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Ten-Ton Meteorite Explodes Over Russia; Asteroid to Brush by Earth Today; 5000 Rally for Gun Control in Connecticut; Couple Wins First Virginia Powerball Jackpot; Crippled Cruise Ship Leaves Port; Obama to Talk Gun Violence in Chicago

Aired February 15, 2013 - 10:00   ET




CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the NEWSROOM -- meteor shower, breaking overnight, amazing pictures out of Russia. Hundreds are injured as fragments of the meteor slam into earth. Plus --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of crazy. The shower, get to a place where the toilet flushes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just really want a bed.

COSTELLO: Sweet home Alabama. Back on land: the cruise from hell, finally over for thousands of weary vacationers.

And also, charged prosecutors arguing the so-called "Blade Runner" Olympian committed premeditated murder reportedly shooting his girlfriend four times through a bathroom door.

Plus, that small sash of marijuana, it will not land you in jail for the night in the big apple. NEWSROOM starts now.



COSTELLO (on-camera): Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me. We begin with the shock and awe of a meteor, raining down on Southern Russia. Nearly a thousand people reportedly injured. Millions mesmerized by the incredible images now streaming in.

Watch that fireball as it grows bigger and bigger as it races across the daytime sky and then it erupts into a blinding flash of light, but it would take several seconds for the sound to catch up. That's what you call a sonic boom. It exploded across the region and jolted buildings with a sudden and frightening violence. Watch the very moment of impact. Now, keep in mind, that was the shock wave hitting the buildings. Not part of the meteor.

Across six towns, thousands and thousands of windows were shattered. Hundreds of buildings were damaged. In just a minute, we'll take you to Russia, to Moscow for the latest developments.

But first, let's turn to an astronomer who can tell us more about this thing. He's from the Tellus Science Museum, his name is David Dundee. He is on the phone right now. Hi, David.

DAVID DUNDEE, ASTRONOMER, TELLUS SCIENCE MUSEUM (via telephone): Good morning. How are you doing?

COSTELLO: I'm good. I watched that thing. It was a scary thing. Tell us, it was a piece of a meteor, and was it actually on fire as it entered the earth's atmosphere?

DUNDEE: Well, what's happening, actually, this object, which is about 10 tons traveling about 33,000 miles per hour and when it hits the earth's atmosphere. It's like almost hitting a brick wall. So it's releasing a lot of energy and it's causing the air around the meteor right to get very hot and to glow.

So that's the bright light that you're seeing. The shock wave that caused a lot of the damage on the ground was from this impact that this object hitting the atmosphere of the earth. And apparently, from the footage, a lot of pieces broke off and perhaps made it to the ground.

COSTELLO: So, it was really the sound and does it break up into a million tiny pieces? And they're not really particularly dangerous?

DUNDEE: Yes, depending on the composition of the meteor right, on whether it will survive its actual trip down to the surface of the earth, but most meteorites will burn up in the atmosphere. This particular one is bigger than your average meteorite, so it made a bigger splash, if you will, in the earth's atmosphere.

This is a kind of event you can count on happening roughly once every ten years. It's kind of a once in a decade kind of event. And it's also the kind of objects that NASA cannot predict ahead of time. They're too small to actually track.

The asteroid that's passing the earth later this afternoon is an object that NASA can pick up ahead of time and can track. By the way, the two events are not related in any way. It's just a chance circumstance that both of these happened on the same day.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, let's talk more about this asteroid. As we said, we know that's coming. So every ten years we can expect this sort of thing that happened over Russia to happen somewhere in the world and there's not much we can do about it

DUNDEE: No. There's no way really to predict objects that small coming into the earth atmosphere. Tellus Museum here is part of the network of NASA set up with fireball cameras. We have several in the southeast and a few in the west.

And this is part of a project, an effort, to track bright meteors and we track about 8 to 12 bright meteors every night over Cartersville. But when we link it with other cameras, we can tell how fast, how high, and even plot where in the solar system these smaller objects are coming from.

And what NASA is trying to determine through this project is the density, how many of these things are, and where most of them are coming from. And so that's the kind of data we're gathering here in Tellus and other places in the southeast.

COSTELLO: Keep on going with that because that sounds like a good thing. David Dundee, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

DUNDEE: My pleasure.

COSTELLO: Now let's turn to another reason for you to keep your eye on the sky. David mentioned that, a giant rock nearly half the size of a football field dwarfs the meteor over Russia. But fear not, even though it will brush by the earth. It will be 17,000 miles away. Scientists, you heard David, he said there's no chance of impact.

CNN's Jason Carroll is in New York though at the American Museum of Natural History because in light of what happened in Russia, I'm a little nervous. Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to tell you, a lot of scientists have been watching what happened in Russia very closely. They're also watching very closely what's going to be happening later today. These are unrelated events.

Let me sort of set the scene where we are, Carol. We're in the Hall of the Universe. Behind me here is a meteor, this one about the size of a small car if you look at this one. This one discovered in 1902. The one that we're going to be watching later today, which is expected to pass by the earth at its closest point at 2:24:25 this afternoon; is literally going to pass about 17,000 miles from earth. It's about half the size of a football field. Much larger than the one, obviously, that you see behind me here.

One of the scientists that is going to be watching very closely is Dr. Denton Ebel. He's curator here of meteorites at the museum.

There was a previous interview that you couldn't hear. But an important point that I think should be made, a lot of these asteroids that we're talking about, like the one we're looking at this afternoon, we don't know that they're out there?

DR. DENTON EBEL, CURATOR-METEORITES, AMER. MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: No, this Russian meteorite literally came out of the blue. And this big object, 45 meters, that's not that big, but it's pretty big. And that object was only seen a year ago.

And it's the first time something that's come this close has been seen ahead of time. So we didn't go, there it was and now we're going to go, here it comes. We can get ready for it. We can look at it, observe it and study it.

CARROLL: And this one discovered by amateur astronomers in Spain? EBEL: Well, this is a worldwide effort, the effort to do the science, to understand the space rocks. I mean, I studied them in the lab, the real stuff. Astronomers, they see them far away and this stuff that's coming into our atmosphere, in the case of the Russian fireball or that's coming really close to us, that's in that area that we have to collaborate. And we do that.

CARROLL: All right, Dr. Denton Ebel, I want to thank you for that. Again, 2:24, that's when the asteroid will be at its closest. We're going to be watching -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I'll be watching. Hopefully, I won't see a thing. Jason Carroll, Dr. Denton, thank you so much.

Coming up next, jackpot! Powerball welcomes a new lucky couple into the winner's circle. The only question now: what will they buy with millions of dollars they're now taking home?


COSTELLO: It's 12 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories, two months after the Sandy Hook massacre, more than 5,000 gun control advocates rally at the Connecticut State House. Governor Daniel Malloy headlined the march. He said no one should be able to buy a gun without a background check.

If you're caught with marijuana in New York City, you may not have to go straight to jail anymore. Starting next month, police will no longer hold most people overnight for possessing small amounts of pot. Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the announcement and defended the city's controversial stop and frisk policies. He said it's kept illegal guns off the streets.

And there's this --


DAVE HONEYWELL, POWERBALL WINNER: I looked up to make sure was the same date. It sure can't be. My hands were shaking like this and I could barely read the ticket anymore.


COSTELLO: That's Dave Honeywell. He and his wife, Nancy, are the latest Powerball winners and the first jackpot winners from the state of Virginia. The Honeywells, who work for the Defense Department, plan to take a lump sum payment of more than $130 million before taxes. What will they buy first? Dave says he's going to buy a new car to replace his 13-year-old clunker.

It's a quick turnaround for that crippled Carnival cruise ship, Triumph. It's been docked for less than 12 hours, but already the "Triumph" is being moved to a repair dock to be fixed.

Earlier this morning, some passengers were so happy to be on land, they actually kissed the ground. Others are just happy for the basics like a shower.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to be on land for sure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. A little tired, ready to get on a bus. Get a shower, be in a place where the toilet flushes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feels good to be back on solid ground. You think about a good three-day cruise we had and then a bad four-day camping trip. So what are you going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I appreciate water, flushing toilets, electricity. We weren't prepared for it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Came through it as a family?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did. We were all together and that what is was most important.


COSTELLO: Victor Blackwell is in Mobile, Alabama. Did you get a chance to talk to the crew of the Triumph?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I spoke with a few crew members. I spoke with a few passengers actually. There's a woman still walking around in a Carnival robe here that she took from the cruise because she didn't come with any warm clothing as she expected to go to Cozumel and then back to Galveston, and here she is in chilly Mobile.

Some of the crew members arrived on buses early this morning. They too, left without the comforts of the basics of warm food, a hot shower, a comfortable bed. They're now here at this hotel, the hotel next door, about 100 rooms have been booked at each hotel -- well, the two hotels combines.

I spoke with one cruise member. His name is Sachin Sharma and I asked him how under these conditions did he keep the passengers so happy? Listen.


SACHIN SHARMA, CREW MEMBER, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: Well, the passengers asked us how we're doing things. It's simple because we're used to it. That's why we make the best effort for them and we did --

BLACKWELL: Even with all the challenges, it was just part of the job? SHARMA: It's a part of the job, always, because we're experienced. So we know how to do it. And Carnival is the best and they give the best services to guests. We had a lot of things.


BLACKWELL: Now, the hotel managers tell us that these rooms have been booked for three nights. And Sachin tells me that after those three nights he will either have to go back to the ship if it's repaired and ready to go. But he's likely going to be transferred to another ship. They actually have to get back to work after this.

The people here at the hotel had breakfast ready for them when they arrived at 4:00 a.m. local. And they say they will do that for the next three days -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Victor Blackwell, reporting live from Mobile, Alabama, this morning.

President Obama, he's headed to his hometown of Chicago this morning. He's expected to talk about his plans to boost the economy, but you can bet he's going to talk about gun control, too, especially on the main streets of Chicago. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: In just a few hours, President Obama will head to his hometown of Chicago to speak at the South Side High School. He's expected to focus on improving the economy for the middle class, but he's also going to talk about gun violence.

CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Chicago with a preview. Good morning, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. That's what people in Chicago will really be listening to. He'll be talking to in Hyde Park, at this high school in Hyde Park, near where his home is near this high school.

It's also near where Hadiya Pendleton was killed. You remember Hadiya Pendleton's parents, the 15-year-old who was killed in Chicago, they were sitting next to the First Lady during the State of the Union.

We talked to the person arrested in that murder, his family members, Michael Ward, 18-year-old who is accused of murdering Hadiya Pendleton. We talked to them about gun violence and the problems in Chicago. They say this has hurt everybody. They say they're heartbroken over the loss of Hadiya. They also believe that if all of the focus is simply on Michael and there isn't focus on the greater problem that this will be a loss.


JANISE COOPER, AUNT OF MICHAEL WARD: He is about to be the poster boy for gun violence. This is what he's about to be and this is sad because, like she said, we have kids getting killed every day, every day. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: And they say that Michael Ward was a good kid, is a good kid. He's 18 years old. And the problem in this city is that these kids are out of control in these gangs and this gun violence is just hurting everybody in these neighborhoods.

They're hoping the president just by being here will extend this conversation that really was sparked by Hadiya's death. They're hoping it can extend to the point where real change can be accomplished -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm just struggling to understand Michael's family members. He hasn't gone to court yet, but he is accused of being involved in Hadiya Pendleton's murder. So why shouldn't he become the poster boy if he's guilty of this crime?

ROWLANDS: Well, their point is this is a young man, like a lot of young men in these urban areas, specifically in Chicago, that are caught up on this. They don't believe he's guilty. They don't know. They don't know. They are waiting for the facts to come out.

They're claiming that he's not guilty, but they are keeping an open mind. The bottom line, their family is hurting just like other families. You take Hadiya Pendleton's case, well, the whole country knows about that. Their point is this happens up the time in the cities. There are cities devastated by the gun violence and something needs to be done.

COSTELLO: Ted Rowlands reporting live from Chicago. Thank you.

An ad for Chanel perfume starring actress Kearia Knightley banned for being too sexy. We'll let you be the judge.


COSTELLO: It's 25 minutes past the hour. Time to take a look at some of today's top stories, Toyota is paying $29 million to settle lawsuit it's related to the way it handled recalls including those for cars that accelerated without warning. Toyota also says it will make vehicle information more accessible and maintain a rapid response team to handle any future vehicle issues.

Valentine's Day probably led to some happy couples and if that bliss ends in a baby, parents will get a free crib. Ikea giving away the cribs to any baby born in Australia on November 14th, nine months from now.

Too sexy for British TV? That's what the censors are saying about the latest Chanel commercial. It features actress Keira Knightley there. She also frolics on a motorcycle and regulators in Britain say it's too risque to be showing children's programming. It's probably in the market for Chanel anyway, right?

We'll be right back.