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Kerry in Seoul to Talk North Korean Nuclear Threat; Patients Being Treated After Texas Bus Accident; Arizona Sheriff Receives Suspicious Package; NHL Supports LGBT Athletes; Gun Control Debate Continues on Capitol Hill; Guan Tianlong Surprises at the Masters

Aired April 12, 2013 - 06:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, Secretary of State John Kerry in Seoul to deal with the growing North Korean nuclear threat.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Haunting last words from a teen driver. His text cut off midsentence, just before a crash.

ROMANS: The National Hockey League's bold statement against homophobia amid talks that a pro athlete may soon come out of the closet. Will other big league sports join the cause?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans in for Zoraida this Friday.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Friday, April 12th. Happening right now, Secretary of State John Kerry trying to defuse the North Korean missile crisis this morning. This coming on the heels of that dramatic and unexpected revelation that some U.S. intelligence sources believe that North Korea has the technology to make a nuclear weapon and put it on a missile.

ROMANS: Kerry arrived in Seoul just a few hours ago for talks with South Korean officials. Here's some of what he said.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We want to emphasize that the real goal should not be reinforcing the fact that we will defend our allies, which we will, but it should be emphasizing for everybody the possibilities of peace, the possibilities of reunification, the possibilities of a very different future for the people of the Republic of Korea, and ultimately for the DPRK.

The United States and the Republic of Korea both want to see a peaceful Korean Peninsula. And that means it must be free of nuclear weapons.


ROMANS: We're also just hearing that President Obama has ordered a number of exercises not to be undertaken. Kerry said, in that news conference, that, quote, "We have lowered our rhetoric significantly and are attempting to find a way for reasonableness to prevail here."

BERMAN: Still, Secretary of State John Kerry making clear that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power.

ROMANS: He did not say Kim Jong-un's name in the beginning of the speech, as well. He said the leaders in North Korea, and one in particular. So, also putting the pressure on him that way by not really publicly naming him. And that is what many people say Kim Jong-un wants.

BERMAN: All he wants.

ROMANS: He wants attention.

BERMAN: All right. Other news right now.

Breaking news just in to CNN: police in Taiwan say 600 passengers have been evacuated from a high-speed commuter train after explosives were found on board. The explosives consisted of five liters of gasoline. They were found in luggage placed in a bathroom on board. The train was bound for Taipei.

We have no word on injuries. We're going to bring you more information as soon as it becomes available.

ROMANS: We're following new developments this morning in that fatal bus accident on the Dallas area highway that left two people dead, more than 40 injured.

The charter bus carrying a group of senior citizens was en route to an Indian casino in Oklahoma when it swerved across lines -- lanes of traffic, struck a concrete median, flipped on its side. We know now this wasn't the 65-year-old driver's first incident.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us live from Dallas.

ROMANS: Ed, what's the latest on this investigation now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, many of the patients are being -- still being treated at area hospitals, as more than 40 people were injured in this horrific accident and people who were around the crash scene rushed in to help.


LAVANDERA (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 Risik 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.


LAVANDERA (on-camera): Christine, the National Transportation Safety Board has been brought in to investigate the accident. It says it will take several months to figure out exactly what caused the accident, what went wrong, and caused the bus to lose control.

As for that stretch of interstate where this accident happened, it is back up and will be running cleanly here this morning for the rush hour commute. Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Ed Lavandera live for us this morning from Dallas. Later on "STARTING POINT" at 7:30 Eastern, we'll talk to one of the men that you just heard from, Daniel Risik, who survived that bus accident.

BERMAN: Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now, a grieving Colorado family hopes to educate people on the dangers of texting and driving with this image. It's their 22-year-old son Alexander's phone and what appears to be the message he was texting the moment he died. They're hoping this photo can deter others from making the same mistake that he did.

The fatal crash happened in Greeley, Colorado, on April 3rd. Witnesses say he was looking down when his car swerved into oncoming traffic and off the road, killing the college student.

ROMANS: The little boys kidnapped and sailed away to Cuba have no idea that 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. They think, the little boys, they think they went on a fun trip.


PATRICIA HAUSER, BOYS' GRANDMOTHER: 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.


ROMANS: The boys' parents face nearly a dozen charges, including kidnapping and child abuse -- of course the parents do not have custody of the child -- of the children; those grandparents do.

BERMAN: All right. So new this morning: who is responsible for mailing explosives to controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix? A federal investigation going on right now in Arizona, trying to answer that question. You know, this man, no stranger to controversy.

CNN's Shannon Travis is live in Washington with the latest. Shannon, what can you tell us?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John, let's remind our viewers who we're talking about here. He's the tough-talking Arizona sheriff who became famous for forcing his prisoners to stay in tent cities and to wear those pink underwear.


TRAVIS (voice-over): Someone trying to actually hurt him? As you mentioned someone sent the sheriff a package with a bomb in it. That's according to police.

Officials fortunately got to the bomb before it got to the sheriff. Now, a bomb squad neutralized the bomb last night, the sheriff's office said. This happened in Flagstaff, some 150 miles outside Phoenix.

The local post office there screened the suspicious package and called police. They even had to evacuate the post office as a precaution.

Now, of course, this investigation is ongoing, as you mentioned, and the sheriff's office says there's already been progress.


TRAVIS: In addition to forcing his prisoners to wear those pink underwear Sheriff Arpaio also is a hero to many conservatives for his tough anti-immigration stance. Those have caused critics to accuse him of civil rights violations. But the 80-year-old sheriff has denied those accusations, John.

BERMAN: Interesting. Shannon Travis, thanks so much. And good work by that post office to find that package before it caused any harm.

ROMANS: I've been out there in his jails in the desert before. You know, he makes the inmates wear pink underwear, pink, you know, pink clothes.

And you know, I said, this is -- people could say this is not really a fair treatment of somebody who's awaiting a verdict, right?

And he said this is how our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan live, out in the desert with no air conditioning, you know, in tents. No reason why somebody who's in the criminal justice system couldn't live that way, too.

BERMAN: As we said, a controversial figure.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. New this morning the latest CNN/ORC poll shows the mood of the nation is improving. When asked last week how things were going in the country today, 50 percent of respondents said hey, things are well. A big jump from last summer, when only 36 percent believed things were OK. Of course, the flip side of that is that 50 percent also think things are going badly these days. So I think it's a pretty even split.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shoulder to shoulder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With purpose and in solidarity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are teammates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are friends.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We play with integrity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We honor diversity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We respect all athletes.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you can play, you can play.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can play...





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

The founder of the You Can Play project will join us along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on "STARTING POINT" live at 8:15 Eastern Time.

ROMANS: And gun control advocates clearing a key hurdle in Congress, but the battle just getting started. The latest from both sides, coming up next.

Plus, patriotism on the chopping block? Coming up, how budget cuts are affecting an all-American military event.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone, 44 minutes after the hour and a special treat coming up on "STARTING POINT." Christine and I will be hosting Secretary of State John Kerry. He is in Seoul right now, as the world prepares for North Korea to launch a missile; a test seems imminent. His trip comes amid new intelligence that finds that the North has the capability, perhaps, to arm a missile with a nuclear warhead.

ROMANS: And a deadly storm system strikes the Midwest and the Southeast bringing rain and -- look at those tornadoes. We're live in one of the hard-hit areas. We're going to look up close at the damage.

BERMAN: Then, you know, we're going to meet an unusual victim of gun crime. Carol, an elephant, with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus was hit by a bullet in a drive-by shooting. We're going to get an update on our condition and talk with her trainer.

ROMANS: And the future is here. The co-creator of this amazing 3D pen joins us live for a demo. That's starting (INAUDIBLE) on "STARTING POINT."

BERMAN: Super exciting.

ROMANS: It really is.

BERMAN: So psyched to play with it.

ROMANS: All right, 45 minutes after the hour. New developments this morning on Capitol Hill. Debate on gun control legislation under way in the Senate. And while the bill is fiercely opposed by most Americans, it's an achievement that the 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.

Here's Dan Lothian.


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.


BERMAN: So an annual rite of spring, New York's Fleet Week may be sunk by across-the-board federal spending cuts.


BERMAN (voice-over): The military has put on hold an optional events like the big Fleet Week celebration. Those cuts have already scuttled appearances by the Blue Angels, the Navy's famed flight demonstration squad.


BERMAN: Still ahead on EARLY START, two years after she came out of a coma, a 79-year-old woman gets to fulfill her rock 'n' roll fantasy. You might say she's working on some night moves. That's ahead.

ROMANS: Plus, all-out war on the battle on the ballfield with a big- time player really hurt.

BERMAN: This is serious.


BERMAN: So the Dodgers, we do not know how long they will be without star pitcher Zack Greinke after he broke his collarbone in a bench- clearing brawl last night. My, oh, my, Joe Carter here with the "Bleacher Report."

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Yes. Good morning, guys. I mean, no official word yet, but looks like it could be about six to eight weeks. And you know Zack Greinke is an important player to the New York Dodgers. The club just signed him to a fat contract in the fall, six years, $147 million.

This brawl went down in the sixth. Greinke hit the Padres' Carlos Quentin with a pitch. You see him charge the mound right here. Now he ends up breaking his non-throwing left collarbone because the two collide football-style. The Dodgers' Matt Kemp also gets involved in this little brawl.

And then he would -- after the game, as well, words were exchanged between him and Quentin in the club house tunnel which then spilled out into the parking lot. Now, again there's no official timetable on Zack Greinke's return, but a broken collarbone typically takes six to eight weeks to rehab.

All right. Let's talk a little golf. After one round at the Masters, Tiger Woods is not at the top of the leaderboard, but he is playing good enough to be there on Sunday. He shot a 2 under par 70. He's four shots behind the co-leaders.

And one of the co-leaders just happens to be Spain's Sergio Garcia. For the first time in 49 tries at the Masters, he finished a round in the lead. He shot a 6 under par 66. And this is a guy, a year ago, who said he would never win a major championship.

Sergio is tied for first with Australian Marc Leishman. They're both one shot better than American Dustin Johnson.

And tied for fourth, fan favorite, '92 masters champ Freddy Couples. He's in a five-way tie for -- or I should say six-way tie for fourth.

The 14-year-old from China has everybody's attention now. After 18 holes, Tianlang Guan posted a better score than 10 guys who have won major championships before. He's even beating defending champ Bubba Watson.

Guan shot an impressive 1 over 73. And if he posts the same number or better today, he's going to make the cut.


TIANLANG GUAN, MASTERS GOLFER: I feel great to play a first round here, and I just feel a little bit nervous on the first tee, and -- but I hit a great tee shot then and after that I just kind of (inaudible).


CARTER: All right. So after some crazy weather passed through Augusta last night, round two will go off on time for all things Masters; of course check out

All right, you remember this video? It first surfaced last September. It got more than 2.5 million views on the Net. The Detroit :ions liked this guy so much they brought him in for a tryout and then signed him to the team.

Norwegian rugby player Harvard Rugland will join David Akers as Detroit's two kickers in the fall. The Lions just cut Jason Hampton after 21 years in the league.

Now this trick shot video is titled "Kickalicious." Rugland also, it's worth noting, tried out with the New York Jets. Guys, for the past few months, he decided really to put his focus into the NFL, working with a former NFL kicker in Florida and obviously signing a deal in the league.

That practice obviously paid off big time for him, guys.

BERMAN: That's really cool video.

ROMANS: That is. And now you've got like scouts all over the place, now looking at YouTube, trying to (INAUDIBLE) --


BERMAN: How many Norwegian place kickers are there in the NFL right now? That's fantastic. Joe Carter, thanks so much.

ROMANS: What a great story.

When we first told you about yesterday a Michigan woman who woke from a coma after five years, she woke up, and the first thing she asked was to see Bob Seger in concert. Last night 79-year-old Evie Branan got her wish. She was the guest of honor as Seger performed at The Palace in Auburn Hills. Evie got to meet the man and show off some of her own "Night Moves."


EVIE BRANAN, COMA SURVIVOR: He came over to me, put his hand out, shook my hand and said, "Hi, Evie, I'm so happy to meet you."

And I said, "Oh, Bob, I'm so glad to meet you. I never thought this would happen."


ROMANS: Listen to her; she couldn't speak; she was in a coma. Evie says -- or Evie says she is living proof to never give up on your dreams.

BERMAN: That is amazing. What a great way to end the week.

That is all for EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Stay with us for "STARTING POINT."

Secretary of State Kerry just finished speaking to reporters in Seoul. We're going to have live reports for you from the region and a lot of great analysis coming right up.