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Suzanne Gets New Co-Anchor; Meteor's Sonic Boom Shakes Russia; Asteroid Zooming Close To Earth; Weary Cruise Passengers Go Home; Obama Calls For End To Gun Violence; Olympic Icon Charged With Murder; Senate Stalls Hagel Nomination; Gun Debate Highlights City's Crisis
Aired February 15, 2013 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You were such a cute kid.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I was an evil child.
MALVEAUX: Oh, you've got a little bit of that evil.
HOLMES: That's what my mother said.
MALVEAUX: You're not a diva, though, I hope, no?
HOLMES: No, no.
MALVEAUX: Yes. But we share the same passion, international news. You've been covering war zones around the world. Tell us a little bit about what you -- what you love to do.
HOLMES: Well, yes, I suppose I sort of fell into conflicts back in the mid-80s after the Romanian revolution, and that was sort of the first shooting thing I was in. And then, just kept going from there to Iraq and west bank, Gaza, Afghanistan and all of that. Yes, look at me, I was already worried about it then.
MALVEAUX: I promise you, we have grown-up pictures of you here.
HOLMES: Yes, I did grow up at some -- oh, come on, put on something else. I need some credibility, (INAUDIBLE.) There you go, back in the (INAUDIBLE.) There you go. That was in Iraq, I think, in 2008 or 2007, I don't know. But, yes. No, we do share the same passion and that is field work and international and that's what we do, isn't it?
MALVEAUX: Yes, I am so looking forward to Monday. We're going to rock it.
HOLMES: It's going to be fun.
MALVEAUX: All right, thanks.
HOLMES: Love you.
MALVEAUX: We'll have --
HOLMES: It's going to be great.
MALVEAUX: Thank you, Michael. Welcome.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE.)
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MALVEAUX: Amazing pictures from Russia. A meteor explodes in the sky more than 1,000 people now hurt. Sports icon Oscar Pistorius rejects a murder allegation. The Olympic runner stood in court earlier today as the judge formally charged him in the killing of his girlfriend.
And in the State of the Union address, President Obama talks about gun violence. Well, later today, he's going to be in Chicago to talk about possible solutions.
This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And first, the meteor that rocketed down from space today tore across the skies over southern Russia. This is what it looked like. There's pretty amazing pictures of this streak of bright light. That is actually the meteor burning up. This shockwave triggered these huge sonic booms. Listen to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE.)
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MALVEAUX: That's a terrifying blast. Shattered the windows, you can see, all across the area. More than 1,000 were hurt including 200 children. Most of the injuries from that flying glass that you saw there.
I want to bring in our Chad Myers to talk about how this happened. What actually took place? Why did it get so close?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: What it was was an asteroid that was out there, turned into a meteor when it hit the atmosphere, and then probably even rained down meteorites that are now down on the ground. It is not the asteroid that we knew that was going to get and is now getting close today. This is a completely different thing. The one -- the big one that we know that's getting close, 17,000 miles away, is coming in from the south. This thing, and that's about the size of a 15-story apartment building in New York City to kind of give you an idea. It's big.
Now, this thing is the minivan that's sitting in front of that 15- story apartment building that entered the atmosphere from the north. So, we know they're not related. They just happened to cross across the earth at about the same time. There it is. As it hits the earth, it turns into a fireball. It heats up. It gets so blazing hot that it can't stay together anymore and it explodes. When it explodes, it's called a bolide. A bolide then makes that impact, makes that shockwave, and makes that sonic boom as it eventually lands on the earth. Now, when you look at those pictures, you can't tell whether those little particles, those pieces of meteor, hit the ground or not. It doesn't look like it, but they don't stay lit and smoking all the way to the ground even if it they do make it to the ground because they slow down. By the time this thing hits the ground, a piece hits the ground, 200, 300, maybe 400 miles per hour tops, that's not fast to keep it hot, to keep it lit, to keep it smoking. So, they're out there looking for pieces right now. A lot of people hurt with this, though. An amazing picture.
MALVEAUX And tell us about the asteroid that's coming very close to the earth. We're not going to see the same kind of thing, right?
MALVEAUX: Absolutely not. Not nearly close enough, not on a collision course with earth. We do have satellites out there. They are probably watching us even if you're on a cable network, it's going back and forth to the satellite. It will fly in between the satellites and out the other side from the south to the north and hit nothing. Honestly, there's 8 billion miles out there of nothing to hit. And about 400 little satellites that could get hit. And so, it's really -- the odds of it are not zero but not very high.
MALVEAUX: OK, good. Thank you, Chad, we appreciate it.
I want to bring in Casey Wian, he is at a jet propulsion lab in California where they actually explore the solar system. So, Casey, tell us about this asteroid that's going to get very close. It's, what, about half the size of a football field that -- it's not going to hit the earth, but we're all going to -- you're going to be able to see it, yes?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Suzanne. And actually, you can see the asteroid as it's being tracked over Brisbane, Australia live right now on CNN.com. You can also go to Ustream.tv/NASAjpltwo (ph). UStream.tv/NASAjpltwo. That is video that NASA is putting out of this astroid 2012 DA14 is its name as it streaks across the southern hemisphere. It's actually approaching the earth's orbit from the south, from the south pole, and then it'll be going into the northern hemisphere later today.
I'll give you some details about this asteroid. Traveling at its peak, 4.8 miles per second, very, very fast. At its closest point, it will be 17,000 miles from the earth. Sounds like a long way away, but it's actually very, very close. As you mentioned, it's going to be inside the orbit of some of the satellites, communication satellites that are orbiting the earth. NASA says very, very minuscule chance, not an impossibility, that it could hit some of those satellites, could potentially disrupt some cell phone or television communications, but they're not expecting that to happen. They say there is absolutely no danger to the earth. They want to stress that.
But what they are doing is sending out radar to that asteroid as it approaches the earth. As it gets closer from the Mojave Desert, they want to learn about its characteristics, its rotation rate, its makeup, because what they're concerned about is an asteroid that's more of a threat in the future, they want to learn as much as they can about this one -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: All right. Very cool. Cool stuff. Thank you, Casey, appreciate it.
So, we were following those passengers from the stranded cruise ship. Well, of course, they're feeling enormous relief to be back home today. This is after those five days adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine how you'd feel. You'd probably kiss the ground, too. Well, what began, of course, is this pleasant cruise aboard the Carnival Triumph, turning into this grueling ordeal at sea. Many folks forced to tough it out on the top decks to just escape the heat and the squalor that a lot of people described that was below. After being towed into port late last night in Mobile, Alabama. We all watched that -- the charter buses whisk those passengers back to Galveston, Texas overnight. That is where the cruise began. Here are folks who are talking about finally stepping on solid ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feels really good to be on land and not be swaying back and forth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After being on that boat for that long and not knowing when or how we were getting back, it was just so good to finally be back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Land, like, this just feels awesome. I just --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why we kissed the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're, like, oh, my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plumbing obviously was probably the biggest issue and the smell. It brings a whole new meaning to the term, poop deck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were just so ready to be off the boat. Those last eight hours were like the worst just because we were so anxious to be off. The rest of it, you know, most people were pretty patient. But by the time we got there, we were just ready.
MALVEAUX: It was so nice to actually be able to see them getting all off that ship last night, late into the night. There was of course a small army of Carnival employees waiting on the dock. One of them CEO Jerry Cahill. And, you know, quite frankly, he offered no excuses for what happened and apologized.
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GERRY CAHILL, CEO, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: I'd like to reiterate the apology I made earlier. I know the conditions on board were very poor. I know it was very difficult. And I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests to that. We pride ourselves in providing our guests with a great vacation experience. And clearly, we failed in this particular case.
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MALVEAUX: Carnival Triumph is going to be out of commission for at least two months. Fourteen of the booked cruises have been scrapped. On top of that, it is the third high-profile problem that this company has had in a little more than a year.
I want to bring in Alison Kosik to talk a little bit about that. Do we think that means bad deals for Carnival? Are they going to lose a lot of money?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, for Carnival in all this, believe it or not, it may not be too bad, Suzanne. You know, we talked with Rachel Rothman, she's with Susquehanna Financial, and she says the reality is this accident wasn't so bad -- so bad as to scare away passengers. You know, long-term investors also like Carnival cruises because it's a big company, it has lots of brands. You see the shares, though. The shares actually this week, they've taken a bit of a hit. They're down four percent for the week. Obviously, they've stabilized, only down about a third of a percent today.
But then you look at the past year for these shares, Suzanne. Shares are up more than 20 percent, and this is during a year when Carnival CEO said, this is the most challenging year in their company's history. More proof that Carnival can survive this. Remember the Costa Concordia accident, Carnival operates that ship, as well. Thirty people died in that accident, yet people continued booking cruises even after that -- Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Do you have a sense of how they're going to repair the damage, either to their reputation? Do we think it's going to have any kind of ripple effect when it comes to the rest of the cruise industry?
KOSIK: And that's really -- that's really the money question is how is this going to affect their reputation. And what many crisis consultants say is that is what Carnival really needs to do is to show passengers that they care. Meaning, you know, go ahead and get out there with the passengers as you showed the CEO actually boarding the ship and saying sorry to the passengers. That's really beginning, you know, beginning to get a handle on it.
Also, Carnival is going ahead and offering compensation. You know, they're giving all those passengers refunds. They're giving them money for future -- they're giving them future travel bookings on ships. They're giving them $500 each. Transportation back home. All of this help. And what crisis consultants say is that all this has to be done quickly and aggressively in order to sort of stay on top of the situation -- Suzanne. MALVEAUX: All right. Alison, thank you. No rally on Wall Street today. And in spite of some of the encouraging economic reports, consumer confidence is up more than expected. Manufacturing activity also is on the rise. Dow isn't moving that much, 13,970 points. The Dow still within about one and a half percent of the record high.
Here's what we're also breaking on for this hour. Just weeks after the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, President Obama is traveling to Chicago to call for action against gun violence.
Charged with murder, Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius holding his head in his hands crying in a south African court.
And it will be at least another two week before we have a new defense secretary. The Senate is stalling the nomination of Chuck Hagel.
MALVEAUX: President Obama is honoring 18 people with the Presidential Citizens' medal. It is the country's second highest civilian honor. And those honored at today's ceremony included six educators who died in the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The medal recognizes Americans who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.
President Obama speaks in Chicago, that's in about a couple hours now. His focus is going to be on the economy, but he is also going to be talking about gun violence. Really, I mean, this has reached critical levels, crisis levels, in the president's city of Chicago right outside where he lives. Here is Dan Lothian.
DAN LOTHIAN CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the streets of Chicago, another potential crime in progress. It's an all-too familiar call. Last year almost 2500 shootings in the windy city. And more than 500 murders. That's the back drop as the president returns to his backyard to again call for congressional action to curb gun violence.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserves a vote. The families of Aurora, deserve a vote.
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LOTHIAN: The president wants universal background checks, a ban on some assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Proposals he defended in Thursday's Google plus hangout, and online Q&A.
OBAMA: The second amendment does not automatically assume that any weapon that is available you can automatically purchase.
LOTHIAN: Polls show the public appears to be on his side. And with more innocent victims stacking up like Hadiya Pendleton, gunned down in Chicago, and remembered during the State of the Union address. This controversial debate isn't fading.
CLEOPATRA PENDLETON, MOTHER OF HADIYA PENDLETON: Something's better than nothing, I would say. We need -- they need to do something.
LOTHIAN: But the voices for tighter restrictions like in this latest TV ad --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to stop the wrong guns from getting into the wrong hands.
LOTHIAN: -- are being fiercely countered by gun rights groups like the NRA.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: For our second amendment freedom, Mr. President, we will stand and fight. We will not be duped by the hypocrisy in the White House or the Congress who would deny our right to semiautomatic technology and the magazines we need to defend ourselves and our families.
LOTHIAN: The group is launching a full court press aimed at protecting its second amendment right rights even as their defenders argue for the enforcement of existing laws, not the creation of new ones.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R ) SOUTH CAROLINA: I do wish the cheerleading would stop and the prosecutions begin.
LOTHIAN: LaPierre with the NRA is vowing to stand an fight, accusing the White House of trying to ban every gun, tax every gun sold, and register every gun owner. Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.
MALVEAUX: Again the president's going to visit Chicago, that is this afternoon, he's going to be talking about gun violence that of course is plaguing Chicago. We'll bring it to you live 3:00 p.m. eastern. And as you know, journalists we cover the new, but also there are times when we are directly impacted, a part of the news. The violence in Chicago has a very personal connection to one of the members of my team, the executive producer, Taneshia Bell. She grew up on the south side of Chicago and when she was just five years old, her father was murdered. Happened less than two miles from where Michelle Obama grew up. She has written her personal account of growing up without her dad and then also losing other close friends. To gun violence. You'll want to take a look at this. It is a powerful read and beautiful piece. It's on CNN.com.
Prosecutors are accusing Oscar Pistorius of premeditated murder. That is right. The blade runner wept in the courtroom after the judge formally charged him for killing his girlfriend.
MALVEAUX: This is a first for same-sex couples allowed to be buried together in a national cemetery, that a major milestone, a benefit never before granted to a gay couple. This is the place, this is Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. Long-time partner of a retired lieutenant colonel will be buried there with the approval the veterans affairs secretary. This isn't a change in policy. Only applies to this specific case, but it is the first time the VA was asked to consider such a request. The military does not formally recognize same sex marriages.
And now dental records confirm the charred human remains found in the burned out cabin in Big Bear Lake, California, are now Christopher Dorner's. You might recall, authorities did not say how Dorner died, but this was the fired L.A. cop who left four people dead in this nine-day reign of terror, when he sought revenge against the LAPD. It ended Tuesday in that huge shoot-out with the officers in that mountainous area east of L.A.
And in South Africa, and the front page. Shocking news, that is echoing around the world. We're talking about Oscar Pistorius, the national hero, Olympic athlete, the guy they called the blade runner, for his prosthetic legs. Well this is him now today in court. He was slapped with formal murder charges in the shooting death of his girlfriend. Prosecutors are taking the angle that Pistorius planned to kill his girlfriend, but his agent says that he strongly denies these charges. I want to bring in Errol Banett in Johannesburg, and Errol, how did this play out in court today?
ERROL BARNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, this case is already quite shocking and bizarre. So to hear the development today as you just mentioned, prosecutors intend to charge him with premeditated murder. It was really quite a surprise. What that means is that they feel at this point that they have enough evidence fewer than 48 hours after this crime took place -- to charge him and to convince the judge that he planned to kill Reeva Steenkamp, his 29-year-old model girlfriend who was a law school graduate. Now, the only other development today was that both the prosecution -- prosecuting team and defending team have agreed to delay the proceedings until next week Tuesday. So we haven't really seen Oscar Pistorius enter a plea yet. All we've heard is the note through his agent that he will strongly deny the charges and will fight them. So it was very shocking development to see that today.
MALVEAUX: And what happens Tuesday, is it possible that he could get out of jail while this all plays out?
BARNETT: It's highly unlikely at this point. I mean, officials didn't even want to allow him to post bail. They feel he's possibly a flight risk. So each day we're finding more confidence on the side of the prosecutors to bring the case against him. We don't know what the defense will be. There were reports that there were multiple gunshot wounds on Reeva Steenkamp's body. How in the world could he defend shooting her multiple times in the wee hours of Valentine's Day. And it should be note that Reeva Steenkamp was about to appear in a reality show. Kind of young people wearing bathing suits frolicking around. Producers behind the program will continue with their plans to air the show which is set to premiere tomorrow. They say to the rest of the world can appreciate her beauty and intelligence. So while Oscar Pistorius' life for the next few days will be in a jail cell, while the Steenkamp family is grieving, they will also have to see their lost daughter appear in this program. MALVEAUX: That might be hard for some people to take, to have to watch that. There was this theory that perhaps it was a Valentine's Day surprise that went terribly wrong and she surprised him and he ended up shooting her thinking she was an intruder. That theory has been dismissed? That theory?
BARNETT: That theory was dismissed almost completely. When police first addressed the media outside the residence of Oscar Pistorius, they admitted they were shocked to hear on local radio that there was the possibility of a Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong. We have to only think and question why that is. They had already witnessed the crime scene. They had already seen the aftermath of what happened in the house. So why were they surprised that anyone was even suggesting that it could be a possible Valentine's Day surprise gone wrong. So we now must wait until Tuesday until Oscar Pistorius defends himself and explains exactly what happened and why his girlfriend is now dead.
MALVEAUX: Okay. Errol, thank you.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had his bags packed, but the nominee, Chuck Hagel won't be taking over his position anytime soon. An update on what happens next.
MALVEAUX: In southern Russia, nerves are on edge after this happened earlier.
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MALVEAUX: Terrifying blast caused by a meteor that rocketed down from space if you can believe that. Yep, it exploded over Russia's Ural Mountain region. The streak of bright light, that is the meteor burning up. And the energy from the detonation equaled about 300 kilotons of TNT. Huge. Blew out windows all over the area, more than 1000 people were reported hurt including about 200 kids.