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Boy Scouts Considers Ending Ban; Arias Back on Witness Stand; Smoke Could Come This Hour; Four Killed and Police Searching For Shooter; Airlines Oppose Knives on Planes; Obama's Capitol Hill Charm Offensive; Arias Takes Stand for 18th Day; Teacher Missing in New Orleans

Aired March 13, 2013 - 13:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Might today be the day the cardinals at work electing a new pope? They're inside the 16th Chapel right now for the day's second round of voting. We'll bring you the latest from Rome in just moments.

Then, The Boy Scouts of America considers ending its ban on openly gay members, but before deciding, the organization is sending out a survey asking if gay and straight scouts can share a tent? And after a pause in her trial, Jodi Arias is back for an 18th day on the witness stand. She is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her boyfriend. But Arias says it was self-defense.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in for Suzanne Malveaux.

The suspense is killing us. We are all watching and waiting for any indication that there is a new elected pope. And the center of the attention right now a chimney and a bird on top of the 16th Chapel. If the cardinals come to a two-thirds majority at 77 votes, we will see a white puff of smoke rising. Right now, we are waiting on today's second round of balloting as is that seagull which has its own Twitter handle now, assisting seagull.

Let's bring in Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper and CNN's Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen to put some perspective on the waiting game. The crowds that remain, even with the rain, this inclement weather, and, of course, on top of it all, the center of attention now a seagull, stealing the thunder.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The crowd is pretty sizable and they've actually just shut off another street. The seagull, I don't know if this is good or bad, but I can confirm there are two seagulls. There's one with a light beak and one with a dark beak.

Now, here's what we know. Within the next 45 minutes or so this second vote of the afternoon session will be wrapping up. It will be tallied and there will be smoke, black or white, we'll have to see. For some context, John, five ballots not usually the lucky number for a pope. Tell us about it.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN Senior Vatican Analyst: No, there actually hasn't been a pope elected on the fifth ballot for the last century. As we were talking earlier today, if you take -- this is the 10th conclave over the last 110 years. If you take the first nine, the average number of ballots it took to produce a pope was seven and a half. So, if this conclave goes on into tomorrow, although we will all be talking about the drama building and all of that, the truth of it is, by recent historical standards, it would not be unusual.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But at this point, on the fifth vote, there is a pretty clear sense of who the front runners are and now it's just a question of whether somebody has enough votes to get more than two-thirds majority or some other sort of unlikely candidate will rise up.

ALLEN: Well, sure. Anderson, what happens is there's sort of a pivot point that arrives in a conclave. Either one of those early front runners begins separating themselves from the pack -- from the pack, and you can see a kind of pathway to two-thirds, or it becomes clear that that's not going to happen with any of them. In which case, you start looking around at what you might pelopially (ph) call the B List of candidates, that is perhaps candidates you didn't come in thinking of as strong possibilities. But now, you start looking around and saying, could one of them perhaps put together a winning coalition? And that's when the stage becomes set for a real surprise.

COOPER: And in terms of history, where's the greatest example of that?

ALLEN: It would be the second conclave of 1978. What happened is that you had two very strong Italian candidates, Cardinal Giovanni Benelli and Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, who went into that conclave as obvious front runners. Both had strong support through the first few ballots, but it became clear by really this point in the process, the fifth or sixth ballot, that neither one of them was going to get to two-thirds. And so, the cardinals began looking around and it was Cardinal France Cernida (ph) of Vienna who said, well, maybe Poland can give the church a pope.

Funny story about that, he said that to Stefan Wyszynski who was the elder cardinal of Poland. And Wyszynski said, oh, no, I'm too old. And Cernida said, ah, actually, I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about the Cardinal Karo Watia of Kracow (ph) who went onto become Pope John Paul II. The hugest surprise over the last 100 years, because, of course, the first non-Italian pope in 500 years. We could be looking at something like that now, but, of course, the truth is this is all speculation. We don't know what's going on inside the 16th Chapel. Someone could be on the precipice of election or they could be hopelessly gridlock. All we know for now is, as of this moment, we don't have a pope.

CUOMO: Well, we're going to wait and see, again. About 45 minutes, we'll be watching here on Smoke Watch to see what smoke comes out, black or white. Fred, back to you in the studio.

WHITFIELD: All right. We will check back with you. Chris, Anderson and John thank you so much.

All right. Now, back in this country. Police in upstate New York are searching for a man who shot and killed four people and wounded two others. The shootings happened this morning in two communities in Herkimer County. One of the town -- one, rather, in the town of Herkimer. The other in Mohawk about 70 miles west of Albany. Police have identified the suspect as 54-year-old Kurt Myers. A federal law enforcement source says Myers blew up his house in Mohawk Valley. And here are a couple pictures from the crime scenes. As we know, we don't know the circumstances of the shootings, but schools in Herkimer and Mohawk are on lockdown as well as several nearby towns. We'll bring you more information as we get it.

And another major airline is joining the chorus of critics opposed to the TSA's plan to allow small knives on planes. The agency made the change to allow agents to focus on larger potential threats, but opponents say that's a bad idea. American Airlines joins Delta and U.S. Airways in opposing the lifting of that ban. They're also joined by the Flight Attendants Union Coalition. And the coalition of Airline Pilot Associations. The knife ban was put into place after 911. The change takes effect April 25th.

It has been six months since the 911 attack on a U.S. Embassy in Libya. And U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed during that attack last year. And just moments ago, President Barack Obama announced that he plans to nominate Deborah Jones to that post. She is a scholar and resident at the Middle East Institute in D.C. Previously, she was a senior faculty advisor for the National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. She also serves as a U.S. Ambassador to the state of Kuwait.

President Obama is expected to arrive on Capitol Hill in just a few minutes to continue his, quote, unquote, "charm" offensive. He is reaching out to members of Congress directly to get his agenda pushed through. That includes a budget plan and gun legislation.

Today, he meets with House Republicans. Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper joining me now from Washington. So, Jake, who, specifically, is the president planning on meeting with?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He's meeting with the House Republican Conference. This is a group he has not met with specifically since 2009. He hasn't met with a group of Republicans since June 2011. But this is the group he's meeting with. He'll be introduced by House Speaker John Boehner, after which then he will -- he will hear remarks from Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. She's chair of the House Republican Conference. And then President Obama will speak.

WHITFIELD: And we're also hearing another interesting story that's coming out of Washington that former president Bill Clinton actually inspired the man who filmed Mitt Romney's infamous 47 Percent comment. Here's a quick clip for anyone who may not remember it.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.


WHITFIELD: So, Jake, I think a lot of folks would agree with Romney who said that those 47 remarks did real damage to his campaign. In his words, "real damage to my campaign." End quote. But does he regret the point that he was making?

TAPPER: Well, Mitt Romney has said that those comments don't reflect his thinking. But the truth is if you listen to Romney's remarks post-election, both his comments on a conference call in the days immediately after the election and then also his interview recently with Chris Wallace on Fox News. It does seem as though he does think that the reason he lost is that President Obama has been giving government benefits to people who then grateful for the benefits turned out and voted for President Obama. He said it so much in the 47 percent comments, after the election in the conference call, and then, again, to Chris Wallace specifically referring to Obama care. So, I'm sure he regrets how his comments were taken, how they hurt his candidacy, but it's hard to escape the fact that they do seem to reflect his opinion as to why he lost.

WHITFIELD: OK. And then, back to the film or the piece of tape itself. How is it that filmmaker or that person who videotaped that is saying that it was former president Clinton who inspired him?

TAPPER: Well, apparently, he works in the service industry, this gentleman, and he had been at an event earlier when former president Bill Clinton was there. And he found Clinton charming, Clinton to be an individual who, after the event, made sure to greet all of the servers, greet the kitchen staff, make sure that they all felt his presence as well and his gratitude. And, I guess, to this individual, Mitt Romney was a stark contrast to that and so he felt as though he needed to get this tape out.

WHITFIELD: OK. And, Jake, we're looking forward to your new show. It starts Monday, right? You ready? You pumped?

TAPPER: Thank you, that's right. I am ready and I am pumped both. That is correct.

WHITFIELD: Got to have both. 4:00 Eastern time Monday, Jake Tapper it is "THE LEAD." You don't want to miss it.

TAPPER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks, Jake.

All right, coming up this hour, she's back. Jodi Arias on the stand for an 18th day of questioning. She is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her boyfriend, but Arias says it was self- defense.

And then, The Boy Scouts of America asking parents if they think having a gay troop leader is quote, unquote, "safe?" The group's sexuality survey. And New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is trying to limit sugary drinks in the Big Apple. Well, some Mississippi lawmakers are trying to stop something like that from happening in their state with the Anti-Bloomberg Bill. How are they trying to do that and why?

Plus, we are officially on chimney watch. The cardinals are inside the 16th Chapel voting for a new pope. If they decide on the new leader of the catholic church, they will release white smoke.

And this is the CNN NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Jodi Arias is back on the witness stand testifying for the 18th day. And no doubt she still has plenty to say. Arias is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of her boyfriend, Travis Alexander. She claims it was self-defense.

Our Ted Rowlands is in Phoenix. So, Ted, what can we expect today?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, more of Jodi Arias. Fred, like you said, she has -- had a lot to say in these 18 days. There's been a five-daybreak, thought, because there's been no court early this week and there's no court Friday. So, all the folks that are absolutely obsessed with this trial will get their fix in a few minutes. They're just about ready to start the proceedings today. She, right now, is taking questions from the prosecution following the 200 plus questions that she answered last week from the jury. The prosecution's focus right now is limited to just what she told the jury. However, as this has been going on, the jury has been writing down more questions and putting them in the box -- actually the jury box so the judge may allow a follow-up. Bottom line, she could be on this stand for a couple more days, depending on the leeway that this judge allows.

WHITFIELD: Incredible. So there's also a psychologist apparently that will be called to testify. Is that psychologist likely to testify soon after Jodi arias is off the stand?

ROWLANDS: Yes. And there's a psychologist and a domestic violence expert. The defense says those are the two remaining witnesses for the defense. The reason they have those on the list is to explain to the jury how somebody who has such a sharp memory and if you've seen any of her testimony on the stand, she remembers everything. She's been fantastic on the stand. But how could someone who remembers everything forget this area of the actual murder? Doesn't provide any details. Try to fill-in her story using these two witnesses. We're expecting them to take the stand when she's done. Again, when will she be done? That's the big question.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ted Rowlands, keep us posted there from Phoenix. Appreciate that.

And this very sad story, she was last seen celebrating. She had been nominated for teacher of the year, but then vanished. And weeks later the search continues. The latest from New Orleans next. And of course we're officially on pope watch. You're looking at the chimney where all eyes are on Rome trying to figure out if it will be black or white smoke, rain or shine. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right. Live pictures right now of the chimney there over the Sistine Chapel. All eyes are on the chimney and of course the seagull that continues to be perched there on that chimney. The 115 cardinals are currently voting. We'll be seeing whether it will be white smoke or black smoke that will signify the outcome of that vote. We continue to watch there from the Sistine Chapel there in Vatican City. And of course you'll know as we do.

All right. Meantime, it's been almost two weeks now and still no sign of a teacher who went missing in New Orleans. Terrilynn Monette was last seen at a bar with friends on March 2nd. She was celebrating her nomination for teacher of the year. Friends say the 26-year-old was drinking and went to take a nap in her car and instead she vanished. Monette's mother spoke with CNN.


TONI ENCLADE, TERRILYN MONETTE'S MOTHER: It's very hard. I can't sleep at night. I can't sleep at night. I can't eat. I keep thinking about my child and where she could be. I just want her back. So please if you're listening and you're watching this, please bring Terrilynn home. Please. That's all I want. I want her home.


WHITFIELD: A tearful plea from a mother. CNN's Nick Valencia is following this search. Nick, what are authorities willing to say about this investigation?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Breaks your heart to listen to that sound, Fredericka, every time. Police have not released any new information so far. But there was a new development in the search. Equusearch, you might remember them form such high-profile cases as Caylee Anthony and Natalee Holloway, they are the Houston-based independent search and rescue team. They say local authorities called them to show up here today to search these local waterways and lagoons in the city park area.

Local police believe that this is the path that Terrilyn Monette took home from her home to the bar. I'm going to get out of the way and see you can take a look behind me and see the big boat is part of the equipment that they're using. The truck there is also part of Equusearch. They're using sonar devices to look into the water. So far their search has come up empty. They're searching local waterways and lagoons. Earlier I spoke to the founding director of Equusearch, Tim Miller. This is very personal mission for for him. In 1986 his daughter went missing and eventually was found dead. He says he understands the similar situation that the family of Terrilynn Monette is going through. Take a listen to what he had to say.


TIM MILLER, EQUUSEARCH FOUNDING DIRECTOR: We're here with you. I've been there before my own self and know what this family is going through. When I heard mom on TV yesterday crying, how can you help not to help?


VALENCIA: Equusearch showed up yesterday with four people, they're adding to the already dozens of resources being used including state police, FBI has been assisting, and the local police department as well, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Nick, we mentioned that she had gone to take a nap in the car. Did she ever drive that car away? Did she walk away? What are authorities willing to say about that?

VALENCIA: Well, there is surveillance tape. And I'm not sure what pictures you're showing, but there's a bank right next door to Parlay's ([h) the bar. Surveillance shows her leaving by herself. Around 4:00 a.m. that same surveillance tape spotted an unknown man talking to Terrilynn Monette. Police questioned him and released him. They're not holding him as a person of interest and they have not named any suspects, but that surveillance tape did catch her leaving at around 4:00 a.m. That's the last anyone has seen of her.

WHITFIELD: We know you'll keep us informed as you get information. Thanks so much. Nick Valencia there in New Orleans.

A massive fire is still burning after a barge hit a gas pipeline in the Louisiana bayou. U.S. Coast Guard says the barge was carrying thousands of gallons of fuel. They're letting the fire burn because the flames are too dangerous. The 47-foot tug was pushing an oil barge when it hit the underwater line. Four people were on board, one severely burned. No word yet on what impact it might have on the environment.

And we're officially on chimney watch. The cardinals are inside the Sistine Chapel voting for a new pope. If they decide on a new leader of the Catholic Church, they'll be releasing white smoke. We're live from Rome next.


WHITFIELD: There it is right there, the center of everyone's attention in Rome when smoke comes out of that chimney, we'll know whether or not a new pope has been elected today. Let's bring in Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and CNNsenior Vatican analyst John Allen all there at the Vatican, outside Vatican City, all waiting to see what happens. Even though you've got nightfall there, set the scene for us.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Darkness has come. It is really beautiful lights in St. Peter's Basilica have turned on. Crowds have been gathering really for the last several hours. It's getting to be quite a large crowd. They've now blocked off an extra block or so around Vatican city. A lot of people waiting through the pouring rain. It has been very miserable for the last several hours. Really frankly for the last several days the weather has not been cooperating although it's traditional for this two-week period around this time of year. Again, all eyes on that chimney. And people just waiting. And with each passing minute not only the crowd's growing but the anticipation is growing because it would seem some time within certainly the next hour that we would have some sort of signal.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're going to have a signal tonight. What we don't know is what that signal is going to be. I mean, it may be black indicating no pope, white indicating a pope has been elected. Obviously there is an enormous sense of drama. And a sense of anxiousness to find out what's going on inside the Sistine Chapel. I think one of the interesting things to point out is there's some sort of a footnote that means almost nothing but is nevertheless interesting is that in the last 100 years no pope has ever been elected on fifth ballot, which is the ballot we presume they're on right now.

COOPER: Right.

ALLEN: So in some way this may be a precedent-shattering election if we get a pope.

COOPER: There are two votes in the morning, two votes in the afternoon. And potential for two in each. Do they happen back-to- back? I mean, as soon as the first vote concludes they see where things lie? If there's a 2/3 majority then they just immediately start voting again?

ALLEN: Yeah, it's probably worth explaining. The way it works inside the Sistine Chapel, it's not a simple show of hands in terms of who votes for whom. It's actually a very carefully choreographed process where each cardinal fills out a ballot in silence, processes up individually and deposits in an urn while swearing an oath. One bank of three cardinals counts, another bank of three cardinals confirms the count. All that is done aloud so other cardinals can follow along in their place. So soup to nuts (ph) you're talking an hour or so maybe little more for each round of voting. In order to get two ballots done in the morning and two ballots in the afternoon, that's pretty much the ball game.

COOPER: With each passing vote though the efficiency does increase a little but there's only so fast you can go when you're talking 115 cardinals.

ALLEN: Well, bear in mind, Anderson, we're talking about 115 cardinals whose average age is in the 70's. So they may have picked up some speed in the morning, but it may well be they're tiring a little bit in the afternoon, which may explain why we are going to be here a little bit longer waiting to see what the outcome of tonight's vote is.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's also extra time built-in, right, John? Because of how they actually bind up the ballots. Everything in this is ritualistic.