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"Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher Dies; Senators Eye Deal On Gun Control; Obama's New Federal Gun Control Push; North Korea Halts Work In Cooperative Zone; Bodies Of Two Children Recovered; March Madness Ends Tonight; First Medical Marijuana Critic; Funeral Today For Roger Ebert; Former Clinton Office Hostage Taker Seized; Senate Close To Immigration Deal

Aired April 8, 2013 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: -- former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died after suffering a stroke. We're live in London with reaction.

And the gun control debates in the United States gets personal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus. They get the most attention, and that's what he is paid to do.


COSTELLO: The NRA under fire as President Obama meets with Sandy Hook families to ramp up pressure to pass new federal gun laws.

And smoking pot for a living and writing about it. We'll talk to America's very first marijuana critic.

Plus, report cards are out for the airlines, the best and worst of 2012. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. We do begin with breaking news. Sad news out of Britain, the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died, known across the world as the iron lady.

Thatcher was tough and uncompromising. Her staunch conservative views made her a natural ally of President Ronald Reagan. They were kindred spirits believing in smaller government, free enterprise and tough choices.

Just minutes ago, we heard from David Cameron, the man who now serves as Britain's prime minister.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: -- legacy will be the fact that she served her country so well. She saved our country and that she showed immense courage in doing so, and people will be learning about what she did and her achievements in decades, probably centuries to come. That's her legacy, but today we must also think of her family.


COSTELLO: Thatcher, much like Reagan, is likely to invoke strong emotions now as then. CNN's Dan Rivers looks back at Thatcher's bold and controversial leadership.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how many will remember Margaret Hatcher, the "Iron Lady." As the U.K.'s first female party leader and prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was one of the dominant figures of the 20th Century, a politician who helped to mold parties other than her own.

From a modest background as a grocer's daughter, she became immortalized in stone. She was easy to caricature, hated by some, revered by others. She did win three elections in a row. Before Thatcher, under a labor government came the widespread strikes of the winter of discontent.

BERNARD INGHAM, MARGARET THATCHER'S PRESS SECRETARY: Many people in Britain in 1979 felt this country was probably ungovernable. They doubted whether Margaret Thatcher could govern it. Indeed, I suspect there were a lot of people who felt she might make it worse.

RIVERS: But she faced up to union leaders like Arthur Skargill and his minors.

PETER OBORNE, COMMENTATOR: She came on and through sheer force of will, she changed the economic and political changes of such moments that we are still feeling their effects today 25 years on.

RIVERS: Public housing was sold to tenants. State industries were privatized. Thatcher sought to create a nation of capitalist. The relentless drive left an imprint not just on her own conservatives, but on all of Britain's parties, forcing Tony Blair's new Labour Party to tack right to become electable. She was unchanging when accused of lacking compassion.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will not change just to court popularity.

RIVERS: Thatcher restored Britain's clout in world affairs making a pal of her ideological soul mate Ronald Reagan, and insisting Mikhail Gorbachev was a man with whom the west could do business. But if she relished the wide international scene, she never much cared to see Britain getting closer to Europe.

THATCHER: We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them re-imposed at the European level.

RIVERS: She was told it was impossible to win a reduction in Britain's contribution to the European common market finances. She handbag her fellow European leaders medical they gave her a rebate. She famously insisted on fighting a military campaign 8,000 miles from home to win back the Falkland Islands invaded by Argentina, a conflict which cost 250 British lives, but which cemented her reputation.

THATCHER: No longer the set man of Europe --

RIVERS: She never cracked the problems of Northern Ireland, although, again, she showed courage when the IRA blew up the conservative's conference hotel. In the end her strident style and the casualty ray rate in her cabinets left her short of friends when it mattered.

Trouble came with her plans for local council finances. A flat rate tax that would have forced a duke and a Dutchmen to pay the same provoked riots in the streets. Her colleagues were alarmed too by the growing vehemence of her Euro skepticism.

THATCHER: He wanted the council of ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.

RIVERS: In 1990, her own MP's began to doubt she could lead them to another victory. She was challenged for the party leadership and withdrew from the contest. Mortally wounded after her cabinet advised her it was all over.

THATCHER: We're very happy that we leave United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here 11-1/2 years ago.

RIVERS: As her car left Downing Street for the last time, she wept, but it wasn't long before she became Baroness Thatcher serving in Britain's upper chamber, the House of Lords.

Though this was the end of her time as a frontline politician, her influence and opinion still counted for years. Her appearance became rarer as her health deteriorated. She was too frail to attend the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, but she did manage to get back to that famous doorstep one last time.


COSTELLO: OK. Let's get the view from London now because obviously Britain is grieving. Richard Quest is outside the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street. Tell us more, Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, HOST, CNN'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Good morning from Downing Street. This was the home where Margaret Thatcher lived and worked for those 11-1/2 years as prime minister where those great policies that she brought in of privatization, free market enterprise, the Falkland's war, that special relationship with Ronald Reagan and United States.

They were all led at least from the British side from this address, and today Britain's very similar to when Ronald Reagan passed away. They will be assessing those monumental changes that took place in those crucial years of the 1980s.

On both sides of the Atlantic, economic reforms introduced that pretty much steered the ships of state for many years thereafter. Perhaps the big difference, Carol, in Britain, Margaret Thatcher was a much greater diverse and decisive and in much more controversial figure right up until the death.

COSTELLO: As far as how Britain will honor her, will there be a memorial service or where will the funeral be?

QUEST: Well, that has been an issue of debate for many years. On the one hand, there are those who believe it should have been a full state funeral. There are others reflecting the controversy of Thatcher that said absolutely not.

So what they've decided to do is go for a ceremonial funeral. It will be held in St. Paul's Cathedral, and I'm told it will look very similar to that which was held for Diana Princess of Wales. So we'll have full military honors. There will be bangs.

There will be the -- all the state occasions, but she won't lie in state nor will there be that extra, if you like, trimming that goes with a full state funeral. A ceremonial -- for all intents and purposes, you and I will not be able to tell the difference. It will be a very large, very ceremonial event right through the streets of the center of London.

COSTELLO: Richard Quest reporting live from London this morning.

Let's head back home to Washington now and the fight over gun control. Republicans and Democrats may be close to an impasse over background checks even though 91 percent of the American people favor background checks.

But there are hints a deal could be -- and I stress could be -- possible after a work among fellow senators like the conservative Pat Toomey and conservative Democrat Joe Manchin.


SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I am hopeful that we can get something on background checks, 90 percent of America is for background checks. Senator Manchin and Kirk are shopping some ideas that might modify my background check provision that's in the base bill. I'm certainly open to those ideas provided it doesn't impair the effectiveness of the bill, and I don't think either of them want to impair the effectiveness.


COSTELLO: But then we hear the dreaded f-word as in filibuster. Thirteen Republicans are threatening to do just that. Something fellow Republican John McCain has now spoken out against.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't understand it. The purpose the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you have encouraged Republicans --

MCCAIN: I would not only encourage it. I don't understand it. What are we afraid of?


COSTELLO: White House correspondent Dan Lothian joins us now from Hartford, Connecticut. So I'll ask you Dan, what are they afraid of?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there's concern when you listen to the NRA and others, they are concerned that you have universal background checks that this could lead to some kind of national registry, and they're really concerned about their second amendment rights.

And so that's why there continues to be a lot of resistance to these gun proposals, but nonetheless, the president, again, keeping that heat on Congress. By this trip here to Connecticut following on the trip to Colorado recently the president, we're told, will be very emotional in his remarks today which, we're told, expected to last about 20 minutes or so.

He will talk about the role that the Newtown families have played in pushing for tougher gun restrictions here in the state of Connecticut. You might recall that just last week this state put into place tough restrictions, universal background checks, also limiting the amount of bullets that can be in a clip, to ten, that's been very controversial in this state.

But nonetheless, it has been put in place, and, you know, we heard over the weekend from the governor of this state who was really having some tough words for Wayne Lapierre of the NRA on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Take a listen.


GOVERNOR DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus. They get the most attention, and that's what he is paid to do. But the reality is that the gun that was used to kill 26 people on December 14th was legally purchased in the state of Connecticut even though we had an assault weapons ban, but you know, there were loopholes in it that you could drive a truck through.


LOTHIAN: We're told by White House officials that the president today will say that members of Congress have an obligation to all those who died here in Newtown and also all the other Americans who have died in mass shootings to make some movement on these gun proposals, and it's not just the president alone doing this push.

Tomorrow, the vice president will be in Washington meeting with law enforcement officials on this issue. The first lady will be headed to Chicago, a place that's just been hit hard over the last few years by gun violence. She will be talking on this issue as well. So a big push by the administration this week to try to put pressure on congress to act.

COSTELLO: Dan Lothian reporting live from Hartford, Connecticut this morning.

It's 12 minutes past the hour, time to check our other top stories. North Korea is about to suspend operations and pull all of its workers from an industrial complex that it jointly operates with South Korea.

Pyongyang has barred South Korean workers from entering that area. The complex has been viewed as the last major symbol of cooperation between the north and south. Seoul has warned that the north might conduct a missile test as well this week.

The bodies of two small children buried at a home under construction in North Carolina have now been found. Crews have been digging often with their bare hands trying to find these kids alive. They've been doing that since last night. The two kids are cousins. The 6-year- old girl and 7-year-old boy were buried when a wall of dirt collapsed on top of them.


DION BURLESON, SPOKESMAN, LINCOLN CO. EMERGENCY SERVICES: We've been working a horrific scene here at this location for -- since 6:00 yesterday afternoon. That situation has now come to a close. The two young children's bodies have been recovered from the pit in which they were at.


COSTELLO: The man who brought the Rutgers scandal to light is now under scrutiny by the FBI. Former Assistant Eric Murdock who released a video of Coach Mike Rice physically and verbally abusing players is now being investigated for possible extortion.

That's according to the "New York Times." At issue a letter Murdock reportedly sent to the university demanding close to $1 million to settle a wrongful termination claim.

March Madness ends tonight with the Louisville Cardinals and the Michigan Wolverines becoming college basketball's national champion. Louisville had that come from behind win over Wichita State on Saturday while Michigan took care of Syracuse to advance from the other semi-final game. Tip off for tonight's final set for 9:20 Eastern at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

There's a new critic out there and he is not raiding restaurants or movies. He is rating marijuana. We'll introduce you to America's first pot critic next.


COSTELLO: It is something unimaginable even five years ago, a pot critic, a guy who smokes marijuana and then critiques it. He is America's first medical marijuana critic and, yes, he works in Colorado.

William Breathes, not his real name, also writes a column called "Toke of the Town." OK, I said Breaths, that's not his real name. There's a reason for that. He wants to remain anonymous so he can be impartial. That's also why we can only interview Mr. Breathes by phone. So William, good morning.

WILLIAM BREATHES, MEDICAL MARIJUANA CRITIC (via telephone): Good morning. Thank you for having me on.

COSTELLO: Explain more about why you don't want to be identified in any way.

BREATHES: Yes. Well, like restaurant critics remain anonymous. They can go in and book a reservation under a fake name and pay with cash and sort of get away with that. I have to write another fake name to keep my identity hidden for the same reason when I review these shops.

Except when I walk into a shop, I have to show my state-issued id and my medical marijuana card, which has my real name on it. So this is a way for me to sort of keep things objective and fair.

COSTELLO: Keep that element of surprise. So you go into these dispensaries. How does it work? I mean, you just -- just explain.

BREATHES: Yes, no. You know, it's really I walk in and in just trying to be very observant as to what's going on in the dispensary. You know, I try and spend a bit of time in my reviews describing the dispensary itself.

You know, there's a wide range of these places, and, you know, my goal is to help people find a place that they can feel comfortable going into. There's a wide range of marijuana patients, so maybe some of the more urban, younger dispensaries aren't going to be right for older patients.

Whereas some of the more professional doctored up kind of places aren't going to be right for a younger patient. So I try and look at that and then I usually get back into the dispensary area, check out what they've got on the shelf as far as medical cannabis goes and try to bring home two or three strains to review for the week.

COSTELLO: So are different strands better for different medical conditions?

BREATHES: Yes. They are. So generally speaking, you've got the two broad ends of the spec spectrum, and then everything in between is hybrids of that. Some are really good for, you know, getting you up, waking up, may be getting your appetite going. Whereas other strains maybe will relax you a bit more, but also help with pain relief and things like that.

COSTELLO: You know what people want me to ask you. How can you -- how can you judge marijuana when you are high? You have to smoke it.

BREATHES: Well, you know, I think it's -- you know, there are several answers to that. I think, you know, wine critics don't necessarily get really drunk when they drink wine and sample it. I try and do the same. A lot of this is based on, you know, flavors and smells as well, and how well things clean. Then, of course, yes, the effects are a big part of it, but I tend to write about that afterwards after I've had some time to sort of sit and compress and think about that type of stuff.

COSTELLO: As far as recreational marijuana because that's legal in Colorado too, do you rate that kind of pot too?

BREATHES: Unfortunately, not yet. The Colorado legislature is ironing out actually this week what that recreational industry could look like and our legislature will vote on it hopefully by the end of May.

And at that point we might start seeing medical -- or excuse me, recreational dispensaries start popping up. Currently right now, there's no place for me to legally buy recreational marijuana, so we're saving those reviews for when we can.

COSTELLO: I understand. William Breathes, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.

BREATHES: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

COSTELLO: It's 21 minutes past the hour, time to check some of the other top stories. Well known film critic Roger Ebert will be laid to rest this morning. The Pulitzer Prize winning writer died Thursday following a long battle with cancer. Ebert's funeral will be open to the public. Anybody can come. There will also be a public memorial later this week.

A man who once held hostages at a Hillary Clinton campaign office in 2007 is back in custody this morning. Leland Eisenburg escaped from a halfway house in New Hampshire. He was arrested by Manchester police. He will be in court later today.

Congress returns from spring break today. Immigration reform tops the agenda. Senate negotiators are said to come close to a deal. It calls for undocumented workers to get their green cards in ten years, three more to earn citizenship. Senators say securing the border must come first.

While most of the country enjoys beautiful spring weather today, parts of Colorado bracing for blizzard conditions. Severe storms ramping up all the way from Texas to Arkansas and snow will start to fall in Denver tonight with accumulations anywhere from six inches to a foot. Blizzard warnings and watches already posted.

Talk back question for you this morning, should Americans be allowed to travel freely to Cuba? or tweet me @carolcnn.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. The question for you this morning, should Americans be allowed to travel freely to Cuba?

Hip-hop royalty kicking back on the beach in Cuba, there they are. Beyonce and Jay-Z party at Savannah to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. The thing is they possibly violated the ban on travel there.

Now anti-Castro lawmakers are demanding an investigation. In a letter to treasury officials they said, quote, "despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports describe the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda."

Cuba was once America's play ground, but after Castro took power in 1959, Americans have been banned from spending money there with very few exceptions. No problem, though, visiting North Korea or Iran, all you need to visit those countries is a visa. So what's with Cuba?

Is Fidel Castro worse than Kim Jong-Un? As Republican Senator Jeff Blake of Arizona tweeted, "So Beyonce and Jay-Z are in Cuba. Fine by me. Every American should have the right to travel there."

As influential Cuban dissident points out, the ban on American tourism simply gives Castro an excuse to blame the country's problems on the United States. So the talk back question for you today, should Americans be allowed to travel freely to Cuba? or tweet me @carolcnn.