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CNN NEWSROOM

Tour Guides Wrestle Python; Confusion About North Korea Threat; Thatcher Foes Want "Witch is Dead"; Suspicious Package Sent to Arizona Sheriff

Aired April 12, 2013 - 14:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: He's one of America's most controversial sheriffs. At any minute, Joe Arpaio will speak live about the explosive package mailed to him.

I'm Don Lemon. Let's roll.

Freak out. Confusion. I'm cutting through the noise and the fear about North Korea.

Plus, a man who lost his teenage brother to murder, now he's best friends with the killer.

And this woman's first wish after five years in a coma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go to a Bob Seger concert.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, she did. And I'll speak with her, live.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shake my booty for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon here in for Brooke today.

I'm going to begin with some amazing video. Really, you have to see this video. It is just in to CNN. It's a wrestling match with a ten- foot python. It was a show stopper for tourists in Florida. Two guys jumped out of their boats on Tuesday and wrangled a Burmese python. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a python?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, so a guide grabbed the python underwater and let it coil around him. He says the python was about three times the size of his arm. The other guide cut off the python's head with a knife that he only used before to cut oranges. Well, the tour guide's name is Tommy Owen and he joins us now by phone from the Florida Everglades.

Tommy, we're glad you're OK, but you said you unleashed some, quote, snake jujitsu on this python. Tell us about that moment.

TOMMY OWEN, WRESTLED PYTHON (via telephone): Well, I mean, it was just - it was just pure instinct. I had him -- you know, I had him and he had me. But, unfortunately, he's stronger than I am. He literally started to cut the circulation off in my right arm. And so that's why you see me kind of lifting up out of the air and I'm literally thrashing him in the water, causing him to release me, and that's where the jujitsu came because he was able to release, and then I grabbed him with my left arm and tried to uncoil him around my right, and that's when he coiled around my left. And so it was just back and forth. And then when he coiled around my left, I was able to bash him again in the water, you know just thrash him, and then he uncoiled and then I, you know, uncoiled him with my right and then he coiled around my right. So it was just in (INAUDIBLE). And luckily, you know, being a very powerful snake, you're very strong, but not for very long. And so I was just - I had backup and I was able to, you know, subdue him fortunately.

LEMON: Hey, Tommy, before we get to the reaction inside -- the people inside the boat, listen, this is - it's not just about the video. Florida has this problem. They've been trying to get rid of this particular problem.

OWENS: Unfortunately it's big problem.

LEMON: And this shows the dangers.

OWENS: Yes.

LEMON: You said it's a big problem.

OWENS: Yes, yes, yes. I mean they're killing all of our - well, they're eating our small mammals. That's our rabbits. They're eating our wading birds, our smaller birds. That's -- when we were on the tour there, we were going to - we were showing the tourists waiting birds. You know, that's where they come into roost for that night. So that snake was there just waiting for those birds to come in and he was going to get a meal that night. But we wanted to make sure that wasn't going to happen.

LEMON: Yes, because, you know, people were asking, and even my question was, what - was this python goes to attack anyone in the boat? I mean why did you go in the water after this python? Was it just hanging around?

OWENS: The -- well, I mean, we don't go looking for trouble. I mean that's just -- I wanted to really make that a point. We don't -- you know, we don't carry guns or anything like that. We just, you know, like you said, we had - we had one knife and used that to cut, you know, oranges. So we weren't - it's not like we're out looking for this stuff. We just want to show people, you know, how, you know, beautiful and serene these everglades is. And just, you know, it was a one in a million chance of that happening.

But, no, I got out of the boat and I stalked it and I ambushed it. I wanted it out of the environment because they do not belong there. They're not only the exotic, but they're invasive. And what that means, again, they are just decimating our wading bird populations and our small mammals. And that's our rabbits, our raccoons, our opossums. And they are -- they're all, you know, part of this ecology down here. And the python, unfortunately, are causing an imbalance in the ecosystem.

LEMON: Yes, there's been an effort, Tommy, to get rid of them and, you know, giving people money for -- if they catch a lot of them or the biggest one because it is such a problem. You know, when you were wrestling this python, how did the family of tourists react? Did they freak out? I think I would have and most people probably would have been scared.

OWEN: Well, I honestly, you'd have to just honestly look at the video or the pictures. I couldn't tell you. I was a little preoccupied. A little wrapped up in my work at that point.

LEMON: Yes, I bet you were. And you're OK, right?

OWEN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Just a flesh wound. No, no, no, everything is fine.

And we did it -- again, I had backup. And I just like grew up here, so I knew what I was doing. It was a calculated, you know - but we didn't see any type of risk. We knew that we could dispatch it, you know, in a (INAUDIBLE) essentially and just get it out of there because, you know, you're supposed to report those things, but, in this case, it was just too big and I would not have felt right about leaving something like that, you know, to just venture off and do what it wants when it's not supposed to be here, you know.

LEMON: Yes. And you were doing it for the good of the environment. Tommy Owen, than you.

OWEN: Well, I mean, and - but that's - I mean, you know, honestly, that's exactly it. The only - you know, they are exotic. They don't belong here. And they - and it's because they, again, they eat our native species and that's a part of our economy. You know, people come here to see these, you know, species that actually belong here.

LEMON: Right. Yes.

OWEN: So, you know, when they're all gone, our economy is gone. So, I mean, you know, there's just - there's a lot of factors. I didn't - you know, I was sorry to kill the snake. You know I even verbally said that out loud as it was occurring. I did say I was sorry.

LEMON: Yes, but you did what you had to do, you felt that you had to do in the moment.

OWEN: What's that?

LEMON: Yes, you did what you had to do at the moment.

We have to run, Tommy. Thank you again. Tommy Owen. We're glad that you're OK.

OWEN: (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Moving on now. We have to get to this story. North Korea is fast becoming one of the most Googled terms in years. U.S. web users typing that phrase into their browser more than gun control or even President Obama. In fact, it has been searched at a rate seven times more than its previous peak, that was during Korea's -- North Korea's nuclear test back in 2006.

But a new Pew poll shows, despite the U.S. obsession with North Korea, a lot of people still don't really know what's going on and what North Korea's actually capable of doing. We're going to tell you here.

Pew found this. Forty-seven percent of Americans think North Korea is capable of launching a nuclear missile that could hit the United States. For the record, that is false. North Korean experts do not believe North Koreans have the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough to be strapped to a missile. They don't have the ability to do that. That's the belief.

I want to go now to CNN's Anna Coren. She is in Seoul, South Korea.

So, Anna, tell us about the report from the Pentagon conflicting this widely believed opinion.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Don, it's funny, that report from the Defense Intelligence Agency, it actually stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest because it was a little confusing to people in the current climate. Basically it said that it was moderately confident that North Korea was capable of launching a missile which had a nuclear warhead, but said that it would be unreliable.

Now, I guess after a month's worth of war-like rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang and all of the threats, you can understand why people would get confused. But as you pointed out, North Korea does not have the technology. It's trying to develop it. But it certainly does not have the technology to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.

Let's have a listen now to what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had to say during a visit to Seoul to clear up the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is inaccurate to suggest that the DPRK has fully tested, developed or demonstrated capabilities that are articulated in that report. So we do not operate on the presumption that they have that fully tested and available capacity. But, obviously, they have conducted a nuclear test, so there's some kind of device. But that is very different from miniaturization and delivery and from tested delivery and other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COREN: Now, during that speech, John Kerry also opened the door to diplomacy, if you like, Don, with North Korea, saying that the U.S. was willing to enter talks if North Korea was serious about denuclearization. As we know, unfortunately, that is not the case.

Don.

LEMON: And, Anna, listen, Seoul is just a short drive away from North Korea. Folks there are calm. Should the U.S. take, you know, a page from the book of South Koreans, keep calm and carry on?

COREN: Well, you know, you're absolutely right. Seoul is situated 35 miles from the demilitarized zone. This is the most militarized border in the world. Seoul has a population of 10 million people. That's a fifth of the country's population. Easily within striking distance from, you know, if North Korea wanted to fire a nuclear missile.

But as you say, people are calm here. They're going about their normal lives. They're almost oblivious as to what is happening north of the border. The reason being is that they don't think that North Korea would strike this country. That would be almost suicide for Pyongyang and certainly for the regime.

Also, they've been living in this climate for the last 60 years. Ever since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The signing of the armistice and the two countries have been technically at war. So, people here in Seoul, Don, you know, just going about their normal lives. This is pretty much business as usual.

LEMON: All right, Anna Coren, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

And as tensions mount on the Korean peninsula, Wolf Blitzer takes you inside the conflict, the threat and what's at stake on a special edition of "The Situation Room." It is at 6:00 Eastern.

We're just getting word into CNN of a passing of a funny man who gave us decades of laughs and inspired a generation of improv comics. Jonathan Winters, his career started with a talent contest win that led to a job in Dayton, Ohio, radio. Winters left for New York with $56 in his pocket and became a stand-up comic. A slot on the TV show "Talent Scouts" landed him on the Jack Paar and Steve Allen shows and launched him as a staple of movies and television. Who could forget his character Maude Frickert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN WINTER: Hey, Benji (ph), what do you want to do, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. What's your pleasure?

WINTER: Well, if I told you that, we'd be off the air.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Jonathan Winters kept working until his death of natural causes last night at his home in California. He was 87 years old. Truly one of the greats.

So take a look at this man. This man is a convicted drug dealer and he's just escaped from a West Virginia prison. But here's where it really gets interesting. It isn't the first time Eugene Cobbs has been on the run from the law. This video that you're about to look at now is from 2004 when Cobbs crashed his small plane at an airport in West Virginia. On board, 525 pounds of cocaine worth $24 million.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of every drug bust that's ever occurred in our area or in West Virginia, but this certainly must rank up there as one of the largest in terms of quantity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, needless to say, he ran for four years. He was a fugitive before he was tracked down in Mexico. He was then sent to this federal prison camp. It's a minimum security facility. This is where he made his escape this week. But it wasn't much of an escape, though. In fact, with a three foot fence around it. It's believed he was able to just walk out of the prison and he is now on the run again.

Coming up, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, beloved by many, but not by everyone, not by everybody. We'll tell you about an unusual protest that has a lot of British people upset.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Some of the hottest stories right now in a flash. Roll it.

All right, so first up, even if you happen to like seared shrimp, this situation is not what you'd call appetizing. A blazing shrimp boat off the coast of Galveston, Texas, caught the Coast Guard's attention this morning. A chopper was on the way, but a good Samaritan boat reportedly beat it there and evacuated three shaken shrimpers.

Those powerful storms that stretched from the Midwest to the deep south finally fizzling out right now, but not before killing at least three people. Fifteen counties in Arkansas were declared disaster areas after yesterday's storms. For 72-year-old Milard Wagner and his wife, the damage was all too familiar. They were hit by their fourth tornado yesterday. As before, neighbors didn't hesitate to step in to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB MESAROS, NEIGHBOR: Milard's my -- about my best friend around here. So, I'm proud to help him out any way I can.

MILARD WAGNER, TORNADO VICTIM: If it wasn't for this help that we're getting, I don't know what we'd do. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Forecasters expect the remnants of the storm to blow out over the Atlantic by the end of the day.

Let's take a look at the markets now. The Dow got off to a slow start this morning and it's been still trading lower. I mean it was going gangbusters this week. Right now it's down about 25 points. You see 26 there. This is -- this after a great week, as I said, and both the Dow and the S&P 500 reaching new highs. We continue to monitor up to the bell closing, of course. Check it out right here on CNN.

Fleet Week. It's a spring tradition that's been going on for nearly 20 years in New York City. But this year, forced budget cuts will keep most sailors and ships out of the port. They're doing it to save money. The Defense Department is scrapping most of the festivities.

So you know the wicked witch is dead, ding dong, the song from "The Wizard of Oz."? That's becoming an anthem for the detractors of the first and only female British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Anger towards the woman known as "the iron lady" has sparked again since her death this week. Her detractors taking to the streets of London, rioting, holding parties. Now through a FaceBook campaign, this song is gain something real traction. We want to go to CNN's Erin McLaughlin live now in London.

Erin, they're predicting it could be a chart topper and the BBC is getting in on it. Explain that.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, don. Well, the simple 51 second song causing quite a bit of controversy here in the U.K. An anti-Margaret Thatcher FaceBook campaign pushing sales of this song to the point where it's currently occupying the number three spot on the U.K. pop charts. A pop chart spokesperson I talked to says that it is possible that by Sunday this could be the number one song in the U.K.

It's causing a big dilemma for the BBC, the state broadcaster here in the U.K. Every weekend on Sunday, the BBC has a radio show program that plays the top of the chart hits. Today they're taking the decision, making the announcement that they will not treat this song normally. They will not play this song in full. They will play a portion of the song in the context of a news story. They called the decision, quote, "a compromise," and released this statement saying, quote, "the BBC finds this campaign distasteful, but does not believe the record should be banned."

It's a decision that has anti-Margaret Thatcher campaigners up in arms. They see this as a form of protest, their exercise of free speech against the late former prime minister. Her supporters, however, see this song as being incredibly distasteful considering the fact that her family is still mourning her death. We are days away from her funeral, Don.

LEMON: All right, thank you very much, Erin. We appreciate that.

Coming up later here on CNN, this 79-year-old lady wakes up from a five-year coma, all right? Her first words, I want to go to a Bob Seger concert. Did she? Well, she joins me live later this hour.

And up next, senators will face off next week on guns. But we're about to give you a preview of what you'll hear. The emotions on both sides. Don't miss this face-off.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, the U.S. Senate is quiet today, but next week the walls will echo when members take up new gun legislation prompted by the killings of six adults, 20 first graders at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. It might sound something like this. On the right we have Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, and on the left, Democrat Paul Begala. Take it away, gents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Alex, as you well know, I'm kind of a left wing gun nut. I own 17 guns and bought most of them after President Clinton signed the Brady Bill which required background checks and which Ronald Reagan supported. Now, I'm not a felon, I'm not mentally ill, I'm not a wife beater, I'm not a terrorist, so I passed the background check quite easily. But 1.4 million bad guys have been stopped by the Brady Bill. And yet there's still way too many loopholes in the system.

And so there's this new bipartisan bill that's trying to close them. At least a few of them. Ninety percent of Americans support stronger background checks, Alex, but the right wing Republicans, oh, they oppose them. They say what we really want to do is enforce the laws that are already on the books. But they didn't like those laws on the books in the first place.

And then they say, well, we should focus on mental health. I agree. But then they cut Medicaid, which is the single largest payer of mental health care in America. I think President Obama's got it right. He has called for an all of the above strategy. Gun safety, better mental health care and less violence in our culture. He's calling for these things, not because he's a liberal, Alex, but because he's a dad, just like you, just like me, but he's a dad who has hugged the dads and moms of Newtown. Second amendment, Alex, does not require the sacrifice of innocent children.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Paul, you passed a background check? Now I am worried. Let's see if you can pass a truth check.

Of course Democrats aren't proposing gun confiscation, just mandatory gun buybacks. Now, that's slick. And, Paul, you know that more background checks wouldn't have stopped the tragedies in Aurora, Tucson, or Sandy Hook. Under President Obama, federal prosecutions have fallen to their lowest level in a decade. And Joe Biden's excuse, well, he said, we don't have time to prosecute everybody who lies on a background check. Let's make the time, Joe.

The real problem is that politicians like you are getting more credit for passing new gun laws than enforcing old ones. That's why places like D.C. and Chicago, with the most gun control laws, still have the most gun violence. Here's an idea. Instead of meaningless laws that protect politicians' careers, maybe we should protect the lives of the children we love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right, thanks, guys. The Senate debate is next week and we hope you'll follow it with us here on CNN.

As Americans scramble to wrap up their 2012 tax returns before Monday's deadline, well, we have just gotten our hands on President Obama and Vice President Biden's 1040 forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The president and first lady made more than $608,000 last year and they gave almost a quarter of that to charity. And they paid $112,214 in federal income tax. An effective tax rate of 18.4 percent. Vice President Joe Biden and Mrs. Biden reported $385,000 in income. They gave almost $7,200 to charity. And the Bidens paid $87,851 in federal income taxes for 2012.

Coming up, a suspicious package discovered at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office. It is found to contain explosives. The outspoken sheriff speaking live about the incident in minutes. We'll take you there right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A suspicious package sent to controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, now turned over to a bomb squad. A postal inspector flagged the suspicious package yesterday. Arpaio is well known for his hard- line policies against illegal immigration. Critics have accused him of civil rights violations. So let's find out what this is all about, if we can. Crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns tracking this story for us from Washington.

Listen, this could have been a very, very serious situation. So do we know whether the package contained an explosive device, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, what we know is that the package contained components of an explosive device, but we don't know whether it was actually assembled into a bomb.

There you can see the scene. This was in Flagstaff, Arizona, yesterday. This is actually about two hours away from Sheriff Arpaio's office. So the device, or the package, never actually made it to its office. It was flagged by postal inspectors who took a look at it and decided they needed to take steps to at least try to disarm it and make sure there weren't any problems with it.