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231 Dead in Brazil Nightclub Fire; Big Immigration Reforms Unveiled Today; Senate Set to Vote Today on Sandy Relief; The 19th Screen Actors Guild Awards; Super Bowl Week Kicks Off

Aired January 28, 2013 - 09:00   ET



Happening now in the NEWSROOM, trapped. New details this morning on that horrific nightclub fire in Brazil. Doors were locked. Thousands of people, and only one exit. And now there are new questions about the club's license and word of arrests made just this morning.

Obama, Clinton, and 2016, the secretary of state and the future.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: And I don't think either he or I can make predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow or the next year.


COSTELLO: Just ahead, the love fest and what a difference an election can make.

Credit alert. Think twice about putting down the plastics. Stores in 40 states can now charge you with so-called checkout fee? We'll tell you how much and where.

Plus this.


TINA FEY, ACTRESS: I really hope "30 Rock" is ending this week, but I hope it has a long life in syndication. I hope -- I look forward to another generation of nerds kind of finding it and enjoying it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was so cool being able to roll out the red carpet and then coming here today and them calling our name.


COSTELLO: Backstage at the SAG Awards. NEWSROOM has your all access pass to the winners and the moments everyone is talking about, including this wardrobe malfunction from Jennifer Lawrence.

NEWSROOM starts now. And good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello. In Washington this morning, we begin with new developments in that horrifying nightclub fire in Brazil. Just a few minutes ago, we learn that police arrested one of the club's owners and two members of the band who were using fireworks in their show.

More than 230 people died in the inferno, nearly half of them college students from the nearby campus.

CNN's Shasta Darlington joins us live from Santa Maria, Brazil.

Shasta, what can you tell us about these arrests?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, they obviously give us some indication where these investigations are going. There have been a lot of reports that the club simply wasn't prepared for this kind of emergency. Perhaps that its license was even expired, that the whole inferno could have been set off by a pyrotechnics show that the band members themselves were putting on.

So the fact that these people have been arrested certainly gives us some indication that this is the problem.

Now I'm just a few steps away from the nightclub Kiss where this fire tore out early Sunday morning, killing, as you said, 231 people. There investigators inside right now still going through the clues, combing through all of the rubble. And it's a bright, quiet day. People from Santa Maria gathered here.

This was a different scene just a few hours ago.


DARLINGTON (voice-over): Smoke filled the air when the first firefighters entered the nightclub, where shirtless men were already trying to rescue some of the injured. Emergency vehicles arrived, not realizing the extent of the tragedy they faced. Chaos and terror among survivors, and the bodies of victims all around.

The fire broke out at about 2:00 in the morning in a nightclub called Kiss in Santa Maria in Brazil's southern most state. The club was packed with some 2,000 people, twice its legal capacity, according to officials.

GUIDO DE MELO, STATE FIRE OFFICIAL (Through Translator): People who were inside the facility informed us that, when they came out, the security guards blocked the exit to prevent people there from leaving, and that's when the crowd started panicking, and the tragedy grew worse.

DARLINGTON (on camera): This is Santa Maria's local gymnasium, but it's been turned into a makeshift morgue. There are more than 100 bodies here. Hundreds of families have come together trying to locate and identify their relatives, who were, of course, young people in their late teens, early 20s. They died of asphyxiation, and some of them were even trampled to death. (Voice-over): As the coffins for the many victims were lined up, investigators searched for the cause of the fire, which tore through the soundproofing insulation in the roof.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cut short her appearance at a summit in Chile and headed to Santa Maria to personally oversee the government's response to the tragedy.

It was the end of the summer holiday season in Brazil, the last chance to party for many young people due back at school or work on Monday.


COSTELLO: Shasta Darlington reporting from Santa Maria, Brazil.

And as we said at the beginning of the show, one arrest has been made, the club's owners. And we understand also that two members of the band playing that night also may be placed under arrest. We'll have more information coming your way as we get it in.

Also new this morning, big change is being proposed for the nation's immigration system. A bipartisan group of senators will unveil details this afternoon. So let's get a preview now.

Brianna Keilar is at the White House.

Good morning.


This is a big week for this issue of immigration. A press conference will take place this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. And this is a group of eight senators, a bipartisan group, and a really forceful lineup. You can see Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennett, on the Democratic side. And for Republicans, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Jeff Flake.

We understand that this bipartisan plan would offer a path to residency and even citizenship for millions of immigrants who here in the U.S. illegally, that it would call for an employment verification system to also prevent identity theft and that there would be some sort of enforcement with employers cracking down on them if they were to hire illegal immigrants. The aim obviously being the end of hiring those unauthorized workers.

The president, as you know, Carol, will also be taking up this issue this week. He'll be heading to Las Vegas tomorrow. He met Monday with the congressional Hispanic caucus to sort of talk and preview this plan that he's already put out, but he'll be highlighting tomorrow.

COSTELLO: Brianna Keilar reporting live from the White House this morning.

Also today, about two hours from now, President Obama plans to meet with police chiefs and sheriffs from around the nation to talk about reducing gun violence. The police chiefs of Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, saw their share of gun violence last year also expected to attend.

Even as the president convenes this meeting, a law enforcement backlash continues. A Wisconsin sheriff is now encouraging citizens to take up arms and not solely rely on law enforcement for protection.


SHERIFF DAVID CLARKE, MILWAUKEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: With officers laid off and furloughs, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. But are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we can get there.


COSTELLO: That's a radio ad running right now in Wisconsin. Sheriff David Clarke defended that ad on CNN's "STARTING POINT." He said it's necessary because of budget constraints.


CLARKE: And last year with the budget cut, I had to lay off 42 people. The city of Milwaukee Police Department that I work with in conjunction with them anyway for public safety in Milwaukee County, this year is furloughing 1500 officers three days each. That's 4500 fewer officer days that will be spent on the street.


COSTELLO: Sheriff Clarke is joining other sheriffs in bucking a law that's not even really a law yet. We've told you about a South Carolina sheriff who says he will not enforce any new gun laws he deems unconstitutional. Sheriff Al Cannon appeared on my show last week. In the next hour I'll talk to the man spearheading a petition calling for Cannon's resignation. Three hundred sixty people have signed that petition. That's 40 short of the goal of 400.

It's taken three months, but finally the Senate is expected to vote to help those devastated by Superstorm Sandy. You know the backstory. Republicans had balked at getting money to disaster victims unless costs were offset. The idea enraged northeast governors like Republican Chris Christie.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Disaster relief was something that you didn't play games with, but now in this current atmosphere, everything is the subject of one-upsmanship, everything is a possibility, a potential piece of bait for the political game. And it's just -- it is why the American people hate Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: Today survivors will be watching to see if lawmakers actually vote to send $50 billion their way.

Our national correspondent Jason Carroll live in hard hit Staten Island, New York, where people are desperately waiting for that help.

Good morning.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning, Carol. Nowhere can that desperation be felt more than right here on Hamden Street in Staten Island. If you take a look behind me, you can get evidence of the devastation that this neighborhood was hit with. This is a vacant lot but there used to be a home here. It was demolished yesterday. The other homes here, still in question as whether or not they will be demolished.

Workers still working on this house here. You can see the yellow sign there on this door. So many doors here in this neighborhood. Con Edison still deciding if it's safe enough. Debris outside of Fran Escano's (ph) home. She's lived here for seven years. You can see the devastation that she is still dealing with and the destruction inside her home.

She rode out the storm here like so many in this neighborhood. She actually survived by holding on to a cooler which actually ended up floating down the street.

You, like so many people here, this really is the 11th hour for you.

FRAN ESCANO, STORM VICTIM: Yes, it is. Thank you, Jason. As you could see, my home here is destroyed. As you can see, I can't live in it. I have no electric. I have no plumbing. I have no boiler, and I need some help over here. Hopefully, someone who's listening out there possibly can help me get back into my home.

CARROLL: I know this emotionally is very difficult for you. I want to thank you for doing this. I know it's been a struggle for the past three months financially. What are you hoping that this bill will be able to do for you?

ESCANO: I'm hoping I can get a grant, some money to help me pay. I'm now paying a mortgage and a rent, and I'm on temp disability. I just had my second spinal surgery. And it's difficult for me to handle both, and I've been asking for some rental assistance, which has failed me, once I went and they messed up on my paperwork, and I had to go back. And I'm still waiting for some answers in regards to that there for rental assistance.

CARROLL: And when I look at your house here, I mean, basically, it's been -- the inside of it has been destroyed. But you are still hoping to stay, hoping to rebuild?

ESCANO: Yes, I want to come back to my home. This is a wonderful neighborhood. I have wonderful neighbors on the block. We're all good people. And I want to come back. I hope soon. CARROLL: I think a lot of people don't realize that, even though, you know, some assistance is being offered in terms of trying to provide rent, for example, but, Carol, in New York City we're talking rents at a discounted rate, sometimes $1700, $1800 a month. That's something that middle class families simply cannot afford.

ESCANO: I was just going to say that, even if I was working, I still could not afford to pay a rent and a mortgage at the same time. And you want to know, people want their money. Banks are calling me every week. They want their money. Banks want to get paid. Contractors want to get paid. And my landlord wants her money.

And I need some help with some sort of assistance. I hope that is going to be coming to me shortly because this is three months in after the hurricane.

CARROLL: Fran Escano:

And Carol, you take Fran Escano's situation, multiply -- multiply that by thousands and thousands of people in New York and New Jersey who are looking for aid and hoping that they will, in fact, receive it -- from Washington later on today -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, the Senate expected to vote on that $50 billion aid package today, and then it will go to the president. And we'll see what happens.

Jason Carroll reporting live from Staten Island this morning.

The 49ers flag waves on top of the team's Super Bowl flight. The Niners have arrived, but the Ravens are coming. I'll take you to New Orleans to talk about the big game.


COSTELLO: Fifteen minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

Congressman Paul Ryan says, when it comes to the country's financial health, President Obama is not taking it seriously enough. The former Republican vice presidential candidate took to the airwaves in his first live interview since the election. He told NBC's "Meet the Press" why the GOP-controlled House decided to buy time on the debt ceiling debate.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: They haven't put out a plan. The reason why we wanted to get the debt limit extended is so that we can showcase our budgets. We will put our budget and says, here's our plan for economic rule. Here's our plan for balancing the budget. Here's our plan for entitlement reform, which is necessary if you want to save Medicare from bankruptcy and get this debt under control.


COSTELLO: As for 2016, Ryan says it's premature to say if he will run for president.

Several miles of the Mississippi River closed this morning after two tank barges loaded with crude oil hit a railroad bridge. It happened near the town of Vicksburg, about 45 miles west of the Jackson. One tank with 80,000 gallons of crude oil started leaking. But the Coast Guard stopped the leak. They're now trying to figure out how many gallons spilled into the river.

Icy conditions causing trouble for drivers. Some are hitting slick spots and losing control. Transportation officials are also warning of fog. The wintry weather already blamed for several accidents.

Gatorade no longer using an ingredient patented as a flame retardant in its drinks. The oil/flame retardant is banned in the entire European Union, Japan, and several other countries. "The New York Times" is reporting you can still find the chemical, however, in 10 percent of drinks sold in the United States, including Mountain Dew, Powerade, Fresca, and Sunkist Peach Soda.

The countdown to the Oscars is on after the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were handed out last night, better known as SAG. The show kicked off with a few laughs during the traditional "I am an actor" speeches. And it's no surprise who became an instant favorite.


SOFIA VERGARA, NOMINATED FOR BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES: I grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia, in a very traditional Catholic home. My father told me that if I ever did anything artistic, I was going to look like a hooker. I told him, "With these huge boobs that I inherited from your mother, I already look like a hooker."

I am Sofia Vergara, and I am an actress.


COSTELLO: Is there any cuter woman on the planet? Well, maybe Nischelle Turner is one.

Good morning, Nischelle.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wow, Carol, thank you. What a way to start that Monday morning. I appreciate it, and I'm going to take that compliment. Thank you very much.

COSTELLO: You do look good.

TURNER: You know, it was a fun show last night. I think Sofia Vergara and Hal Holbrook were probably my two favorites.

But the star of the night, I think, was Ben Affleck. It is definitely starting to be Ben Affleck's award season. It just keeps getting better and better for him. His movie "Argo" took home the top prize and best ensemble cast in a motion picture category.

Now, "Argo" has got to be considered a front-runner for best picture race at the Academy Awards next month. However, most film critics will tell you, if a director is not nominated for on Oscar, the movie has little chance of winning. But this could buck the trend. It sets for a pretty intriguing Oscar night.

And speaking of a great awards season, Mr. Lincoln himself, Daniel Day-Lewis, took home best actor for a male in his role for "Lincoln". He swept the season. And "Silver Linings Playbook" star Jennifer Lawrence won a SAG statue for best female actor. "Les Miserables" did not go home empty handed, though, because Anne Hathaway earned a trophy in best supporting actress category.

You know, beautiful dresses, good speeches. I think it was a good night, Carol.

COSTELLO: Speaking of beautiful dresses. It's all over the internet. Jennifer Lawrence's dress, did it really rip open when she stood up to take her award?

TURNER: You know, looks can be deceiving because this seems to be the wardrobe malfunction that actually wasn't. It's almost like that depends on what your definition of it is, because technically she did have a wardrobe malfunction, but the dress didn't rip.

In case you're not completely confused, here's a little bit more. According to E-Online, when she was walking up the steps to receive her actor, she adjusted the beautiful Christian Dior gown that she was wearing, and it revealed some sheer lining, which was purposely designed underneath her gown to connect to the fabric. So, it wasn't actually a tear. It was just a little fabric connection that you weren't supposed to see.

COSTELLO: It was just a complicated construction thing going on. OK.

TURNER: There you go. Complicated construction. I like that.

COSTELLO: Exactly. Talking about dresses, we must show a picture of you in your beautiful dress that you were wearing last night.

TURNER: You're embarrassing me.

COSTELLO: Oh, what were you wearing, Nischelle?

TURNER: Oh, thank you. I was trying to give you a little leg there, wasn't I? Trying to give a little pose. Yes, indeed.

That dress is by a little known designer. Her name is Carasan (ph). She's so talented. If you watch a little reality TV and, ever watch "Project Runway," she was on the very first season of "Project Runway." She was the runner-up. She makes dresses that really fit women's bodies. That felt kind of good when I put it on.

So, I was happy to wear her dress.

COSTELLO: I don't think I'd be able to eat for two weeks before I put on that dress. I admire you. TURNER: Well, it was carrots and celery for a little bit. I'll tell that.

COSTELLO: I believe it. Nischelle Turner, thanks so much.

TURNER: But I had pizza last night. So there you go.

COSTELLO: Yes, that's the way.

They swept into Washington promising to take back the country from big government and excess spending. But, now, the Tea Party movement seems to be losing steam. It's our talk back question. What's killing the Tea Party?


COSTELLO: Bring on the big game, or at least the media frenzy before the big game.

The San Francisco 49ers arrived in New Orleans last night. The Baltimore Ravens will get in later today. And as you know, Super Bowl week officially kicks off today.

CNN's Mark McKay is in New Orleans with our coverage.

Ray Lewis hasn't even gotten into town yet, Mark, but he's already a topic of conversation.

MARK MCKAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, Carol. We'll be talking about him all week long.

Good morning from the Super Bowl city.

As you mentioned, the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC champions, were the first to arrive, doing so Sunday. The Baltimore Ravens, they arrive later today.

Now, all this week, we'll be falling a number of intriguing Super Bowl story lines. One of the biggest will be Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Win or lose the Super Bowl, he will retire after Sunday's game.

He has been a polarizing figure, of course, during his 17-year career. But one thing is for sure, he is a respected leader on the football field, among both his Baltimore Ravens teammates and opposing players as well.


PATRICK WILLIS, 49ERS LINEBACKER: I call him Mufasa. Obviously, that's from the movie "Lion King." By no stretch of the means am I calling him a king of like -- just a king in this game and what it's about and the things he's been able to do, to me, you know, that's -- I mean, and at the linebacker position, that's -- right now, you know, he holds that. He holds that crown.


MCKAY: What the Niners want to do, though, is deny Ray Lewis another Super Bowl crown. You may recall he was the most valuable player of Super Bowl XXXV when the Ravens beat the New York Giants 12 years ago, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes. I know where Ray Lewis is this morning. He's in the city of Baltimore in the inner harbor, and he's about to address this big pep rally going on. Literally thousands of Baltimore Ravens fans are there, and all the snow and the sleet and everything.

So, Ray Lewis is fired up, and I don't think anything can fire him down.

On another matter, Mark, Super Bowl week is going on the same time as Mardi Gras. Is New Orleans ready? It seems like a silly question. Of course, New Orleans is ready for all that partying.

MCKAY: Yes, this is a party town, Carol. We saw it when we arrived -- media members arriving along with Super Bowl visitors. This was the scene Sunday and all weekend long here in the Super Bowl city as Mardi Gras was going on. Parades all over town.

Traffic was a mess in some parts of the city. But, you know, New Orleans is such a walkable city that it's really not a big problem. You just have to have a lot of patience.

We found a lot of people ready to keep this party going all week long.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Super Bowl next weekend. We can't wait. It's going to be a great time in the city. Everybody is going to be having a lot of fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: NFL, we're excited that Super Bowl is here. Can't wait. It's going to be a great thing for the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city is electric right now. Between, you know, Mardi Gras, the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras had to be pushed up a week. So we've got pretty much the entire month of partying, which we're used to. New Orleanians can handle it.


MCKAY: All right. Here's the good news. This week, it will be all about the super bowl here in New Orleans. Carol, they will let Mardi Gras take a break, if you can do that, until after the big game is played here at the big dome.

COSTELLO: I'd like to see that. Mark McKay reporting live from New Orleans this morning.

Coming up in THE NEWSROOM, why Instagram might need your government ID. You know, they want you to post your driver's license online. Why you should be concerned, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)