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Three More Votes, No New Pope; President Obama Meets with House GOP; Harper's Cancer Diagnosis

Aired March 13, 2013 - 09:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Coverage of the papal conclave. Two votes remain. This afternoon 12:30, 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Anderson Cooper and Chris Cuomo begin special coverage live from Rome at 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, cardinals vote and the world watches this chimney on the Sistine Chapel. So far, black smoke revealing all three votes have failed to elect a new Pope.

As Mary Richards' best friend, Rhoda Morgenstern kept America laughing.


VALERIE HARPER, ACTRESS: I'm going crazy with hunger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, eat something.

HARPER: I can't. I've got to lose 10 pounds by 8:30.


COSTELLO: Loved her. Now actress Valerie Harper opens up to CNN's Piers Morgan about her terminal cancer diagnosis and what life is like now with just weeks to live.

And take a look at this sinkhole. It's swallowed a man in the middle of his golf game. Trapped in a pile of mud 18 feet below ground. Now that man is thanking God he's not six feet under.

And a tax season snafu causes havoc for 600,000 filers and refund delays of more than a month. Find out if your refund is one of them.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello.

We begin this morning at the Vatican, where billowing black smoke reveals that the Catholic Church is still in search of a leader. Cardinals have voted three times now and have not selected a new Pope. And this is where things get even more interesting. The cardinals enter the conclave with no clear frontrunner and now we're left wondering, if the election is deadlocked or if they are zeroing in on a successor to Pope Benedict?

CNN's Chris Cuomo is in Rome along with John Allen, our senior Vatican analyst.

Chris, let's start with you. Right now the cardinals are breaking for a long lunch. So how much has this process been pushed along?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the most important part of the day you could argue, Carol. Because they're not really allowed to politic in the conclave. It's more of a religious ceremony than it is a convention. So this is their chance. They eat, they rest, they can move around, they can go in different rooms.

We are told, of course, they do take time to pray. You can't underestimate that in this process. Yes, this really is not a political process as we understand it in American, let's say, presidential politics. They are prayerful men. They are taking inspiration from the frescos. They are looking to their god for help in doing this, and that takes place during this period as well.

But this is go time for them. They have to make decisions. We don't know whether or not there is a frontrunner, who it could be, or someone is falling back. But we know that in sessions like the one going on right now, that's where it's decided.

Now let me bring in John Allen. I got you here. Senior Vatican analyst. Always giving me the intelligence.

This part of the day, three votes, no Pope, no concern to you, because historically we shouldn't have one by right now.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: That's right. Over the last time 110 years we only got a Pope on three ballots once, that was 1939. So that's winding the clock back a while. Last time, of course, in 2005, it was four ballots.

What we don't know, Chris, right now radically outweighs what we do know in terms of what's going on with this process. I mean one scenario is that there is a single candidate who is just a few votes short of that magic 2/3 threshold of 77 votes. And they'll go back in this afternoon, that candidate will be pushed over the top and sometime later today we'll have a Pope.

The other scenario, of course, is that there are two, three, four, even five, candidates who got a smattering of votes in these first three rounds and they have no idea which one of those candidates might be able to get to the 2/3 threshold, which means this 3 1/2 or four- hour break for lunch is incredibly important because they've got to do the heavy lifting of figuring out which one of those candidates might be plausible in terms of becoming Pope.

CUOMO: So there's a Vatican presser that ended just -- still ongoing, they're still taking questions right now. We're watching it in a simultaneous feed from Vatican TV. Some of things that came up, they -- someone asked, we heard their reports, they said that there were reports of smoke in the Sistine Chapel, and the official response was the cardinals are fine, the frescos are fine. But they didn't say there was no smoke.

Now I'm not being a typical reporter, advancing something on the unknown. True or false, John Allen, they have had problems with las tupa in the past that blow black smoke, yes?

ALLEN: Absolutely. And conclaves in the past, it was actually a concerned that so much smoke was belching out of the stove, that it was going to somehow damage this priceless frescos by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Now in theory, the system they've got erected now is supposed to correct that, but of course the key phrase there, of course, is in theory.

CUOMO: Right. And I mean, again, it is part of the pageantry. To see pictures of the stove, we showed them from time to time, I mean, it really is a big hot-belly stove that they just -- really just jerry-rigged into the ceiling here just for the purpose of that.

ALLEN: It's not even that big to be honest. I mean, the truth is one of the reasons that I think we saw two different cycles of smoke this morning is let's remember, they have two different sets of 115 ballots and notes they have to burn. When I interviewed the papal master of ceremonies after the conclave of 2005, asking precisely this question, why was it sometimes we saw two different issuances of smoke?

Is it because, quite frankly, the stove isn't big enough to hold two different sets of 115 ballots, they had to do two different sort of cycles of all of this stuff? You know, and of course, the symbolism here is, you know, theologically, it's all said about the Catholic Church. It's ancient and new at the same time. That is, there is a kind of timeless deposit of doctrine and practice, but it's also all was being updated to meet the culture in which it lives.

You know, the fact that it's engaged in this 21st century culture with press briefings and tweets and all these other stuff.

CUOMO: Right.

ALLEN: And yet at the same time, they are using this, you know, sort of old school stove and chimney to let the world know what has happened. It's prized with symbolism.

CUOMO: It's one of the things that makes it such great theater -- Carol.

COSTELLO: You're not kidding. What confused us, back here in the United States, is when the smoke started coming out of the chimney, we're thinking, well, what color is it? It looks sort of grayish, and then it grew kind of darker. And well, everybody is guessing, is it black, is it white, is it gray? What is it? We were confused.

CUOMO: Well, look, it's part of the -- again, we keep using the word theater, the great sense of drama, the poignancy. But that's what it is all about. You know, that's what ritual is about. And last night they overwhelmed us, the plume of smoke. (Speaking in foreign language). No question about it.

We were trying to figure out how they created so much smoke out of one set of ballots. This morning, it's a little bit of a tough reach. John Allen, a little reticent. Cuomo had to step in the fray there and say --


ALLEN: Declare it black.

CUOMO: Had to go forward.

ALLEN: I've told you, Chris, last time, eight years ago, when we finally got the white smoke, we didn't know right away it was white smoke. The five most anguished minutes of my life, we were sitting on the CNN platform, trying to decide, is that white, is that black? Do we have a Pope or don't we?

And it took a while. And of course, you know, they have told us bells were going to ring. But it was at the top of the hour, the bells of St. Peter's were going off anyway. So that was no help whatsoever. So I'm telling you guys we may be down this path again.

CUOMO: Well, two things we know. One is, if those are the worst moments of your life, you've had a good life.


The second thing we know is, it's part of the antiquity of the process. There's a great book, not as great as yours, but in reading one of the passages about how this is done in the past, you think that, OK, we have a Pope, everybody knows at once, this simultaneous communication, but they're even old school in that regard. Right? That the guy who is supposed to ring the bells doesn't necessarily get the phone call at the right time.

ALLEN: Yes, what happened last time is that the papal master of ceremonies was in the Sistine Chapel, and he was trying to use his cell phone to tell the guy to turn on the bells, but of course the jamming equipment was still on, so he asked one of the Swiss Guards to go tell him, he did. This guy said to the Swiss Guard, you're not in my chain of command. I need to hear this from the master of ceremonies. So it took about 10 minutes to get this organizes which of course, you know, the Vatican is thinking in centuries, it wasn't a big deal. To us, it was heart attack city.

CUOMO: Yes, we want to know, but obviously, especially this time, Carol, it is such an important decision for this church, whether you're Catholic or not, the world's eyes are on this process because it's supposed to be a time for change. The decision of who the new Pope is will say loud and clear to the entire world where the Catholic Church's intentions are moving forward.

COSTELLO: Well, we'll keep watching that chimney. Thanks to both of you. John Allen, Chris Cuomo, thanks so much. Other top stories we're watching for you this morning. A scare in Montana is OK after being caught in the middle of an avalanche. This is the view from his helmet cam. Jeremy Irons was buried in the snow. His friends saw part of his backpack sticking out, were able to dig him out within three minutes. They credit that helmet for saving his life.

An afternoon on the golf course ends up with the golfer deep underground. Mark Mihal was on the 14th fairway at a golf course near St. Louis Friday when an 18-foot deep sinkhole opened up and it swallowed him.


MARK MIHAL, FELL INTO A GOLF COURSE SINKHOLE: I noticed an anomaly. A little bathtub shaped depression in the fairway. And thought that was probably pretty unfair for golfers to hit one right down the middle and have to maybe just chop out. So I went to look at it, and took one step, and then I was gone.


COSTELLO: Unbelievable. Mark dislocated his shoulder in the fall. It took about 20 minutes for his friends to pull him out of that sinkhole.

The Coast Guard said it will let a tugboat fire up a Louisiana coast burn itself out. The tug was pushing an oil barge. It hit a submerged gas pipeline, which also caught fire. The captain suffered severe burns. At one point, flames reached 1,000 feet into the air.

The FDA is warning users of a popular antibiotic that it could lead to heart problems. The agency says Z-Pack can change electrical activity in the heart and could potentially lead to fatal irregular heartbeat. The medicine will now carry new warning labels.

The president's new charm offensive could face its toughest test yet today. He's going to meet with House Republicans on Capitol Hill and it appears the president has lost some of his political capital. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finds just 50 percent approve of the president's job. How the president is handling his job, that is. That's down over the past seven weeks, 46 percent disapprove.

The numbers are worse when it comes to the president's handling of the economy. Forty-four percent back the president, 52 percent do not.

Dan Lothian joins us now from the White House.

So this poll certainly can't help the president's cause, especially with House Republicans.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it certainly shows that there is a lot of frustration out there, a lot of concern from Americans when it comes to the president dealing with debt and deficit. And so we expect that Republicans will shine a big spotlight on that, raising some of those same concerns and criticisms and you heard some of that yesterday from Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, as he was rolling out his own budget that seeks to balance the budget over the next decade by doing away with a lot of health care reform, by streamlining the federal tax code.

But President Obama, in an interview with ABC News, says that when it comes to that timeline, it's not what he has in mind.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that, we're going to be bringing in more revenue. If we've controlled spending and we've got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balanced, but it's not balanced on the backs of, you know, the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, family who've got disabled kids.

That's not the right way to balance our budget.


LOTHIAN: So the president is sitting down meeting with Republicans, hoping that he can work through some of these thorny fiscal issues, hoping that there can be compromise, but there is that big sticking point is how do you raise revenue? And Republicans still smarting over the fact that, you know, taxes went up on the wealthy at the end of last year. So not looking to budge on this issue still. A lot of big differences between Republicans and Democrats here in Washington that they have to work through -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I think that's an understatement. Dan Lothian, reporting live from the White House this morning.

Just ahead in the NEWSROOM, actress Valerie Harper speaking out about the devastating news that she has just weeks to live.


HARPER: I just want folks to see me, that I'm OK, that I'm not suffering.


COSTELLO: The star opens up about her life now and how she wants to be remembered.

We're back in a minute.


COSTELLO: She was America's upstairs neighborhood, Rhoda Morgenstern. Actress Valerie Harper is always ready with the snarky quip or tale of her disastrous love life on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARPER: How can you gorge (ph) yourself like that and stay so skinny? I'm going crazy with hunger.


HARPER: I can't. I've got to lose 10 pounds by 8:30.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I can't have it, why look?

HARPER: If I felt that way, I would never go to a Paul Newman movie. And I know you're going to think I'm kidding, but you can really get close to someone fast when you hit them with a car.


COSTELLO: Well, now, Harper is speaking out, sitting down with CNN's Piers Morgan, discussing her incurable brain cancer diagnosis and why she's not going to give up.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN LIVE": From what I understand, when he realized it was a terminal condition that you had, he told your husband, of 34 years, Tony. And Tony decided for a while not to tell you. How long was it before he finally told you?

HARPER: I think it as a week or two, as I remember, because I could feel something going on with my friends and with, you know -- there was like an elephant in the room slightly, a small one.

But Tony was told at the hospital in New York, there is nothing we can do for her. And, in fact, there hasn't been. It is incurable so far, and then we -- you know, he told me, and I felt better actually, Piers, to really know what I was dealing with.

And why was I feeling so good? The medicine that they had me on, two a day, two times of the day -- it's not like a huge cocktail -- I mean, it's not -- it seems so simple and my life is the same. I'm exercising, I'm walking, I'm doing book tours. I'm just living my life with the help of Dr. Naphtali (ph) and their team and Dr. Rudnick (ph) and doing one foot in front of the other, and I feel much better knowing.

And I decided, gee, if this news comes out it's going to be horrifying. And, by the way, my neighbors immediately called the house, sent notes and bring casseroles. Can I cook for you? I said yes, and I thought, oh, they think I'm in a wheelchair or laying with tubes.

So, maybe now while I can still talk and communicate and express, we're all terminal. Every single one of us. None of us are getting out of this alive, and we don't like the look of death and I don't ask people to do that, but I ask them to expect that death is inevitable and then leave it alone. Live the moment. But don't be thinking about your death way before the time of your death. That's what I'm really trying to share.

MORGAN: Valerie, how -- finally, how would you like to be remembered?

HARPER: Oh, that's great. She was -- she was up and off the couch. She was -- you know, or off her you know what?

And I think I have been all my life. I had a mom -- a Canadian mom who was a nurse, and my beautiful dad, ex-hockey player who met her in Canada. It's all in my little book.

But it's -- he was so positive, he was a salesman, so I guess I got some of that energy from him. And my brother Don and my sister Leah, what a great family. Not perfect. In fact, the marriage fell apart.

But it was such a nice, grounding thing to be the family where there was love and space for fights and everything, but forgiveness. That's a big one. People need to do that. They need to forgive themselves.

And as Oprah said so brilliantly, forgiveness is the -- is giving up the wish that the past could have been different, and when you give that up, if you are released.

You don't forget. The person is not exonerated. It wasn't good what they did to you or feel that they did to you, you release it, and you don't have to hold it and you don't have to do it to yourself, you know. And your mind, ego, will beat you up all the time.

We are bigger. We are being -- spirit, whatever you want to call it. There's something larger than our mind.

The mind is a great tool. We need it to stay out of traffic and move around and do great things and write stuff, but it isn't the whole of us. That other place, that experienced place, where you can look at your mind, make enough stories about yourself or other people or be mean, instead of saying, that was mean of you, just look at it, like the Zen philosophy. You just observe it.

You become the observer and then you say to yourself, well, if my mind is saying this, who is observing? Who is observing without judgment? And that is part of who we are. That is that being place where we're connected to everybody.

So, I think people can give themselves a chance to experience that.



Despite her diagnosis, Valerie has an extraordinarily positive attitude. You saw that. In the next hour, we'll hear more from Valerie and how she is able to maintain that strength. That's coming your way at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HARPER: Thirty-five, single, sandy hair. Who didn't vote for him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rhoda, it's 1:00, isn't your lunch hour over?

HARPER: Oh, no, my boss doesn't care if I'm a little late.


HARPER: Mary, I think I better get going. I just remember, there's this boss who hates it when I'm late. Yours.



COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. The question for you this morning -- is Mississippi's anti- Bloomberg bill a good idea?

Hmm, lawmakers in Mississippi are saying nanny Bloomberg, don't mess with us. They just passed what's known as the anti-Bloomberg bill. It prevents Mississippi from banning food based on nutritional information, like large sugary sodas.

This after a New York judge struck down Mayor Bloomberg's much ballyhooed soda ban.

Thirsty for a fight? Mayor Bloomberg says bring it on.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: If we are serious about fighting obesity, we have to be honest about what causes it and we have to have the courage to tackle it head on.


COSTELLO: OK. So, going back to Mississippi for a minute -- according to the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity in the nation, 35 percent of adults are obese in Mississippi.

Still, the author of Mississippi's anti-Bloomberg bill, a restaurant owner, says consumers, not the government, should decide what they can buy. And apparently, most Americans earn for high calorie fast food.

Case in point: the cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco. Taco Bell's customers literally went loco last week because they couldn't find their new taco at their local Taco Bell store, venting on Taco Bell's Facebook page, quote, "You lied to me. I thought we had a better relationship than this." And "Why, Taco Bell, why? Hate to say it, but Taco Bell fail."

Seriously, though, Doritos Locos Taco is no joke. Taco Bell told "The Daily Beast" it sold 1 million Nacho Cheese Tacos a day last year. They have to hire 15,000 new people to handle that business. Clearly, we want to eat what we want when we want it and clearly, we have an obesity problem in the country.

So, the talkback question: is Mississippi's anti-Bloomberg bill a good idea?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining us.

Stories we're watching right now in THE NEWSROOM. As you can see, opening bell just rang on Wall Street. The Dow poised to extend its winning streak.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.

Give us the scoop.