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Tugs Towing Cruise Ship to Alabama; North Korea Conducts Nuclear Test; Ex-SEAL Remembered Today; Obama to Deliver State of the Union Tonight; France Moving Towards Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage;

Aired February 12, 2013 - 12:00   ET


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

Things getting pretty desperate on board that cruise ship on the Gulf of Mexico. Forty-two hundred people on board. Passengers say the toilets now are overflowing. There is no air conditioning. Not much food or water. Tugboats, they are towing the ship to Mobile, Alabama, instead of the Port of Mexico. But it's not going to get there until Thursday. Coming up in just a couple of minutes, we're going to talk to a man whose wife is stuck on that ship.

North Korea now thumbing its nose at the U.S. and the international community by carrying out a new, more powerful nuclear test. It is the first one under Kim Jong-un. President Obama calls it a threat to U.S. security and world peace. The first indication of the underground test came when seismologists detected a tremor in an area that is not known for earthquakes.

In his State of the Union speech tonight, President Obama is going to announce that 34,000 U.S. troops will be home from Afghanistan by this time next year. Our Jake Tapper, he was the first to break the news after talking to sources who know about the president's speech. The move's going to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by more than half. Troop reductions are going to continue through the end of next year.

So, more than 4,000 people, if you can imagine this, stuck on this cruise ship. A disabled cruise ship. They are hot. They are hungry. You can believe me, they are holding their noses because toilets now are overflowing. These folks feeling pretty desperate right now. The ship is finally on the move. You have tugboats that are towing it to Mobile, Alabama. It was originally headed to port -- a port in Progresso, Mexico, but strong currents pushed it about 90 miles north.

Want to bring in Brent Nutt. His wife is on the ship. He's been talking to her. We've been talking to Brent.

And, Brent, you and I talked yesterday about how Bethany is doing. She -- the last go-round yesterday about this time you said she was crying. She was very discouraged. How is she doing today? When's the last time you actually had a chance to talk to her?

BRENT NUTT, WIFE STUCK ON CARNIVAL CRUISE SHIP: Well, today I have not actually had a chance to talk to her yet. They can only talk whenever another Carnival ship comes up there to them. But yesterday, I mean, she was very, very distraught and all and everything. And, I mean, I just -- I don't know. I haven't heard back from her. I do know that we got the news last night that they were going to be bringing them into Mobile, Alabama. So that had to make her feel a whole lot better because she didn't really want to be stuck in Mexico any longer than what she necessarily had to.

MALVEAUX: And, Brent, describe for us the conditions, because I know you had a chance to talk to Bethany yesterday a couple of times. Perhaps one late in the day. How did she describe what was happening there? Because I understand the -- just the odor alone is really getting to her and many others who are on board.

NUTT: Well, the odor is -- it's so bad that, I mean, it's making them sick. I mean, they're vomiting and stuff on to the boat just -- I mean just from the odor. She said that they can't hardly sleep at night because of the smell that's in the rooms and all and everything. She said that they've been hanging out onto their balcony just trying to escape all of the odor and -- I mean, and stuff. There's feces all over the floor and all and everything and water all over the floor. She said it's just horrific.

MALVEAUX: And, Brent, what does she say they're telling her in terms of what time they're going to -- this nightmare. When is this all -- it's going to end. What time they're actually going to be able to get in to safety to land sometime on Thursday?

NUTT: Just some time on Thursday. But nobody really, really knows anything. And, I mean, Carnival, I mean, you know, they've lied so much through this whole process that I mean you really, really cannot believe what they tell you until that ship actually lands.

MALVEAUX: What have they told her, Brent? What have they told her?

NUTT: Well, I mean, they haven't really, really told them anything at all. They keep telling us, well, the tugboats will be here at this time. They'll be here at this other time. And they never, ever arrive whenever that they're supposed to. So, I mean, you know, all of their -- all of their time frames have not added up at all.

MALVEAUX: Yes. We're going to -- we're going to make sure we get that side of the story as well. But, Brent, tell us, is she eating anything? Is she drinking anything? Is there any food or water on board?

NUTT: I know that yesterday all they had was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bottle of water. And I was told --

MALVEAUX: Is that coming from the ship itself, from the cafeteria, or is that stuff just snacks that she happened to bring on board?

NUTT: No, that's stuff that the other ships are giving to them to give to other people. But, more or less, it's a first come, first served kind of deal. And, I mean, you know, the first person gets a lot of food. Well, the last person, he might not get quite so much. So people are hoarding food and fighting over it because, I mean, there's kind of a shortage.

MALVEAUX: When you say people are fighting over the food, did Britney (ph), did she give you any sense of like if people are getting along or are they really taking stuff from each other? Is it getting violent?

NUTT: She didn't necessarily say if it was getting violent. She said that, you know, that people -- I mean, you know, they were arguing over food because, I mean, certain people, I mean, you know, they were hoarding as much food as possible. And, I mean, you know, they were -- I mean it's not being evenly distributed in between all of the other people. So, I mean, and the people at the back of the line, you know, they see other people eating, you know, two or three sandwiches and, well, they only get just the one. So I guess it kind of makes them kind of angry.

MALVEAUX: Is there any way for them to bathe at all?

NUTT: No. There's no bathing at all or anything, at least as of yesterday. There was running water. But from what I'm told, the majority of other water was running on the floor and the toilets were overflowing and coming out of the walls. So to my knowledge, no, there's been no bathing.

MALVEAUX: And did she tell you -- I know there was -- you said there was another ship that managed to get close, so she was able to get communication. Is she actually able -- I mean are they able to get off that ship and board another ship if they wanted to?

NUTT: To my knowledge, no, they're not allowing them to. There's been two other times that these ships have came up to them to bring them food. But, no, they're not able to leave their ship and get on to the other one.

MALVEAUX: Did she have any idea when she's going to be able to communicate with you again? Because I know the last go-round she ran out of cell phone power and essentially she had to -- you said she has to charge it or at least get close to another ship to charge the phone. Do you have any sense of if she's going to be able to charge her phone again and get back to you anytime soon?

NUTT: Well, I mean, she's only able to call whenever -- whenever another Carnival ship brings food out there to them. They're getting cell phone service off these other ships that are coming up there. And so then, I mean, whenever they bring them more food, I guess, is when I'll be getting a phone call. Yesterday it was around 12:30 noon whenever I got a call from her, but I have not heard back since.

MALVEAUX: All right. We wish her the very best. And, of course, Brent, we're going to keep up with you to find out what's going on, the very latest. As soon as you reach her and she's able to communicate with you, get back to us. Get us -- get on the line and we'll talk to you some more about the very latest of that. And, of course, it's a really tough situation that they're in. Thanks again, Brent, for filling us in. Appreciate it.

NUTT: Thank you, ma'am.

MALVEAUX: We're going to head to the Korean peninsula. That is where North Korea is now, of course, raising the stakes in its nuclear showdown. This is with the world. Because we are talking about North Korea announcing it set off a new, underground nuclear test. That happened today. The state-run news agency says it was more powerful than the two previous tests that were carried out back in 2006 and 2009. So world leaders, of course, quickly condemning this. Anna Coren, she is live from Seoul, South Korea. Specifically tell us how this test is different than what we have seen before out of North Korea.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) Suzanne, this was a successful test according -- not just -- (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: All right. We --

COREN: It managed to conduct that --

MALVEAUX: You know what? We're going to have -- we have a bad signal. We're going to have to get back to Anna Coren and the very latest.

I want to talk about this because, obviously, who is behind this. It is the leader who is trying to build up his image as a tough guy, as the country's young leader. We're talking about Kim Jong-un. He appears, of course, to be following in his father's footsteps, talking tough against the United States, as well as the west -- you know, trying to flex his muscle a little bit -- by building up the country's military and keeping the folks there isolated.

So I want to talk to Michael Holmes about this because, Michael, we've seen his father, of course, starved his own people, built up this huge military. Now you've got the son who seems as if he's got something to prove. How significant is it when you look at this kind of test, the underground test, that was done today?

MICHAEL HOLMES, ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Yes, no, that's actually a very good point. That is partly why he's doing what he's doing is to separate himself from his dad, be his own man if you like. I mean you could call it hubris, you could call it tactical. He wants to be the tough guy in front of his people and in front of the world. The guy whose standing up to the U.S. and the U.N., the evil ones on the outside who want to do in North Korea.

The other thing too is, there is a tactical side to it in a military sense. If he does want to build a nuclear weapon that's small enough to fit on a missile, they need to do this kind of testing. And what worries the west is whether it's being done with uranium or plutonium. If it's uranium, then he could have a missile program, a nuclear program that could go on and on and on because he has uranium. He doesn't have a lot of plutonium.

He also wants to be seen to be tough to be getting concessions, too, from the west, be it food aid, be it standing in the international community in the neighborhood. But it's backfiring because all he's getting is more sanctions and he's annoying his only good mate in the neighborhood, which is China, who said don't do this. He did it. So, you know, if he annoys them enough, they can turn of the oil. Then he's in trouble.

MALVEAUX: And then tell us about how -- how is he changing his country? Because his father was pretty eccentric, you know. He wore these platform shoes and the bouffant and all that. He got a lot of attention, but, of course, his own people were starved under his regime.


MALVEAUX: The son now, he's, you know, hanging out. He's got an amusement park. He's -- the woman -- the mystery woman now we know who is his wife. Very different when it comes to their own society there. He's trying to, in some ways, be open, right?

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE). Yes, yes, well, he's trying to appear that way in front of his people. The video of him with his wife at the amusement park, that came out of a lot of rumor about who is this woman. And that was her coming out, if you like, as being the wife. He wants to be seen as a man of the people. He wants to be seen as somebody who isn't a recluse like his dad was. This is a guy who was educated in Switzerland. He's got a sense of the outside world. But he's still behaving in a very bizarre way. These nuclear tests, what good can come from this? And that's the question everybody's asking, unless he really does want to build a nuclear weapon. And that worries everyone.

MALVEAUX: All right, Michael, thank you.


MALVEAUX: Good to see you.

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

You already know, of course, Sarah Silverman, she's the funny foul- mouthed comedian. But you might not know her sister, who is a rabbi, who is standing up for women's rights at one of the most holy places in the Middle East. Well, she was detained for that. We're going to have more on that.

And later, it's "Les Mis" like you have never seen. We are talking Korean style. It is a video going hyper viral online right now.


MALVEAUX: Here are some of the stories making news around the world right now.

A day after Pope Benedict shocked the world by announcing he is stepping down in two weeks, a spokesman reassured the public that the Pope does not have any kind of disease that forced his resignation. The Vatican says that the Pope is resigning because he does not feel he has the strength to continue. The Vatican says a new Pope should be in place by Easter. And for those who believe in signs from above, check this out. Incredible picture of lightning, yes, striking the Vatican. A news photographer captured this eerie moment last night during a bad storm, just hours after the Pope announced his resignation. Lightning hit the dome of the St. Peters Basilica two times, but the photographer caught it just once. A pretty incredible picture, though, however.

In Egypt, you're going to have a little trouble finding the latest trending on YouTube videos. That is because a judge now is ordering the site off-line for Egyptians. It's only for a month. This is a ban. It is punishment for carrying an anti-Islam video. It was a controversial movie trailer for a film called "The Innocents of Muslims." The video touched off riots around the Arab world last September, you might recall, and it started in Cairo.

In Texas, a rainy send-off for a fallen hero. Former Navy SEAL and celebrated sniper Chris Kyle, he is going to be laid to rest in Austin today after 200-mile funeral procession from his hometown of Midlothian. Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, they were shot to death February 2nd by an Iraqi vet that they had actually befriended. In a memorial service yesterday at Cowboys stadium, Kyle's widow spoke through tears about losing the love of her life.


TAYA KYLE, WIDOW OF SLAIN EX-SEAL: There's something only God and I have known for a long time. God worked through you to make me into the woman I am supposed to be.


MALVEAUX: In his State of the Union speech tonight, President Obama is going to announce that 34,000 U.S. troops will be home from Afghanistan by this time next year.

Our Jake Tapper was the first to break the news. He's joining us from Washington, and Fareed Zakaria in New York to talk about the State of the Union address.

Jake, it's great to see you, as always, breaking some news from the White House. You've been doing that for years. Nice to see you.

One of the things that struck me when I was in Afghanistan with the troops for 9/11 is that they're all about training the Afghan troops as soon as possible so they can leave.

What do you make of this announcement for the president tonight?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think it certainly ramps up the pressure on the leaders of Afghanistan, specifically the military leaders, the Afghan national army, the Afghan border patrol.

These individuals will have fewer American troops to patrol with them, to lead them, and that's I guess the purpose of it, to ramp up pressure to make sure the Afghans are ready to take control for security in their own country. I will say, when I was in Afghanistan in 2011, one of the big concerns from troops and officers there with whom I spoke was not so much whether or not the Afghan soldiers and security officials would be ready, but whether there was enough -- whether there was going to be enough logistical support, whether or not the non-sexy part of military operations, the resupplies, Medevacs making sure troops have enough food, water, ammunition, whether that was going to be up to speed.

And from what I understand, that is still an area of concern though it's not spoken about all that much, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: What do you make of the fact that -- you're going to hear from the president and a lot of folks are very much worried about their own lives, their jobs, the state of the economy.

Are people really paying attention now still to the war in Afghanistan?

TAPPER: Not at all, as far as I can tell. You know, this war, and the war in Iraq, have really been outsourced, no small way, to one percent of the population and very few Americans are engaged in any serious way with those wars.

We have a small number of people doing impossible work far away from their loved ones. Those loved ones here at home going through very, very difficult times. But most of the country's pretty unaware.

I should say there's a new poll indicating that ending the war in Afghanistan is very popular, 71 percent say they support ending the war in Afghanistan. That number goes up to 79 percent if you say President Obama has proposed ending the war in Afghanistan, do you favor the policy?

So, with President Obama behind it, there's actually more support for ending the war. So, I suspect this will be received warmly by the public at large, not necessarily by members of the U.S. military some of whom have concerns about leaving early and telegraphing the number of troops leaving.

I shouldn't say so early. This early, they do not believe it should end. It's certainly been America's longest war.

MALVEAUX: Fareed, I want to talk a little bit about what we've seen, the breaking news, North Korea announcing it's carried out this underground nuclear test, really the most powerful one yet, and still you look overseas, you've got Egypt in some ways that is still very much in turmoil after the Arab Spring.

What are you going to be listening for tonight when it comes to foreign policy?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, on foreign policy, I think the point Jake has made and broken is probably the most important one. I doubt very much you'll hear much about North Korea. There will be a condemnation, I imagine. We've been through this. We've watched this dance before.

New leader comes into north Korea, needs to show his stuff, needs to consolidate the -- his support with the military, which is the backbone of this military dictatorship, so they do something provocative like this.

Everyone condemns it. The Chinese will condemn it, but they're the only country who can do anything about it because North Korea's the most isolated country in the world and China doesn't want it to collapse.

So even though China provides it with its energy and food, it's not going to do anything. So, Obama doesn't have much actionable he could talk about.

With regard to Iran, I think they feel as though they've got the pressure on Iran. They are watching to see what happens. And I don't think there's going to be much percentage in talking a great deal about situations that are unfolding.

This is going to be a speech about the domestic economy and about jobs, foreign policy will, I think, will play a marginal role.

MALVEAUX: Talk about the economy. On the president's watch, we know that the country now added 1.2 million jobs since he took office, but it's not creating enough jobs fast enough to sustain the strong recovery.

You see the housing market is coming back. The stock market is rallying. But how much can this president really do in the next four years to get the economy going again? How much is it actually bent on what happens overseas?

ZAKARIA: Oh, he could do a lot. We are actually in good shape compared with Europe, compared with Japan.

What this president should do is try to enlist Congress in recognizing that with borrowing costs at historical lows, what we need to do is rebuild America and gain jobs this that process and allow the economy to get to a kind of escape velocity.

If the president were to announce he has a big, new infrastructure bank that is going to borrow money, yes, but is going to spend it to rebuild America, to invest in the future, to rebuild the bridges and highways, to build a new generation of smart grid, to build a new airport system, a new air traffic system, I think the public at large would like to hear that.

This is 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal. People said we could never do something like that. It was the largest and most expensive government project ever, but unleashed 100 years of economic trade.

So, we have to think in those large terms. If we do, we can do things. If we believe we are entirely constrained, we can't do much.

MALVEAUX: All right, and, Jake, finally to you, we know -- we are learning from you that Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha who the president awarded, of course, the Medal of Honor just yesterday and you have featured in your own special in your documentaries not attending the State of the Union tonight.

Can you tell us why?

TAPPER: Sure. The -- Clint Romesha, former staff sergeant, told me that it's an ain't credible honor to be invited as guest of the first lady, but after accepting the invitation, after doing some soul searching, he decided tjat he'd rather spend that time with his fellow troops and with his family.

Today is his and his wife, Tammy's, 13th wedding anniversary, so he wants to be with her, wants to be with their extended family and a lot of the guys with whom he served not only Afghanistan but in Iraq, as well, but the guys Black Knight Troop 361 Cav made the trip here.

I should say that they had flights donated by American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue. They had hotels donated by Best Western.

They are here. They are celebrating with him. They are reuniting and he just decided after some soul searching he'd rather spend the time with his buddies and with his family as much as he knows this is an honor.

This has always been a guy uncomfortable with the limelight, uncomfortable with having his heroics praised and, so, that actually kind of makes sense to me.

MALVEAUX: Yeah, you could kind of tell he was a little uncomfortable yesterday.

Jake, it's good to see you. Fareed, as well.

Again, State of the Union, the president's State of the Union, tonight on CNN. Special coverage starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And, of course, not just a hot button issue here in the U.S., France today could get one step closer to making same-sex marriage a reality. Not everybody there is thrilled necessarily.


MALVEAUX: Gay rights activists and opponents here in the United States watching Paris today because the French assembly has just taken an historic step towards recognizing same-sex marriage in that country, despite a lot of opposition.

Want to bring in Hala Gorani. Many French folks, some upset about the legislation. How does this break down?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a majority of French people, when polled, in fact, in the latest poll, Suzanne, favor same-sex marriage, about 66 percent according to the last Efolk (ph) poll, which one of the major polling institutions in France, though that support does go down when French people are asked if they support gay adoption. It goes down to 35 percent, 38 percent along those lines.

But, legislatively, this was very interesting, Suzanne, because the debate surrounding this bill was a marathon debate where you had the socialists, the party of the current president, really hurling insults at the opposition, the conservative party, at each other, throughout several hours, dozens of hours of debates with the socialists calling the opposition in some cases prude, out of touch.

The reality, though, now is that this law has passed, Suzanne. It is going to the senate. It's expected to be passed. And now same-sex couples can get married, can adopt though cannot have the right, quote/unquote, to medically-assisted procreation such as IVF.

So, you do have a few issues there that same-sex marriage advocates have missing, but overall a victory for them.

MALVEAUX; And is this something that's common in Europe or is France a standout?

GORANI: France is one of the largest countries now, once it goes to the senate and it is approved which is the expectation. The U.K., as well, is going to send a law, a legislative bill, legalizing same-sex marriage to the upper house.

Let's take a look at the other countries. You have the Netherlands where same-sex marriage is legal, Belgium, Norway, Spain. Outside Europe, you have Argentina and South Africa.

So, really, a group of about a dozen countries where same-sex marriage is either legal or about to become legal.

But you have to remember one thing, Suzanne, and this is very interesting about France, in particular. It is still very much a Catholic country. You had hundreds of thousands of opponents of gay marriage out in the streets of Paris just last month and they are promising more demonstrations at the end of the month of March.

So, yes, a majority of French people favor gay marriage, but you have a very large minority that is staunchly against it.

MALVEAUX: All right, we want to watch very closely, see if a lot of folks end up getting married.

Thank you, Hala. Appreciate it.

It is one of the most holy places in the world. Well, now it's become a new battleground for the war between the sexes. We're going to take you to the Wailing Wall. That is where women were just detained for wearing prayer shawls.