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Slide Deploys Midair on United Flight; Deadly Ignition Flaw with GM Cars; Obama to Nominate New V.A. Secretary Today; U.S. Plays Belgium in World Cup Tomorrow

Aired June 30, 2014 - 09:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Time now, though, for "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello -- hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, have a great day. Thanks so much. NEWSROOM starts now.


COSTELLO: Happening now, decision day.

STEVE GREEN, PRESIDENT, HOBBY LOBBY: This is an issue of life.

COSTELLO: The Supreme Court showdown between Hobby Lobby and the Obama administration ends today.

KYLE DUNCAN, HOBBY LOBBY ATTORNEY: The government can't put a company in a position of choosing between its faith and following the law.

JONATHAN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Corporations are like people. Do they also have free exercise rights? Do they have a right to these religious beliefs like individuals do?

COSTELLO: The question of following faith or following the law will be answered.

Also --

DIANE MODINI, PASSENGER: We heard a big bang and a hiss.

COSTELLO: Emergency in the skies when an evacuation slide opens up in the cabin.

Plus, parts of Tennessee under water.

KYLE DUNCAN, HOBBY LOBBY ATTORNEY: It must have been at least three, maybe three and a half feet of water.

COSTELLO: Flash flooding forcing people to evacuate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rain is coming down pretty hard. You could barely see anything. COSTELLO: Let's talk live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

We begin with terrifying moments for passengers aboard a United Airlines flight. The evacuation slide accidentally deployed in the rear of the cabin during a flight from Chicago to Orange County, California. The plane, which was in midair, was forced to make an emergency landing in Wichita, Kansas.

Here's part of the exchange between the airport tower and the pilot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any injuries from the deployment of emergency raft?

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: No. Everything's fine, just the door light. We just want to get on the ground and have somebody look at it. But everybody's fine.


COSTELLO: CNN aviation correspondent Rene Marsh joins us from Washington.

How could this happen?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's a big question. That's what the FAA is trying to get to the bottom of. We know that one passenger on board calling this the scariest flight of all time. This morning, the FAA tells us that an issue with the plane's door caused that emergency slide to deploy midair.

Now you just heard the pilot. Now listen to passengers as they describe what could have been a deadly situation.


MODINI: All of a sudden you saw their faces go like this and you heard a big bang and a hiss.

MARSH (voice-over): Shock aboard a United Airlines flight when an emergency slide accidentally deployed mid-air, inflating inside the back of the Boeing 737 carrying more than 100 people. Passengers report hearing a distinct popping noise before the slide started filling up inside the cabin. Flight attendants rushed to assess the situation.

MODINI: They just had a panicked look. And they quickly took the carts and ran backwards to the front of the plane.

MARSH: No injuries reported but the plane en route from Chicago O'Hare International Airport to John Wayne Airport in Southern California was forced to make an emergency landing in Wichita, Kansas, descending over 20,000 feet in 10 minutes, according to

MODINI: The first thing that went through my mind is if the chute opened, and it probably popped out the door, which meant that we'd probably lose pressure immediately. But luckily, that didn't happen.

MARSH: Passengers took to social media to share pictures and video of the frightening experience. Former Nebraska quarterback, Taylor Martinez, tweeted this picture of the slide, writing, "Scariest flight of all time, #emergencylanding."

This isn't the first time a slide has accidentally deployed on board a flight. Last year, a slide opened on a JetBlue flight, pinning a flight attendant against the wall of the plane. Passengers on board the United flight say it's lucky everyone was seated and no one was in the back of the plane when the slide deployed Sunday night.


MARSH: Well, Carol, a good thing that everyone was seated. These slides are in many cases -- they're built and they're designed to deploy in just six seconds. So imagine the force in just a -- such a confined space. They're filled with pressurized gas so they're pretty solid. Remember they're built to handle passengers in the event of an emergency. So that said, this really could have caused some severe injuries and it's certainly not a stretch to say, Carol, this could have been deadly.

COSTELLO: You're not kidding.

Rene Marsh reporting live from Washington, thank you.

It is the biggest case of the Supreme Court's term. I'm talking about the battle over the Obamacare contraception mandate. A mandate that retailer Hobby Lobby says violates its religious beliefs. Now on the final day of the high court's session, the justices are poised to issue their ruling, which could have a far-reaching impact.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Protesters stood before the U.S. Supreme Court last week calling on justices to defend religious freedom against what they see as government intrusion.

DUNCAN: Our basic point is the government can't put a company in a position of choosing between its faith and following the law.

COSTELLO: Hobby Lobby wants an exemption from the Obamacare mandate to provide certain forms of emergency contraception like PlanB, known as the morning-after pill, which the company's owners view as tantamount to abortion.

Last year, the Obama administration allowed exemptions for churches and allowed some religiously affiliated groups like church-run hospitals and charities to have a third party provide coverage.

But Hobby Lobby is a private company. And legal experts say if it gets an exemption, the ruling could have widespread implications just like another landmark decision. 2010's Citizens United.

TURLEY: Well, this case, basically says, well, if corporations are like people with free speech rights, do they also from free exercise rights? Do they have a right to these religious believes like individuals do?

COSTELLO: If the court says they do, it could make things very difficult for the U.S. government.

TURLEY: So the ripple effect of this could be significant far beyond the ACA. The government would be in a position of having to accommodate religious beliefs across the board. This wouldn't just stop at health care.

COSTELLO: We should know just how much of a splash the ruling will make in the next hour of NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: That's right. Our CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown is just about to go inside the U.S. Supreme Court to await that ruling. She's outside now.

And just describe the scene for us, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Well, just to put this in perspective, Carol, this is the biggest case of the Supreme Court's term. And this is the final day of the public session. And as you can see here behind me, the crowds are out today, we have demonstrators on both sides of this issue. There are demonstrators who support the contraception mandate and the Affordable Care Act.

They say that companies should be required to provide comprehensive health care coverage of birth control for its employees and then you have the demonstrators here behind me who say religious liberty rights should trump that -- the demonstrators behind me claim that companies should be able to refuse to provide this comprehensive health care coverage of certain types of contraception if it is a violation of their faith.

This has been a hot debate for a long time now, Carol. And we have three contentious issues converging -- abortion, religious liberty rights and Obamacare. It prompted heated rhetoric on both sides, the administration saying this provision, this key provision, is essential to women's health and that companies are removed from it. It's really the insurance companies that are providing the benefits.

But the two companies that brought these two cases say that certain types of contraceptions are -- they equate to abortion, it's a violation of their faith to be forced by the government to provide that. And that is what they're challenging today, and today we're going to find out at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, Carol, what the high court's ruling is on this high stakes issue.

COSTELLO: I know. And you'll bring that word to us as soon as it comes down.

Pamela Brown reporting live from the U.S. Supreme Court this morning.

It is a defect that sent General Motors into a tailspin. Now for the first time, we'll find out how the carmaker plans to compensate dozens of families because of its faulty ignition switches. In about an hour, Kenneth Feinberg will explain how much GM is offering and who is eligible.

Feinberg's name should sound familiar to you. He's the same man who handed out the money following the Gulf oil spill, September 11th, and the Boston marathon bombings.

This settlement is a longtime in coming since some GM employees say they first learned of the ignition switch problem back in 2004. But the first recalls as you know were not made until February.

Poppy Harlow is live in Washington along with Laura Christian, whose daughter was the first known victim killed because of the ignition switch defect.

Good morning to both of you.



COSTELLO: Good morning.

Poppy, what do you expect Feinberg to lay out?

HARLOW: Well, I expect that we're going to find out finally whose counted, Carol. I mean General Motors to this point has said at least 13 people died because of this faulty ignition switch. But they have also left the door open to that number going higher if this man, Ken Feinberg, decides that it should.

They've used a very narrow definition as you know of who counts. They're counting frontal impact crashes where air bags did not deploy. They're not counting people sitting in the back seat a car that crashed because of the ignition switch even though they may have died as a result. They're not counting side impact crashes. Is that going to change? That's a really big question.

Another question is how much are they going to lay out? Are we going to find out not only who counts and who will be compensated, but are we going to hear about a bulk fund, safety advocates, some members of Congress have called for a fund of at least a billion dollars, will that be the case or will this just really be a way to lay out who counts and we won't get a bulk number from General Motors.

This company has said time and time again that they want to and will do the right thing, well, how is Ken Feinberg defining what the right thing is since this is a defect as you said that was known about for more than a decade.

COSTELLO: Laura, what is the thing you want to hear from Mr. Feinberg today?

CHRISTIAN: I want to hear that he's going to actually acknowledge each and every single death that we know about. I personally have found about 165 so far just myself. We know that there is a lot more out there.

COSTELLO: And, Poppy, do you think Feinberg will include those deaths in this settlement announcement? And what happens if families choose not to take part?

HARLOW: Well, that's the real key question. So first, in terms if families don't part, we know that some of them that we've spoken with do not want to take part. They want to sue GM and see this go through trial.

It's unclear whether or not if they do opt into this compensation program, if, Carol, they're going to give up their right to sue in court or not. It's been a mixed bag historically in that and the BP oil spill, some that got compensation could sue, others they got compensation. Couldn't sue. So that's a big question. Some of them do not want to take part what they've heard so far. They're not pleased with.

In terms of whether or not this number is going to go significantly higher, that is the ultimate, ultimate question. You know, Ken Feinberg is an attorney, he's the most experienced man, period, there is at this. After 9/11, he held hundreds of hearings with victims' family members, so I think, you know, likely he's going to hold hearings again here to determine if these people are indeed counted. The difference here as in the BP Oil spill for example, you know who died and who was injured as a result of that explosion.

Here it's really legal fighting back and forth. Did the ignition switch cause the crash or was it something else that caused the crash. Ken Feinberg it sounds like ultimately is going to be the one who has to determine that, that takes a while. He'll start accepting, though, claims from family members starting on August 1st.

COSTELLO: And, Laura, I'm curious, Amber is your birth daughter. Do you know if her family will accept GM's deal?

CHRISTIAN: I really don't know. I mean that's entirely up to them. I mean, whether or not I accept a deal it really depends upon the terms. Not so much the monetary compensation, but really upon whether I'm going to be silenced. As we know, I've been vocal about this and even more so about trying to get legislation passed. So that's one of the most critical factors for me anyway.

COSTELLO: Yes. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

Laura Christian, Poppy Harlow, Thanks so much. We'll get back you Poppy when Mr. Feinberg makes his announcement in the next hour of NEWSROOM. COSTELLO: Still to come President Obama says the VA needs an

overhaul. But is the former CEO he wants to put in charge the right man for the job?

CNN's Drew Griffin is following the story for us.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It is an unusual choice, that's what they're calling it, but it may be the right choice to clean up the mess at the VA. We'll have that next.


COSTELLO: Checking some top stories for you at 16 minutes past.

A multiday severe weather threat is not over yet. Today, some 43 million people in the Midwest are at risk for strong storms, hail and possible tornadoes. Powerful thunderstorms across Arkansas and Tennessee over the weekend triggered flash flooding and forced people to evacuate their homes. Nearly a foot of rain fell in some areas.

Red Cross officials say about three feet of water leaked into some of those homes. In Memphis, firefighters had to rescue people from a mobile home park after the water started pouring in. The downpour also left drivers stranded.


SEAN TERRANOVA, STRANDED DRIVER: Rain coming down pretty hard, could barely see anything. I was the first to hit and it must have been at least three, maybe 3 1/2 feet of water. Car hit, as soon as it hit, you know, shuts off, starts floating, puts me against the curb. And after me, about six more cars hit and got stranded.


COSTELLO: Sounds like a lot of fun, right? In the meantime, the first tropical threat of the Atlantic hurricane season is being monitored east of Florida.

A Georgia man charged with murder in his son's hot car death is expected to go before a judge this Thursday. The judge will have to decide whether there is enough evidence to keep Justin Ross Harris in jail. His son Cooper died on June 18th after being left in a car for seven hours while Harris was at work. Cooper's funeral was held over the weekend.

Two people remain in critical condition after a gunfight broke out on New Orleans' famous Bourbon Street early Sunday morning. You can see people running for cover in newly released surveillance video. There it is.

In total, nine people were shot. All the victims were innocent bystanders. Some were tourists. Police have not established a motive, but they say they do know who the gunmen are.

President Obama is expected to nominate Bob McDonald to clean up the Department of Veterans Affairs. The one time Procter & Gamble CEO has a military background. He's a West Point graduate and former captain in the U.S. Army. If confirmed, he will succeed Eric Shinseki who stepped down a month ago in the wake of the growing scandal over alleged treatment delays and cover-ups that may have led to dozens of deaths.

Of course, there's nothing alleged about that now, right? Proven fact. Story that first broke here on CNN, by our very own Drew Griffin.

So, Drew, the right choice?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You know, could be. They need a big turn around expert to go into the V.A. and clean things up and clean up the senior management throughout the whole system, maybe this guy who does not have any connections to the V.A., doesn't have any friends there, can go in with fresh eyes and basically clean house, which is what we're hearing from the House, the Senate, and now the president.

COSTELLO: So, the Republican nominates this guy, a Republican, so will it be smooth sailing?

GRIFFIN: It should be very smooth sailing as far as Republicans are concerned. This guy is one of them.

He's a perfect Republican kind of pick, right? He's a corporate leader. Got big management skills, he's donated to many Republican candidates over the years.

If there would be any trouble, I think with the Democrats who are suspicious of corporate leaders coming in and trying to show the government how to run its business. But this is the president's pick. I think everybody will just go along and say, okay, we'll give this guy a chance and see what he can do.

COSTELLO: And -- I don't know, you know, the guy is wealthy beyond belief, right? He made $15 million while he was at Procter & Gamble. He doesn't have to do anything.

GRIFFIN: No, you would think he has a package from Procter & Gamble after 33 years, he's financially settled. He's not looking for a career, I wouldn't think. I never met the man.

So, he is an outsider in the sense that he is not looking for the next position in the administration or a next position in any kind of political future. He's a business guy. And what the V.A. needs, my opinion, what the V.A. needs is a business strategy to turn this around, make people accountable and fix the systemic problems that are there.

COSTELLO: Not necessarily someone with a background in medical facilities or hospital administration.

GRIFFIN: No, he will hire somebody, there will be a deputy undersecretary of health. That will probably be his first position he needs to hire. He's going to run the V.A. He's going to sit on top of that V.A. health system to make sure that that whole situation gets cleaned up.

COSTELLO: Drew Griffin, many thanks.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, do or die for the United States at the world cup. Chris Cuomo is in Brazil, looking ahead to the battle with Belgium.

Hi, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing? I'll tell you, this is going to be a big deal down here. We'll tell you what the U.S. needs to do to win and everything that is go on in World Cup play down here in Rio.


COSTELLO: All right. Win or go home. The U.S. can advance to the World Cup quarterfinals be or be eliminated as they face off against Belgium.

CNN's Chris Cuomo is in Rio de Janeiro with the preview of tomorrow's big match.

And Rachel Nichols also joins in our chat.

So, Chris, the U.S. can beat Belgium, right?

CUOMO: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think we're not in the world of impossible, we're in the world of the probable. That's the way to look at it. What the heck do I know?

I'll tell you this, though -- down here in Rio, this is what I understand, this place is much more swollen than it was when I was here just a week ago. And the culture, for all the beaches and beauty, football dominates. Even on Copacabana. There are more people gathered around the TV screens than watching what passes for a bikini.

We got word out of Salvador that, yes, Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey both have broken noses and it doesn't look like Jozy Altidore, a guy with the big leg, is going to be able to go. But Rachel can probably give us more information about this.

The Belgians from their own problems with their health and defense. That may make a difference in the game with the heat and humidity up there in Salvador.

COSTELLO: OK. Rachel, give us your expert opinion.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS: Well, yes, they're our best player, their captain, their best defender, certainly, definitely the heart and soul of their team, he's had groin problems, he may not be able to go either. That's a huge hit for the Belgians if that happens. Really, Carol, you got to like the swing in optimism, in confidence

for the U.S. team. Got to think that's going to play a factor as well. You remember Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach at the beginning of this, two weeks ago saying, yes, it is not realistic the way he put it, that the U.S. team would win the World Cup.

Well, guess what, he's definitely changed his tune. The other day he said, hey, we made it out of the group of death, quote, "anything is doable." In fact, he told the U.S. players and their families to change their plane tickets to the day after the World Cup final with the idea of, hey, they should expect to be in Brazil for that long. It seems like Klinsmann, German, more matter of fact guy, has been swept up in this American scrappiness, this American spirit.

Look at this tweet. Just amazing. How many exclamation points for a guy who is normally a straight shooter there, Carol. If you love the energy coming out the other day, wait until tomorrow. Both Cowboy Stadium in Texas and Soldier Field in Chicago are going to open up and put the game on the big screen. The scene is going to be fantastic.

COSTELLO: I bet that will be something.

You know what else is something, Chris, I heard you -- why did you play soccer with kids anyway, but they took you, didn't they?

CUOMO: Well, listen, the point of the story is not the soccer, Carol. I was being generous in goal, didn't want to break their spirit being so young and this being o Pais the futebol, and I didn't want to come in. But why I was really there, we were in a favela, local word for slum.

And I wanted to show what is a tale of two cities. You have Rio with the glamour and the beauty, but these favelas are just as real, they're in the hillside that ring this city, about 11 Brazilians leaving in these places. The poverty is very intense. Brazil is the number one abuser of crack cocaine in the world now.

We went there to show what life is like. There is a lot of bitterness, about $14 billion being dumped into the World Cup preparations when the need is so great there. But there is also optimism and deep love of football.

So, we went there to show that side of life on NEW DAY this morning, so people get the whole story, you know?

COSTELLO: You happened to -- kids, they were good, weren't they? You couldn't block their goals.

CUOMO: They were really good. They were really good. I was tight. I had just gotten off the plane, not really my game.

NICHOLS: Oh, boy, here we go.

CUOMO: I'm not used to that court. No net.

NICHOLS: Yes. CUOMO: I didn't understand what they we they were saying.

NICHOLS: Carol, we heard this before, right?

COSTELLO: We have grown tired of it frankly now.

Richard Nichols, Chris Cuomo, thanks so much.


COSTELLO: Still to come on NEWSROOM, missing for two weeks, only to spring up in his father's basement. So, are police any closer figure out what happened to 12-year-old Charlie Bothuell? Charges could be forthcoming. We'll talk about that, next.