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Olympic Hero Charged With Murder; President Obama Visits Chicago; Asteroid Passes Close to Earth; Russia Hit By Exploding Meteorite

Aired February 15, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Woke up this morning in Mobile, Alabama, talking to some of the cruise ship passengers, but right now, I'm at the CNN World Headquarters here in Atlanta because I am a self-professed space geek and this is a big day for space.

Before we get to this asteroid that whizzed very, very near Earth today, we're getting new reports on the number of people who were injured when that meteor exploded in the skies above Russia. That blast sending fireballs across the sky line. Meteorites get into Earth in remote parts of the Russian wilderness. Thank goodness this was in a more remote section of that area , the world. The shockwave from the explosion, this sonic boom, it shattered windows, buckled buildings, injured, as I mentioned, hundreds of people.

I want to show this video to you. Watch the people. Windows blow out. This is a school. Everyone takes cover, racing around. This is as kids are practicing judo.

Chad Myers, you're looking at this video here. Tell me what exactly happened.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: An asteroid, the size of about a minivan, maybe a little bit smaller, maybe a big Prius, ran into the atmosphere, ran into the Earth.

It heated up maybe 40,000 degrees and eventually it exploded. When it hit the atmosphere that's when it turns into a meteor. When it hits the ground, if it does, then it is a meteorite. But the explosion caused the shockwave and it was just -- the pictures that we have, I have some from earlier, they're amazing. Here they are.


MYERS (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 is 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 shatter. 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.

DR. VLADIMIR BASMANNIKOV, SURGEON (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.


MYERS: The irony that this smaller asteroid hit our atmosphere, hit our Earth today when we obviously watched 2012 DA14, a much larger asteroid, fly right by at 17,000 miles -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Chad, thank you.

As we mentioned here, history was made moments ago. Never before as Chad was talking about has an asteroid actually gotten this close to Earth, given the size, and it happened in a flash. Take a look with me. We will show you this white dot. There it is in the middle of the screen. This is an asteroid. It was called 2012 DA14, rushes past Earth, just half-an-hour ago at 2:24 p.m. Eastern.

When I say brush by, I mean it in space terms. This traveled 17,500 miles above Indonesia. There was a risk it could get in the way of some of the satellites. Right now, we're not hearing of any problems there. DA14 was the length of two semitrucks, longer than the space shuttle.

And it is one of 610,000 asteroids that scientists know about. And there was no risk it would hit Earth, but what about the next asteroid? Joining me in about 20 minutes here, we will talk to former astronaut Ed Lu, why he says today's experience should be a wakeup call to Earth.

The shock is still settling in for South Africans and for their Olympic hero, Oscar Pistorius, Blade Runner, as he's known, breaking down in tears as he faces court over the fatal shooting of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Her uncle breaking the family's silence.


MIKE STEENKAMP, UNCLE OF VICTIM: It was such a devastating shock, that her whole life, and what she could achieve, never came to fulfillment. And I would just say she is with the angels and that's about all I can say to you folks.


BALDWIN: Her body was found in their luxury home in South Africa on Valentine's Day. Just a day earlier, this chilling tweet from Reeva to Pistorius -- quote -- "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" That's just one of several. There were reports the relationship was rocky at times. Previous allegations of domestic disputes at their home.

Robin Curnow is in Pretoria with more on the story -- Robin.

ROBIN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, I'm standing outside the Pretoria magistrate's court and it was inside here, in courtroom C earlier on today there was some very emotional scenes, Oscar Pistorius appearing before the magistrate.

He was clearly upset, at times sobbing, crying, barely able to control his body as it was shaking. A man clearly traumatized by the events of the last 24 to 48 hours. And, of course, so are many South Africans. The story of their national hero being arrested, being charged for murder, the murder of his girlfriend in his own home has shocked this nation.

You can hear the sirens coming past me. And this, in a way, is a story that is going to define this nation for the next few weeks. Valentine's tragedy. But more crucially, look at this headline, "Golden Boy Loses His Shine." Oscar Pistorius has been considered a hero in this country. Questions now on what happened, did he do it and why did he do it?

And the prosecution seems to think they have a very good case, because they say they're going to charge him with premeditated murder -- Brooke, back to you.


BALDWIN: Robin Curnow, thank you very much.

And just within the last half-hour, President Obama's plane has touched down in Chicago, his former stomping grounds, the city where he started as a street-level organizer and then went on to serve in the Illinois Senate. There he is, on his left, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's mayor, the president's former chief of staff.

The president will be speaking within the next half-hour. He will address Chicago's recent history of gun violence, 506 murders last year alone. The mayor says the president has something to say to Chicago.


RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: Given the lion's share of both the victims and the perpetrators are young African-American men, who better to have that discussion than the president of the United States, who has repeatedly talked about fathering and the role of fathering?


BALDWIN: And we will bring you live coverage of the president's speech set for 3:40 Eastern time.

Then tonight, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" live from Chicago with much more here, reaction on the president's plan to curb gun violence, "A.C. 360" tonight 8:00 Eastern on CNN.

Can you say Anthony Weiner? Remember Congressman Weiner? The outspoken New York Democrat resigned his seat in Congress amid a social media sex scandal. Remember? We were just talking about this. This whole thing started on Twitter. Well, say hello to this guy, Congressman Steve Cohen, Democrat, from Memphis, bachelor, age 63.

Turns out Steve Cohen, during the State of the Union, was tweeting this young lady, Victoria Brink, age 24, aspiring model. Check it out -- quote -- "Pleased you were watching State of the Union," tweeted Steve Cohen. "ILU."

Hello, tweeted and then deleted. So, Congressman Steve Cohen, age 63, hearts Victoria Brink, age 24. The hounds started baying. Reporters start digging and the Republican chief in Cohen's home state of Tennessee gleefully called Cohen, and I'm quoting, the Weiner of the South.

Well, guess what? Cohen now says Victoria Brink is, ta-da, his long lost daughter. That's right, his daughter. He says he didn't even know Victoria Brink existed until fairly recently, just a couple of years back. Small world, too. The daughter's mom, it turns out, is Texas attorney Cynthia White Sinatra, as in formerly married to Frank Sinatra Jr. Mom also ran for Congress in 2006 and lost to Ron Paul.

A former mayor with a major gambling addiction. How bad did it get? More than $1 billion bad. Find out why she will not face charges. We're "On the Case" next.


BALDWIN: Are you a gambler? Listen to this one.

An ex-mayor's gambling addiction got so bad, she took millions from her husband's late charity to feed it. But before I get to the why here -- and believe me it's actually not the obvious -- let me just tell you this. Former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor admits she gambled away $1 billion, with a B., dollars, most of it on video poker.

O'Connor was married to the founder of the Jack in the Box hamburger chain and here's the thing, she won't be prosecuted at least for now because of a medical condition. What? Listen to her attorney.


EUGENE IREDALE, ATTORNEY FOR MAUREEN O'CONNOR: This was not, we think, simply a psychiatric problem or a characterological defect, because there is substantial evidence that during this same time there was a tumor growing in her brain, in the centers of the brain that affect and control logic, reasoning and most importantly judgment.


BALDWIN: A tumor, OK. Defense attorney Drew Findling joins me now.

A tumor here, medical condition defending a billion dollars in gambling.

DREW FINDLING, ATTORNEY: Well, she has Gene Iredale, who is as good as they get in Southern California as lawyer. He was up to his tricks, no doubt about it.

And what is happening here, which is so unique, is that she's getting what they're calling a deferred prosecution. In the state system, we call it pretrial diversion. And here's what it means. She acknowledges she did something wrong. She has two years to not get in any trouble, she has two years to pay off this indebtedness and at the end of that, the case will be dismissed and there will be no charges.

BALDWIN: Wow. Let me read this, because this is part of her agreement. Repay more than $2 million to the R.P. Foundation, settle all tax liability resulting from receipt of the funds, receive treatment for her gambling addiction. What do you make of that?

FINDLING: Well, she's very fortunate.

She has a big civil suit for millions of dollars, which they're anticipating that she is going to be able to receive at least $2 million, pay it off. She has to go to, what, Gamblers Anonymous, go see some therapists a little bit, deal with this medical issue which interestingly enough really only surfaced in 2011.

And, as you know, the gambling was going back to 2001, but, nevertheless, I think these 24 months is an easy way for her to resolve this case, and these type of resolutions, in cases like this, are usually saved by the federal government for big corporations. We usually see this resolution for corporate resolutions. In other words, you can't put a corporate in jail, give the corporation a couple of years to pay off their indebtedness and divert the case and then have it dismissed at the end of two years.

BALDWIN: You say easy, those 24 months and that she probably wouldn't violate and...


FINDLING: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Clean slate. Wow. Drew Findling, thank you.

FINDLING: Thanks, Border Patrol

BALDWIN: Thank you, "On the Case" with me today.

Minutes away, as we mentioned, from President Obama taking on gun violence in Chicago. We will listen to his message there.

But coming up next, a "New York Times" writer gives a bad review for one car. But get this. CNN did a review on the same car and found something entirely different here. Ali Velshi is standing by. Wait until you hear this story.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: From the CNN Money newsroom in New York, I'm Ali Velshi. This is "Your Money."

Do you know what this is? It is the Tesla Model S. It's a car that's going to cost between $50,000 and $100,000 when the car is in full production. It doesn't use any gasoline. It is an electric car. And it is the pet project of this man you may know. His name is Elon Musk. This is a guy who made his money from PayPal. He's a space enthusiast. He founded Space X and Tesla Motors, and he's also considered, by the way, by some to have been the inspiration, the model for Iron Man.

Now, Elon Musk is having some problems because of this story in "The New York Times" by John Broder. Broder was supposed to drive the Model S from Washington to Boston. He says the car ran out of juice well short of its claimed range of 265 miles and ended up on a flatbed truck. Now, Elon Musk fired back with this blog. It's called a most peculiar test drive, accusing Broder of lying about charging the car and about how fast he drove.

He posted screen shots of the car's telemetry to back up the claim. Who is telling the truth? We wanted to find out.

CNN Money's Peter Valdes-Dapena tested the car earlier this week. He drove it on the same Washington-to-Boston route and he said the car worked just as advertised.

PETER VALDES-DAPENA, CNNMONEY.COM: So it worked. Tesla's Supercharger system got us all the way from Washington, D.C., here to Boston in one trip. Maybe could have done a little bit faster in a gasoline-powered car, maybe a little bit, but what's the fun in that?

VELSHI: Now, Peter knows his cars. This is not first time that Tesla faced accusations about range and reliability.

In 2001, Tesla sued the BBC for libel and malicious falsehood after the network's "Top Gear" program broadcast a segment showing that the $100,000 Tesla Roadster supposedly broke down and ran out of power. A judge dismissed the suit saying the performance on a test track couldn't be compared to performance on the road.

Tesla, by the way, does face stiff competition from mainstream electric cars. You have heard of the Nissan Leaf? They sold about 9,800 Leafs in 2012. Now, that car, like the Tesla, is a pure electric car. General Motors sold more than 23,000 Volts in 2012. That's compared with fewer than 8,000 the year before.

The Volt, by the way, is not a completely electric car. It also has a gas engine and that increases its range. Sales of electric cars are still tiny. In 2012, Chevy dealers sold almost exactly 10 times as many of the Chevy Cruze, which is a fuel-efficient gasoline-powered car, on which the Volt is based, than they actually sold Volts.

While the Model S' bad press is damaging to Tesla, the fact is it is another bad piece of press for the electric car industry in general, which has been struggling to sell cars in higher numbers. It stalled not just because of the technological challenges, but also despite the fact that gas prices have increased about 35 cents in the last month, gas prices are still low enough that it is not forcing people into electric cars.

That's it for me. For more, tune into "Your Money" this weekend, Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm Ali Velshi.



BALDWIN: Today, we're honoring the first CNN Hero of 2013, an ordinary person changing the world.

And when Dale Beatty lost his legs in Iraq, his North Carolina hometown helped him build a new home. And that prompted him to pay it forward.


DALE BEATTY, MILITARY VETERAN: I'm a combat-wounded Iraq veteran. As I was recovering at Walter Reed, my community approached me and said they wanted to help build a home for my return.

People would come and work on my project just because they respected the sacrifice that I had gone through. All veterans have been called to be responsible for the guy to your left and the guy to your right. Other veterans haven't had it as easy as I have. So I sat down with my battle buddy John and we decided to level the playing field.

I'm Dale Beatty. And it is my mission to help other veterans get the support and homes they deserve from their communities. There is thousands of veterans right here in our midst. People don't realize the need that is out there. Couple of our homes can help any service- disabled veteran regardless of their age or war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the young why we're al here today.

BEATTY: It is just getting the community engaged, to get a ramp built or a foreclosed home remodeled or an entire house built from the ground up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Narrow doorways that I couldn't get through. I had to crawl in on my hands and knees. To have them build a new bathroom was unbelievable.

BEATTY: We want to make their life easier, safer, just better. And their emotions are being rehabbed as well.

I did three tours in Vietnam. For 35 years, no one cared. Purple Heart Homes said, welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is great to be home after 40 years.

BEATTY: Regardless of when you served, we're all the same. They just need to know that somebody does care about them.


BALDWIN: Nearly 200 people injured after a meteor explodes in the skies high above Russia. That blast there sending fireballs across the sky. Look at this. Meteorites hitting the Earth in the remote wilderness. This is Western Russia.

The shockwave here from this sonic boom shattered windows, buckled buildings. Imagine driving along and seeing that careen across the sky. And this. This is windows blowing at a school. You see all these -- these are kids practicing judo. Next video showing the panic in the moments after the blast.

Car alarms were triggered, mobile phone networks interrupted, hundreds of buildings were damaged because of that meteor. And an asteroid the size of two semitrucks made space history just this last hour. It's called 2012 DA14. It came closest to Earth that any other asteroid of its size has in a long, long time.

The white dot there in the middle of your screen, that shows it is traveling -- when we say close, this is how close -- 17,500 miles over Indonesia. The brush-by lasted just a couple of seconds as the asteroid traveled 4.8 miles a second.

But it definitely has lasting impression on my next guest, former astronaut Ed Lu.

You call yourself, Ed, an asteroid hunter. You keep track of these asteroids. You say this should serve as a wakeup call. A wakeup call to what?

ED LU, FORMER ASTRONAUT: A wakeup call that these things sometimes hit the Earth.

The Earth is actually flying around the sun, right now at this very moment, in a big cosmic shooting gallery.

BALDWIN: Yes, but how often? How often would they hit the Earth? This is such a fraction of a possibility, right?

LU: Well, it is not -- each and every day, the odds are small, but they add up. So in your lifetime, there is about a 30 percent chance of another impact the size of the one that was in Tunguska. That was between about 500 and 1,000 times the size of the bomb used in Hiroshima.

Picture 500 to 1,000 of those atomic weapons placed in one spot set off at one time. In your lifetime, there is about a 30 percent chance of that happening again. Think about that.

MYERS: It is Chad Myers. My concern is that we only found this thing, like, last year. There are many more out there we don't know about. How are we searching for these?

LU: Well, currently, we're searching for them from amateur telescopes on the ground as well as dedicated telescopes on the ground.

And those have done a decent job at finding the ones that would wipe out civilization. We found the vast majority of those. What that is not very good at is finding the ones that would only wipe out a city or only perhaps collapse the world economy or only perhaps take out a small country.

We're not doing very well at that. We have only found 1 percent of asteroids the size of 2012 DA14.

MYERS: One percent?


LU: Yes. That means for every one of these that we find, there is 99 others that we haven't found yet. So the B612 Foundation is looking to find the other 99.


BALDWIN: So here's my question, though, because from what I have read, they're also potentially benefits to some of these asteroids. Right? Aren't there businesses called planetary resources hoping one day to -- I don't know what you find on an asteroid -- but to mine an asteroid?

LU: Well, they hope to do that some day.

These businesses are, however, wholly dependent upon somebody finding the asteroid first. So, you know, our plan is basically -- we are a nonprofit, the B612 Foundation, and we're going to go out there and map these things, because we think it is important that the -- that humanity knows where these things are, that people, the people of Earth have adequate warning, because you can actually deflect these things if you have adequate warning.