Return to Transcripts main page


Meteor Sets off Sonic Booms in Russia; Close Encounters: Asteroid to Fly By Earth; Corporate Sponsors in Times of Controversy; Obama in Chicago Today to Talk Gun Control

Aired February 15, 2013 - 12:00   ET


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who nominated these outstanding individuals, thank you for taking the time to share their stories. The competition was stiff. And your words gave life to their work.

To all the family and friends who are here celebrating with the winners, thank you for the love and support that you provide to them every single day because they couldn't do what they do unless somebody had that love and support for them. I know the awardees would agree that this honor belongs not just to themselves, but to everybody who supports them.

And finally, to the winners of this year's citizens medal, we want to congratulate you once again. A special note just to the families who are here from Sandy Hook. We are so blessed to be with you. I've gotten to know many of you during the course of some very difficult weeks and your courage and love for each other and your communities shines through every single day. And we could not be more blessed and grateful for your loved ones who gave everything they had on behalf of our kids.

On behalf of a grateful nation, thanks to all of you for showing us what it means to be a citizen of this country that we love. Hopefully we will all draw inspiration from this and remember why it is that we're lucky to be living in the greatest nation on earth. Thank you all for coming and enjoy the reception.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: There you see the president in the East Room of the White House giving out the Presidential Citizens Medal to 18 recipients, including those to the families of those who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, those teachers who were lost in that shooting. This is one of the highest honors that the president can give.

Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We're taking you around the world in the next 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

Sonic booms rocking Russia after a meteor streaks through the sky. The shockwaves shattering windows there. Russia's state news agency saying more than 1,000 people were injured. This happened on the same day that a huge asteroid is flying extremely close to the earth. Bill Nye "The Science Guy" is going to explain what's going on in just a couple of minutes.

Pretoria, South Africa. Olympic hero Oscar Pistorius formally charged with murder. Prosecutors say they're going to try to prove that he planned to kill his girlfriend. The track superstar known as "The Blade Runner" for his prosthetic legs, broke down in tears in the courtroom today. His agent telling CNN that he rejects the charges in the strongest terms. We've got more details on that. We're going to be live from South Africa in just a few minutes.

And Hugh Chavez, the president of Venezuela, had to have a tracheotomy. He cannot speak now. That is what the country's communication's minister said today in Caracas. He also released this picture of President Chavez. This is in a hospital bed surrounded by his kids. And he went through cancer surgery in December, has not been seen in public or TV since.

And, of course, kicking off the hour with a story that is unbelievable here. Almost seems like science fiction. But it is very real. This is what happened in Russia. It was kind of scary for folks there on the ground. Because what are we talking about? It was a meteor. It was moving at supersonic speed. Streaking through the skies. This is in a mountain region. The Ural Mountain Region. This happened earlier today. Now, explosions, a huge flash, and a big boom. All of this happening on the same day that an asteroid is nearing earth.

Now, unlike the asteroid, this meteor ended up hurting a lot of folks when it actually rocketed across the sky. Our Chad Myers explains.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Take a look at this. A stunning, close-up view of a meteor as it moves quickly toward earth. Here it is from another angle just further away. So close it seems as if it's just over this building's rooftop. Amazing.

This meteor show happened at around 9:20 in the morning local time in one of the most remote places on earth, the Ural Mountains of western Russia. A picture worth 1,000 words. But the story of this powerful meteor is just beginning to unfold. As captivating as it was, it also caused a lot of damage.

Here, evidence of the force of this meteor as the windows of an office building shattered. Russia's interior ministry says 270 buildings sustained some type of damage, mostly from broken glass, the result of the shockwave caused by the blast. In this video, we can see and hear the moments as the meteor explodes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The wounds that we received included people with mainly incised and contused wounds, all due to windows and window frames all breaking and flying around. And you see here the result, how many people are here.


MALVEAUX: Wow. Chad, that was absolutely amazing when you look at that. MYERS: Yes.

MALVEAUX: And you wonder if something like that had happened anywhere in the world, I mean, that -- it's pretty scary. I mean what is the difference now between a meteor and asteroid? And what was that? How common is that?

MYERS: Most meteors that -- meteoroids that turn to meteors, that turn into meteorites if it hits the ground, are asteroids already. Some are pieces of comets, but they're already starting as just big pieces of rocks. Thinking about, you know, maybe the size of a kitchen table, maybe even bigger for this one. When it came into the atmosphere, it heated up, probably 40,000 degrees, and then exploded. And that explosion is what caused that shockwave. The shockwave caused all of the damage as it hit the ground.

MALVEAUX: And how close was that to earth?

MYERS: We don't know. Probably 40 kilometers, maybe 30 miles in the sky.

MALVEAUX: Unbelievable.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in Bill Nye the Science Guy out of L.A.

Bill, is this -- this is pretty rare event that we would see something this large so close?

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: Oh, it's rare enough, but we know about roughly 1 percent of these objects. So there's 99 percent of these objects still out there. And then later today, the asteroid 2012 DA- 14, which was discovered by people supported by the Planetary Society, that thing is going to come by the earth closer than the geosynchronous.

So these are completely independent objects on two different orbits, but they're very similar in that they're both primordial solar system stuff that crosses the earth's orbit. And if one of these were to explode over a big city, that's the end of the big city. I mean, I can't express this enough. So we could, as human kind, get together and go looking for these things.

MALVEAUX: And Chad -- Chad I want --

NYE: See, these things are going so fast, the atmosphere is just like concrete. Just (INAUDIBLE).


I wanted our viewers to see this again, because it really is so incredible when you look at the video and the sound there.

Chad, is there any risk at all when you talk about this second event that is taking place, this asteroid that's getting so close to earth that the same thing could happen?

MYERS: Of this? Oh, no. If that asteroid would hit the earth that we're talking about today that's getting close, there would be significantly more damage than this. And, no, it is not going to happen. This would be a catastrophic event for the earth. It does not get that close. It does get inside the big ring that we have. We call them geosynchronous earth orbiting satellites, 22,000 miles in space. You're probably watching us on DirecTV or Dish or even on your cable system using those same satellites up there.

But, you know, if you take a look, if you make a sphere of that ring, you're talking about 8 million square miles of area out there and only just a few things to hit. We're not -- we're going to be just fine. The earth is in good shape and so are all the satellites. The odds of it hitting something are not zero, but I would rather win the lottery and probably could win the lottery instead.

MALVEAUX: All right.

And, Bill, real quick, were the Russians warned? Could they have possibly known that this thing was going to come so close?

NYE: They were -- no one was warned. We would have to go -- we'd have to really step up our search efforts to find these objects, but our claim in the science community is, it's well worth it. I mean if one of these objects were to -- similar to 2012 DA-14, this later today, if that object were to hit over Atlanta, that's it. There's no more Atlanta. Speaking of the -- of Siberia and Russia and the former Soviet Union, in 1908, there was a famous incident called a Tunguska event that where one of these so-called air burst --


NYE: Asteroids leveled 2,000 square kilometers like that. So humankind has the means to deflect one of these things. We just slow it down just ever so slightly. But we all have to find them. And so NASA is very good at finding the much larger ones, but these smaller ones we have not -- we, as humans, have not put a lot of effort into it.

MALVEAUX: All right.

NYE: At the Planetary Society, we have people that are interested in it and we found this one.

MALVEAUX: OK. Hang on for a minute. I want to bring in Jason Carroll. He's actually at the Hayden Planetarium. This is in New York, Museum of Natural History.

So, Jason, tell us a little bit more about what you're learning about this asteroid, this huge asteroid, that's going to get very close to us today.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me give you some perspective. Take a look behind me here. This meteorite is, what, just about roughly the size of a car I would say. DA-14, which will be swinging by the earth later on this afternoon, is about half the size of a football field. So much, much, much larger. And it's going to be traveling at a rate of about 17,450 miles per hour. That's something like -- that's something like 4.8 miles per second. So it's traveling at an incredible rate. Weighs much larger than the meteorite that you see behind me here.

You know, it's going to pass by at its closest point, Suzanne, at about 2:24 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. If you're in a place like Indonesia, that is going to be your best vantage point to see it. It will be dark there in Indonesia at that particular time. But if you have a telescope, or even a very good binoculars, you should be able to see it.

You know, I heard you -- there were some references earlier about how close it's coming to the earth in terms of passing by some of our weather and communication satellites. That's very true. And so from the scientific community's point of view, this is what they would clarify and categorize as an extremely close call.

MALVEAUX: Is it possible, because it's even close than a satellite, to knock out power and satellite power and the kind of thing your cell phone and all these other things that depend on them?

CARROLL: No. I think what Chad was saying is true, and that's what the scientists are telling us. They've charted the path of this particular asteroid. It is not expected to disrupt any of our communication satellites. But you hear what some folks are say and it does point to a much larger question. And that is, while scientists are basically tracking the large ones, the earth destroyer, if you will, what we don't have a handle on in terms of the science community is a handle on some of these smaller asteroids, like the one the size of -- half the size of a football field. Which if it were to hit the earth anywhere, a city, it would take on a city. And, you know, this is a water planet. If it landed in an ocean, you're looking at a massive, massive tsunami. So it really points to the question of what science is going to do to try to track those smaller objects.

MALVEAUX: All right. Jason, Bill, all of you, Chad, thank you very much. Appreciate it. And, of course, we're all going to be watching very closely. Appreciate it.

And we're also rolling out as well a new surprise on Monday. It is a good one. We're going to be getting a co-anchor, an anchor buddy, to join us on NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL hour. So take a guess. Can you guess who this is? He's a cutie, but a little bit older. Tweet me @suzannemalveaux. We'll tell you -- tell me who you think he is. We're going to reveal his identity later in the hour.


MALVEAUX: Welcome back to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, where we take you around the world in 60 minutes.

They are back now on dry land. Today it is all about getting home for more than 3,000 passengers of the Carnival Cruise ship Triumph. The ship docked in Mobile, Alabama, last night. We watched it hour by hour after passengers spent days in those horrible conditions with no electricity, no working toilets, not much food. Carnival has chartered some buses, flights to take passengers back to Texas where that cruise began.

And he's a gifted, word-class athlete who overcame tremendous odds. We know him, the Olympic hero known as the "Blade Runner" for his running, top speed, on his prosthetic legs, now formally charged with murder.

This news is shaking South Africa to the core. Superstar runner Oscar Pistorius accused now of killing his girlfriend. Prosecutors say they're going to argue that he planned to shoot her on Valentine's Day. His agent rejects the murder allegation in the strongest terms.

Errol Barnett, he's in Johannesburg right. So, he appeared in court today and he got rather emotional. What was his plea?

ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Suzanne, I think this was the first time that the enormity and seriousness of what's happening to Oscar Pistorius really sunk in. He was visibly disturbed, shaking uncontrollably when the judge named him the accused and he was also shocked to hear that prosecutors weren't just charge him with murder, but saying that they think they can get a conviction with a premeditated murder charge.

That raises a lot of additional questions. Remember, when this story first broke, there was the suspicion that perhaps this was a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong. But as each hour has moved forward, it's become apparent that the police anyway feel like this was a violent crime in which his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius's 29- year-old girlfriend, was shot dead with four gunshot wounds.

So it was a massive development today to see that the prosecution is aiming for a premeditated murder charge.

You asked about a plea. We didn't even get to that point today. First, the judge wanted to speak about if cameras would be allowed in the courtroom. They were not. And then the prosecution and defense both agreed to postpone this until Tuesday. So, until then, Oscar Pistorius will be spending the next few nights in jail and each side will be pulling together their evidence for a case that we will hear more details on Tuesday.

MALVEAUX: Is it possible, Errol, that he could get out of jail after Tuesday, that he wouldn't be held?

BARNETT: It's a good question, but it's highly unlikely. Even before today's proceedings, the police force were saying that the state intends to oppose bail for Oscar Pistorius. So, each day they have been even more confident. They feel that he could be a flight risk if they allow him to post bail. This is a man with multimillion-dollar endorsement deals with Nike, Oakley and other brands, as well.

So, it's unclear exactly what will happen, but nothing will happen between now and Tuesday. He will be in a jail cell and, really, Tuesday is the next opportunity for his side to make the case and explain how his girlfriend ended up dead in his very large mansion just north of where I am now.

MALVEAUX: Still so hard to believe. It's just shocking. Errol, thank you.

And, of course, Errol mentioned, when famous athletes get into trouble, it often means that the big corporate sponsors get into trouble, as well. They certainly go into crisis mode.

And he mentioned Nike. Well, Nike is now distancing itself from the "Blade Runner." Here is Zain Asher for that.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nike, sponsor behind some of the biggest names in sports, now dealing with a publicity nightmare with yet another disgraced star.


ASHER: The company's $2 million deal with Oscar Pistorius, the South African runner and amputee, now hangs in the balance, this after reports Pistorius allegedly shot his girlfriend dead at his home.

JIM HAGGERTY, CRISIS MANAGEMENT EXPERT: At the beginning of any crisis, you have to say something. Very often, we call it "dressing up no comment as a comment."

ASHER: The sports giant now doing just that, saying, "Nike extends its deepest sympathy and condolences, but as it is a police matter, Nike will not comment further at this time."

But Nike's P.R. migraine doesn't end there, the company now dealing with the unfortunate irony of a 2011 ad with Pistorius saying, quote, "I am the bullet in the chamber."

PISTORIUS: This is my weapon.

ASHER: Scandals are nothing new for Nike. Just a month ago, Lance Armstrong, also endorsed by the company, admitted to doping. When Nike ended the relationship, it accused the cyclist of misleading them for more than a decade.

And then there's Tiger Woods, accused of a different type of cheating, extra-marital affairs back in 2009 with at least nine different women.

HAGGERTY: I think in the past Nike has been very slow to respond to a "Tiger Woods situation" or other situations, and that really makes the public question what their true motives are.

ASHER: But not all scandals mean an endorsement break-up. Nike washed their hands of Armstrong, but chose to keep Woods, recently offering him a generous $100 million deal over five years.

And Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, convicted of animal cruelty in 2007, also got a second chance when Nike resigned his deal in 2011.

But for Pistorius, things might be different.

HAGGERTY: It certainly is more serious because it involves a homicide. They should at the very least suspend their relationship, I think, until an absolute determination of whether he's guilty is determined.

ASHER: Zain Asher, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: There was a time when Al Capone was the most wanted man in Chicago. Well, now, there is a new violent criminal that the Chicago p.d. wants to see behind bars. He is part of a Mexican drug cartel.


MALVEAUX: Move over Al Capone. There is a Mexican drug lord in Chicago. He is now public enemy number one. In fact, the head of the DEA in Chicago is saying now that this guy is worse than Capone.

He is this guy, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. He is the man the U.S. Treasury Department calls the most influential drug trafficker in the world.

Ted Rowlands is joining us from Chicago. And, Ted, you know, Chicago, 1,500 miles from Mexico, but this guy now public enemy number one, why?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, because he is head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Suzanne, and their impact on the streets of Chicago over the last five years, according to the DEA, has increased immeasurably.

They are selling methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana on the streets here. Chicago is being used as a distribution hub for the entire Midwest. They say that his influence and his cartel's influence is having an adverse effect, to say the least, on the streets here in Chicago.

And that that's the reason that he really is, if you're going to pinpoint it, who is causing the most trouble, he's the guy, even though he doesn't live anywhere close to Chicago.

MALVEAUX: Ted, do we think they're anywhere close to even finding this guy and to capturing him and bringing him to justice?

ROWLANDS: Well, he lives, apparently, up on top of a mountain in Mexico and basically directs everything from there, so is -- are they going to go after him or does this change the attempt to get him? Absolutely not.

It's more symbolic basically. What they're trying to do is wake people up and say, listen, there's a huge gun violence problem in the city of Chicago. Well, a major component of that is drugs, and a major supplier of those drugs is this guy in Mexico.

MALVEAUX: And, Ted, we don't need to even tell our viewers about the problems that Chicago has been facing when it comes to violence. We've been covering it almost every day now.

And the president, he's going to be showing up in Chicago in about three hours or so, not just to talk about the economy, the State of the Union and all that, but certainly the violence that is in his home city. And one of the things that he made a point in the Sate of the Union address is saying, look, you know what, this is something that is not acceptable anymore.

I want to remind our viewers how he put it in terms of his mission.


BARACK OBAMA: Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.


MALVEAUX: So, Ted, we saw in that video, of course, State of the Union, the parents of Hadiya Pendleton who was gunned down in Chicago. This was just a week after she participated in the president's inauguration.

How are folks -- how are they talking about this? I mean, the president is going to come. He's going to talk a little bit about this. Do they think it's going to be useful at all?

ROWLANDS: I think a lot of people want the president's visit to basically extend the conversation that started with Hadiya's death. It really struck a nerve this city and they're hoping that the president will continue that momentum of people doing what they can on a personal level, whether it's policing your own family or your own block or helping to get laws passed to extend the punishment for gun laws in this city.

They're hoping that the president will help continue this dialogue because there's a real sense here that we're at a fork in the road and there's an opportunity for real change.

MALVEAUX: All right, Ted, thank you. Really appreciate it.

Again, the president's going to visit Chicago this afternoon to talk about the gun violence. It is really extraordinary when you look at what is happening in that city. We're going to bring that to you live. That is 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

And, also, you know, journalists, we cover these stories, but sometimes we are also a part of it. We are directly impacted by it, and the violence in Chicago has a very personal connection to a member of my team, our e.p., executive producer Tanisha Bell. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago. When she was just five, a five-year-old girl, her father was murdered, happened less than two miles from where Michelle Obama grew up.

Well, she has written her own personal account of growing up without her dad and then losing other close friends to gun violence. I want you to check it out. It is a beautiful piece. It is at and it is in the opinion section.