such a priority, why is it happening three years after that initial push?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the president I think has never got over Sandy Hook. He says it was the worst day of his presidency. It's something that he's expressed enormous frustration about over the last three years. So, this will be his last opportunity where he is said to be meeting with the Attorney General Loretta Lynch to sort of see how far he will go. It will end up in court regardless.

You know, you can expect the Supreme Court to end up ruling on this at some point down the road. But he wants to say he did everything that he could to prevent a repeat of that particular massacre and the others that have followed.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that meeting happening on Monday with the attorney general.

Ben, now to you, and I want to put the numbers up on the screen if we have them, guys. The latest Quinnipiac poll released just before Christmas showed that 87 percent of registered Republicans support a background checks for people who buy guns at gun shows or online.

So, as we talk about 2016 presidential politics, could this be a more difficult argument for GOP candidates to make against the president's proposed, or potential executive order?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I don't think so, because a lot of gun owner, especially Republican, understand that you can't micromanage and it shouldn't be micromanaging down to the point where if I'm selling a gun to either my dad or my dad gives me a family heirloom or grandfather, and that is where some of the Democrats have pushed it before. If you want to have a comprehensive reform, the White House better be honest about what's in it, because when they claim they are doing this, just to get rid of loophole, it's not what they have been doing in the past, it's trying to ban guns, a large list of guns.

The other problem is this, there is an issue of honesty on the White House agenda here. If they came out with just being honest about it and say, look, we want extreme gun control. And that's what we're going for. That's one thing.

But when you claim that somehow this executive action is going to make it safer or stop these mass shootings, the fact from the ground are the opposite of that. No one committed any of these crimes that the president is talking about with his executive action, the reason for doing it would have been stopped by closing this loophole as he puts it in background tested gun shows. None of these guns were purchased in that way that had any of these mass shootings or mass casualties.

So, when the president comes out and says this is about safety. There isn't one issue, one instance, I should say, where he can point and say if we would background tested gun shows. None of these guns were purchased in that way that had any of these mass shootings or mass casualties.

[07:20:00] So, when the president comes out and says this is about safety. There isn't one issue, one instance, I should say, where he can point and say, if we would have done this three years ago, or four years ago, or five years ago, Sandy Hook would not have happened. Aurora, Colorado, would not have happened.

This is about legacy checking, this will not make the American people safer, it would not have stopped any of these casualties that happen or any of these tragedies that happened.

BLACKWELL: I got you on that. But let me ask you, take you back to the question. If even 87 percent of registered Republicans would support stronger backgrounds checks, for simply those buying these shows, or online, and that is something he proposes, do you think that the Republican candidate for president can make that nuanced argument despite being at odds with their own voters?

FERGUSON: Yes. And the answer is yes, because it shouldn't be 50 guns in a year if he is putting it. The many Democrats saying, well, this should be a background check for every single gun that is going to be sold.

Again, if I inherit multiple guns for my dad or my grandfather as they passed away, or I want to give my to my brother or a cousin, I soon have to get a gun deal or a license. That is red tape and most Republicans agree with that sentiment.

BLACKWELL: Errol, let me come to you.

LOUIS: Well, I mean --

BLACKWELL: Go ahead. Go ahead. LOUIS: Let me say real quickly, the house that I live in, I bought

from my father. He had it for decades. And we had to do a, quote/unquote, "background check". We have to do title searches, and insurance, and all of this kind of stuff, and yes, it was a lot of red tape.

FERGUSON: Expensive.

LOUIS: It was the right thing to do to make sure that, you know, that the ownership is recorded that the public knows about it and that's just the house. It can't hurt anybody.

You know, it's not really an extreme measure to suggest that maybe we should do that with a deadly firearm.

BLAKCWELL: Errol, is this something the Clinton campaign welcomes?

LOUIS: I don't think so. I mean, look, the reality is, there is this disparity. You got that 87 percent physical you just mentioned. But then if you go and look at who those same Republican voters are voting for, are sending to Congress, sending to their state house, people with very different views about gun control.

So, voters are in some way, look, guns end up being a metaphor. You know, it means freedom to people. It means independence. It means protection for their family.

It doesn't get into the weeds of whether or not this is going to hurt some kid somewhere else, whether or not this might lead to some massacre.

And let's keep in mind that we're just not talking Sandy Hook type massacres or Aurora, Colorado-type massacres. There's this deadly daily drum beat in Chicago, in Philadelphia, in New York City, where three people are killed, four people are killed. Where all of this gun flight and that a lot of those guns are, in fact, trickling through these gun show loop homes and making their way up into the city.


FERGUSON: With all due respect.

LOUIS: It's not what the president wants to try to stop.

BLACKWELL: We have ten seconds.

FERGUSON: The facts do not back up what you just said. The guns are being used in killing people day in, day out in Chicago are not coming from a loophole at gun shows. That's just, the facts do not back up and officials, law enforcement officials, including the FBI statistics say that is absolutely incorrect. There is illegal guns on the street. They have nothing to do with law abiding citizens going through background checks --

(CROSSTALK) LOUIS: The NRA and the Congress --

BLACKWELL: We've got to --

LOUIS: -- we don't track where the guns come from. So, I mean, that's a part of the problem, too, and we can expect the president to talk about that.

BLACKWELL: We got to end it there. We know that meeting with happen with the attorney general on Monday. And we'll see this, as it's being called, imminent executive order will detail.

Thank you both. Errol and Ben, we'll see you next hour.

FERGUSON: Happy New Year.



KOSIK: OK. Coming up, new video of the hotel where the affluenza teen Ethan Couch and his mother hid during the Christmas holiday inn Mexico before they were caught.

Also in Saudi Arabia, the government orders the execution of 47 people, including a top terrorist. That report straight ahead. .


[07:26:42] KOSIK: We're getting our first look this morning at the Mexican resort where the so-called affluenza teen Ethan Couch and his mother were hiding out. His mother is back here in the U.S. and is charged with the hindering apprehension of a felon.

Couch who fled the U.S. after an alleged probation is still in Mexico fighting deportation. Two years ago, he killed people in a drunk driving accident but managed to avoid jail time.

BLACKWELL: An Islamic cleric highly critical of the Saudi royal family was among 47 of the convicted terrorists executed in Saudi Arabia. All of those put to death were found guilty of terrorist acts, some dating back more than a decade. One official says the executions were carried out by beheadings at firing squads at a dozen locations.

KOSIK: A virus carried by mosquitoes, it has caused a health scare in Brazil, has now spread to Puerto Rico with one reported case. The CDC is expected to visit the island this month to investigate the Zika virus, that causes serious neurological problems in newborns.

Iraqi forces are sweeping through Ramadi, evacuating civilians and tracking down the final few militants. We go live to Baghdad when we come back.

Also in India, at least seven people are dead after gunmen launched an attack on an Indian air force base near the border with Pakistan. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:30:34] BLACKWELL: Developing this morning in Iraq, ISIS militants have attacked an Iraqi army base near Ramadi, three Iraqi soldiers have been killed, 17 wounded. Now, Iraqi officials say ten suicide bombers driving explosive-laden vehicles attacked the base.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: This as Iraqi forces are evacuating civilians and still looking for ISIS fighters who are hiding in the city.

BLACKWELL: CNN senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir is live back from Baghdad.

Nima, tell us what we know about this attack.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, almost a week, Victor, after the Iraqi prime minister announced Ramadi liberated, the cleanup operations as they are characterizing them are still ongoing. But there is a sense that they're intensifying. Yesterday evening, multiple complex suicide bomb attack against the tenth division headquarters. Only it's on the outskirts of Ramadi, but it is only 35 kilometers from the government-held financial district.

This, of course, comes as a front of bad weather has been affecting the coalition ability to sustain some of those intense airstrikes. The worry is going into next week that ISIS militants are going to continue to exploit that exposure in terms of the air cover to try and launch further similar attacks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: How much of Ramadi have Iraqi forces been able to take? Do they now have control over all of it or are there still pockets in which ISIS fighters are still in control?

All right. Maybe we are having technical issues. Let me try one more time.

Nima, can you hear me?

All right. We'll try to fix it and get an answer to that question a little later in the morning. But our thanks to Nima Elbagir there in Baghdad for us.

Let's bring in CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

And let me bring the question to you. We're trying to figure out how much of the city ISIS fighters may they still have control of.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Victor, if you look at a map, and it's difficult to tell, but there is an area in the northeastern part of Ramadi called the Shark's Fin, because it looks like a shark's fin on a map, that's where ISIS is continuing to remain holed up. Estimates that they have a couple hundred fighters in that part of the city. You're going to see this go from a conventional fight as we seen it

over the last several weeks probably to a little bit of an unconventional insurgency, where fighters are laying low, being flushed out by the Iraqi security forces and then conducting what is their known preference, the suicide vest attacks and the suicide car bomb attacks, which they did a few days ago and yesterday against the tenth Iraqi army division.

Critically important, what's been interesting is for the first time, we're seeing the Iraqis fight back against this with rocket propelled grenades with some missiles that are taking, destroying the suicide car bombs, and they're doing a pretty good job, although it's been difficult ascertain how many casualties have been suffered on both sides to include the number of Iraqi security forces, numbers of how many killed or wounded.

BLACKWELL: So, now that Iraqi forces have taken Ramadi, how do they hold it? Because that is proven to be the more difficult of the challenges.

HERTLING: Yes, absolutely. What you are seeing is an agreement between the al Abadi government in Baghdad and the Sunni tribal council.

The Sunni tribal council in the Anbar province wants to take back over the security of Ramadi. They don't want a whole lot of help. They especially don't want Shia militias in there. But they have seen so far that the Baghdad government has actually provided support both monetarily and militarily, both critically important.

But the rebuilding of Ramadi you seen from some of the pictures is going to be a long going process. That city has somewhat been destroyed as a lot happens in combat.

BLACKWELL: Let's turn our attention now to Mosul. As we know that Iraqi military will turn their attention very soon. The prime minister says that's the next goal, to recapture city, much larger city, a different kind of challenge.

Contrast what we know about how Ramadi was taken back to how they will have to approach the recapture of Mosul.

[07:35:01] HERTLING: Yes, Victor, you and I talked about this a week ago. I think I told you one of the things I would be watching for is the Iraqi government not getting too cocky and trying to do too many things too quickly. And then, the very next day, Prime Minister Abadi said, hey, we're going to retake Mosul this year.

That's going to be challenging. He has to continue to fight in Anbar province, continue to use these Sunni militias and the Sunni tribal members and the Iraqi security forces to go after other towns in Anbar province.

The road to Mosul is going to be long and difficult. There's got to be a lot of other bases taken for the Iraqi security forces to go north. There's got to be a lot more engagement with the politicians in Mosul, where you had Sunnis almost exclusively in Ramadi, you've got an interesting mix of Sunnis, some Shia, a lot of Kurds, some Chaldeans, Assyrians, a bunch of different sects and tribes in the northern provinces.

The al Abadi government has to coordinate with those tribes before they push north. That's going to take a while. And it's ambitious to say they will retake Mosul in 2016. I wish them luck, but it's going to be a challenge.

BLACKWELL: Let's back from speaking specifically about individual cities and take a larger, longer look at what we are seeing. Are you seeing a shift in momentum as it relates to ISIS and being able to hold these cities? Put into context what you are seeing there.

HERTLING: Yes, I am, Victor, I said this from the beginning, that I think if the Iraqi government can come together and support the security forces, which they are doing now, with pay, with much better leadership and with support of both the government and the people, I fought with these guys, with these Iraqi security forces. They are good fighters. They will take the fight to the enemy. They do this in Iraq.

So, I think we are seeing a little turning of the tide. Many of us predicted that this would happen, if the security forces could get up and operational. And you are seeing them taking pride again if being Iraqis, in coming together as a nationalistic force.

It's going to be totally different in Syria. It's going to be much more difficult there. But I think you are seeing good advance, I won't claim victory yet, or we shouldn't spike the ball just yet in Iraq. But it seems that in the latter part of 2015 in the early stages of 2016, we may see some hope yet in the Iraqi security forces and their government.

BLACKWELL: All right. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, always good to have you.

HERTLING: Thank you, Victor. Happy New Year.

BLACKWELL: To you too.

KOSIK: And authorities say a methane leak in Porter Ranch, California, is now the biggest ever recorded. How has it affected the families living in that area? That's coming up.

BLACKWELL: Also, another blow to Bill Cosby and his defense, a Massachusetts court has denied a motion by his wife, Camille Cosby, to quash her deposition order.


KOSIK: People in one southern California community have been forced from their homes because of a massive leak of methane gas.

BLACKWELL: And officials say it will be months before the leak can be stopped. CNN's Paul Vercammen has the latest for us this morning.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Katz family, a blended modern Brady Bunch with five children and dogs, lives in a temporary home.

CHRISTINE KATZ, GAS LEAK VICTIM: It's disgusting what's going on. I'm heartbroken. We had to leave our beautiful home.

VERCAMMEN: They're 33 miles from the house they vacated in Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles suburb reeling from a massive methane gas leak.

BRIAN KATZ, GAS LEAK VICTIM: The smell can cause you to be nauseated. It can cause to give headaches, nose bleeds, which I have had, stomach problems.

VERCAMMEN: Infrared video taken by environmental activists shows a noxious plume rising over Porter Ranch from the Aliso Canyon storage facility owned by Southern California Gas. The utility says the underground leak first detected in October may not be stopped until late March.

MIKE MAZRAHI, SOCAL GAS SPOKESMAN: We're drilling a relief well. That relief well is going to go way down about 8,500 feet. It's going to intersect with the leaking well and then pump liquids and muds down there to stop the flow of gas, and then cement to permanently abandon the well.

VERCAMMEN: While SoCal Gas drills is paying for residents of 2,200 Porter Ranch homes to stay in temporary housing, including Yates Dickel (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the slow moving tsunami of evacuees. People realize this is serious stuff.

VERCAMMEN: The gas company asks more than 6,000 people are seeking financial aid. Many of them applying for help at a community center it established. Some government agencies are now taking extreme precautions. The FAA invoked a fly zone to 2,000 feet at a half mile around the leak site in response to fears gas fumes could be ignited by aircraft above.

The L.A. Unified School District closed two schools below the leak and is transferring almost 1,900 students.

That means two of the Katz boys will start at a new campus after winter break, and the family says two-year-old Ava has suffered the most. The Katz has claimed in one of the several lawsuits against SoCal gas, the leak resulted in upper respiratory symptoms that left Ava in intensive care for four days. (INAUDIBLE) Ava had no prior health problems and experienced some form of seizure.

C. KATZ: Even though we're so upset and saddened and stressed, trying to hold it together for them. You know, it's hard. We're a big family.

VERCAMMEN: Just one family moved out by a gas leak disaster that might be unseen and is still months away from being undone.

Paul Vercammen, CNN, Porter Ranch, California.


KOSIK: I can't believe it's going to take until March to plug that leak. I feel bad for those people. Ugh.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Listen, we're going to take you to Massachusetts. A court there has ordered Bill Cosby's wife, Camille Cosby, to testify in a defamation suit brought against her husband. She will have to give that deposition.

KOSIK: Also, we are remembering the daughter of Nat King Cole this morning, Natalie Cole, died after years of battling health issues.


[07:47:16] KOSIK: Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault in Montgomery, Pennsylvania. He's now on bail. And of his accusers says seeing Cosby's mugshot triggered an emotional reaction.

Here's CNN's Jean Casarez.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Cosby out on $1 million bail. His legal team vowing to mount a vigorous defense after Cosby was arraigned on criminal sexual assault charges.

REPORTER: Mr. Cosby, anything to say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These charges stem from a sexual assault that took place on an evening in early 2004 at Mr. Cosby's home in Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County.

CASAREZ: The 78-year-old comedian charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand. Constand worked with Temple University's athletic program and considered Cosby, 37 years her senior and a Temple alum, a friend and mentor. She accuses Cosby of drugging and assaulting her when she visited his Pennsylvania home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cosby made two sexual advances at her that were rejected. On the evening in question, Mr. Cosby urged her to take pills, that he provided to her and to drink wine.

CASAREZ: According to criminal complain, the pills and wine left Constand feeling dizzy, nauseous, frozen and paralyzed, but aware of Cosby fondling her breasts and putting his hand in her pants.

Constand went to the police about a year later. But the district attorney did not file charges, citing lack of evidence. She filed a civil suit against Cosby, forcing him to be deposed. He

settled the suit with her. The terms of which were sealed. That deposition was unsealed in July. In it, Cosby admits to giving women Quaaludes, but never without their knowledge.

Constand is the first of at least 50 women that have come forward with similar allegations over four decades. Some of those women now sharing their reactions to the news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I saw the mug shot, I started to cry. I -- it was, it just hit me so hard. I really didn't anticipate I was going to react that way.

CASAREZ: An attorney representing some of the accusers says she believes other alleged victims may be called to testify against Cosby at the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're going to demonstrate that kind of courage. They're going to tell what they say is their truth.

CASAREZ: The comedian has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and filed a countersuit against seven women earlier this month. He has yet to directly answer questions about the allegations. In interviews last November, Cosby refused to comment.

SCOTT SIMON: Shaking your head no.

[07:50:00] BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: There's no response.

CASAREZ: In a statement, his attorneys called the charges, quote, "unjustified", and vowed that he'll be, quote, "exonerated by a court of law."

(on camera): On New Year's Eve, Bill Cosby tweeted out, "Friends and fans, thank you."

The preliminary hearing for Bill Cosby at this point is set in Pennsylvania for January 14th -- Victor, Alisyn.


KOSIK: OK, Jean, thanks for that.

You know, ever since these accusations began coming to light many have wanted to hear from Bill Cosby's wife Camille. Now, in a few days, that is going to happen. Camille Cosby married to Bill for 52 years by a judge's order, she will have to answer questions from the attorney of seven accusers who are suing the comic legend. This is a separate case than the one happening in Pennsylvania.

So, let's bring in legal analyst Joey Jackson to help us understand what's happening with this case.

Welcome back, Joey.

So, just to understand what's happening here, she's going to be deposed. Can that testimony be used in the Andrea Constand case as well?


Remember, there are two separate and distinct instances. One, of course, relates to the deposition testimony that the judge ordered Camille Cosby to give, in reference to the seven defendants, or plaintiffs, I should say, that are suing him for defamation. So she will, Camille Cosby who we see there, will have to give information during that deposition, sworn testimony under oath in terms of what she knew, when she knew it, what his relations were like with women in general, did he give her drugs, did she know to give anyone else drugs.

But that is separate and distinct and only apply to defamation case which, of course, is a lot different than the criminal case proceeding against him in Pennsylvania. So, no, it will not interfere or otherwise spill over into that case. In fact, I don't think that, you know, Camille Cosby will be compelled to testify in that matter because of spousal privilege.

KOSIK: OK. We'll talk about her deposition. What about marital privilege? You know, where spouses, they can't be forced to testify against each other. So, how is this different?

JACKSON: You know, interestingly enough, and I looked over the judge's ruling. What the judge is saying is this, of course, there was a subpoena that was provided to Camille Cosby, to say hey, come testify at deposition. Her attorneys moved to quash it, which means we are not legally required to give a deposition.

And the judge said, notwithstanding the marital privilege, and this was his reasoning. What he says is that the marital privilege may be applied to trial testimony. But as it relates to deposition testimony, which is a vehicle for discovery, the giving of information about what you may know, what else might be out there that may in fact pertain to and be relevant to trial, you have to talk about it.

Now, at trial, it's another thing. Perhaps at trial, you can say you have this marital privilege. But we're not at trial. We're simply at the discovery phase, and it's not going to be applicable here. It's only going to be applicable there. That is at the trial.

And that's how the judge essentially got around that whole marital privilege issue.

KOSIK: What do you think, any last minute legal maneuvers that could allow her to avoid this deposition?

JACKSON: I think we could look to see that because ultimately Camille Cosby is saying I am protected by that privilege and it's unduly burdensome for me to testify. And since I have no firsthand knowledge of anything that occurred, you'd be asking me to talk about communications between myself and my spouse. Of course, the judge said, OK, it's discovery, you have to. You can look to see them perhaps appeal or something else. But, of course at the end of the day, if she does give testimony the

issue is how overwhelmingly helpful it will be, because remember this, Alison, only two people know what they talked about, they being Camille Cosby and Bill Cosby. No one else does. So, to the extent that she doesn't know things, who's going to claim that she does, right?

KOSIK: What's the likelihood we'll actually hear some of the details that come out of the this deposition, if it happens?

JACKSON: You know, I think that they'll be moving to seal any type of information that was disclosed between the two during the deposition. It will be up to the judge in terms of whether he does seal it or whether it's released to the public.

Of course, we should note that the deposition that came out earlier in the Andrea Constand matter, right, separate case. We thought that was sealed. However, we thought years later, ten years later , it was unsealed. And so, chances are good that at some point, if not immediately into the future, we may very well know what exactly she said in that deposition, even if not immediately.

KOSIK: OK. We shall see. Joey Jackson, thanks so much.

JACKSON: Happy New Year, Alison. Thank you.

KOSIK: Happy New Year.

BLACKWELL: Well, ahead, the water level and therefore the danger level quickly rising in parts of the Midwest this morning. Officials in Illinois warning that a second levee could be breached if the Mississippi River overtops its banks. What does this mean for the people who live in this community? We'll talk to emergency management next hour.


[07:57:32] KOSIK: A legendary songstress and multi-Grammy winner born into music of royalty has passed away.

BLACKWELL: Natalie Cole died Thursday night in Los Angeles and she followed in the footsteps, of course, of her legendary father, singer Nat King Cole. She won nine Grammys during her career, including best new artist for her 1975 debut album. Remember that single, "This Will Be"?

KOSIK: I do.

BLACKWELL: Natalie Cole was 65. And her family said she suffered from complications due to ongoing health issues. In 2009, she talked to CNN about her illness.


LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Are you going to go out and sing?


KING: You can tour?

COLE: Absolutely.

KING: But let's say you're touring, you're opening in Detroit.

COLE: Yes.

KING: There's a center that can hook you up?

COLE: Yes.

KING: All dialysis is the same?

COLE: All the facilities are the same.

KING: They do the same thing.

COLE: They know -- I have a wonderful team of people at my facility here in Los Angeles, that I tell them where I'm going, they make phone calls and make appointments. It's quite amazing. I've been on dialysis in Istanbul, Milan, Indonesia, Manila, London. It's amazing. It's really fascinating.

KING: You're amazing. I'm going to give this to you I'll ask the question, these are all the e-mails from dozens, dozens of people. Often to be tested to see if they can match who want to give you a kidney.

COLE: That -- that's amazing.

KING: What do you make of that?

COLE: That's amazing. I don't know. I always felt it was so strange to solicit to strangers for a kidney. But people are really great -- there's some great human beings out there.

KING: What then kept you going to get on the stage? What does keep --

COLE: I think it was the only thing I had left then, my voice. God didn't take my voice. He took my health for a minute, you know. But my voice was still there.

And now, we should talk about my music.

KING: I'm going to.

I think your father will be proud.

COLE: I think he would, too.

KING: I have no doubt that he would be proud.


KOSIK: She'll be remembered.

BLACKWELL: Certainly.

KOSIK: There's a lot of news to tell you about this morning.

BLACKWELL: Your next hour of NEW DAY starting right now.


BLACKWELL: Starting with this brazen attack. Israeli police right now are searching for the shooter who killed two people and wounded seven others in Tel Aviv.