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Horror in Brazil Nightclub Fire; New Push for Immigration Reform; Weather Wreaks Havoc in Australia; Armstrong Critics Lambast Oprah Interview

Aired January 28, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We are taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

Unbelievable images out of Australia. This is where floodwaters forced these two women to take dramatic action to save a baby. We're going to get the latest on a desperate situation down under.

And a story that sounds like something that's out of the '50s space race. Iran sends a monkey into orbit.

And, in southern Brazil right now, three people are under arrest after the tragic nightclub fire that left at least 230 young people dead in Santa Maria. Police are still investigating. And most of the victims died of smoke inhalation. Others were trampled. Now investigators think the disaster started when the band's fireworks show set the ceiling insulation on fire. Our Shasta Darlington, she's got the very latest on the tragedy.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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 at 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 that 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. DARLINGTON (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.

DILMA ROUSSEFF, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): To the Brazilian people and the people of Santa Maria, we stand together at this time. And that even though there's a lot of sadness, we will pull through.

DARLINGTON: By daylight, hospitals in Santa Maria were full of people looking for relatives among the survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There are a lot of people scattered around the hospital's different departments, as well as in the intensive care units, who have not been identified yet. It isn't a big number, but the people waiting outside for news are desperate.

DARLINGTON: 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.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Santa Maria, Brazil.


MALVEAUX: So, a lot of us that heard about the tragedy in Brazil, we immediately thought about what happened in that nightclub in Rhode Island. That was almost 10 years ago. There, 100 people died at The Station nightclub. That was in West Warwick where the band Great White was performing. A big fireworks show started a fire in the soundproofing material that lined the ceiling and the walls.

In 1990, 87 people died in a fire at the Happy Land social club. That was in the Bronx. Investigators said it was arson.

Well, back in 1977, a fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Kentucky, killed 165 people. That investigation revealed that that one was most likely an electrical fire.

The deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history happened in 1942. That at the Coconut Grove Club in Boston. Four hundred and ninety-two people were killed. And to this day, the cause of that fire isn't known.

Well, Latino voters expect it, Democrats want it, Republicans need it. That is how one senator is describing the new push now for immigration reform. Robert Menendez, he is one of eight senators, Democrats and Republicans alike, who are unveiling a new immigration reform plan today. What happens? Well, it includes what they call a tough but fair path to citizenship for those already living in the United States. But it hinges on improving border security, also includes an employment verification system that would hold employers accountable if they hire undocumented workers. And also includes a guest worker program to fill the jobs that Americans can't or won't do. Want to bring in our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, whose on The Hill, and Elizabeth Espinosa from our new sister network, CNN Latino, in Los Angeles.

Dana, I want to start off with you.

So, this is one of those things that you heard President Bush -- and when you and I covered it, time and time again, he pushed this plan and finally, finally this is something that is coming together. He and Republicans fighting tooth and nail on this. How did this happen?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we actually, as you said, saw this same kind of coming together, the same kind of press conference in the very same room that we're going to see this afternoon, back in 2007 when George Bush was president. And it didn't go anywhere, primarily because of the politics on both sides, but most specifically on the right. Republicans really got absolutely crushed by GOP primary voters. You know, case in point was John McCain, who was standing right behind Ted Kennedy during that press conference.

How did this come to pass? The November election, Suzanne. We saw the numbers. It has been talked about and talked about since then, the fact that Latino voters have been going up as a percentage of the electorate, 14 (ph) percent of the electorate, and Republicans got fewer than they have in three presidential elections. So it was a real wake-up call, we are told, particularly to the Republicans, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had kind of been working on comprehensive immigration reform on and off again.

Lindsey Graham called Chuck Schumer. They had the first of five meetings. Some were after the election. And they set in motion this process, a timetable to have principles now, the end of January, to have legislative language in March and they hope to have some kind of vote in the Senate before the August recess this summer (ph).

MALVEAUX: So, Dana, let's talk about the timing of this announcement here because the president was -- he's going to go to Vegas tomorrow and he's supposed to outline his immigration reform plan. It almost looks like the senators beat him to it here. Is there some sort of strategy in thinking, well, if they lay this out today, it's much more likely to pass than if the president were to lay it out tomorrow?

BASH: Yes. I mean there's no question about it. Look, there -- the president said in a couple of situations, press conferences, interviews since the election that any time he is on some kind of -- in some kind of meeting or in agreement with some kind of -- with a Republican, that it is instantly poisonous for Republicans. And there is something to be said for that here in this process, particularly with immigration, which is so incredibly historically toxic in a partisan way.

This is something that these bipartisan senators felt that they wanted to do today, knowing full well that the president is giving his own speech tomorrow. As one source familiar with the discussions going on said, that they hope what it does is give the president's speech and proposals more oomph, because he can talk about it knowing that there is genuine bipartisan work going on in the Senate. It's just the beginning.

MALVEAUX: All right.

BASH: There are still a lot of things that they haven't worked out there, Suzanne, like specifics on border security --


BASH: Specifics on that path to citizenship. But they certainly feel better than I've heard anybody here feel in, you know, six, seven years.

MALVEAUX: All right. And that very technical term you used, that oomph that is behind this, we'll see what happens there.

I want to bring Elizabeth into the discussion, because we know, Elizabeth, I mean this is still pretty divisive here. I want to show this recent poll because you've got this CNN/ORC poll that says 53 percent said they do support this path to citizenship for legal immigrants, but then you've got 43 percent who said, we should depot them and stop them from coming into the United States. So how does this play out, do you think, when you speak among those in the Latino community?

ELIZABETH ESPINOSA, CNN LATINO: Well, I think it's a great question. It's brilliant. Because, Suzanne, here, immigration reform by all means is certainly a very controversial topic. But we have to address it. And we saw what happened in the November election. President Obama paid attention to that voter block. And what happened? The Republicans did not receive -- they didn't get any feedback from that community because we -- the Latinos in this country, those who are here that haven't been able to really have, you know, a pathway to citizenship, who will tell me on the streets here in Los Angeles, we live in the shadows. We can't have a driver's license. And the only reason why I left everything I know in this country for this American dream is because I didn't have something. I couldn't put food on the table back home.

So this isn't a comfort situation, you know, coming here and having to live this way. But they're here now. So, now, regardless of whether you want these folks to stay here or not, this country was built on the hard labor and sweat of so many immigrants. We just happen to be the very latest. You know, it was the Irish back in the day. And now it's us Latinos. So I'm very thrilled to see that the president -- and also that we've just heard, they have obviously unveiled this bipartisan plan and this legislative language.

That is very important because, as you can imagine, those dreamers, as well, the young students who are -- you know, were brought here when they were, you know, six months old, who, yes, they were born in another country, but they're from here. They speak English better than they speak Spanish, which is what CNN Latino, of course, is about as well.

MALVEAUX: And how do you address still the criticism that exists today? Because there's still some folks who say, look, you know, their -- they don't have a right, if they're here illegally, to get in front of the line of those who are waiting in a legal process to get their citizenship.

ESPINOSA: Well, I think that's a great question because the line -- everybody talks about this go back home and stand in line. What is that line? Has anybody been there and stood in that line to understand what that really means? I mean when you are in another country, in a third world country let's say, where you can't put food on the table and then you can't apply for a visa because, one, you probably don't even have the $200 or whatever it is fee just to apply and have all that -- you know, meet the criteria in order to be considered for a visa or a temporary pass, if you will, to come to this country and you need to feed your family, yes, you better believe that you're going to do what you have to do to feed your family.

MALVEAUX: Yes, it's still a very --

ESPINOSA: To give them a better life.

MALVEAUX: Very hot issue still to do this.

ESPINOSA: Absolutely. Oh, you better believe it.

MALVEAUX: Elizabeth, congratulations. You know, you are an Emmy Award winning journalist. Welcome.

ESPINOSA: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: We appreciate rolling out the sister network today.

ESPINOSA: Thank you, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Welcome. Congratulations to you. Good to have you.

ESPINOSA: Absolutely. Thank you so much. We hope everybody tunes in here.

MALVEAUX: You can give a plug. It's all right.

ESPINOSA: All right, here we go, CNN --


ESPINOSA: That's right, it's CNN Latino and it is going to be channel 63 here in Los Angeles. It is called (INAUDIBLE), which means "Without Limits." And we will be live, like you, Monday thru Friday 8:00 to 9:00. And we're going to, you know, go into all the topics. In fact, tonight we have Edward James Olmos. Very exciting and very honored to have him. Also Paul Rodriguez. And we're going to talk about all those issues. In fact, we have an immigration attorney as well that's going to come on and go in depth and analyze all of these issues. And hopefully, Suzanne, we'll have you on sometime (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: All right, I'll be happy to come on. Thank you.

ESPINOSA: You're invited. MALVEAUX: All right.

ESPINOSA: Take care.

MALVEAUX: And thanks to Dana Bash, too. Good to see you.

If you want to see more of Elizabeth Espinosa on CNN Latino, a new venture from CNN airing 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm Pacific Time in Los Angeles. If you'd like more on the immigration overhaul and the debate around it, go to We're breaking down all the details of the plan. Also highlighting personal stories of immigrants.

Here's more of what we're working on this hour of NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.

Droughts, fires and now this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, look, there's a wave (ph). Oh, that's a car. Oh.


MALVEAUX: Unbelievable. That's right, a car. Things getting even more desperate in Australia.

And, after decades of deceit, then pouring out his heart to Oprah Winfrey, is Lance Armstrong lying again? We've got the latest.


MALVEAUX: Got some pretty unbelievable video to show you. This is out of Australia. This a dangerous wall of fast-rising floodwaters trapped a young child and two women inside their truck. You see them there.

You can see they had no choice but to stuff the child into a waterproof bag. That's right, that a helicopter crew actually lifted to safety The adults, two women were rescued as well, but you see him in that plastic bag.

As we said, this is happening in Australia. This is in the state of Queensland. It is all because of Cyclone Oswald that's wreaked havoc and chaos in communities in that state for the past few days. We want to bring in Michael Holmes, our resident Aussie, actually. But things are tough there.


MALVEAUX: Right? I mean, you've got this terrible, terrible weather. You've got lots and lots of flooding and the potential for much, much more.

HOLMES: It is. It's not going away. It was funny. That baby was so small it wouldn't fit into their normal rescue sling, so they had to shove it into a bag and zip it up and take it up to the helicopter.

MALVEAUX: Wouldn't you be kind of worried? I mean, like ...

HOLMES: You would, absolutely, but it worked out. I mean, the baby was fine. But a cyclone, for those who don't know in this part of the world, it's a hurricane in the south, you know, southern hemisphere, so it's pretty much you have this wall of water coming in. The winds have been 80, 90 miles an hour in places.

Mainly in Queensland and north of Brisbane, the capital, Bundaburg, a famous place in Australia, they've had mandatory evacuations. Across the state, three deaths have occurred. These are sizable place. Rock Hampton, as well. And the floodwaters are still going up. They won't peak until later today, so ...

MALVEAUX: And tell us about the pictures we're watching here because I understand there's still thousands of people who are without power and there's still thousands of homes that are still under water?

HOLMES: Yeah, in lots of parts of Queensland where flooding is at its worst, they've actually had to stop the boat rescues because the water is flowing so fast. They're still doing helicopter rescues, a lot of people being plucked off their roofs. The impact, 2,000 properties under water. You've got nearly 300,000 people without power. It's across a huge area.

You know, Queensland is like almost a quarter size of the country, which is like saying a quarter of the size of the continental U.S. It's a massive state and the thing is that this weather is heading south, as well.

MALVEAUX: You've got not only flooding. You've got fires.


MALVEAUX: Can they handle this? I mean, we're looking at these pictures here of these poor women. What kind of facilities or resources do they have?

HOLMES: They're pretty good at this, yeah. I mean, Australia is pretty equipped for natural disasters. And, I mean, obviously, you can't do everything and people are losing a lot of property and losing a lot of sleep as well. But they are good at the helicopter rescues, getting people out.

Warning, there's been a lot of mandatory evacuations in Queensland. There's been warnings put out to the south. The next state to the south is New South Sales, capital of which, of course, is Sydney and a lot of warnings there.

MALVEAUX: Do you suspect -- I mean, does it surprise you when you look at the massive flooding that's occurred there that there are not more people who have actually died? I mean, that is unbelievable.

HOLMES: Yeah and one was an elderly man. There was a couple of other people who foolishly tried to cross a creek that was swollen. But, yeah, I mean, it is surprising given the population, particularly as you go further south.

The irony is here, though, that you had the prime minister -- there were shots of the prime minister talking about floods as she's walking around a bush fire-damaged area because the fires that were just out there a couple of weeks ago.

MALVEAUX: It's crazy.

HOLMES: It is. It's nuts.

MALVEAUX: Do we think it will last that much longer or is it going to settle down at some point?

HOLMES: It is going to settle down in Queensland, but it's all heading to the south. There's all these warnings out in Sydney now of 80-mile-an-hour winds and perhaps storm surges there, so this isn't going away soon.

There's another cyclone predicted 40 days out and there's a heat wave predicted next week, so everyone in Australia is just waiting for the horsemen of the apocalypse now and locusts, plagues and everything else.

MALVEAUX: And not a time to visit Australia.

HOLMES: I don't want to say that, though. It's still gorgeous. Wait a couple of weeks. Wait a couple of weeks.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you, Michael. Appreciate it.

Well, all eyes were glued to the Oprah Winfrey interview with Lance Armstrong. But was Armstrong being completely truthful? Well, some people say he is still lying.


MALVEAUX: Egyptian government has approved new laws now, giving the army the right to arrest civilians. President Mohamed Morsi has declared a state emergency ordered a month-long curfew in cities after days of violence.

On Saturday, 38 people died when the city of Port Said erupted into fighting, following the sentencing of 21 locals to death in their roles of the deadliest soccer riot in Egypt's history. Seventy-four people died and about 1,000 were injured when the fans from both teams rushed the field last year. They bashed each other with rocks and chairs and the case, of course, causing a lot of controversy.

During Egypt's revolution in 2011, well-organized soccer fan clubs became revolutionaries, taking on brutal government forces. When the soccer riots happened, questions and conspiracy theories began to swirl. Well, many believe police allowed the violence to take place as payback.

So, did Lance Armstrong lie during his Oprah Winfrey interview? Some of his critics think so. Armstrong says he stopped doping in 2005 and didn't dope when he made his comeback in 2009 and 2010. Well, the director of the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency told "60 Minutes" why he thinks Armstrong is not telling the truth.


TRAVIS TYGART, DIRECTOR, U.S. ANTI-DOPING AGENCY: There's a five-year statute on a fraud criminal charge, so the five years today would have been expired.

However, if the last point of his doping, as we alleged and proved in our recent decision, was in 2010, then the statute has not yet expired and he potentially could be charged with a criminal violation for conspiracy to defraud.


MALVEAUX: So, Armstrong's lawyer says he is ready now to cooperate with international anti-doping agencies, but he won't be meeting with the U.S. agency before its deadline next week.

So, I want to bring in Don Riddell here to talk a little bit about this, anchor of "World Sport" on CNN International.

You know, first of all, when you see the interview, I mean, the first thing that goes through my mind is why should we believe anything he says, right?


MALVEAUX: I mean, why wouldn't we think that he's parsing things to his benefit? He has done it for years.

RIDDELL: Absolutely and he's denied it so vehemently for so long and now, all of the sudden, he's going to tell the truth?

I mean, I obviously understand the story a bit better than most and it was very hard to watch that interview and really take anything he said seriously.

First of all, he didn't tell us anything that we didn't already know. And I also agree with Travis Tygart. There's kind of a very convenient thing just saying, well, I was only cheating until 2005, but then nothing after that.

You know, the current Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, says, I raced against him in 2009. It was absolutely obvious when he was cheating in that race and when he wasn't.

And Taggart himself says, if he wasn't cheating in 2009 and 2010, well, there's a one in a million chance that he's telling the truth.

MALVEAUX: So, can he compete? Could he actually compete with the support of the international anti-doping agencies, but not the U.S. doping agency? How does that work? RIDDELL: Well, there's a U.S. anti-doping agency and there's a world anti-doping agency.

He has made it pretty clear he doesn't want to cooperate with the U.S. anti-doping agency, but the world anti-doping agency's going to say, well, you have to deal with USADA. We're going to take our lead from them.

If you want to get your lifetime ban, which Armstrong describes as a death sentence, which Lance Armstrong describes as a "death sentence," reduced then you're going to have to testify under oath with USADA and it's going to have to be legal. Otherwise, you're banned for life.

Armstrong doesn't want to come back and cycle, but does want to compete in Iron Mans and triathlons and he said he wants to run a marathon when he's 50 years old. And he feels he has every right to do that, but that's not going to be possible unless he cooperates.

MALVEAUX: Is there any sign that he is willing to cooperate at this point, to answer more questions under oath?

RIDDELL: No, I really don't -- I mean, he has been given this deadline of February 6th, next week. He has been told that, if he doesn't cooperate by that point, then this lifetime ban is going to become irreversible. But his advisers have said he can't make that.

I don't know what he's doing between now and then, but evidently he has commitments or he's busy or, frankly, he just doesn't want to.

MALVEAUX: Does he have any support? Clearly, he has his lawyers and he wants to move forward here.

Are there people who say he should compete, he should be allowed to compete?

RIDDELL: I don't think so. I mean, really -- really, no. I mean, of course, his friends and his legal team are going to say, of course, he should, but he's fast running out of friends.

And we've seen that. You know, his sponsors have dropped him. He has had to step out of Livestrong. He's got this lifetime ban.

I think a lot of people are just looking forward to seeing the back of Lance Armstrong within the professional sporting community.

MALVEAUX: All right, Don, thank you. Good to see you.

RIDDELL: All right.

MALVEAUX: From bitter rivals ...


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While I was working on those streets, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart. HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: You were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago


MALVEAUX: Wow -- to BFFs?

We're going to take a closer look at a powerful and unlikely partnership now.