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CNN NEWSROOM

Biden Pushes For Assault Weapons Ban; Biden, Bloomberg Take On Gun Reform; Colorado Prison Chief's Killer Sought; Chicago To Close 50 Schools; Accused Baby Slapper Goes To Court; Hundley Pleads Not Guilty; Rockets Hit Israel As Obama Visits; Tina Fey Revives Palin Persona; North Korea Threatens U.S. Bases; Mortgage Watchdog Slams Freddie Mac; Pediatricians Back Same Sex Marriage; Markets Trading Lower; March Madness Slows Work Computers

Aired March 21, 2013 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: -- flight. This man says he is not guilty, he was just stressed out and racing against time to make a life or death decision, his own son on life-support.

Also, the legal battle over Monster energy drinks. The caffeine stays the same, but there is a major change you need to know about.

Plus, if you're a 17-year-old guy, could you imagine having swimsuit model Kate Upton as your prom date? Might be a dream come true for one lucky fellow. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with us. We begin this morning with the battle over reforming our gun laws. Vice President Joe Biden is speaking out and refusing to back down from a proposed assault weapons ban. The vice president spoke to NPR about the need to limit large capacity magazines too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In Newtown, those 20 beautiful babies and six serious people trying to help them, administrators and teachers, all dead, today. The police responded in 2-1/2 minutes, 2-1/2 minutes. This guy had 30-round clips in it, if that had been only ten rounds, who knows whether one or two or five or seven of those people would be alive today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or he could have just reloaded and loaded another magazine.

BIDEN: That's not true. That's not true. Because he reloaded with 30-round clips and that's as far as he got. Just do the math.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The vice president continues his message today. He and New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, will speak next hour. They'll be joined by families from Newtown, Connecticut. CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is outside the event in New York. Good morning, Susan. SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Yes, you know, the chances of currently passing a strong gun control legislation appear pretty slim, probably, given what happened earlier this week.

Senator Harry Reid, you'll remember, announced that he was dropping the assault weapon ban from the current proposal, before the Senate bill. Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein says she will introduce it as an amendment, adding that she won't lay down and play dead.

So, Carol, the GOP continues to say, the better idea is to simply better enforce the laws that are already on the books. Carol, the debate isn't ending anytime soon.

COSTELLO: Doesn't appear to be. What role does the school shooting at Newtown play here?

CANDIOTTI: Well, as you indicated, of course, Newtown parents, many of them, will be at this news conference today, standing aside New York's Mayor Bloomberg, and of course, Vice President Biden.

They've been supporting the president's proposed legislation for that assault weapon ban, but will their support make a difference in the end? One thing is for sure, of course, the memories of what happened that day in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary remain vivid in everyone's mind.

Here's what the police chief said last night on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF MICHAEL KEHOE, NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT POLICE: That day will be etched in my mind, will forever change me. And as I reflect today about that day, as much as I try to forget about it, I just can't, and I know that will give me the energy to move forward and to hopefully make change in our society that we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: And you know what, Carol, we have the results of a CNN/ORC poll that indicate that public support for major gun control restrictions has actually been on the decline since Sandy Hook, gone down.

COSTELLO: That's true. Susan Candiotti reporting live from New York.

Security has been stepped up at the governor's mansion in Colorado and for other government heads, after the shooting death of prison chief, Tom Clements. He was shot in the chest Tuesday night when he answered the door at his home near Colorado Springs.

Right now, police have very little to go on, but investigators say several neighbors saw a car in the area at the time of the shooting. It's an older, dark-color coupe and witnesses say it was idling with no one inside. That car later sped off. Police are now combing through hours of traffic camera footage, hoping to find that car and get a license plate number. Investigators also hope a woman walking in the area at that same time may have seen something, but they need to find her as well, and there is no description. Right now, police are going through about a hundred solid tips.

Now let's shift gears to a story unfolding right now in Chicago and that could send chills through cash-strapped cities across the country. Today, Chicago is expected to announce that it is closing nearly 10 percent of all of its schools. Some 50 schools in all, tens of thousands of students will be displaced.

School officials say these kids will be sent to better schools with more resources, but many parents are outraged. They say these cuts are mainly targeting minorities.

Don Lemon is here to discuss this and you've lived in Chicago. You've reported extensively there. Parents are really upset about this, but the mayor has to do something.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mayor has to do something. They've got a $1 billion budget deficit. So he has to do something, but the problem is, what does he do? At the beginning of the school year, some people are saying they got off easy with just 50 schools, Carol.

At the beginning of the school year, they said they were going to close potentially 80 to 120 schools. So it's causing issues. There's no money. Also, racial issues in the city because black alderman are saying, we got you elected and now you are closing most of these schools in black neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago.

And you didn't listen to us. There was no consensus about which areas and which schools should be closed. So it's causing some big issues, beyond money.

COSTELLO: I would suspect that parents are concerned about their children's safety, too because these children now have to be transported farther to school. They can't go in their own neighborhoods.

LEMON: And besides the issue that we have with guns, we can talk about. But, yes, safety, just outside of that issue, where are the resources going to go? Which schools? In one neighborhood, the Englewood neighborhood, they're estimating that 2,000 to 3,000 kids could be affected. How do you then keep all of those kids safe and then get them to the right schools and right places quickly? How does that happen?

COSTELLO: And in the mayor's defense, though, some of these schools aren't well populated by students. Some of them are nearly empty, and some of them are frankly bad. So is there a positive in this?

LEMON: The 330 of the 681 schools in Chicago under enrolled. Is there a positive? Yes. The positive is that they've put all these people, put all the kids into schools that are performing at level or better and everything is great. But it's not a completely utopian society.

It's not a perfect world, so that probably won't happen. But, again, I think the bigger issue here, being they're covering it, people are going to be concerned about the violence, especially the gun violence on the streets of Chicago, affecting schoolchildren, which you and I have reported on, and how do you keep those children safe, and how do you cherry pick which neighborhoods they should go to and from?

COSTELLO: Tough decisions. Don Lemon, many thanks.

The Idaho man who's accused of slapping a toddler and uttering a racial slur on board a delta flight to Atlanta last month, he gets his day in court. His name is Joe Ricky Hundley. His lawyer says he was distraught over his own son at the time and wants to be forgiven. CNN's Nick Valencia was in the courtroom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Defendant Joe Ricky Hundley accused of allegedly slapping a 19-month-old and using a racial slur entered a not guilty plea in federal court. Now, Hundley was accompanied by his wife and two attorneys and spoke very little when the judge addressed him.

He appeared to be anxious and spoke very little other than to acknowledge the charges against him. If convicted, Hundley faces up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine. After the appearance, Hundley's lawyer, Marcia Shein, addressed the media and read from a prepared statement.

MARCIA SHEIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The night that the incident occurred that Mr. Hundley has been charged with, he was traveling to Atlanta from Minneapolis to decide to take his only child and son off of life- support. He was under a great deal of stress and was very grieved and he'd been up for the prior 24 hours.

When this happened, on the plane, he said something inappropriate to Mrs. Bennett, he shouldn't have said, even in his darkest hour. We hope, for Mrs. Bennett's sake and our client's sake that everyone will forgive him for what he said and to heal.

VALENCIA: Hundley's trial date is set for May 13th. Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: This morning in Israel, rockets fly, a cease-fire wobbles, and President Obama's visit highlights the enormous challenges as they're trying to broker a peace deal. Earlier this morning, President Obama met with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and this morning it's the Palestinians who are blamed for the latest tension.

It's believed a fringe militant group fired at least two rockets from Gaza. They crashed into Southern Israel, causing no injuries, but still dealing a blow to Mr. Obama's push for Israeli/Palestinian peace talks.

CNN's John King, our chief national correspondent, is in Jerusalem. Good morning, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Look, the question now is how further does the rocket attack complicate the peace process? The lack of a peace process, really, the effort to get a peace process going.

Here's one of the questions people are asking. Hamas controls Gaza. It may have been a fringe militant group, but Hamas controls Gaza and any militant group that would do this would assume had Hamas' blessing.

So was the intended target politically if you will, is it a message to the Israeli government? Was it a message to President Obama or could it have been a message to Mahmoud Abbas, who, yes, is the president of the Palestinian Authority and the leader of the Fatah political movement.

But he has great differences and a great internal rivalry within the Palestinian territories with Hamas. So that is one of the big questions and one of the big obstacles to getting a peace process going again.

President Obama did not spend too much time on this in his first term, but he is determined to focus on it in the second term, and listen to the optimistic tone here, despite the big differences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We cannot give up on the search for peace, no matter how hard it is. As I said with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, we will continue to look for steps that both Israelis and Palestinians can take to build the trust and the confidence upon which lasting peace will depend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the president saying, let's get back to the table, but, Carol, the question is, will either party, will the Palestinians come back, will the Israelis come back if the Palestinians first don't -- will the Palestinians come back if the Israelis don't stop settlement activities, and will the Israelis come back if the Palestinians don't work out the Hamas issue.

Still, the president says he's going to work at this, but we'll see. He'll leave the secretary of state here to try to do some of the harder work as he moves on after tomorrow -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, we heard what the president was saying publicly, but what happened in the private talks between the two men, a lot more important than what was said in public. When do you think we'll know if President Obama's trip was a success or kind of a waste of time?

KING: Could actually be a couple weeks and maybe even longer than that. It's true, what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about preconditions, about what he's prepared to do, what he's prepared to give away is more important than anything we've heard in public, the same.

Did President Abbas say he's worked something out with Hamas, where maybe he can get some progress made, we don't know. We're not in the private meeting and we won't know that at least for some time. Secretary of State Kerry will stay behind.

Everybody believes if you tried to force the parties back to the table tomorrow, it would be counterproductive. You have to do some preliminary work first. So let's check back in two weeks, maybe two months.

If there's no peace process in a month or two, carol, you could say the president failed, at least in the short-term. But don't expect something by tomorrow or in the very near future.

COSTELLO: I don't think anyone does, John. You don't have to worry about that. Thank you so much, John King, reporting live from Jerusalem.

Politics/entertainment, yes, politics can be very, very funny. We all got a fresh dose of Sarah Palin last week when she took center stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC. She was pretty funny. Now we're getting another helping thanks to Tina Fey last night on Bravo's "Inside the Actor Studio."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES LIPTON, HOST, "INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO": Same-sex marriage, what is your view on that, please?

TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: Well, the bible says it's gross and I don't judge it. A lot of the amazing, wonderful people I met in the audience at "Dancing with the Stars" seem to go that way but, no.

LIPTON: No? No same-sex marriage?

FEY: No. Marriage is meant for people who wear different kinds of swimsuits.

LIPTON: Women look up to you.

FEY: Yes.

LIPTON: Do you have any fashion and hairstyling advice for them?

FEY: Well, I'm a fan of the bump-it. Also, to a tan you couldn't possibly have in Alaska and that's really all you need.

LIPTON: Of greater importance, how does a woman, like you, make her way through a man's world?

FEY: I don't think of it as a man's world or a woman's world, unless, again, we're talking about marriage. But I think of it as people being mavericks or not being mavericks.

LIPTON: May I have just one more then, please?

FEY: OK, then. But you know, sometimes people ask me stuff and I don't answer it anyways, so go ahead. I'm a slippery one.

LIPTON: That's true. What do you think of Tina Fey's portrayal of you?

FEY: It's the best one I never watched.

LIPTON: Thank you very much! Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: We needed a laugh this morning. That was good.

Even people who don't care about college basketball can get caught up in March Madness. Fans stream so much game video on the job. It can threaten to crash computer networks, entire computer networks, and affect everyone. We'll hear from one tech exec who keeps his system running, though.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's 17 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories, in North Korea, new threats today against the United States, a statement from Pyongyang warns that American air and naval bases in Guam and Japan are within its, quote, "striking range." The warning follows disclosure that American B-52 bombers have been flying over South Korea as part of annual military exercises.

Freddie Mac isn't resolving complaints fast enough. That's according to the mortgage giant's Federal Reserve watchdog. The complaints include fraud and improper foreclosures. They're supposed to be handled within 30 days, but in one of every five cases between October of 2011 and November 2012, Freddie Mac failed to make that deadline. Freddie Mac did not immediately comment.

Same-sex marriage gets a nod from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group says children's health and well-being are better when their parents are married. The group also says that 30 years of research, there's no proof children raised by gay parents are any worse off than those raised by straight parents.

Big money problems on the tiny island of Cyprus being felt in U.S. stocks right now, take a look at the Dow, dropping right at the open. Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange, what will the damage be today, do you think?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now the damage is pretty stiff right now. The Dow is down 86 points. At this point, the Dow is erasing all of Wednesday's gains. Investors are still on edge about the debt situation happening in Cyprus. You know, the country, it's got until Monday to sort itself out or face the possibility of a financial collapse. Some decent numbers out of the housing market, not really helping to lift stocks out of that dour mood, sales of previously owned homes, they rose 0.8 percent in February. That coming in a bit weaker than forecast. But, still, if you look at sales, they're up quite a bit from this time last year, up 10 percent.

If you look at median prices, they rose to $173,600 in February. This reading, Carol, is really one of the most important housing reports that Wall Street gets, because existing home sales account for about 90 percent of all housing activity. So what this report does is it gives us a nice, broad gauge of the health of the market.

Even if you're not looking to sell your home, this is pretty decent news, because home sales is, you know, a key driver of economic growth though the market is not too sweet on this report especially with the news about Cyprus -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Understood. Alison Kosik reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange.

Still ahead, need a pick-me-up? Energy drinks are a popular choice, but how much caffeine are you really drinking? We're going to tell you about some Monster changes, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: If productivity at your company starts slipping about two hours from now, you can blame March Madness. Workers streaming the games are not just distracting themselves, but slowing down computer systems for non-fans.

CNN's Dan Simon talks with one tech exec who is preventing crashes on the information superhighway.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN SILICON VALLEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Kip Compton.

KIP COMPTON, CISCO EXECUTIVE: Well, it's really about planning and network design.

SIMON: He's got an engineering degree from MIT and is a high-level executive at Cisco.

COMPTON: I'm the CTO of video and collaboration.

SIMON: He knows what it takes to keep computer networks up and running, especially when they're being overtaken by data-hungry devices streaming NCAA basketball.

(on camera): It's almost like a traffic jam. You have wide open lanes and if you've got a lot of people streaming, you've got a lot of cars in the lane and it's going to slow everything down.

COMPTON: It's like when the game gets out of a stadium, there's going to be a traffic jam because there's a lot more cars than the roads were designed to handle.

SIMON (voice-over): Cisco has its own basketball court and it seemed like an appropriate place to talk March Madness or as Kip calls it, March network madness. According to a recent survey, more than a third of all companies will take action to prepare for it. Some will even ban streaming video.

(on camera): Explain to them what is March network madness?

COMPTON: Well, it's when work is disrupted because not so much because people are distracted by the games, which happens regardless of how your network works, but when other people who aren't even interested in March Madness have their jobs slowed down. They can't access their e-mail. They have trouble surfing the web because of all these people are watching video.

SIMON (voice-over): In other words, it's when you've got a bunch of people sitting at desks who aren't working and streaming the games that could cause the company's internet to come to a screeching halt. By the way, in TV news, we call this file video. They're not really watching games.

COMPTON: I think each company needs to decide. But at Cisco, what we do is we allow employees to do these things and they're accountable for their productivity, but we allow them to access these types of content.

SIMON: So enjoy, Cisco employees. And as for everyone else, check out with your I.T. manager or try not to get caught. Dan Simon, CNN, San Jose, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Fabulous advice. Have you filled out your brackets yet? Mine are in and so are those for the other CNN anchors. You can follow how we're doing. Just go to cnn.com/brackets. That will take you to our leader board in the CNN bracket challenge. Fascinating, right?

All right, two very important votes happening right now on Capitol Hill. CNN's Dana Bash is as always manning Capitol Hill, the Ryan budget about to be voted on -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's being voted on as we speak. And this is something that we do expect to pass on a party line vote, as it has the past couple of years. So this is the first in a couple of votes that the House is going to take before they leave town for two weeks, Carol, for spring break.

The second vote is perhaps the most interesting and noteworthy for people wondering if the government is going to keep running. Remember, the government officially runs out of money on the 27th of March. The answer is we anticipate yes.

The second vote we're going to see is going to be a vote to keep the government running, to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, September 30th, and despite some differences, some real differences over spending levels.

And so forth, everybody decided, Democrats and Republicans, to actually hold on to your hat, Carol, come together and find a way to avoid a politically perilous situation of the government shutting down.

COSTELLO: I'm going to play the lottery today. You know, speaking of that bill, which will keep the government running. It still includes the sequestration cuts. Those forced spending cuts, right?

BASH: For the most part, yes. But there are some ways that they have tried to give some agencies, including the Defense Department and others, some flexibility to make more -- to make choices, basically, so that some of the deepest cuts, some of the cuts that they think are the most perilous, can be avoided.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the forced spending cuts were across the board and they were arbitrary. So this does give agencies, at least some of them, some ability to mitigate that, but not all.

COSTELLO: All right, well, at least it's a temporary measure and you'll have something to talk about in the next -- in the months to come, right?

BASH: Yes, absolutely. We always do.

COSTELLO: Always do. Dana Bash, thanks so much.

Energy drinks are a popular way to get that jolt you need to get through the day, but do you know how much caffeine you're really getting? Now a big change is coming to those familiar cans of Monster energy. Is it enough?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)