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New Beginning With Cuba?; Should GOP Embrace Same-Sex Marriage?

Aired April 17, 2009 - 20:00   ET


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight from President Obama.

He just wrapped up his speech at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, declaring the U.S. wants a new beginning with Cuba.

And now we have just learned that he met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with the president in Port of Spain.

Now, Suzanne, what do you know about the meeting with Chavez?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Roland, we just learned about this moments ago from a senior administration official, who did confirm that they met. They shook hands. It was really kind of a side thing that happened, a greeting, if you will.

It was not a formal meeting of any sort. But clearly these kinds of things happen when you have a group of leaders together. There were a lot of questions about whether or not this would take place. The reason why it's significant, obviously, Hugo Chavez a big critic of the Bush administration, of the United States in general.

He's been calling for normalizing relations between that United States and Cuba, bringing Cuba back into this kind of summit. He is once the man, as we all know, who called President Bush, referring to him as the devil. So clearly the question whether or not President Obama would be able to work with Hugo Chavez like many of these other leaders that he has talked about reaching out to. We will see if this goes anywhere beyond this handshake, but certainly a beginning, Roland.

MARTIN: Suzanne, the president is also making big news with Cuba. Could we be seeing the real of a real dialogue after decades of the silent treatment?

MALVEAUX: You know, we're certainly hearing some different language from President Obama already.

He went before these Latin American leaders. He's talking about really starting new, that there's not a senior partner and a junior partner in this relationship, that there are times that there's been mistrust, that he recognizes that that really has to be rebuilt, that it is going to take some time.

So, what we heard from President Obama is obviously saying to Raul Castro, yes, we would like to talk. We would like to sit down and talk about human rights, as well as democracy, things like that.

But it goes beyond talk. He wants to see some action from this administration. I want you to take a listen to this, Roland.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues, from drugs, migration, and economic issues, to human rights, free speech, and democratic reform.

Now, let me be clear: I'm not interested in talking just for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.


MALVEAUX: And, Roland, one of the key things that they heard from Castro that really kind of piqued their interest was when he talked about that we admitted we're wrong, we have made mistakes, that we're human beings.

We heard from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs earlier today, saying that that was something that really struck them. They want to know what does he mean by that and just how far is he going to go when it comes to reforms in the Cuban government. And that is the kind of thing that they believe they can push a little bit to see what are they going to do? What are they willing to change? -- Roland.

MARTIN: Suzanne Malveaux, we certainly appreciate it. Thank you so very much.

Folks, now we turn to more breaking news. And it's the kind of news we don't get enough of these days, good news. The sea captain who was held hostage for five days by pirates is finally back home.

Take a look at this, Captain Richard Phillips, his emotional reunion with his family right after his plane landed in Burlington, Vermont. And we hear that right about now they're all celebrating with a little chicken pot pie and brownies made by the captain's mother-in-law, plus his favorite beer.

Deborah Feyerick is in the Phillips hometown of Underhill, Vermont.

Now, Deb, tell us about the big homecoming.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it was a big homecoming. But, statement, the biggest homecomings are with the fewest amount of people.

He was greeted by those who mattered most, his wife, his two kids, his mother, all racing across that tarmac and up the stairs into the plane. They just couldn't wait any longer. He had been up in the air for 18-and-a-half-hours. They just wanted him back. And you could see the relief on their faces, the daughter hugging him around his waist, even wiping a tear from her eye, as they made it into that building.

The captain very relieved and also very, very grateful to all the men and women who helped save him.


CAPTAIN RICHARD PHILLIPS, FORMER HOSTAGE: I just want to thank you for your prayers and support of my family while I was gone. I really appreciate that. I wasn't here to do it. And a lot of people who I will mention really did that.

I'm just a bit part in this story. I'm a small part. I'm a seaman doing the best he can, like all the other seamen out there.

The first people I want to thank are the SEALs. They're the superheroes. They're the titans. They're impossible men doing an impossible job. And they did the impossible with me.

If you see the military, you can thank them from me. If you're in the airport, having -- a restaurant, they're down the street, thank them. They're doing an impossible job. I would not be here without them.

For all the support from my fellow Americans, I can't believe this. I'm not a hero. It just -- it just floors me about the -- everything I have read, and shown the support that you have done.

Also, I want to thank my crew. We did it. I told you it wasn't going to be if; it's going to be when. And we did what -- what we trained to do. We're just seamen. We do the best with what we got. And my -- my crew did an excellent job. And I'm so proud of them that they're all home and they are with their loved ones.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Hey, Deb, talk about those crew members. They have all credited him with bravery and courage for giving himself up to the pirates to save his crew. Any word on when he's going to reunite with his crew?

FEYERICK: Well, you know, not clear right now.

Clearly, the 19 crewmen have a lot of decisions that they need to make, a lot that they need to think through. One of them has said that it's too dangerous to return to the Gulf of Aden, piracy there escalating, something like 80 within the last four months, which is a huge jump over last year.

So, right now, everybody is sort of taking their time to figure out what it is they're going to do. It was interesting. One of the things that the captain was, he told his crew it wasn't if, but when they would be attacked by pirates. So, very interesting thinking there, and clearly they're going to talk to the company about what the next move is.

MARTIN: Now, Deb, during his remarks, we could see what looked like marks on his wrist where he was held hostage. Were those marks from being restrained? And did he talk in depth about his ordeal?

FEYERICK: Well, it appears that those marks were from being restrained.

When he was rescued by the Navy SEALs, he was tied. He had to be untied in order to be removed from that lifeboat that he spent five days on. Remember, he had tried to escape. And, after that escape, that's when it's believed that the pirates tied him up.

He didn't talk about his ordeal. As a matter of fact, there weren't supposed to be any questions. I threw out one question, saying, can you tell us what it was like on that boat? I was referring to the lifeboat. I think he thought I was talking about the USS Bainbridge.

He said, you know, it was really just incredible. So, clearly, it could apply to both. But he's just happy to be home and it doesn't look like he's got any long-term physical injuries, certainly.

MARTIN: Deb Feyerick, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Folks, the one pirate who survived the hijacking of Captain Phillips' ship is also coming to the U.S. Right now, he's being held on board a U.S. Navy ship that is on the way to the East African nation of Djibouti. Once there, he will taken by helicopter to the U.S. base and handed over to the Justice Department.

After that, according to the Associated Press, he is headed for New York to be tried.

But how do you prosecute a pirate who by most accounts is a teenager?

Lisa Bloom, she is the anchor of truTV's "In Session," and is here to tell us what happens next.

Now, Lisa, what's going on here? Because you have the pirate. He's coming here to the United States. And we don't know his age. We supposedly have this deal with Kenya to try these guys. Why here?

LISA BLOOM, TRUTV ANCHOR: Yes, we have the option to try international criminals in Kenya, but we don't have to do it. We can try them right here in the U.S.

And the Federal Southern District of New York is a good place to do it. That's where the first World Trade Center terrorists were tried and convicted. So, we have some experience doing it here.

My suspicion as to why we're choosing here is because we have more control. Kenya, of course, is a sovereign nation. It's a British commonwealth, but they have their own way of doing things. This is such a high-profile case, we want to do it our way, our law, our court.

MARTIN: This is unprecedented, because many experts who you talk to say they can't even remember the last time we actually tried somebody based upon piracy.

BLOOM: That's true.

MARTIN: And, so, how do you prosecute something along the -- I mean, how do you deal with a case like this? How do you prosecute it?

BLOOM: Yes, there are old piracy laws that are on the books the are going to get dusted off and used here and then some more traditional stuff, kidnapping, assault and battery. You saw those marks on those wrists.

MARTIN: Right.

BLOOM: False imprisonment. All of these laws are going to be brought to bear on this.


MARTIN: Any idea on prison time?

BLOOM: Up to life in prison. This is going to be a very serious case.

But, keep in mind, if he's 16 years old, as he said in one of his statements, that could be a mitigating factor.

MARTIN: Right.

BLOOM: The fact that he give up the criminal conspiracy which would probably be alleged halfway through, jumped out of the boat, that could be a mitigating factor in his defense.

MARTIN: Now, we don't know his age. It could be 16 or 19. So, what about being tried as a juvenile or an adult?

BLOOM: Right. I'm quite certain he's going to be tried as an adult. We try juveniles or we try people under the age of 18 as adults every day. When the charges are this serious, you can get your bottom dollar he will tried as an adult.

MARTIN: Any defense he has?

BLOOM: I don't know what his defenses are going to be.

It's pretty clear this is a guy. This is a pretty open-and-shut case. Captain Phillips will I.D. him. The Navy SEALs are going to I.D. him. They probably even have him on videotape. But he may say he wasn't the mastermind, he was forced to go along, he has a psychological problem. That all remains to be seen.

MARTIN: All right. Lisa Bloom, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a bunch. BLOOM: Thank you.

MARTIN: Folks, Captain Phillips told us tonight he doesn't think he is a hero, but most would disagree.

Listen to this I-Reporter, Jimmy Deol from Toronto.


JIMMY DEOL, I-REPORTER: Captain Phillips, your courage is why Americans like to say the land of the free and home of the brave. Thank you for your bravery for risking your own life for your crew and the courage to stick it out, despite difficult odds.

The free world salutes you, sir. Welcome home.


MARTIN: Jimmy, thanks a bunch.

The Republican Party, folks, their platform calls for keeping marriage strictly between a man and a woman. But, today, some Republicans were told flat-out it's time to leave that idea behind.


STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party. And, in a free country, a political party cannot remain viable in the long term if it's seen as a sectarian party.



MARTIN: The big question, why is John McCain's campaign manager saying it's time to embrace same-sex marriage? We will get to that.

Also, we're talking Twitter and the power of celebrity, now that Ashton Kutcher has taken CNN to school.

Call now. The lines are open, 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877- 662-8550. You can also e-mail me, I'm also on Twitter, just like Ashton, and Facebook.


MARTIN: All right, folks, today, a guy who has worked closely with Karl Rove and has several Republican campaigns on his resume, including John McCain's White House bid, did something astonishing.

Why would Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP operative, suddenly speak out against a core principle of his party? Today, he told a group of gay Republicans it's time for same-sex marriage to be embraced by conservatives.


SCHMIDT: Whether you are for or against same-sex marriage, every Republican ought to value the right of the people to make such personal decisions for themselves.

As former Vice President Cheney observed, freedom means freedom for everybody. And I think Republicans and our great Republican Party should always be on the side of expanding freedom and equal rights. It is our heritage and our legacy.



MARTIN: Well, the big question, is he just trying to boost support for a party in trouble? And will Republicans really consider such a fundamental shift in direction?

Let's bring the issue to the front burner. Charles Moran is a spokesman with the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay and lesbian members of the GOP. That's the group Schmidt spoke to today. He's in Washington, along with Wendy Wright, who is president of the conservative group Concerned Women For America, which opposes same-sex marriage.

And I want to deal with you, Wendy. What Steve Schmidt is saying, frankly, a radical idea for the GOP. Smart move on his part?

WENDY WRIGHT, SENIOR POLICY DIRECTOR, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Well, on the same day that Steve Schmidt's candidate lost, and every state in which the marriage amendment was on the ballot won. In Florida, 62 percent of voters voted to protect marriage.

In California, 70 percent of blacks, most of them Democrat, voted to define marriage as between one woman and one woman.


MARTIN: Wendy, I will say this here. The initial report was 70 percent, but later it came out to be about 58 percent. But go right ahead with your comment.

WRIGHT: No, no, no, I said 70 percent of blacks.


MARTIN: Right. I mean African-Americans, yes.

WRIGHT: And there are two main reasons why every time this is put up to a vote for the people that people define marriage as between one man and one woman.

That's because they understand marriage is a unique bond between a man and a woman that provides children with the benefits of both sexes, male and female. The second reason is that people learned about the real world consequences of allowing same-sex marriage, the threats and punishments to religious freedom and parental rights.

In Massachusetts, which allows same-sex marriage, a father who simply asked a school to inform him before his kindergarten-age child was taught about homosexuality, he was arrested and jailed. In Massachusetts, those who perform weddings, they provide services, they threaten being arrested if they don't participate in same-sex ceremonies.

MARTIN: Wendy, one second. I want to quickly go to Charles.

Charles, here you have Steve Schmidt. He's worked with Karl Rove, President George W. Bush, a number of Republicans. Because of his resume, does he bring credibility to the table when it comes to this issue?

CHARLES MORAN, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: He absolutely brings some credibility.

And thank you again for having us on tonight.

Wendy, you need to stop spreading these lies and mistruths and deceptions of what gay marriage means in America. It's high time that this country, like Steve Schmidt articulated today and other GOP conservatives are saying about moving ahead and looking forward and really talking about what marriage is.

It's a relationship. It's a bond between two people. And it's about respecting the true conservative values of having the right to make the decisions for yourself and what works for your family, vs. having somebody else make them for you.

That's the true conservative side to it. That's what Steve Schmidt was talking about today. That's what we're hearing from Meghan McCain and a lot of Republicans around the country, who are saying it's high time that the Republican Party say, oh, well, we want freedom for our guns and our pocketbook, but we need to have government in there telling us what we should be doing in our bedroom.

MARTIN: Charles and Wendy, I want to play something else Steve Schmidt said earlier today.


SCHMIDT: I believe, and I think most Americans believe, you are born with your sexuality. It is not a choice.

It should offend us as Republicans and Americans when gays are denigrated as un-American or undeserving of the government's protection of their rights.

And the Republican Party should give voice to genuine outrage when anyone belittles the humanity of another person. It is offensive in the extreme to the values of this nation. And we should be in the forefront of rejecting such truly un-American prejudice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARTIN: Hey, Wendy, that sounded like a strong rebuke for social conservatives like yourself.

WRIGHT: Well, religious freedom and parental rights are core American values that cross political parties. We are born male and female. And we choose the sexual behavior, the sexual acts that we will engage in.

And it's really the kind of -- that's kind of hateful talk we're hearing from the other guest, from Steve Schmidt. And that's why I think we're now seeing people who are -- who see the true face of the homosexual movement, that, in fact, they do threaten and punish people who don't agree with them.


MARTIN: Charles, real quick, how do you build on the speech today? What is next?

MORAN: Well, what's next is continuing to take our message to small-town and mainstream America, taking the message out of some of the big cities and really showcasing that gay rights are equal rights, and that this is the future of America.

And really we have got the tide going for us. Just the other day, there was a "GQ" article from my elite -- obviously, the chairman of the Republican National Committee talking about how, you know, his decision to be black is just like having the decision to be gay.

At the end of the day, this is -- this argument that we're hearing over and over again about it's sexual behavior, sexual choice, it's not a choice. It's who we are. And all we're asking for is the government to stop providing some privileges to some and denying them to others.

MARTIN: Charles Moran, Wendy Wright, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a bunch. .

WRIGHT: Thank you.

MARTIN: Folks, the president's inauguration clearly helped shatter at least one racial barrier, but there's a major world forum on racism Monday that the White House doesn't appear to want anything to do with.

We will tell you why.


MARTIN: Why would the country's first black president consider skipping a world conference on racism? Could it be that some consider anti-Israel?

In this country, there are strong opinions on both sides. And we will have that debate up next.

Plus, Governor Sarah Palin has been through a lot in the public eye. But we will show you a side of her you haven't seen before.

And, yes, yes, we all know Ashton Kutcher won his battle of the Twitters with CNN.

But here's what I want to know. Do we care more about keeping up with celebrities than anything else going on in the world?

Call me right now and let me know what you think, 1-877-NO-BULL- 0. That's 1-877-662-8550. Or e-mail me,, and, yes, you can still find on Twitter or also on Facebook.


MARTIN: All right.

Tonight, folks, the president -- President Obama is meeting with Caribbean leaders at the Summit of the Americas. It's an important conference.

So, why would the administration be so skittish about attending another gathering on Monday being put together by the United Nations? It's called the Durban Review, following another forum in South Africa in 2001, and it's designed to help end racism.

But critics say it will be nothing more than a way of actually spreading hate and prejudice around the world. And, right now, it looks like the president and his team are sitting this one out.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here with a look at the controversy -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Roland, you might ask, why would President Obama skip, of all things, a conference on racism?

Well, supporters of the event say an international conference designed to address intolerance is a natural fit for President Obama. They say, with important Islamic countries there, this could be a great chance to engage the Muslim world on human rights. But Israel is the sticking point.

See, many of the countries participating in the conference equate support for Israel with racism. The U.S. walked out the last time this conference was held because our delegates felt there was too much U.S. and Israel bashing, with no similar criticism of human rights abuses in Islamic countries.

Now, the Obama administration says they still might send a delegate if the organizers make changes to some of the conference language, but so far, Roland, the administration has not gotten what it wanted.

MARTIN: Politically sticky, obviously, and so is the president in a no-win situation?

YELLIN: He really, really is. Now, on the one hand, this is the country's first African- American president. He says he wants to engage the world even in controversial situations. And not attending a racism conference, that might seem odd. On the other hand, President Obama worked very hard to win over skeptical Jewish voters. They're still waiting to see how strong his support for Israel will be.

And if he sends a delegate to the conference, he will anger Israel supporters. If he doesn't, he risks letting some African- American supporters feel he's taking them for granted, Roland, a really hard spot for a president who likes to please everyone.

MARTIN: And, of course, he got 96 percent of the black vote, and so that was his base going in.

Jessica, certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot. And we will see you a little bit later.

Folks, with me right now to discuss this from Washington is Nicole Lee. She's executive director of TransAfrica Forum, a group that focuses on U.S. foreign policy and advocates justice for the African world. She's among those hoping the Obama administration will attend the conference next week. And, in Los Angeles, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, he thinks the U.S. is making the right move by steering clear.

Nicole, I want to start with you.

Make the case. Why should the U.S. go to this conference?

NICOLE LEE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TRANSAFRICA FORUM: Well, Roland, this conference is tremendously important.

It is not just this conference, frankly, that has been a conference that has looked at racism, but this has been a series of conferences for a decade. Even starting with the apartheid regime and dealing with the apartheid regime, we had these world conferences against racism.

Now here we are, the first African-American president ever in the U.S., and the world, frankly, the entire world, is looking to the U.S. for leadership in this conference. And, unfortunately, we don't even have a U.S. delegation that's going.

Now, certainly, there's been criticisms and concerns, rightfully so, on things that have happened in at conferences in the past, but really the only antidote to that is engagement. The only antidote to that is leadership. And that's what we heard from the president just an hour ago at the Summit of the Americas, how important it is for the U.S. to engage.

And certainly on something like racism, which is not just a U.S. problem, but a global problem, it's absolutely vital that we are there.

MARTIN: Rabbi Cooper, you were at this conference in 2001. Now you're returning this year to monitor and protest. Why?

ABRAHAM COOPER, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: Roland, Durban is a dirty word when it comes to human rights.

I was personal one of the spokesman for the Jewish groups in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, spat at, threatened, shoved. America was correct to stay out. And we had at that time the first African- American secretary of state, Colin Powell.

So, the U.S. made a statement against racism by staying away. It's the right vision and the wrong venue. Who's running the show coming up next week? Iran, Cuba and Libya. So, it's the right move for the U.S. to engage in human rights, take the multilateral approach, but Durban is a fixed game. There's no reason to go over to the roulette table when you know you're going to lose at the end of the week.

MARTIN: But one of the points Nicole made was that you have to look at engagement. How can you talk about changing a system when frankly you're not there? They made efforts to try to get the language changed. And so is that not enough? Or should more be done on the part of those organizing the conference?

COOPER: No, it's not enough.

First of all, you have Tuesday, where the delegates probably will rise in silence on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, talking about six million dead Jews, and, Wednesday, embracing Ahmadinejad from Iran, who wants to get rid of six million live ones.

The other point is, this is not just about Israel. Where are the Tibetan monks? Where are the victims from Darfur who have been raped? Where are the North Korean escapees? Right now, at the U.N., human rights is broken.

And we're thrilled that we have a new vision, President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton -- that's an A-team -- to try to get the ball moving in the right direction.

But, as the United States showed with patience when it came to UNESCO, we stayed out of UNESCO for a decade until the right changes came about.

There's no rush. President Obama has got a lot on his plate, and there's nothing wrong with meeting with all parties quietly. But to walk into that hall is a wrong move.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANCHOR: Nicole, last March, President Obama addressed race in a powerful speech. But since then, it seems like he's avoiding the topic. Why do you think the president is so hesitant? And do you think that African-Americans again, minus the percent who voted for him, are going to be critical if he chooses to opt out of this conference?

NICOLE LEE, TRANSAFRICA FORUM: Well, I think that the conference really is important for two groups. It's certainly important to African-Americans because we all know there is still racism here in this country. And this has been an important platform for African- Americans to really talk to other minorities around the world about issues of race. But I think, just as important are the 150 million Afro descendents that are living in Latin America, most that are not living in the United States, and most that are really striving to have a voice in their own governance.

I think the world is looking to President Obama to really show leadership. And the truth of the matter is there is urgency around this issue. Racism certainly did not start yesterday, but there's so much we need to do to really combat it.

And the fact that the U.S. is not involved. I mean, Rabbi Cooper discussed Ahmadinejad and the fact that Iran is going to be at this conference. Well, Iran can only take center stage at a conference like this when we are not engaged. The fact that we are not engaged, frankly, is giving comfort to folks like that.

COOPER: Nicole, Nicole, Nicole -- with all due respect, I really have to tell you that at the first Durbin (ph) conference with 3,900 NGOs, most were from Africa, many from South America. None of them got heard because the human rights agenda was hijacked by Iran and other folks that refused (ph). And that's got to be fixed.


LEE: And that's exactly why -- and that's exactly why we need to make sure that does not happen this time.

COOPER: It won't be fixed as this Durbin (ph) meeting.


LEE: It's exactly important why we need to make sure that their voices are heard this time.

MARTIN: Nicole Lee, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, we appreciate it.

I will say this to you. I e-mailed the White House earlier and talked to an official and they said that it is fluid. They have not any made any final decision. So again, it begins on Monday and we'll certainly see what happens. Thanks to the both of you.

Folks, talk about your special deliveries. A Michigan man called 911 this week to say his wife was giving birth in a bathtub. All right. Nothing strange about that. Believe it or not, neither of them had any idea she was pregnant. Seriously. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, I'm looking at a baby.


911 OPERATOR: OK, she didn't know how far along she was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we didn't have a clue.

911 OPERATOR: OK. OK, help is on the way, OK?


MARTIN: Some in our staff say there's no way they didn't know. We have the unbelievable story in just three minutes.


MARTIN: I listened to that song for the last 48 hours, so we won't play a little bit more, Jessica.

All right, folks, tonight, we want to know what you think of CNN's Twitter war with Ashton Kutcher. I was just twittering a moment ago.

Now this whole thing just showed a celebrity trumps important stuff. Give us a call 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. But first, Jessica is back with "The Briefing."

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATL. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Roland. A Florida sheriff says it's an absolute miracle that only the pilot was killed when a small plane crashed into a house near Fort Lauderdale this morning. The house, which was empty, was nearly split in two by the crash. The 80-year-old pilot had reported mechanical problems shortly after takeoff.

Police in Rhode Island say they may be on the trail of a craigslist killer. A 26-year-old exotic dancer who had advertised massage services on craigslist was held at gun point in a hotel room last night. The assailant fled when the woman's husband returned to the room.

Earlier this week, another woman who was also advertising massage services on craigslist was shot and killed at a hotel in Boston. The suspect's description in both cases are similar.

Well, the spring snowstorm out west closed highways today in parts of Colorado and Wyoming. There are no reports of serious injuries, but more snow is on the way this weekend.

And, Roland, you know what, this is the 911 call you've got to hear to believe. A Michigan man called 911 yesterday in a panic.

MARTIN: Right, right.

YELLIN: He says his wife was giving birth in a bathtub but as you know...

MARTIN: I'm getting --

YELLIN: Here's the rub, neither the man nor his wife say they had any idea she was pregnant. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, I'm looking at a baby.


911 OPERATOR: OK, she didn't know how far along she was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we didn't have a clue.

911 OPERATOR: OK. OK, help is on the way, OK?


YELLIN: I just -- I don't know how you don't know. But --

MARTIN: This weekend I watched a TLC special, an hour show on people who didn't know they were pregnant.

YELLIN: I know. Only the men buy that.

MARTIN: Hey, I watched the whole show. My wife enjoyed it, too.

YELLIN: OK. I'm told they say both mother and baby are doing fine. It's good to know.

MARTIN: All right. OK, just checking. Jessica, thanks so much.

And folks, that 911 tape is so priceless if you go right now to, we posted a link where you can listen to the whole tape in its entirety. So, take a look at it.

Also, a lot of people had some fun with Governor Sarah Palin's comments about how close Russia is to Alaska. Well, it sounds like she wants the last word.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Yes, you can see Russia from Alaska.


MARTIN: Hey, Ali Velshi is up next. We're talking about a little business. But Ali, I just got a tweet from someone who said like hell she didn't know she was pregnant.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That one confuses me, too, Roland.

MARTIN: All right, folks, we have Ali Velshi here to help us all figure out the news from some of the country's banks today. Get this -- some banks that were desperate, I mean desperate for federal bailout money a short time ago, just so they wouldn't vaporize now seem positively eager to give that money back.

Ali, in a word, huh? VELSHI: Yes, good question. All right. So we have a lot of banks that went and took money because the government was giving money out under TARP. They were telling these banks take money. It was low interest. Relatively, they would loan it out.

Now what's happened is a lot of banks have figured out the world is not coming to an end or they figured out that if they take this government money, the restrictions that are imposed on them in terms of salaries and things like that are too onerous. So we've got a bunch of banks who are in the process of giving money back to the government.

Take a look. These are some of them. There are seven of them that we've confirmed so far, adding up to about $442 million. And there are others, but some of these small banks are actually doing OK. They're giving their money back to the government.

That's not the issue. The issue is the ones that got the big money from the government, the ones that really mattered to the system. And there are a bunch of them -- Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Bank of New York -- who are considering giving back these big amounts of money, could amount to $88 billion. Now, that puts money back in the government's pot so that if there are other banks that need money, the government can lend those out.

Why is that happening, Roland? Are these banks healthier than we thought they were? Did they not like the government restrictions?

We're not entirely sure. Some of these big banks had initially said they didn't actually want the money. They took it because the government insisted that all the big banks take it. In case some of them didn't take it, then others will look weak. We're looking at a lot of this money coming back. That can really only be seen as a good sign so I'm happy about that.

MARTIN: I'm going to insist you take money from me.

VELSHI: If you insist I take money from you, Roland, I will.

MARTIN: All right. Ali, thanks so much.

VELSHI: All right.

MARTIN: I appreciate it.

MARTIN: Hey, folks, "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up at the top of the hour.

Larry, you're talking to Mr. Demi Moore.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Yes, the battle continues, Roland. We've got some Friday show for you. The culmination of a crazy week on Twitter.

Ashton Kutcher is here. We'll talk about the contest that pitted us, CNN, against each other. Sean Combs is here, Jimmy Fallon, Ryan Seacrest. And if that's not enough, Susan Boyle is with us. She's, of course, the woman everyone in the world seems to be talking about. And for us she'll sing too.

All next on what promises to be a very entertaining hour. "Larry KING" Friday coming your way next -- Roland.

MARTIN: Hey, Larry, tell Diddy I'm weighing Sean John. Good to see you.

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, success in Indiana, but not so much in her own state. That's all coming out in the "Political Daily Briefing."

Also tonight, your thoughts on the great CNN-Ashton Kutcher showdown. Here's a voice mail we got from Will in Pennsylvania.

WILL, PENNSYLVANIA (via telephone): Just wanted to know if Ashton Kutcher is now the most trusted name in news? Just a thought.

MARTIN: No. Give me a call now. Let me know what you think. 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. You can e-mail me at Also, hit me on Twitter and find me on Facebook.


MARTIN: We have Mercy and Duffy there.

YELLIN: I like it.

MARTIN: All right, folks, high time for the "Political Daily Briefing" and the "PDB" starts tonight with another Governor Sarah Palin sighting?

YELLIN: That is right. She attended a dinner last night with 3,000 people turned to see her at a Right to Life fund-raiser in Indiana. The governor was making her first appearance at the Lower 48 this year, and the former vice presidential candidate was back.

She made a few jokes, took a few jabs at the president. She even got emotional when talking about the birth of her son Trig who has Down syndrome.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: I'll tell you the moment that he was born I knew for sure that my prayer was answered. And my heart overflowed with joy.


YELLIN: Now, she did add, as you heard that you can see Russia from Alaska.

MARTIN: Yes, but Gary Tuchman told us on one spot you can see in the whole state the top of a mountain. All right. Now, big change federal government when it comes to climate.

YELLIN: Absolutely. A big announcement today reversing years of Bush administration policy. The Environmental Protection Agency said today that greenhouse gas emissions do pose a danger to human health and that the science is "compelling and overwhelming" that manmade pollution is causing global warming.

This paves the way for government regulation of emissions. It's a huge victory for environmentalists and critics, they say it could lead to a regulatory mess that would cost companies and reduce America's global competitiveness. Now Congress still has a two-month window to pass emissions rules of their own before the EPA does theirs.

MARTIN: All right, Jessica. We all kind of love between the French president and President Obama. It sounds like somebody is talking some trash now.

YELLIN: Yes, it was a smackdown by Mr. Sarkozy. The French newspaper reports that at a private lunch this week, the French president took aim at several world leaders including President Obama who he reportedly called weak, inexperienced and uninformed on climate change. Not very diplomatic.

In another interview with another magazine, Sarkozy is quoted mocking Obama's superhero-like image, saying that when the president is next in France, "I am going to ask him to walk on the channel and he'll do it."

Sarkozy's people say the comments were taken out of context. A few more comments like that, Roland, I think freedom fries might be back on the menu.

MARTIN: Smart Alec.

All right. Jessica, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

How is this for a showdown? This network, CNN, the world source of news versus Ashton Kutcher or Mr. Demi Moore. The Web was the field of play, Twitter the weapon, and CNN, well, (INAUDIBLE) we simply were out of time. That's what we say in Texas A&M when we lose a football game.

Here's a tweet from "Uncertain_T." "We're a celeb culture but @aplusk didn't get followers just by being a celeb. He's also supporting a cause."

I was just tweetering that.

Shoot us your thoughts about all of this. Call 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550. Also, drop me an e-mail or find me on Twitter and Facebook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARTIN: Oh, you know, it's OK. Ashton Kutcher declares himself the winner in this race against the network's breaking news feed to be the first one with one million twitter followers. And he says this is David versus Goliath and shows how people want to get their information.

Is that really what it shows? Or does it just show that we live in all celebrity, all the time society? Case in point, watch this.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": Well, now, I joined Twitter. OK, everybody. Here's my first -- it's called a tweet.

OK. OK, here goes my first one. OK, here I go.

Ashton is next. I'm good.


WINFREY: I tweeted.


MARTIN: All right. Here with us to talk about all of this is VH1 news anchor Janelle Snowden and "People" magazine senior editor David Kaplan (ph).

Now, Janelle, I want to start with you. Look, we live in a celebrity world. Doesn't this simply just confirm what we always have known?

JANELLE SNOWDEN, VH1 NEWS ANCHOR: Totally. I mean, we are completely celebrity obsessed. We rely on celebrities not only to get us through our day to day lives in terms of, you know, break up. You look to maybe -- I don't know -- Jennifer Aniston, like how did she deal with her situation.

If you're trying to figure out what to wear, you look at the trendsetters -- Madonna, Rihanna, whoever. We rely on celebrities for just about every aspect of our lives. It's almost sickening, but it keeps us in business.

MARTIN: I understand. David, of course, your magazine owned by Time Warner as well, has a high circulation than Time or Newsweek. And so, when people talk about all the value news, come on, now, aren't they speaking with their pocketbooks?

DAVID KAPLAN (ph), SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: I mean, they are. And the thing is celebrities are news. So I almost think it's not necessarily the battle of celebrity or news.

Ashton Kutcher is news itself. He is getting his message out directly. It's unfiltered, it's uncensored, and it's under his terms. MARTIN: OK. Now here's the deal. He talked about, you know, this is how we're getting news. I'm sorry, you can't compare a pirates capturing a captain off the Somali coast and saying we're going to get a cup of coffee today and a doughnut. How is that news?

SNOWDEN: But you know sadly you'd be surprised how many teenagers and how many young people rely on Ashton to tell them what's going on in the world. Unfortunately, not everybody will understand it.

MARTIN: Oh, that's so scary.

SNOWDEN: It is. It's true though.

KAPLAN (ph): The news that he's saying is not the news you're speaking, of course. They always look to turning to him for global news.

Celebrities are news. So we need to go to Ashton's twitter, for example, Demi Moore, his partner was twittering. Oh, my daughter is going to Brown. So they're going to these celebrities twitter accounts to get news about the celebrities themselves. I don't think it's so much the news at large.

MARTIN: All right. Here's what he said -- he also said on Oprah today. Play this.


ASHTON KUTCHER, ACTOR: In some ways, this is a kind of a commentary on the state of media because I believe that we're out of place now with social media where one person's voice can be as powerful as an entire news network, an entire media network. And that's kind of -- that is the power of the social web.


MARTIN: All right. More powerful than an entire news network? Are you all buying that one?

KAPLAN (ph): No.

SNOWDEN: He does point in that he did beat you guys. However, I still think that, you know, we definitely should be looking to CNN to find out -- I mean, look at the times that we're in.

MARTIN: Right.

SNOWDEN: We're in an economic crisis, where people are losing their jobs, people are losing their homes. I don't know if I'm going to go to Ashton to get my knew news, but there are some people who will.

KAPLAN (ph): You know, I think Ashton has his personality. He just likes to challenge the establishment...

MARTIN: Right.

KAPLAN (ph): ... and that's his gig. And I really think mainstream news in no way is threatened by him.

MARTIN: All right. We got folks on the phone lines. And so they've been like holding for quite some time, so we want to go right to them.

All right, now, let's go to Courtney in -- OK, they tell me we're not going to go to Courtney first. Courtney, you've got to wait.

Let's go to Jasmine. She's calling from Brooklyn. Jasmine, you've got about 20 seconds. What's your comment?

JASMINE, BROOKLYN (via telephone): Hi. I think that Ashton's point really goes beyond celebrity versus news. I think the point that he's trying to make is pretty important. It's that each individual does have the opportunity to touch someone else and make a difference in someone else's life in an instant. And I think -- I think that, you know, I was a little hesitant as well, but I think it is good to embrace that and encourage people to reach out to each other.

MARTIN: You're right. Great point, Jasmine. I certainly appreciate it. Thanks so very much.

Let's go to Kiara (ph) calling from Shawneetown (ph). Kiara, how are you doing.

KIARA (ph), SHAWNEETOWN (ph) (via telephone): Hi, Roland.

MARTIN: What's your comment?

KIARA: I just want to say, Roland, that I think it's time we send a message to these celebrities that most of the intellectual people do not get their news from Ashton Kutcher. And we want to hear about real news, what's going on in the world? We don't want to hear about Ashton. We shouldn't accept these challenges that they throw out there. Celebrities and CNN news correspondents, there's such a distinction. We need to send a message to people.

MARTIN: All right. Great point, we appreciate it. Thank you so very much.

Right now, we want to go to some tweets here. First off, silvermoonraven says, "This whole idea of the 'race to one million' is lame. We are celebrity obsessed and need to focus on something more important.

Cody from Redlands, California tweets from Jericho -- actually, Cody is on the phone but here's the tweets from Jericho of Vermont.

"Ashton Kutcher and CNN are patriots for supplying mosquito nets on malaria day and realizing the power of one on

Before I go to the phone lines, David, Janelle, what about that in terms of your time, this whole issue also to a good cause like supplying nets?

KAPLAN (ph): I mean that's admirable, and I think that's why Ashton Kutcher gets away being so vocal and almost coming across arrogance to some people is because that's what celebrities do. They do something good natured and people are like all right, we'll give him a break.

MARTIN: Janelle, it could also drop somebody else to give nets as well, and sort of spoil that on.

SNOWDEN: Absolutely. It could and not to be a cynic, but hey, let's look at it. Ashton hasn't had a movie in quite some time. So if nothing else, he's making news and that we're talking about him on CNN. He's beaten Larry King and I think Twitter is now become a way for celebrities who aren't always in the spotlight to get their spotlight everyday. You know, for those that don't have projects all the time...

MARTIN: Right.

SNOWDEN: ... this is a way that they can remain relevant.

MARTIN: All right. And get paid for it.

Let's go to the phone lines. Cody calling from California. Cody, what's your comment?

CODY, CALIFORNIA (via telephone): Hey, Roland, it's great to be on with you. You know, I think I'm really proud of Ashton because I feel that this Twitter battle has challenged people to take a stake and participate in the news and make it what they want to be instead of simply passively participating.

I think news is definitely more important than celebrity, but in this case he's used his celebrity power to do a great thing. So I want to congratulate both Ashton and CNN for this because I think it's fantastic.

MARTIN: All right. We certainly appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Janelle, David, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Folks, in just a couple of minutes, Larry King is going to talk to Ashton Kutcher. Our cookie (ph) calling Mr. Demi Moore, as well as YouTube sensation Susan Boyle.

Don't go away. I'll be right back.


MARTIN: Hi, folks. I'm very excited about a new project we're calling class project. Kind of (INAUDIBLE).

Upload your videos to and we want to use your videos to show everyone what's working and what's not and help find solutions when it comes to education. Hey, we're out of time. Thanks to everyone with your calls, e- mails, tweets and everything. Your voices are important and we love hearing from you. Have a great weekend. I'll see you on Monday.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.