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North Korea Launches Third Nuclear Test; Pope Benedict XVI Resignation; Man Confesses in Chicago Homicide; Obama Delivers State of the Union Address Tonight; Cruise Ship Towed Home; Manhunt Expands for Accused Ex-Cop Killer; Disabled Cruise Ship on the Move

Aired February 12, 2013 - 09:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the NEWSROOM: Threat to the United States. North Korea sending shock waves around the world this morning, testing the underground nuclear bomb half as powerful as Hiroshima. President Obama calling it a highly provocative act. The United Nations now holding emergency meetings.

Plus, arrests in Chicago.

GARRY MCCARTHY, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: They are Michael Ward, W-A-R-D, 18 years old, and Kenneth Williams.

COSTELLO: Two men charged in the death of Hadiya Pendleton. The police saying confusion and chaos led to the shooting.

MCCARTHY: Michael Ward has confessed and indicated that Hadiya was not the intended target. In fact, the offenders had it all wrong.

COSTELLO: We're on the ground in Chicago this morning.

Also, gun lover, loudmouth rocker and now State of the Union attendee.

TED NUGENT, ROCK MUSICIAN: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.

COSTELLO: Remember that? NRA board member Ted Nugent tonight sitting just feet away from victims of gun violence.

NUGENT: These are all legal guns and I'm going to see that they remain legal because they're all good.

COSTELLO: And the cruise from hell.

BRENT NUTT, HUSBAND OF WOMAN STUCK ON CRUISE SHIP: It's a big mess. There's no power, there's no toilets, there's no food. It's like a bunch of savages.

COSTELLO: A Carnival cruise anything but for thousands of people stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico this morning. NEWSROOM starts now.



COSTELLO (on-camera): Good morning. thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. It felt like an earthquake but, this morning, the truth is even more jolting. Overnight, North Korea once again defied the world and detonated a nuclear bomb.

Today, in rare solidarity, world leaders are condemning that test. And at this minute, diplomats from the world's most powerful nations are meeting behind closed doors at the United Nations.

CNN's Anna Coren is in Seoul, South Korea. She joins us now on the phone. Anna, the timing is interesting. This test comes just hours ahead of President Obama's State of the Union.

ANN COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, it's very interesting, indeed, Carol, and some would say that Kim Jong-Un, North Korea's leader, has timed it to coincide with President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. He wanted to get America's attention and he has done that. At the end of the day, North Korea is trying to develop a nuclear arsenal to become a nuclear state so that it can have a nuclear deterrent, if you'd like, to what it considers its sworn enemy, the United States.

Now it claims that it's tested an atomic bomb that was more powerful, smaller and lighter than anything they have tested before. And this certainly indicates that perhaps they're on their way to developing a miniaturized nuclear warhead that would fit on a ballistic missile. Now that is what is very concerning, particularly to the United States, because they tested that rocket back in December, that rocket that can travel 10,000 kilometers. Now that is, Carol, North Korea to mainland USA.

So we know for a fact that Kim Jong-Un wants a deterrent against the USA and also wants to be considered a force to be reckoned with.

COSTELLO: This is North Korea's third nuclear test, but it's under a new leader, Kim Jong-Un. He's 29 years old. He's even defying his own ally, probably the only one North Korea has, that would be China. How significant is this?

COREN: This is very significant, Carol, and you would have to think things have certainly changed, the relationship has shifted. Up until now, China has been a staunch supporter of North Korea because it likes North Korea acting as a buffer between it and South Korea, and at the end of the day you have hegemony (ph). But by China taking the side of the international community, by backing those U.N. sanctions last month, that is a sign that really upset the North Koreans. So I'd have to say, Carol, this is a game changer.

COSTELLO: Anna Coren reporting live from Seoul, South Korea, this morning.

Pope Benedict XVI had his Pacemaker adjusted just three months ago, but a Vatican spokesman says the procedure had nothing whatsoever to do with his resignation.

Joining me now to talk about this is our senior Vatican analyst John Allen. Good morning, John.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST (via telephone): Hey Carol, good to be with us.

COSTELLO: So the replacement of the Pope's pacemaker had nothing to do with his resignation? Kind of hard to believe.

ALLEN: Well, I think "nothing" may be overselling it. I mean, there was no indication that the Pope was having imminent heart problems, but obviously he himself had suggested that his age and diminishing strength and concerns about his long-term health were in the mix here. And his heart problems were undoubtedly part of that.

Now, it should be said that friends and people who worked with then- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the Vatican knew that he had a Pacemaker but, prior to today, the Vatican had never officially confirmed it. You may remember the Vatican also never officially confirmed that John Paul II had Parkinson's disease until it was obvious for the whole world, because Popes don't face the same pressure to reveal medical records as, say, presidents or presidential candidates.

And I would suggest that today's revelation may well add some pressure that some cardinals are already feeling to be more concerned about potential health problems of men that may be considering to succeed Benedict XVI.

COSTELLO: John Allen reporting live for us from the Vatican.

Today in Chicago, two gang members are due in court charged with the murder that has become a keystone in the national debate over gun violence. They're accused of shooting 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton just days after she performed at a luncheon in Washington during inauguration week. She died just a mile from the president's Chicago home in what the accused shooter calls a case of mistaken identity.


MCCARTHY: Michael Ward has confessed and indicated that Hadiya was not the intended target. In fact the offenders had it all wrong. They thought the group they shot into included members of a rival gang. Instead, it was a group of upstanding, determined kids, like Hadiya, who were repulsed by the gang lifestyle.


COSTELLO: CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Chicago and Chicago's police superintendent says this guy, Ward, the accused shooter, he shouldn't have even been free.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Carol. One year ago, in January of 2012, Michael Ward was picked up on a weapons charge and the people in Chicago and some people across the state are trying to change the laws in Illinois to make the sentencing guidelines higher. Ward was given two years' probation and let go immediately. They want a minimum mandatory sentence of at least a year. They say if they would have the laws in place that need to be in place to give Chicago's law some teeth, then Michael Ward would not have been on the streets and Hadiya Pendleton would still be alive.

COSTELLO: Ted Rowlands reporting live for us from Chicago this morning.

Hadiya Pendleton's mother will be sitting beside Mrs. Obama at the State of the Union. Yes, gun violence will be part of the president's speech tonight. But bipartisanship, not so much.

"The Washington Post" political cartoon, well, it says it all. Here it is. You can see the president addressing members of Congress as "My fellow combatants".

In addition to members of Congress and Mrs. Pendleton, Ted Nugent will be watching the president's speech in person as a guest of Republican Congressman Steve Stockman. Nugent not exactly a guy who loves President Obama.


NUGENT: Would you leave us the hell alone?

These are all legal guns and I'm going to see that they remain legal, because they're all good.

If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.


COSTELLO: Oh, what a night is on tap. Brianna Keilar is at the White House this morning with news on something the president will predict tonight. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Yes, right now it's all about what is the president going to say, what's the news Well, we've just learned what his big foreign policy announcement is going to be.

This is something my colleague Jake Tapper just broke, that the president will announce, on Afghanistan, that U.S. troops will be reduced by half this time next year. So by February of 2014, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will go down to 34,000. That's some specificity we didn't have before and we expect him to detail tonight.

But Carol, by and large, the president will be focusing a lot on domestic priorities, specifically the economy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States. KEILAR (voice-over): How times have changed. When he addressed Congress one year ago, President Obama faced sagging poll numbers and a tough road to re-election. The result: a State of the Union address that contained few new proposals and largely fell flat, not likely this year.

WILLIAM GALSTON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: His party gained seats in both the Senate and the House, the American people broadly speaking are with him, and so he can deliver a speech without the kinds of political constraints that he faced just 12 months ago.

KEILAR: White House officials tell CNN that tonight's address will bookend the president's inaugural speech last month when he laid out aggressive themes on issues of gun control and immigration, and mentioned some unexpected subjects.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

KEILAR: While President Obama is expected to offer more specifics on some of these issues, White House officials say the overall focus of tonight's speech will be the economy and adding jobs for the middle class. That topic got surprisingly little attention in the inaugural address.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He hasn't given us an idea whether there is a significant agenda that he wants to pursue, designed to try to accelerate economic growth and economic recovery. That's been the big missing piece all the way through last year and we'll see whether it's filled in the State of the Union.

KEILAR: To that end President Obama will frame much of his agenda under the umbrella of economic growth, as he talks about tax reform and government spending and his proposals on education, climate change, and immigration.

But while the wind is at his back, observers say President Obama can't appear too bullheaded at the start of his second term.


KEILAR (on camera): And Carol, also some news on what the president will say when it comes to climate change or perhaps I should say what he will not say tonight. A lot of environmentalists were hoping that he would say that he's going to pursue new regulations on existing power plants because they are big producers of carbon emissions, big polluters. It turns out, according to a senior administration official, who told me that he will not do that. And Carol, I can tell you that will be disappointing for a number of environmentalists.

COSTELLO: Brianna Keilar reporting live for us from the White House this morning. And of course we'll have complete coverage for you right here on CNN starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

A Carnival cruise ship that had been stuck at sea is now on its way to Mobile, Alabama. The Carnival Triumph is being towed there instead of Mexico as originally planned because of strong currents in the Gulf.

It's been anything but a dream vacation. Passengers say the smell on board is so bad it's making some people sick. They're telling family members stories of sewage running down the walls and the floors, sleeping outside on the deck just to keep cool and how they're scrambling for food.


NUTT: And as far as food, well, they've been bringing in -- they fed, other Carnival cruise ships have been bringing in food and all that to them, but they're not rationalizing (sic) the food out properly and so it's kind of a first come, first serve. And the first person in line, I mean, he can eat all the food that he wants to and then the last person in line, well, they get whatever is left over. And my wife, she only got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bottle of water within like a day and a half.


COSTELLO: They'll be singing "Sweet Home Alabama" today. The ship ran into problems after an engine fire Sunday. More than 4,200 people are on board that ship.

Life is slowly returning to normal in North Dakota and Minnesota after a blizzard dumped nearly a foot of snow. Parts of two interstates have re-opened after shutting down this weekend. Crews had to rescue several drivers stranded on the roadways. In the meantime, parts of the southeast are still getting drenched.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons has a look at where people will have to built an ark.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, exactly. Once again, the jet stream is sagging to the south. That, combined with the stationary front in the southeast, is going to bring another round of heavy rains today. Many of these places have already seen three to five inches of rain. Today will be no exception. We'll see another day of it.

The big concern, of course, as we all know: Mardi Gras. Looks like showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop right ahead of the Fat Tuesday parade, but I'm going to say I'm sure the festivities are going to go on. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Sixteen minutes past the hour. Checking our top stories now.

Two more deaths blamed on the weekend snowstorm that buried the Northeast, bringing the death toll to 11, digging out in some places could take the rest of the week. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, 30 inches of snow fell. It might be Friday before secondary roads are cleared. Residential streets are expected to be plowed by Sunday.

A Texas community will say a final good-bye to former Navy SEAL sniper. Chris Kyle will be laid to rest one day after his funeral at Cowboy Stadium. Kyle and a friend were shot a gun range two weeks ago. Another veteran faces charges in their murders.

A convicted killer walks out as a free man after spending nearly 30 years behind bars. In the 1984, Randolph Arledge was found guilty of stabbing a woman 45 times. But DNA has now cleared his name. One of the first things on Arledge's mind as he gets out of prison a free man? Better food.


RANDOLPH ARLEDGE, WRONGLY CONVICTED OF MURDER: I wanted to get some cheeseburgers and French fries and banana splits. When I got locked up they didn't have bacon cheeseburgers or three-way calling. You know what I mean.


COSTELLO: The Texas Innocence Project spent several years helping Arledge clear his name. DNA evidence points to another suspect who was still on the loose.

New details report authorities have been tracking a known associate of the ex-cop charged with the murders of three people in California. This person is only identified as J.Y. Now the manhunt for Christopher Dorner could be expanding to Mexico. That's where newly released documents indicate he may be heading.

Casey Wian is live at the Los Angeles Police Department with more.

Good morning, Casey.


This known associate of Christopher Dorner identified as you mentioned by the initials J.Y. in the U.S. Marshal Service arrest warrant that was released just yesterday says that the marshals have been tracking this associate's movements. A family member of J.Y. apparently owns property, residential property in the Big Bear area. That's the mountainous area where crews have been looking for Dorner for several days now. Near that property, his burning pickup truck was found on Thursday.

Also, J.Y. was spotted in Costa Mesa, California, on Thursday, that's in Orange County, very near to where the first murders were committed on Sunday of last week. No indication that he has any involvement in those killings, but it just shows the geographic area that investigators are trying to cover in looking for Christopher Dorner.

Now, as you mentioned, that geographic area expanding into Mexico. This arrest document talks about his ID being found near the U.S./Mexico border, talks about his efforts to steal a boat and telling that boat's owner that he was planning to flee into Mexico. That was the information that investigators had on Thursday of last week. They now concede though they really do not know where Dorner is at this moment, and that's why that manhunt is going to continue in the mountains of San Bernardino later today, Carol.

COSTELLO: Casey Wian reporting live from Los Angeles this morning.

Gun-loving rocker Ted Nugent famous or infamous for hurling insults at President Obama? He will be attending the State of the Union, but should he?

It's our talk back question today., or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. The question for you this morning: should Ted Nugent attend the State of the Union? Yes, Ted Nugent will be hanging out at the president's State of the Union tonight. Yes, that Ted Nugent, the gun-loving Obama hater.


TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.

Our president and attorney general, our vice president, Hillary Clinton, they're criminals. They're criminals.

We are patriots. We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.


COSTELLO: But Nugent told "The New York Times" he will be respectful tonight and he'll leave his guns at home or in the car or wherever, they just don't be in his pocket.

If you're wondering why Nugent got a pass to the State of the Union, Republican Steve Stockman invited him. He's the congressman who threatened to impeach the president over gun control.

Here's the thing, though -- gun control advocates who will also be at the State of the Union are thrilled. For them, Nugent is the poster boy for gun control. And if the Republicans really want to rebrand their image, is Nugent the guy they want to parade around the House of Representatives?

Talk back this morning, should Ted Nugent attend the State of the Union?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello.

Stories we're watching right now in THE NEWSROOM at 30 minutes past the hour:

The opening bell about to ring on Wall Street. And today, stocks are poised to open lower as investors look for more corporate earnings reports. This morning, Coca-Cola and McGraw-Hill reported quarterly earnings that met or slightly topped expectations.

The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency meeting right now on North Korea. The North is getting a lot of negative reaction to its nuclear test this morning. The United States, Russia, and China, are among several countries condemning the test, which is half as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Eight days of testimony begins today as the U.S. Coast Guard opens a hearing into the sinking of the HMS Bounty, the 180-foot-long sailing ship sank off North Carolina's coast in October as hurricane Sandy roar through. Two crew members, including the captain, were killed. The ship was a replica of the famous 18th century British vessel

Passengers stuck on a disabled Carnival cruise ship are finally -- finally -- on their way home. A second tugboat arrived a short time ago to help tow the ship to Mobile, Alabama. The passengers' dream vacation turned into a nightmare when an engine fire triggered a series of problems. The ship has been floating at sea and, well, things deteriorated on board. And I mean, deteriorated.

John Zarrella is in Progreso, Mexico, where the ship was originally going to be towed by those tugboats.

You've got to head to Alabama now, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, I'll you, Carol, we just have to wait here, who know what the next twist or turn will be? But what happened was that the Progreso, Mexico, was the closest location to bring the Carnival Triumph. But because it was drifting at sea and strong currents, it drifted north while waiting on those tugboats.

So, at the end of the day, by the time those tugboats got there, it was easier to just go ahead and not fight the current and go ahead and start towing the ship to Mobile, Alabama. It is, Carnival says, moving under tug tow at about six knots and it will get there sometime on Thursday, probably early Thursday. So, it made more sense Carnival decided to go there.