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Intel on North Korean Nukes Stir Fear; Spring Storms Rip Through Southeast; Stocks Poised to Open Lower

Aired April 12, 2013 - 09:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in THE NEWSROOM:

Nuclear North Korea?

REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R), COLORADO: The North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivering five ballistic missiles.

COSTELLO: John Kerry in Seoul trying to diffuse tension over news that North Korea may have nuclear weapons.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power.

COSTELLO: Also, tornadoes.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were looking at the green grass starting to come.

COSTELLO: Hail and rain.

The mega-storm stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and the path of damage in its wake.

Plus --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get started.

COSTELLO: Newtown parents angry over the hit show "Glee" and its depiction of a school shooting. We talked to one father who says they deserved a warning.

And holy wow. A bench clearing brawl knocked the Dodger's $140 million pitcher out of game.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Good morning.

Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello.

This morning, nuclear tensions we have not seen since the end of the Cold War. As the world waits for North Korea's defiant launch of a missile, a U.S. intelligence report raises the stakes. Its chilling conclusion: the regime may now be able to arm a missile with the nuclear weapon this morning, Secretary of State John Kerry is in South Korea, delivering a strong message.


KERRY: We are all united, in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power. The rhetoric that we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable, by any standard. And I am here to make it clear today on behalf of President Obama and the citizens of the United States and our bilateral security agreement, that the United States will, if needed, defend our allies and defend ourselves.


COSTELLO: Kerry's blunt tone underscores just how strained the diplomacy has become with the communist nation and its belligerent leader.

Chris Lawrence has the latest from the Pentagon.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kim Jong-Un has threatened a nuclear strike and revelations from a new intelligence report show he may be capable of following through.

LAMBORN: The North currently has nuclear weapons, capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.

LAWRENCE: Congressman Doug Lamborn quoted from a new military assessment which suggests North Korea may be closer to marrying nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

LAMBORN: Whatever it takes to miniaturize it to the point where it could be placed on top of a missile, there is some degree of confidence, moderate confidence by the Defense Intelligence Agency, that that can be done by North Korea.

LAWRENCE: The revelation came as President Obama public appealed to North Korea to end its belligerent approach.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And try to lower temperatures. Nobody wants to see conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

LAWRENCE: If true, the revelations give new weight to North Korea's recent threats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Our arms are ready to fire and the exact coordinates are input to the warheads. Once we push the button, it will be fired, and the strongholds of our enemies will be turned into a sea of flames.

LAWRENCE: The U.S. believes North Korea has at least one Musudan missile on the launch pad. U.S. officials say after initially raising the launcher, they lowered it Thursday. But they're not sure if Kim Jong Un is backing off or testing that it works before firing.

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I don't think really he has much of an endgame.

LAWRENCE: The director of national intelligence says Kim is trying to get recognition from the United States.

CLAPPER: North Korea is a rival on the international scene as a nuclear power and that entitles him to negotiation and to accommodation and presumably for aide.

LAWRENCE (on camera): The North Koreans had a lot of problems with accuracy, getting the missile to fly where they aim it. And, in fact, this defense report suggests that the reliability of any North Korean nuclear weapon would be low.

And, remember, this is a military assessment. It remains to be seen if U.S. intelligence agencies have come to the same conclusion.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.


COSTELLO: As a destructive storm heads East, people across the South waking up to ripped up trees and damaged homes. Tornadoes, hails, powerful winds and torrential rain pounded areas from Missouri to the Carolinas. At least three people died as the storm crossed the United States this week. Now, people are picking up the pieces.

Here is CNN's David Mattingly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was probably the worst damage.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the second straight day, severe weather, menacing more than a half dozen states. The hardest hit, Mississippi. This tornado caught on video.

In one county, one person was killed. Five were injured. In one rural area, there was a path of destruction at least 30 miles long, extending into west Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As I was cleaning up the spot where I'm fixing to put another mobile home and I went home to take me a quick bath and I heard the siren going off. That's when I jumped in my clothes and I come on out the house quickly.

MATTINGLY: The storm system swept across the southeast, knocking out power to thousands. Toppling trees and damaging homes. Into the night, watches and warnings, storm damage all the way into Georgia. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've lived up here about two years. About the third or fourth one that's come through this area. So we just seem to be in a topographical situation where the storms come right through here. It's very, very powerful. This one is pretty impressive the way it threw the metal around in the trees.

MATTINGLY: The Southeast, accustomed to severe storms, is emerging from a colder than normal spring. These storms: a sign that the season is heating up fast.


MATTINGLY: And it's not unusual to see about 100 tornadoes across the country in the month of March. But because it was so cool, we are only saw less than 20, so now it's April, that is come roaring like a lion, Carol.

COSTELLO: David Mattingly, live from the border of Mississippi and Alabama, thanks so much.

Let's talk business news now. The stock market preparing to open in less than 30 minutes. And right now, futures pointing to a lower opening after Thursday's record-breaking close.

Zain Asher is in New York. Good morning.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Carol, yes. Futures down right now. Investors are pretty much, you know, cautious today, and rightly, retail sales fell last month, worst in nine months. People are spending less on electronics, and certainly a sign of nervousness.

And kicking off banking earnings, we've got Wells Fargo and JPMorgan this morning. They both gave us record-breaking profits. Shares of both companies are down in free market trading. JPMorgan made $6.5 billion in profits during the first quarter. Wells Fargo made about $5 billion. But homelands are still low. That's partly because interest rates are low as are credit demands.

Of course, it's normal to see somewhat of a pullback we're seeing this week. Dow hitting record highs for the past three days; S&P getting a new record for the past two days now. Investors pumped $60 billion into stock funds so far this year, more than any full year since 2004.

Despite the fullback, in general, analysts do think these indices have room to run. JPMorgan, for example, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said that he's, quote, "optimistic about the future and that he thinks the economy is certainly improving -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Zain Asher reporting live for us this morning.

At eight minutes past the hour, time to check other stories. NASA wants to put astronauts back into space by 2017. Flights will be on commercial spacecraft, six years after the agency shutdown its shuttle program. NASA already uses private companies to make deliveries to the International Space Station. Today, a background and one check bill similar to the one in the Senate is expected to be introduced in the House of Representative. It's cosponsored by Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson of California and Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.

As you know, the senate yesterday voted to overcome a Republican led filibuster and open debate on several gun control proposals.

This morning, police trying to find out who mailed a bomb to Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Authorities in Flagstaff say they intercepted the package intercept before it got to the sheriff and a bomb squad deactivated. Arpaio is known as America's toughest sheriff for his hard stance on crime and illegal immigration.

Just ahead in THE NEWSROOM: a white supremacist prison gang is under suspicion in the murder of two Texas prosecutors and the group's cofounder is now talking with reporters. We'll talk to that reporter, next.


COSTELLO: Twelve minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

A second suspect is behind bars in the murder of Colorado's prison chief. Thirty-one year old Thomas Goulee was arrested in Colorado Springs. Authorities say Goulee and James Lohr who is arrested last week were associates of Evan Ebel. He's believed to be the man who shot and killed Tom Clements, Colorado's prison chief. Ebel, as you may remember, was killed in a shoot-out in Texas.

All three suspects in Clements have been tied to a white supremacist prison gang known as the 211 Crew. This group is similar to one that Texas associates are investigating in the recent murders of a Texas prisoner, his wife and another prosecutor near Dallas, I hope you got all that. The Kaufman County D.A.'s office helped federal authorities last year bring charges against 24 members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Members of that group reportedly celebrated from prison when they heard about the slayings of these prosecutors and this prison chief. That's according to its cofounder John Murray.

Murray quit the group and is now a police informant. He's talked to authorities about the Texas murders and he recently sat down with "USA Today's" Kevin Johnson.

Kevin joins us now from Washington.

Good morning, Kevin.


COSTELLO: First of all, just tell us about the meeting in the prison with these people?

JOHNSON: Well, it was -- almost like meeting with anybody else, except that obviously the person on the other side is somebody who is regarded as fairly dangerous. Obviously, glass separated us, but he talked very articulately for about an hour. While we were there, photographers were taking photographs of him.

COSTELLO: John, so our audience is clear about this, this is John Murray. He's the cofounder of one of these white supremacist groups, correct?

JOHNSON: Yes, he was a cofounder, a founding member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. And he joined the group or helped found it shortly after he was sentenced to a life sentence for attempting to murder a police officer.

COSTELLO: And when prison inmates heard about the Colorado prisons chief being murdered, what was the reaction in the prison among members of this white supremacist group?

JOHNSON: Well, I asked him about it and he had indicated that inmates there on a solitary confinement, where he is, there were mix of various people, some Hispanic gang members, white gang members, he indicated that when news traveled to them via radio, newspaper, that there was some celebration that, in his words, everybody was happy.

COSTELLO: So, is he saying this white supremacist group or a white supremacist group was responsible for these killings?

JOHNSON: No, he doesn't say that. In fact, he said there was no chatter before these killings took place. That anybody had any knowledge of the killing or the specifics of the crime. I think it was most of it bluster, that these people who consider law enforcement adversaries were now taking some satisfaction in the since that the law enforcement community had been dealt a terrible blow.

COSTELLO: So, are police right to investigate these groups for these killings? I mean, he wouldn't come out and admit to you that these groups had a part in slayings right?

JOHNSON: Well, he has a lot of motives for saying what he's saying.

And number one. There are a couple of reasons why law enforcement is looking at these groups and they don't have any evidence that these groups were responsible for these killings. But one is the indictments returned in November, charging 34 members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and then a bulletin issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety in December indicating that there was credible evidence that members of the Aryan Brotherhood were considering taking retaliatory law enforcement because of the role that led to the indictments in November.

So, that taken together, has led law enforcement to at least consider this group. They are not saying this group did this crime. But taken together, those -- those two major developments have cast a spotlight on this group.

COSTELLO: "USA Today's" Kevin Johnson, thanks so much for joining us this morning. And I suppose you can read the article online,

JOHNSON: Yes. Yes, you can. COSTELLO: Thanks so much, Kevin.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Checking top stories. A recognition 60 years in the making, President Obama has awarded the medal of honor to a U.S. Army chaplain who's been called a shepherd in combat boots. Father Emil Kapaun in the battlefield delivering hope to the living and last rite rites to the dying. He died in a Korean prison camp.

The National Hockey League and the players association are announcing a new campaign to try to end homophobia in professional hockey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respect the game by respecting your teammates and their parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can play, you can play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can play, you can play.


COSTELLO: The You Can Play project will begin airing messages of tolerance like that one to help improve acceptance of gay players in all levels of the game. The partnership is the first of its kind in professional sports.

The Los Angeles Police Department says it will no longer automatically tell the media about celebrity swatting. That's when pranksters phone in fake emergencies at the homes of the rich and famous, prompting a SWAT team response. The LAPD hopes the lack of media coverage will discourage those calls.

Let's get back to sports for just a moment. Did you see the brawl? It was unbelievable. Los Angeles Dodgers' $147 million ace will not be pitching any time soon because of this brawl. Zack Greinke pitching there to Carlos Quentin, there is goes. During the melee Zach Greinke fractured his collar bone, and he was fighting the San Diego Padres' Carlos Quentin.

Quentin got nailed by a pitch as you saw. He charged the mound. Both benches cleared. Several players were tossed from the game. Greinke and Quentin had have a history of bad blood dating back several years. And, boy, did Greinke pay for that, he could be out for weeks, if not months, because he has that broken collar bone now.

Rachel Nichols in Augusta to talk about the Masters -- but before that, let's talk about this brawl, because usually baseball players running at each other, they pile on top of each other and nobody's hurt. But in this case, it was quite different.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. These guys do have a history, and certainly bad blood between them.

You know, if I was going to pay you, say, $147 million over six years, you might be a little careful, even when you are pushing and shoving with the guy you don't like. But part of the reason they gave him the money is that he is a passionate guy.

They like how he throws himself into the game. They just don't want him to throw himself into the game the way that he did here. And certainly this is going to be a blow for the Dodgers.

This is a huge brawl. This only involved Greinke but it got so bad and things so heated this has actually continued in the players' parking lot as the game -- after the game, after this was all over. Matt Kemp confronted a Padres player outside the stadium.

So, there's a lot of things going on here, a lot of moving parts. But the part that everybody is left over in the morning is that Zack Greinke is now out for quite some time, and that is a blow for L.A., for sure.

COSTELLO: You're not kidding. So, we'll await the suspensions and fines to come, right?

So, let's switch gears, and talk about the Masters. Tiger Woods shot a 70, same opening score he won with three times. Pretty good.

NICHOLS: Yes, absolutely. He's a creature of habit. So, he can't be disappointed in the fact that this started out several of his Masters bids. In fact, the one master he didn't win by shooting a 70 on the first day, he shot a 74, worst score. So, this is a good start for him.

Of course, he would like to shoot a little better. The course is playing in a way that Phil Mickelson described you have to attack the greens more than he ever has in Augusta. The ball is sticking a lot more. So, look for that today. But Tiger certainly more comfortable, more relaxed than we've seen him in a long time. He's talked about the fact that he has more balance in his life. He said that he has a better idea of how to singularly pursue golf, but at the same time maybe also a little bit, have more of a life, have more friends, family that kind of thing and we're seeing it on the course.

COSTELLO: Yes, we are you know who was in the gallery? Lindsey Vonn with a big, cute hat on.

NICHOLS: Yes. You are seeing that balance, maybe put it that way. I had a chance to chat with Lindsey a little bit. She was very excited to be here. She's never been to the Masters before.

She, of course, has a very nice credential to get her anywhere she wants to go nice way to see the Masters for the first time. Although, I will say, she has an injured leg. So, she can't walk the course with Tiger the way she might like to.

She was around for the first hole. She then came around and watched him round nine and 10 when he was back around the club house. But mostly, she was sitting inside for the day, watching him on the TV, cheering him on, making a few appearances.

So, expect that again today. We'll have to see what she says and, of course, what she's wearing. Come on.

COSTELLO: Of course. Of course. Rachel Nichols reporting live from the Masters, thanks.

Talk back question for you today. Should Social Security be cut?, or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, should Social Security be cut? What's the campaign promise worth anyway? Around $230 billion over 10 years. In 2008, candidate Obama vowed he would not cut Social Security.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is the time to protect Social Security for future generations.


COSTELLO: Fast toward to 2013, bloodied over failed negotiations with Republicans, the president bit the bullet, proposing cost of living adjustments to Social Security and other federal benefits worth $230 billion. If you want to know exactly what that means, let's say you got $12,972 in Social Security last year, the average benefit. If the new system were already in effect, you get only $12,336 this year, $633 less.

Even some lawmakers who support the president are furious.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: In 2008, he said that he would not cut Social Security. We want the president to remember what he said and not go back on his word.


COSTELLO: Contrary to popular perception, Social Security does not add to the deficit. If you need bipartisan proof of that, let's go back to 1984.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Social Security is totally funded by the payroll tax levied on employer and employee.


COSTELLO: We're told Social Security is solvent for another 24 years, that's not to say that we shouldn't worry about Social Security, because we should. But there are other ways to fix it, like raising the payroll tax, or the retirement age.

Talkback question for you today, should Social Security be cut?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.