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Nightclub Fire Kills At Least 233; A History Of Tragic Club Fires; Hikers Rescued From Raging River; Gun Debate Showdown; Hillary Clinton In 2016; Hillary Clinton's Legacy; Another Credit Card Fee Is Here; World Economic Forum Wraps Up; Hollywood Prepares For SAG Awards; Obama Predicts Less Violence In Football

Aired January 27, 2013 - 14:30   ET


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: It's 2:30 p.m. in the East, 11:30 a.m. on the West Coast. I'm Miguel Marquez in for Fredricka Whitfield. If you're just tuning in, thanks for joining us. These are the top stories we're following right now in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We begin with tragic news out of Brazil. At least 233 people have died in an early morning fire in a crowded nightclub in the city of Santa Maria. College students were jammed inside celebrating the end of their summer vacation when the blaze broke out about 2:00 in the morning.

Let's go right to CNN's Rafael Romo with the latest. Rafael, how did this fire start?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: There was a concert at 2 a.m. and part of the concert included using pyrotechnics and apparently part of the initial investigation points to the fact that it might have been started that way.

There was insulation, there was foam insulation on the ceiling and that might have been a possibility. Now the problem is that the place was grossly overcrowded. Authorities say that it was built for about 1,000 people.

And there were more than 2,000 there, and when the fire started with dense smoke and flames, people were frantically trying to get out of the place and that's when the problem became worse -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Rafael, many of the dead found in the bathrooms there. Why was that the case?

ROMO: Well, it was impossible for people to use the regular exits to get out of the place. The next possible place that they would go or that they thought, at least, the best possibility would be to go to the restrooms because they would find water.

And if the flames became worse they would have water to protect themselves there. The problem is that a lot of people had the same idea. People were trampled and people, essentially, died of smoke inhalation there in the bathrooms -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: There were some really stunning video, as well, of somebody trying to knock through a wall at the nightclub here and people so desperate to get out of there. What can you say about some of the situation there? What can you say about it as it unfolded?

ROMO: Here's a very dramatic video, you are seeing people using whatever they can get their hands on pick axes to try to get access to this club. Essentially because all of the exits were completely blocked, so many people trying to get there and a lot of the bodies that were found there.

And, so, you would see people desperately trying to get to those victims and get to the survivors and try to get them out of there and also the bodies, many families waiting outside at least trying to get an idea of what happened there.

MARQUEZ: I take it that part of the reason this tragedy was so big. This is the last day of summer. This was a college town. This was their big night to party and have fun before the school year started, yes?

ROMO: That's right. That part of the world it's the summer. For Brazil, specifically, this is the end of the summer holiday season and a lot of these people and most of them were young, some just teenagers, Miguel.

They were seeing this as their last opportunity to party. Most of them had to go back to school or to work on Monday and that's the reason why this was the biggest party in town and most of the young people were there, which, as you can imagine, Miguel, it made the tragedy even worse.

MARQUEZ: Just horrible, thank you, Rafael. Thanks for watching it for us. We'll keep up with you.

Sadly, deadly nightclub fires have occurred all too often. Some of the worst right here in the U.S. Our Susan Candiotti joins us from New York -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Miguel. You know, it's been nearly a decade since the last nightclub fire that caused mass casualties in the United States.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): In 2003, 100 people died at the station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, where the band "The Great White" was performing. Pyrotechnics ignited soundproofing material and smoke filled the room.

In 1990, arson was the cause of the Happy Land fire in New York. It killed 87 people. Authorities said the Bronx club was operating illegally, two years after it was ordered closed because of safety violations.

In 1977, fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Kentucky, killed 165 people. Among 2,400 waiting for entertainer John Davidson to perform, which believed to be an electrical fire went undetected at first. There were no fire detectors or sprinklers, at the time they weren't required.

The deadliest nightclub blaze happened in 1942 at the Coconut Grove Club in Boston, 492 people were killed. The cause of the blaze, to this day, remains unknown.


CANDIOTTI: We don't know all the details about what happened in Brazil yet, of course. However, whenever and wherever this kind of disaster occurs, investigators will be looking at fire codes, for example. What kind were in place and were they enforced?

In the U.S., for example, there is no National Safety Code. That's left up to individual states or counties and cities to set up and follow. Now, among the things authorities will examine, was the club overcrowded? It seems that it was. Were there smoke detectives, a sprinkler system and well-marked exits -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Susan, so terrible. Our hearts go out to the folks in Brazil at the moment. Thank you very much.

That arctic blast isn't over yet. Parts of the Midwest and northeast are being slammed with a mixture of freezing rain and snow. Icy roads and poor visibility are making travel dangerous. And the cold weather will continue into the workweek with some areas in the northeast getting light snow.

Some scary moments for a group of 50 hikers in Arizona, they got trapped in raging flood waters while trying to cross river. Police rushed to the scene after getting a flood of 911 calls and spent hours trying to locate them. Officials say it was a challenge to find them, but eventually all the hikers were rescued.

Turning now to the debate over gun control, Senator Dianne Feinstein laid out her case for banning military assault rifles on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" today. She says the NRA may be the dominant gun group, but that most of the country sides with curbing assault weapons and violence.


SENATOR DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think you reached a point, as I said earlier, where enough is enough. Do military assault weapons belong on the streets of our cities? And the answer according to the United States Conference of Mayors, according to major chiefs of police, according to the largest police organization in the world is absolutely no.


MARQUEZ: But Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn has a different view about gun control.


REPRESENTATIVE MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: We need to be looking at the root causes. Some of these psychotropic drug and not let this be about the weapon, but let's talk about some of the root issues. I understand the senator's passion for this, but I have to tell you, an assault ban is not the answer to helping keep people safe.


MARQUEZ: In an interview with the "New Republic" magazine, President Obama says gun owners will not be forgotten in the ongoing debate. The president said he has, quote, "a profound respect for the tradition of hunting that trace back to this country for generations."

This could be Hillary Clinton's last week as secretary of state. We'll take a look at the imprint that she has made on U.S. diplomacy and the highs and lows of her long career in Washington.

Plus celebrities battle it out tonight for an award that carries a lot of weight in Hollywood.


MARQUEZ: She's not expected to leave her post as secretary of state for a few days yet, but already Hillary Clinton has fans wanting her on the ballot for president in 2016.


FEINSTEIN: I think she's accomplished an incredible record. I think she has really unbridled popularity. She has a total knowledge of all of the issues. She has served in the Senate. She has been --


FEINSTEIN: I am a fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want her to run.

FEINSTEIN: I would love it if she would run.


MARQUEZ: So maybe she has one more chapter in history to make or maybe embrace a new role in the civilian world. Douglas Brinkley is one of America's foremost presidential historians and joins us live.

Hillary Clinton had a fairly smooth ride as U.S. senator and secretary of state. Where does this secretary, this great woman, secretary of state, first lady, senator, this political force that she is fit into the historical landscape?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, there's nobody quite like her. I mean, there is Eleanor Roosevelt who she has perhaps most like, but Hillary Clinton is constantly surprising people just by her sheer competence at whatever she takes on.

She was a popular first lady and then a very popular New York senator and now an even more popular secretary of state and as she prepares to leave she will write a memoir on what the last four years were like. She traveled a million miles on behalf of our State Department going to Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, Vietnam, on and on.

MARQUEZ: I think that earns one the platinum card when it comes to flying, I suppose. They do talk about her, the Hillary doctrine. They talk about her as this great secretary of state, but what can she point to specifically as her accomplishments in that role?

BRINKLEY: Well, she promoted smart power, meaning after George W. Bush and the Iraq war sending troops abroad, finding other ways to achieve goals in the war on terror. She's largely been the voice of the women's movement around the world, talking about democracy and women's issues.

She's beloved by feminists and holds a feminist role of global stature and I think most significantly in the end she is just very well liked by presidents and prime ministers and our own U.S. military.

I mean, talk to the generals and talk to the admirals. They all have great respect for her. She has promoted the internet and Facebook, Twitter as tools in diplomacy and foreign policy making, probably more than any other person working in our government.

MARQUEZ: Sounds like a very modern secretary of state, but it does come at a price in Benghazi and that last hearing that she had where she said, does it really matter what happened on the ground? This will come back to haunt her no matter what she does.

BRINKLEY: If she runs for president, though some of the sound bites from the hearings will obviously be used by her Republican opponents in commercials and the like, you know, because there's a great retort to her that if you take that sound bit, it does matter.

And you hear Republicans doing that this week. However, if you take a whole scoop of one's tenure at foggy bottom I would say Benghazi is the low water mark, but there's plenty of other achievements. If she writes the memoir right she might be able to frame Benghazi and the emotion she has of losing the lives of those Americans in Benghazi under her watch.

MARQUEZ: She was criticized for not dumping Bill during the Monica Lewinsky affairs. She is still one of the most admired women in the world. She leaves the secretary's position with very high numbers and those numbers are fickle. They can go away, yes?

BRINKLEY: Well, absolutely. And she, look, "60 Minutes" is doing an exit interview with President Obama and I think Michelle and Hillary Clinton together and she's off. She needs rest. She is exhausted.

As I mentioned she needs to work on a memoir and give speeches and at that point in about 18 months or two years, they have a big decisions to make, the Clintons, whether she will run for re-election or be an elder statesperson of global stature and promote issues like women's rights and human rights.

MARQUEZ: Well, the way presidential elections work around here, she may need to decide in the next six weeks or so if she's running. That's the big question. Will she run for president? What's your take on it?

BRINKLEY: If you study, there is an industry of books about her, many of them critical by the right, but if you read the good books. This is somebody who does not lack ambition. I think the ability to break the glass ceiling and be the first female president has to be overwhelming.

She is the Democratic Party's favorite choice. I think Joe Biden right now is probably poised for second choice. So, if she runs, it's going to be pretty hard to deny her in my view the nomination. So, the question is whether she's up for the exhaustion of going to the Iowa caucus in New Hampshire and South Carolina and having Lewinsky and other issues from the '90s come back and haunt her in some ways.

Does she have that fight in her? I think her health is a big determining factor, but she is still a power player and is very likely the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

MARQUEZ: Douglas Brinkley, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

MARQUEZ: Top CEOs and world leaders talking about the world economy in Davos, Switzerland. Why should you care? It all has to do with your dollars and cents.

So does this. Some stores are now charging you more to use your credit cards. We'll tell you why.


MARQUEZ: For folks who like to shop with their credit cards, listen up. Starting today you may pay more every time you swipe your card at a store. Merchants who accept Visa and Mastercard are now allowed add a service charge to the purchase. It will equal the cost of processing new transaction and could be as much as 4 percent. But some stores say they won't add on the charge.

It's called the World Economic Forum. It's held every year in Davos, Switzerland, and some of the people who flock to this alpine resort make the 1 percent look like poor cousins. So why should we care what's happening thousands of miles away in a small European village?

Poppy Harlow is there and she explains why it matters.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Miguel. Yes, that's a very good question. There are the parties here, the far too expensive food and taxies here in Davos. Look at the setting in the Swiss alps.

But this is the World Economic Forum, it happens once a year where politicians, academics, representatives from NGOs all come together to talk about the big issues in the global economy namely the problems facing the recovery.

All week here I've been talking to business leaders and the focus has really been consistently on how do you spur job growth and how do you create jobs in the U.S. and in Europe, specifically.

I spoke with media mogul, Ariana Huffington. Of course, as you know, she's very politically outspoken and she talked to me about her biggest concern. Listen.


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, "HUFFINGTON POST": For me, the biggest crisis that is not being addressed out of Washington is youth unemployment. The fact that 50 percent of college graduates either can't get a job or are doing a job for which they would not have needed a college degree. That's not sustainable. That really goes right against the American dream.


HARLOW: What she told me is that she wants to see money spent on infrastructure and she also said that eliminating the payroll tax break was a big mistake by Washington. So, she'd be in the camp of those who want to see more federal spending to create jobs.

But here's the other side of that argument that we're hearing here in Davos. The CEO of Cisco, one of the biggest companies in the world told me that the real problem lies in the policies of the Obama administration towards corporations.


JOHN CHAMBERS, CEO OF CISCO SYSTEMS: I think we've got to get our act back together in terms of business and government working together, a tax policy which is predictable. The ability to say how do we create a win/win environment? Certain states in the U.S. are doing a remarkably good job. Those models whether they occur in Canada, Colorado, U.K., Israel or Russia is what we're looking for and that's we will invest.


HARLOW: Just to put this in some perspective for you, Miguel. That company, Cisco, has nearly $40 billion parked overseas, not here in the U.S. and Chambers is pretty clear telling me he's not going to be investing a lot of that money in the United States unless policy changes here.

So, two very different arguments, but the same goal and the same conversation here all week, job creation. And I think the consensus here is that people really want clarity from Washington on taxes and on spending. They want to see a long term deal -- Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Thank you, Poppy Harlow, 40 billion bucks, a lot.

If you're still on a high from the Golden Globes and all that fashion and glamour then brace yourself. Hollywood is set for another round of it. The 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are tonight honoring the best actors and actresses in TV and film. CNN'S Nischelle Turner has more.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Hollywood honors where Oscar's granddaddy, you might call the SAG Awards a sassy teenager.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 19th Annual Screen Actor Guild Awards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big deal. It's film and TV mixing together. It's the recognition of your peers, unlike any other ceremony in Hollywood.

TURNER: And like other teens, this one has strong opinions and is often a trendsetter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The actors are the biggest branch of the academy. So, very much so what happens at the Screen Actors Guild Awards can be a precursor for what is going to happen at the Oscars.

TURNER: John Wiseman says earlier awards this season have given some SAG nominees momentum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their performances were great in so many of these movies. Anne Hathaway in "Les Mis," Jennifer Lawrence in "Silverlining's Playbook," and of course, Daniel Day Lewis in "Lincoln."

TURNER: But the night's biggest prize of all cast in a motion picture is still a horse race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have terrific movies nominated including "Lincoln," "Argo," "Les Miserables," "Silverlining's Playbook" plus the best exotic "Marygold Hotel," any one of those casts are deserving of victories. It is what everyone is talking about right now.

TURNER: When they're not talking about TV dramas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The flavor of the month or of the year right now is "Homeland." "Homeland" has been winning everything in sight, but not maybe the "Ensemble" in the way "Boardwalk Empire" is. And then, of course, you got "Mad Men" and (inaudible) and just sort of lurking there going about us.

TURNER: As for the comedy --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Girls" is not nominated at the sag. That takes away one potential rival from "Modern Family."

TURNER: Seen as the frontrunner for its third straight win. Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MARQUEZ: And don't you dare miss our coverage live from the red carpet. The Screen Actor Guild Awards that's tonight at 6:30 Eastern right here on CNN.

Actor Burt Reynolds is battling the flu in a Florida hospital. We'll give you an update on his condition. Casey Anthony owes $800,000 to 80 creditors. Hear what she is doing it keep from paying them one dime.

If you have to go out today, just a reminder you can continue watching CNN from your mobile phone. You can also watch CNN live from your laptop, just go to


MARQUEZ: Now to some stories trending on the internet this hour. Actor Burt Reynolds is feeling better, but still not completely over the flu just yet. He remains in intensive care at a Florida hospital. The actor's representative says his fever has gone down and he expects Reynolds to be released from the hospital tomorrow.

Casey Anthony's legal struggles are still not over. She filed for bankruptcy the same day two of her four convictions for lying were thrown out. Anthony says she owes almost $800,000 to about 80 creditors and has no income.

A third victory for Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, the win makes him the first man to capture three consecutive Australian Open titles. He beat Andy Murray in four sets. Amazing.

President Clinton said he expects football to gradually become less violent. The president tells the "New Republic," I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I'd let him play football.

Mr. Obama says he's particularly concerned about college players who suffer concussions and other injuries. He's less worried about the NFL where players are grown men who are paid well. The full interview appears in the February 11th issue.

I'll be back in an hour with a sneak preview of some of the most talked about Super Bowl ads a week before they air.

Who shot J.R.? A cliffhanger watched by millions around the world, so, how will TNT's "Dallas" deal with his real death.

We'll have a live interview with the man who plays J.R.'s nephew, actor, Jessie Metcalfe. Stay with CNN. "YOUR MONEY" starts right now.