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Skydiver Survives Crash Landing; Conservatives Holding Annual CPAC Meeting; Cruise Passengers Leave Stranded Ship; Man Fights Shark, Gets Fired

Aired March 14, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello thank you so much for being with us. Checking our "Top Stories" it's 30 minutes past the hour.

The nightmare aboard the Carnival Cruise "Dream" is over. Carnival says the ship is running at full power and that quote "All hotel systems are functioning normally." Earlier some passengers had contacted CNN with stories of toilets overflowing and elevators not working.

Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota are considering a snack tax. But some retailers in the state say they just can't stomach it. The tax would affect products like potato chips, pretzels and trail mix but only for packages smaller than eight ounces. The bill is facing opposition from Republicans and retailers who say it will create confusion.

And a dramatic crash landing is captured on video in California -- a sky diver spinning out of control. Because he was falling too fast for his parachute to deploy correctly. His terrified jump partner watched the entire thing unfold.


KATIE HANSEN, SKYDIVING PARTNER CRASH LANDED: I was pretty sure I was about to watch my friend die.

CRAIG STAPLETON, SKYDIVER SURVIVED CRASH LANDING: I completely lucked out. I mean, God watches out for idiots and puppy dogs. And he just let me live and walk away.


COSTELLO: Incredibly the skydiver that man suffered only a dislocated shoulder along with some nasty bumps and bruises.

Conservatives gathering in Washington for a three-day meeting that could reshape the Republican Party. This year's Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC comes on the heels of GOP losses in the House last fall and, of course, Mitt Romney's defeat in the race for the White House. Joining me now, Patrick Millsaps who was chief of staff for Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential campaign. Welcome Patrick.


COSTELLO: I'm good. Thank you so much for joining us. There's been some criticism about who was invited to speak at CPAC this year. What's your sense of that? ?

MILLSAPS: Well, I think the GOP has got -- and I'm sorry, it's very loud behind me -- I think the GOP and members of my party, the conservatives, need to be more concerned right now about not who's standing behind the podium, but the people in the seats. Those are the people that are very interested in ideas and -- and -- and they are the people that are going to get people elected.

And so we have -- we have focused so much on who is speaking that I think we really need to turn the cameras on who is sitting in the seats and saying hey, where are you from, what organizations are you involved in? What -- what issues interest you? And get them engaged and involved. That's what the Obama campaign did so well and just quite frankly just beat us on micro politicking like that.

COSTELLO: Well the Republican Party wants to put a new face on it. Because it had problems in the last election and guess my point is by inviting people like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and giving them the bulk of the time on stage, isn't that defeating the purpose?

MILLSAPS: Well you know there's -- there's two -- that's a double- edged sword. On the one hand you might make that argument. On the other hand, CPAC is getting a lot of coverage because of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin. So you know for you asking me the questions right now and that's been the story. Obviously I mean quite frankly, that's one of the reasons I'm at CPAC right now. I've never been to a CPAC. But there was so much attention and interest in this conference that it was interesting for me to come to.

But clearly the GOP has --


COSTELLO: Yes but Chris Christie wasn't invited. I would -- I would -- I would say that there would be enormous media attention focused on CPAC if perhaps Rand Paul had the bulk of speaking time or if Chris Christie had been invited.

MILLSAPS: Well I can't disagree with that. I -- I can't disagree with that. I can't explain it. But at the end of the day, this -- the program is what it is. And the fact of the matter is we have a -- we have conference room, conference center full of people that are excited about conservative ideals and it is those people we've got to plug into.

COSTELLO: Patrick Millsaps, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We'll let you get back to it. MILLSAPS: Thank you. Thank you.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

This man gives the hero's welcome a whole new meaning. Getting fired after saving a group of toddlers from a shark.


COSTELLO: All right. All morning long we've been telling you about the cruise ship the Carnival "Dream" that's been stuck in a port at St. Maarten because of a failed generation. And yes, there were stories of overflowing toilets and stuck elevators. One passenger on board told us they've been stuck in port since 4:30 yesterday.

We believe that the ship has gotten the go ahead to sail on to Florida. Kris Anderson is an anchor at WREG. But he's also on board that Carnival cruise ship as a vacationer. So Kris, welcome and thank you for joining us this morning. Chris are you there?

KRIS ANDERSON, ANCHOR, WREG: Good morning. I am. I guess anchors and anchors on ships, it's all one big happy family.

COSTELLO: And we're seeing your big happy family in the photo right now.

ANDERSON: I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you.

COSTELLO: Oh we're just seeing a picture of your big happy family right now. And it's a beautiful family. But -- but tell us about --


ANDERSON: We were having a great time.

COSTELLO: And what happened?

ANDERSON: We just heard from our Captain Maximo Marino. He just made the announcement literally a couple of moments ago and said they've made every attempt to repair the issue with the generators on the ship -- every attempt unsuccessful, unfortunately. So what they just told us now is their Miami-based crew is scrambling to make charter -- chartered plane arrangements. They're going to charter a jet and have us flown back to Orlando actually.

COSTELLO: You're kidding.

ANDERSON: So they are chartering a plane to get us back to Orlando because the ship is inoperable at this point and they are unable to make the repairs to the generator system. Whatever -- when they restarted the system, they did a systems check they noticed there were some errors.

Thought it was an easy fix. As it progressed into the night, realized it was a bit more complicated and then just a few minutes ago they finally determined that it was not something that they can get fixed so they are going to charter us back to Orlando and then transport us back over to the port.


COSTELLO: So -- so after a what happened to the "Triumph", are you just stunned that this could happen again on another Carnival ship?

ANDERSON: Carol, I had so many people ragging on me saying you guys are going on Carnival, you're going on Carnival. I said, what are the odds of it happening to two ships in such a short period of time? And -- and look what happened now. So I guess you know it's concerning, it's unfortunate. But gosh, you know what, I'd rather than make the call and not risk getting us down into the middle of the sea and having a problem with these generators.

And we're on -- we're on the Carnival "Dream". It's a relatively new ship, I believe it is less than five years old. Part of the new Dream Line of ships so it's not one of the older ships in the fleet.

COSTELLO: So there are thousands of passengers on board that ship. How long do you think it will take to get everybody on a chartered plane back home?

ANDERSON: Gosh, I'm hoping it's chartered planes plural or else it will be a while. It's funny because the airport here at Maho Beach, it's right on Maho Beach it's a famous airport where the planes are touching down right over the beach. And it literally looks like you can reach up and touch them.

But there are -- there are -- gosh, between crew members and passengers, I believe it's close to 6,000. I think there are more than 4,000 passengers on the ship and about maybe 4,600 passengers, 1,200 crew members. So that's -- that's a lot of people to move. They -- on a very, very busy day this airport moves about 5,000 people through it. It's I think behind San Juan, the second busiest airport in the Caribbean.

So they do have the capabilities to bring in 747s. So we'll just have to wait and see how logistically they can lay this plan out and transport 4,000 plus people back to Orlando.

COSTELLO: Oh gosh. Well Kris we wish you the best. And thank you for filling us in. We sure appreciate it. But we're glad you're getting off that ship. At least some time soon.

ANDERSON: But I did -- but I did also want to say that the power has been on. That the toilets are working fine. They are serving up hot food and I guess in a bad situation they are trying to do the best they can.

COSTELLO: Well that's very good to hear. Kris Anderson from WREG. Thank you so much.

"Talk Back" question for you today. "What kind of spiritual leader will draw people back to organized religion?" or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Time now to "Talk Back". What kind of spiritual leader will draw people back to organized religion? Catholics are hoping that Pope Francis will bring more people back to the Catholic church, but attracting new followers is a problem for all faiths.

In a new study, 20 percent -- 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation. The highest number since the 1930s. One researcher told the "Huffington Post" it has a lot to do with the increased role of religion in politics that, quote, "This is a product of the involvement of the religious right in American politics and the increasing connection in America's mind that religion equals conservative politics equals religion.

Joining me now, Patricia Murphy, founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics and a contributor to the "Daily Beast" and Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express. Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Welcome. I'm excited to hear your answers to this question because we have been grappling with it all morning. So you want to attract more people to the church. How can you do that when a growing number of people are dropping out, Patricia?

MURPHY: Well, I think the first thing that this pope has to do -- and it is a big thing and a small thing. It's just to establish trust with people who are watching him. That is, I think the biggest fault of the Catholic church so far in recent years so bogged down by scandal. So many concerns that they were trying to cover it up.

If you can't trust your church, who can you trust. And so, I think that drove a lot of Catholics away. This pope, by being so humble, by asking people first to pray for him before he prayed for them, I have never even seen a priest do that, certainly not a pope. So I think that he really set the tone. He set the tone with the way he lives his life to say that you can trust me. He doesn't even say it. He just leads by example.

The other piece I think is that he needs to lead the church in a direction where people want the church to be and that is to say there are literally billions of people living in poverty including in our own neighborhoods to see him taking the church possibly in that direction I think is an example many, many people will be drawn to and would absolutely want to follow.

COSTELLO: And Amy, what about this idea that the "Huffington Post" brought up that really organized religion's role in the world of politics is the reason so many people are being driven away. Our politics are so partisan these days, they really don't want their religion to be that way.

AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Well, you know, Carol listen. I think that politics and religion should be totally separate and you know I'm part of the Tea Party Movement and we are tagged with being right wing, radical, social conservatives, an and on. When really all we are about are the fiscal issues.

I think the government needs to get out of religion and there should be a total separation there. It's not government's place to insert themselves into any of those issues.

That's why we believe in states' rights. Put those the decisions back to the states where they belong and get the government out of our lives. But at the end of the day, it's our parents; it's people all across this world that are responsible for instilling the values in our children.

So obviously there's been a breakdown somewhere. But I think what's really important here is this man is a very humble man. He relates to these people. He rides a train. He doesn't have a car service taken. He cooks his own meals.

Pope John Paul II, he engaged the youth. He was one of them. He said in his inaugural mass you're the future of the church. You're my future. And I think that there is similarities here. I don't know that this Pope, Pope Francis will be able to reach the youth like Pope John Paul did because Pope John Paul was younger. I think that the cardinals of the church when they elected him as the pope, they realized what kind of man he is. And also, I think the fact that the largest population of Catholics is in the Americas. That played into this, too.

COSTELLO: But look, if you want to grow the Catholic population here in the United States, Patricia, and you want to attract young people to the religion, don't you kind of have to change your stand on just a simple issue like contraception? Because this pope still doesn't believe women should take contraception of any kind.

MURPHY: I really don't know that that's the case. And that's because I think if you talked to many Catholics in America, they really pick and choose the pieces of the church that they want to follow. And once it gets to a criminal mass, there is less that they want to follow. Then they do want to follow, they just stop going to church entirely.

I don't think -- somebody said to me, is this pope going to be conservative. I said, this pope is going to be Catholic. This is what Catholics believe. But I think if he also infuses his message, nobody expects the pope to back away from Catholic teachings, but I think if he also applies those Catholic teachings and literally asks, what would Jesus do?

I think that's the way he lives his life when he was also in Argentina. He advocated for the children of single mothers to be baptized which is very scandalous among a number of priests. So I think that he is already changing the message. People I have talked to really yesterday and today they have already seen such a different spirit in this man. I don't think people have to agree with everything that the pope teaches to be drawn to him. I think that's important for the church -- I'm not the pope. But -- COSTELLO: But still --

MURPHY: -- he sends a message that people are drawn to. He's not going to change to get people to follow him. I think people are going to follow because they want to follow.

COSTELLO: I just want Amy to have the last word in here.

Still on this issue of contraception. Many young people, you can't even comprehend that someone would be against that for women. And when you look to the church, they wanted to be a more modern institution. They wanted to sort of relate to their everyday lives. In that instance, it seems to not be doing that -- Amy.

KREMER: Yes, but Carol, it comes back to exactly what I said. It's that as parents, you know, it is our responsibility to instill those morals and values into our children's lives and bring the church into their lives. It is not the government's place. And at the end of the day we all have to decide what's best for us.

Maybe not everyone agrees with the contraception issue but I can tell you one thing. We don't need our federal government mandating that all these insurance companies and employers have to provide contraception for their employees. That's not right either. So, you know, the government needs to get out of religion and stay out of that and let people make those decisions themselves.

I'm sure some people don't agree. But you know what? That's what's so great about this country. It is a free country. We can decide for ourselves.

COSTELLO: We can. Amy Kremer, Patricia Murphy -- many thanks to you both. We appreciate t it.

KREMER: Thanks Carol.

MURPHY: Thanks for having us.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: 55 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

A Colorado bill limiting magazines to 15 bullets or less has cleared its final hurdle, passing in the state house. It now heads to the governor who is expected to sign it.

In New Orleans, crews will be searching for a missing teacher. A teen used sonar to look for Terrilyn Monette and her car in nearby water but they didn't find anything. She was last seen March 2, outside of a bar after celebrating her nomination for teacher of the year.

If you really want that day off work, it's probably best not to lie to your boss about it. Zain Verjee has the story of one unfortunate do- gooder. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Carol. A good deed never goes unpunished, right? Right. A hero who saved kids from a shark attack has been fired from his job. Here's what happened. A Welsh man was on sick leave. He went to Australia to recover and get a little bit of sun. While he was at a beach he saw a shark and did what anyone would do. He tackled it in the water and saved all these kids from getting hurt.

It was all caught on video. But it didn't really go down very well with his boss because when he got home he got this letter saying while unfit to work you were well enough to travel to Australia and according to recent news footage of yourself in Queensland you allegedly grabbed a shark by the tail and narrowly missed being bitten by quickly jumping out of the way. He was fired and that really doesn't seem fair, does it, Carol?

COSTELLO: I still can't believe he grabbed a shark by the tail.

I'm Carol Costello, thank you so much for joining us today.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Ashleigh Banfield after a quick break.