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Russia Hit By Meteor; Oscar Pistorius Accused Of Murdering Reeva Steenkamp; U.S. Airways And American Airlines Merging; Jodi Arias' Trial Continues

Aired February 16, 2013 - 16:00   ET


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Deborah Feyerick. Here are your top stories.

South Africa's Olympic hero, Oscar Pistorius, is spending the weekend in jail. He's accused of killing his model girlfriend and for the first time since her death on Valentine's Day, we hear from her as a South African broadcast network airs a clip of when she departed a reality show.


REEVA STEENKAMP, MODEL: You literally fall in love with Jamaica. You fall in love with being in love with love. It's just one love everywhere. I'm going home with --


FEYERICK: The double amputee track star, Pistorius is charged with killing her with a nine millimeter gun. His family denies any involvement in her murder. A bail hearing for Pistorius has been pushed back until Tuesday.

Russians are cleaning up after that once in a lifetime meteor blast yesterday. More than 1,000 people were hurt, mostly by flying glass from the shock wave. NASA now says the meteor was around 55 feet and weighed around 20,000 tons. You can feel the impact there and the panic that followed. Divers have been looking for the meteor in a frozen lake. So far, though, they have not found anything. That meteor falling just in western Siberia.

And the meteor blast came on the same day, much bigger asteroid came within about 17,000 miles of earth. That is a close call by cosmic standards. And it's a good thing that one didn't hit the earth or we would have a much bigger problem than flying glass.

CNN's Tom Foreman compares the two.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's about half the size of a football field, was traveling close to 17, 18,000 miles an hour. And if it had hit the earth, we're told that it would explode with the force of more than two million tons of dynamite. But, what would that be like? How big with that be? Well, by comparison, let's think about what happened in Russia, where that meteor exploded in the atmosphere about 30 miles above the earth and produced all of that damage. That was about this big. If it were actually here right now, my comparison to it would be about like this. It's not really that large.

The asteroid that missed us, however, was more like this size. And you can just imagine the impact comparatively if this came in and exploded in the atmosphere or if this actually hit the earth. And bear in mind, this is a relatively small asteroid. That's one of the reasons so many scientists watched with interest and so many people are asking, is there something we might be able to do if something bigger than this started heading our way?


FEYERICK: Tom Foreman there.

Well, a small plane was intercepted and escorted by a fighter jet to a Florida airport after violating temporary flight restrictions set up for President Obama's visit. The Cessna 152 entered the restricted air space near the resort where the president is staying in Palm City. NORAD sent an f-16 fighter jet and a coast guard helicopter to intercept the plane. The f-16 flew with the plane until it landed at a nearby air base where it was met by local officials and the U.S. secret service. The FAA is investigating the incident. The president is having a boys' weekend.

A deal six months in the making finally went through this week. The merger between US airways and the bankrupt American airlines. The new carrier would be the world's largest. But that has some people worried about fare increases. Ali Velshi sat down sat down with the CEOs and asked about that.


ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: There seems to be this popular myth about when airlines merge, fares go up. Talk to me a little about you foresee as a result of this merger.

DOUG PARKER, CEO, US AIRWAYS: We are going to take two airlines that are highly complementary, put them together, fly the same number of airplanes to the same number of places which is actually good for the consumers at both airlines. Since there won't be a reduction in supply, so therefore, no reason to believe there would be an increase in pricing.


FEYERICK: Of course, the companies will have to combine their computer systems. That could mean headaches when you try to make a reservation.

Now to something else in the sky. Drones. We normally think of them as being used over foreign lands to fight foreign enemies. But you might start seeing them in your own neighborhood. Our Athena Jones has the details.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The skies across America could soon be welcoming more drones. The FAA is seeking proposals from cities, states and universities to create six test sites for unmanned aircraft systems. The sites will help officials develop safety standards that will allow the government to fully integrate drones into the national air space by 2015. The drone industry says they make good economic sense.

BEN GIELOW, ASSOCIATION FOR UNNAMED VEHICLE SYSTEMS INTERNATIONAL: In the next three years, after the FAA has figured out integration, we could see as many as 70,000 jobs be created in this new industry.

JONES: The coast guard uses drones for surveillance on ice sheets in Alaska, and local authorities in North Dakota once used a border patrol drone during a dispute over cattle. Drone-makers predict they will eventually be used by energy companies to monitor pipelines and by farmers to monitor crops. New uses will require new government rules to protect privacy.

CHRIS CALABRESE, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: We don't want drones to become eyes in the sky, constantly spying us. We need control so that drones are only used when we have -- we believe that a crime is happening or we're trying to do something particular like fight a forest fire or finding a missing child. If we put those controls in place, we will have a powerful technology that has appropriate controls.

JONES: In Seattle over this month, the mayor ended a police department drone program over privacy concern and the Virginia legislature is at work on bills that would temporarily ban drones there.


JONES: The FAA is asking for public input on its proposed privacy requirements for these test sites and this privacy issue isn't going away. Just this week, two house members, a Republican and a Democrat, introduced a bill that would require law enforcement to get a search warrant before using drones to investigate crimes - Deb.

FEYERICK: Athena Jones, thanks.

Well, from the skies, back to earth. A surprising announcement from the Vatican today. A spokesman says the cardinals who will choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI could mean sooner than first planned. The conclave is slated to begin March 15th, but the Vatican says the date could move up. If all the cardinals are in Rome. There are 117 cardinals, 67 of which were appointed by Benedict himself. They will choose the replacement after the Pope retires February 28th.

Well, remember the fiscal cliff debacle? Yes. We remember. Get ready for another round, and this time the budget cuts could hit you right where it hurts.


FEYERICK: If you depend on any type of federal services. For example, getting through the TSA lines at the airport, well, you could soon face delays. And that's because unless Congress and the president agree on a new budget plan, huge spending cuts will take place the 1st of March. So far, both sides don't seem chose on how to avoid them.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some in Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse.


FEYERICK: Emily Schmidt is in Washington for us.

And Emily, this sounds like the exact same fight that we just went through back in January 1st, trying to avoid the fiscal cliff. How much money are we talking about, and is there any hope of a compromise?

EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, second verse, same as the first, isn't that right, Deb?

The plan here is to cut $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. How much money is that? Think of it this way, more than $3100 for every person in the U.S., at least according to the latest census numbers.

There's still a week and a half to come up with that compromise. But some leaders don't sound optimistic they will. In fact, President Obama said in his state of the union address, the Democrats, Republicans, business leaders and economists all say the sequester is a really bad idea. He says the country can't cut its way to prosperity.

But then look at Republicans. They say any increase taxes are a nonstarter. In fact, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, it's pretty clear to him, these cuts are going into effect.

There's always a chance to set a later deadline, though, Deb. Remember, this was originally supposed to begin January 1st. In the meantime, though, government agencies are warning what comes next if there's no deal in the next few days.

FEYERICK: You know, it's interesting, because Republicans may say no we're not going to accept tax increases. But that's exactly what happened. January one. How will these cuts directly impact you and me? You mentioned this $3100 figure. We earlier spoke about lines, TSA lines at the airports. But what else? SCHMIDT: I want to show you something. This is a pile of letters. These are sent from almost every federal agency that you can think of to the Senate appropriation committee. And talk about good reading, outlining potential cuts of the impact.

Let's talk about food safety, the FDA says you can expect 2100 fewer domestic and foreign food safety inspections. Says that could increase the chance you would get a food-borne illness. The department of defense says it's going to have hiring freezes, could lay of up to 46,000 temporary and contract employees, points out that 86 percent of its civilian employees live outside of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Even your summer vacation could be impacted. The department of the interior says expect reduced hours and services at 398 national parks. These range from the statue of liberty to the Grand Canyon.

Deb, most agencies are looking at least a five percent cut.

FEYERICK: You know, and Emily, I have to think the last thing the president wants right now is to have to let people go and that's going to affect the jobs numbers that are going to come out in the future. But who will most Americans blame? Are they going to blame president or are they going to blame Republicans, are they just fed up with both sides?

SCHMIDT: Well, we certainly know that pollsters are probably trying to get ahead of that question right now. And we see both Democrats and Republicans trying to position themselves to get a little bit ahead of that public opinion.

We saw this week how house minority leader Nancy Pelosi saying Republicans are playing games with the economy. House speaker John Boehner countered saying it's the president's term to come up with a plan. The blame game may be just around the corner, but then, too so is the sequestration is in deadline.

FEYERICK: Yes. And the blame game has a way of wearing good people down.

All right. Emily Schmidt, thanks so much.

Appreciate your insights on everything we're going to lose if they don't come up with a deal soon.

Well, it is the must-see trial that everyone is following. This week, Jodi Arias opened up in graphic, graphic detail about her personal life and the boyfriend that she is accused of murdering, the boyfriend she is accused of murdering.

Up next, could those revealing details impact the case? We will have the very latest.


DOCTOR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This week on the next list, meet Ed Lou. He's building a space telescope. He says it's going to protect the earth from asteroids.

ED LOU, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: This is the sentinel space telescope.

GUPTA: That's it. That's basically the size of it there.

LOU: Yes, the real one is about the size of, say, a delivery truck. So it's about 23, 24 feet tall. And about 2,600 pounds.

Over six and a half year period, it is going to scan earth's orbit, multiple times and map all the asteroids across earth's orbit, because those are the asteroids that can hit you. It is going to track on half a million asteroids, so each one is going to discover about 10,000 asteroids.

GUPTA: Each month, 10,000.

LOU: Yes. So which is more than all other telescopes throughout history have combined to discover. So it will do that every month.

GUPTA: Watch more on former NASA astronaut Ed Lou and his urgent mission to save planet earth this Sunday on "the Next List."



FEYERICK: Jodi Arias is testifying for her life. She is on trial for murder, accused of shooting her ex boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in the face, and then stabbing him 29 times and slitting his throat.

Jean Casarez from "In Session" on TruTV as has the details.


JEAN CASAREZ, LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, IN SESSION: Jodi Arias continues her direct examination on the stand. Now, she is up to May 2008 so this next week is going to be a pivotal week in this case because she is very close to testifying what happened on June 4th when she killed Travis Alexander, she says in self defense.

But there is a lot of testimony that may come before that because at the end of May, her grandparents' home was burglarized. The 25 caliber gun of her grandfather's mysteriously was stolen out of the home. She was there when police arrived.

Also, what about that trip she took, the trip that began by renting a car? And the trip that then went to Darryl Brewer's house, a former boyfriend? Did she really ask him for gas cans? And then that trip to southern California, and why no records on the trip to Mesa? All of this will come on direct examination, and then there will be the cross-examination from the prosecutor, Juan Martinez. It is apt to be a very, very important and explosive week in this death penalty trial in Arizona, the trial of Jodi Arias.

I'm Jean Casarez in Phoenix, Arizona.


FEYERICK: Thank you, Jean.

Well, so, Jodi Arias admits that she killed her ex-boyfriend, but even though she has been on the witness stand for five days, she has not yet told stories about that night and how it happened. Her lawyers are trying to make her out to be a sympathetic figure, someone who snapped after being mistreated and abused by a domineering man.

And I want to bring in my guest, Wendy Murphy, who is a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor. She is now a law professor in New England, Boston.

Thanks so much for joining us.

You know, I've been listening to this testimony. Sometimes she comes across as sympathetic and sometimes she comes across as a woman who is just trying to create sympathy by faking it. What is your take?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes. I mean, Deb, my take is that that's because some of what she is telling us is probably true. But she is mixing it in with things that I think we all know are false. And when you try to manipulate whether it's public opinion or the jury, you know, no matter what you think you may be conveying to them, if they think you're lying, it's not going to go over very well.

FEYERICK: It's so fascinating, because when we see pictures of her from the time she was going out with Travis Alexander, she's got this blonde hair, the pictures she looks very happy, they look like a very good couple. It's disconnected from some of the testimony she's giving, which is really a combination that, you know, they were into this kinky sex, even though they were getting much of deeper into Mormonism. The picture doesn't seem to fit.

MURPHY: Yes. You know, the prosecution is going to enjoy the cross-examination in terms of showcasing how truly sexually assertive and even aggressive she was. And it's not going to go -- again, it's not going to go over well with the jury that she is trying to convey herself as a victim who was not a sexually active woman who was enjoying some of those kinky stuff.

You know, it may be not that great for Travis. Maybe he's not as sympathetic as he might have been, had we not heard this stuff because he is coming across as kinky and has some odd, private activities. On the other hand, if she was doing the same stuff, it's kind of a wash.

FEYERICK: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, obviously, they're trying to determine whether, in fact, she was a willing participant or whether she was doing this against her will. They played a phone call this week. Do you think that phone call was convincing to show that, no, this was not something she wanted, this kind of relationship with Alexander.

MURPHY: You know, it cuts both ways. There are things that he says in there that sound so grotesque, you know, tying to trees and really strange sexual stuff. But those were fantasies. I mean, everybody agrees that some of what was on that tape never happened. So it was clearly a man fantasizing.

And there were times, I'll try to be polite here, there were times when they both agreed he was very generous to her in a sexual sense, making her happy for 45 minutes straight in a bubble bath. That's the antithesis of an abusive man from where I sit. So I don't think the jury is getting a clear sense that Travis was a bad guy at all, at all. He may have had fantasies that were weird and even ugly and deranged, but he didn't seem to be acting them out with her or anybody else.

FEYERICK: What's so fascinating, Wendy, is when we look at some of the testimony, and you can see the families of both inside that courtroom and it's not a very big courtroom. But you can see Alexander's family, who is sitting there, having to listen to this. And it gets very almost tiring. And you see this family taking it in almost in disbelief.

MURPHY: Yes. I can't imagine how it feels to be there. And I know that they know a lot of this is a big lie. It's bad enough to hear somebody charged with the murder of your son, you know, not only trying to make herself look like a victim when it's clear who the real victim is, but then, making up stories about him. And you can't do anything. You can't stand up and object and scream or throw things. I think it must be very difficult.

But, you know, when you're trying to win a case in front of a jury, it's all about the picture and the narrative and what gets portrayed as the storyline like how do people feel? And, you know, on the one hand, the defense is trying to turn this into some kind of combination of the movie "the Burning Bed" and "Debby does Dallas" when it looks like the real truth is more like "Friday the 13th" mixed together with "Fatal Attraction."

And you have to hope the family will - you know, at the end of the day, the family believes the truth will be told. And you have to sit tight when some of the more dramatic, fake stuff is coming out. You really don't have a choice in a court of law.

FEYERICK: Yes, it's really all about the cross examination and the closings, because that's when prosecutors have their chance to sort of frame the argument, frame the debate, and make her perhaps seem less weak or meek as she was, especially when you think about all of the things she had to do in order to see Alexander that night.

All right, Wendy Murphy, thank you so much.

We will keep watching. Hard to look away. Kind of like a car accident, unfortunately.

OK. Thanks so much. Well, he is on a hot streak on the court. NBA sensation, Lebron James, is ready to turn up the heat for this weekend's all-star game. What's it like to be on such a roll on center court? Find out when he tells us in just a moment.


FEYERICK: And here's a look at what's trending online.

Police in Texas shoot and kill a fugitive, put a community on edge and schools on lockdown for days. Alberto Morales was being taken to Las Vegas for trial when he stabbed a guard with a pair of eyeglasses and disappeared for three days. He was shot after midnight a few miles from where he escaped. The guard will be OK.

And CNN talks to King James. Our Rachel Nichols caught up with the NBA all-star and talked with him about his shooting streak.


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Most of us don't know what it's like to be on an NBA court and be shooting with that kind of accuracy. Can you compare it to anything in regular life that the rest of us could know how you feel right now looking at that basket?

LEBRON JAMES, PLAYER, MIAMI HEAT: Well, I mean, I guess I would say the way I've been shooting the ball is it just feels like you're on the beach and you have a tennis ball, and just, you know, no matter where you throw it, it's going to land in the water. Now, I haven't shot 100 percent yet. But --

NICHOLS: But you want to. You were close one night.

JAMES: Yes, I was close. I missed a layup.

NICHOLS: And that layup bothers you.

JAMES: And that layup -- after the fact. During the game, I didn't know. But after the fact, I said oh, 13 for 14, layup.


FEYERICK: It's always the one you don't make.

Well, you can catch the entire interview with LeBron James coming up on in the CNN NEWSROOM at 5:00.

Well, that will do it for me. I'm Deborah Feyerick. CNN NEWSROOM with Don Lemon will continue at the top of the hour. I'm so glad you had a chance to join us.

Up next, food worth dying for. "SANJAY GUPTA MD" starts right now.