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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Secretary Kerry Arrives in Seoul; Texas Bus Crash Kills Two; Hockey v. Homophobia: NHL Supports LGBT Athletes; Gun Control Debate on Capitol Hill; Tornado Watch for Carolinas, Virginia

Aired April 12, 2013 - 05:30   ET

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


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, you've got to understand it takes two people for a dialogue, and I think we all do understand that. And the problem right now is that North Korea doesn't really want a dialogue. Instead, they want to dictate. And in the absence of that dialogue, there's no other course of action to take but deterrence. That doesn't mean anybody is giving up hope by any stretch of the imagination, but I sat down and talked with Anders Fogh Rasmussen just a short time ago, NATO's secretary general is here, and he made it clear he thinks there's really only two things that can be done in this situation. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think the best way is the talk track approach. One the one hand, ensure effective defense and deterrence as a means to avoid attacks. And the other track is dialogue with the aim to find peaceful solutions to these attentions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: Finding those peaceful solutions, that's going to be the difficult problem, I think. In taking in the point of view here in South Korea, Secretary Kerry is going to be able to move on to his next stop in Beijing for what could be the tougher end of the talks, really hoping to bring China along to put some pressure on Pyongyang.

It was only today that they announced they were forming a new ministry, a ministry of nuclear industry. It seems that North Korea is trying to dictate straight along the course. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, a U.S. official told CNN that North Korea is believed to be working to develop a nuclear warhead, but it's premature to say they're capable of launching one. South Korea has been watching North Korean missiles very closely, any new intelligence coming out of Seoul?

CLANCY: Well, you know, because North Korea is so closed off, Christine, it is very difficult to come up with any kind of reliable intelligence. But, you know, South Korean officials here at the defense ministry were quoted today as saying that they do not believe that North Korea is in the position right now to have a miniaturized nuclear warhead that it could put atop one of its ballistic missiles. Having said that, nobody is quite sure how far along they are. The real question here isn't what they have right now, it's their determination to move forward. And it poses that question -- where will they be in ten years, even five years or three years? Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jim Clancy for us this morning in Seoul. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're following new developments this morning in the deadly bus crash on a Texas toll road that killed two people and injured dozens more. The charter bus carrying a group of senior citizens was en route to an Indian casino in Oklahoma when it swerved across lanes of traffic, struck a concrete median, and toppled over. You can see it right there.

We know now this was not the 65-year-old driver's first incident. CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just seconds after the passenger bus careened across a busy highway and flipped on its side, witnesses rushed to help rescue the elderly victims trapped inside the bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Broken bones, bleeding --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was fuel pouring out of the side of it

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't expect to see this, but when you do, you do everything you can to help.

LAVANDERA: What caused the bus to crash isn't known yet, but Texas state troopers say the bus first collided with what's described as a crash cushion in front of a cement barrier, then lost control.

SGT. LONNY HASCHEL, TEXAS DPS: It went back across the lanes of traffic into a grassy area and struck the concrete median. It rode up on top of that concrete barrier and then rolled on its right-hand side where it came to rest.

LAVANDERA: The bus was headed to an Oklahoma casino for a fun day of gambling. Two people were killed in the crash, including 81-year-old Sue Taylor, who organized the casino excursion. She had made so many of these trips in the past that she was known as Casino Sue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even tell you the emotions that I'm having. I'm just -- I'm shocked that it's so close to home.

LAVANDERA: The bus driver was Lloyd Rieve. His granddaughter described him as a veteran driver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His health was fine and he went to the doctor not that long ago and he was good.

LAVANDERA: But now she says he's one of the 44 crash victims. He's in critical condition.

Federal records show the bus company operator Cardinal Coachline has a satisfactory safety record and no major violations in the last two years.

DANIEL RIZIK, SURIVOR: Well, it happened pretty quick.

LAVANDERA: Survivors like 73-year-old Daniel Rizik never imagined a bus ride for a day at the casino would turn out to be a risky and deadly bet.

RIZIK: People were on top of people screaming, hollering, yelling for help. It wasn't very pleasant of a situation to be in, to say the least.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Coming up, we're going to hear from that man you just saw. He survived the deadly bus accident in Texas, Daniel Rizik, he'll join us at 7:30 Eastern Time live on EARLY START.

ROMANS: A grieving family who lost their college-aged son in a fatal car crash hopes to educate people on the dangers of texting and driving. They hope this image of their 22-year-old son Alexander Heit's phone and what appears to be a message he was texting the very moment he lost control of his car, flipped off the phone, and died. This happened in Greeley, Colorado, April 3. Witnesses say Heit was looking down when that fatal crash happened.

BERMANS: That's just awful.

The little boys kidnapped and whisked away to Cuba have no idea they were caught up in an international drama. Cole and Chase Hakken's grandparents say the boys were well taken care of during the ordeal save for a few bug bites. The boys apparently think they went on a fun trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICIA HAUSER, SHARYN HAKKEN'S MOTHER: They have been told that everyone heard about their sailboat trip to Cuba, another country, as they called it, and their airplane ride back to America, and that everyone wants to take their picture. We ask that there be no mention of any events of the past week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The boys' parents face nearly a dozen charges including kidnapping and child abuse.

ROMANS: When you are a 2-year-old and 4-year-old, you have to wonder their memory will be. I mean, they're just so young.

BERMAN: You would hope they don't remember. ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, new this morning, this latest CNN/ORC poll shows the mood of the nation is improving. When asked last week how things are going in the country today, 50 percent of respondents says things are well. That's a big jump from back in August when only 36 percent believed things were OK. It's important to note that 50 percent also think things are going badly.

BERMAN: Sort of a glass half full, literally.

All right, the National Hockey League reaching out to lesbian, gay and transgender athletes, encouraging them to get on the ice. Check out this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can skate -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can skate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can shoot --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can shoot.

UNDIENTIFIED MALE: If you can score --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can score.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Quite an ad. This is a partnership between pro hockey and the You Can Play Project, which pushes for inclusion of LGBT athletes. This is the first time a major men's pro sport has made inclusion an official policy.

ROMANS: I have heard more about locker room equality in the past maybe six months than ever before, so it really is just a beginning for professional sports.

BERMAN: No, I think we are in a moment right now.

ROMANS: You think so? All right, gun control advocates clearing a key hurdle in Congress, but the battle is just getting started. The latest from both sides coming up next.

(COMMECIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: New developments this morning on Capitol Hill, debate on gun control legislation underway in the Senate. And while the bill is fiercely opposed by most Republicans, it's an achievement that this measure even got to the floor for debate. Senators on both sides of the aisle give credit to the families of the victims of the Connecticut school massacre for that.

Dan Lothian has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even with threats of political retribution from the National Rifle Association, a watered- down gun bill is now headed for a major congressional debate.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Our hard work starts now.

LOTHIAN: How hard? The amendments are piling up. There's the bipartisan break through on background checks brokered by Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We did not leave (ph) loopholes in the gun show. We did not leave loopholes in the Internet. We didn't infringe on any individual's rights.

LOTHIAN: There's an attempt to ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and others on mental health and school safety.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We want to have a bill that the boldest common denominator that we can pass.

LOTHIAN: The critical Senate vote that blocked a filibuster was viewed as an important step forward by many of the Newtown families who've lobbying lawmakers in Washington this week.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We've been in darkness for 20 years when it comes to gun control -- darkness, lies, misinformation. And when people see you, it means much more than when they hear me or anybody else. So we've made a huge difference.

LOTHIAN: But a cautious view from House Speaker John Boehner about how a final gun bill will look.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of these victims and I fully expect that the House will act in some way, shape or form, but to make a blanket commitment without knowing what the underlying bill is, I think, would be irresponsible on my part.

LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: And there's this side note to the national conversation about guns, this weekend the Washington State Republican Party holds its annual fund-raising dinner. "The Seattle Times" reports that one of the items up for auction is an AR-15 rifle. That's the type of assault weapon used in the Connecticut school massacre. The head of the state GOP told the paper that auctioning off the weapon is not meant as a political statement; it is merely a way, they say, to raise money.

ROMANS: Patriotism on the chopping block. Coming up, how budget cuts are affecting an all-American event.

BERMAN: And if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time on your desktop or mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Forty-six minutes after the hour right now. Let's bring you up-to-date. Happening right now, John Kerry smack in the middle of the North Korean missile crisis. Right now, the Secretary of State arriving in Seoul overnight with talks with South Korean officials. He will also visit Tokyo and Beijing. He's expected to pressure China to use its influence to rein in the North. We are expecting Secretary Kerry to speak any minute now and we will bring you that live when it happens. You're looking at a live picture right now.

ROMANS: New this morning, also, in this country, authorities in Flagstaff intercepted a suspicious package addressed to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Alpiro in Phoenix. A test confirmed the package had black powder. Experts blew it up, no one was hurt, but they are trying to figure out who sent it. Alpiro was - well, he's received many threats for his controversial and outspoken ways. The federal government sued him, by the way, for allegedly for violating the civil rights of Latinos.

BERMAN: New this morning in Colorado, 31-year-old Thomas Guolee is under arrest in connection with the murder of State Prison Chief Tom Clements. Police took him into custody as a person of interest. Clements was shot to death at his home last month. Guolee is said to be an associate of Evan Ebel, of course, the suspected gunman.

ROMANS: Newly released surveillance video from the University of Central Florida, you see a student pulling a fire alarm in a dorm. Police say that was supposed to be the first move in a campus attack last month. Thirty-year-old James Oliver Seevakumaran instead went into his room and shot himself. He wasn't enrolled at classes at the time; the school had been trying to evict him.

BERMAN: A hospital in Kansas City reportedly will let a man back to visit his sick partner. Roger Gorley was kicked out and arrested earlier this week when he refused to leave his partner's room. Gorley says the two have been in a civil union for five years and make medical decisions for each other. He claims the hospital staff refused to recognize their relationship and forced him to leave.

The hospital tells a different story, though. Officials say Gorley and his partner's brother were cursing and fighting in the room and that was why he was booted. Kansas City media now reporting that the hospital will let Gorley return.

ROMANS: Can you have Fleet Week without the fleet? Federal budget cuts threatening to sink the annual festivities next month in New York Harbor. The military's put a hold on optional events like the big Fleet Week celebration. Those cuts have scuttled appearances by the Blue Angels, the Navy's famed flight demonstration squadron.

BERMAN: So goodbye and perhaps good riddance. Sandy has been retired from the official list of Atlantic hurricane names because of that severe damage that the storm caused. Sandy is the 77th name to be taken out of play by the World Meteorological Organization. It joins the likes of Katrina, Rita, Dennis and Irene. ROMANS: It's almost creepy like we're retiring a number in sports, but it's the reverse.

All right, happening now, if you live in the Carolinas or Virginia, you're under a tornado watch this morning.

BERMAN: That after a series of relentless twisters roared through parts of the Midwest and South, killing at least three people. Where is it headed next?

Samantha Mohr is live in the Severe Weather Center with the latest on these storms and more. Good morning, Samantha.

SAMANTHA MOHR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Boy, what a nasty morning it is. All across the Carolina coast and that line of thunderstorms is stretching into the west coast of Florida, they're just about ready to come ashore here. So I think the morning is going to be pretty nasty here along the coast. And in the Tampa area, they're expecting to see some very strong rip currents, so the word out there to all the spring breakers who are going to be vacationing, it could be pretty dangerous out there in the water.

But yes, our shift of severe - our area of severe weather shifted to the east here, so from North Carolina into Virginia now until 9:00, we have that tornado watch in place. Large hail, gusty, damaging winds still possible as well as some isolated tornado activity. So we'll be watching for that. And then all across the northeast it's going to continue the downhill throughout the day as the clouds thicken up and the rain rolls in across D.C. and in through New York. We've already had a few dozen flights canceled in Newark and we expect numbers to go up throughout the day.

And then there's the wintry side, all the freezing rain in Sioux Falls yesterday sent trees crashing down. And now we still have all the snow wrapping around across Northern Minnesota in through the U.P. of Michigan, where it is going to be piling up in terms of around several inches today. So here are our winter storm watches and warnings that are in place in the pink here. So Minneapolis is under a winter weather advisory, still will stay wintry throughout the day today. And then across the northeast, as well, as that winter weather moves into Upstate New York and Northern New England, where we are going to see that mix of freezing rain and snow.

And then we're going to end up seeing those cold temperatures moving on in with that cold air moving in behind the severe weather maker. So we are shivering this morning with temperatures down around freezing across much of Eastern Oklahoma and Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri. So they have really gotten a basket-full of weather this week, guys.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Samantha. Headline: if you're in the Carolinas, keep your eye open this morning for those possible tornadoes. Thanks so much, Samantha Mohr.

MOHR: Absolutely, you bet. BERMAN: We're going to stand by for a second right now. We're expecting Secretary of State John Kerry in South Korea to come to the podium any second. You can see him right there; he's with the South Korean foreign minister right now.

ROMANS: He'll be in three cities on this trip; he'll be in Seoul, he'll be in Tokyo, he'll be in Beijing and obviously trying to contain and ratchet down a missile crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Sounds like the introductions are beginning now.

Let's listen to opening statements.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

YUN BYUNG-SE, SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER (via translator): Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Secretary Kerry and I had a very productive meeting this evening, but before discussing the results of our meeting, allow me to welcome Secretary Kerry once again. It is not only Secretary Kerry's first visit to Korea as Secretary of State, but it is his first visit to Korea altogether. Also, Korea is the very first stop on the Secretary Kerry's Asian tour. And so I believe that it is all the more meaningful.

As you are well aware, Secretary Kerry and I held our first min sterile meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. And today, just ten days after, we held our second meeting here in Seoul. This is quite exceptional, but it demonstrates how closely our two administrations are working together and the importance we place on this alliance, as well as how strong and close our two ties are.

During our meeting today, Secretary Kerry and I discussed a variety of regional and global topics ranging from North Korea and the nuclear issue to the upcoming visit of President Park to the United States. We built upon the progress we made during our first meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You're watching a joint news conference between Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign minister from South Korea right now. We'll bring you back to that the second that John Kerry is talking. Of course, this happening in the midst of the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

ROMANS: And this is just the first stop in Secretary Kerry's trip. He'll be in Tokyo; he'll also be in Beijing, and the issue here is what kind of leverage does China have in this and what message will he bring to China as well to try to tamp down the missile crisis with China's neighbor.

BERMAN: We will bring you the secretary's comments, Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as the day's other top stories when we come back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN LIVE FEED) JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And we have been working with our staffs in leading up to and preparing for this meeting, so it's fair to say we have had an extraordinary amount of exchange of thinking, and we are very much aligned and very supportive of each other's positions.

But I thank you for welcoming me the way you did here today. Despite many trips to Asia over the last 30 years -- actually, over the last 45 years -- this is ironically my first visit to Seoul. And I am very, very pleased to finally be able to get here and honored to be able to be here as Secretary of State.

We are working together on a number of critical challenges. I want to thank the Republic of Korea for its leadership, its willingness to step up in a very significant way globally, and not just on the immediate question of what is happening with respect to North Korea, but on a host of other issues regarding stability in the region, in Asia, and indeed even on issues reaching far beyond here. For instance, the assistance that the Republic of Korea is giving to Syria and cooperation on global climate change and other issues.

The United States and the Republic of Korea are working closely on all of these critical challenges because it is safe to say that over the last 60 years we have built one of the strongest partnerships on the planet. Our security relationship is now 60 years old. It takes or dates back to the time of the armistice and the bilateral security agreement upon which we have lived all these 60 years. And I think, if you look around the world, there are very few stories as significant as the story of the development and emergence of the Republic of Korea as an economic and democratic and humanitarian force on a global basis. And President Obama and I join together in saluting a successive number of governments and the people of the Republic of Korea who have made this happen.

In the visit that we had in Washington last week and now today, we have covered a great deal of territory. And I want to reiterate, perhaps most important thing with respect to the immediate tensions that exist here in this region, neither the United States nor the Republic of Korea nor the international community, we are all united.