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CNN NEWSROOM

Newtown Parents to Visit Senators; GOP Divided on Blocking Gun Vote; Kelly's and Giffords' Gun Control Fight; Missing Children May Be in Cuba; Japan Installs Missile Defenses; Spring Storm Brings Intense Weather; Eight-Year Car Loans Getting Popular; Wildfire Chases 160 Families From Homes; Reuters: U.S. OK'd Beyonce Cuba Trip; Professors Want Rutgers President to Leave

Aired April 9, 2013 - 10:00   ET

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


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CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to go, sir. You have to go. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to go. Please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: The Rutgers community unloads on their president as the school's fired athletic director gets a million-dollar settlement.

Plus eight years to pay off that new ride? Yes. The brand new eight year car loan.

And the Navy has a new weapon, lasers that can obliterate drones.

Plus.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I want a player who's got the guts not to fight back.

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COSTELLO: Changing history. Jackie Robinson's story opens in theaters this woke and Robinson's kids share memories of their father.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(MUSIC) COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me. We begin this hour with what could be an emotional crescendo in the nation's debate over gun control. Beginning today, these people will knock on lawmakers' doors on Capitol Hill and share their heart break.

Each lost a loved one at Sandy Hook Elementary and they'll call on senators who have not yet committed to tougher gun laws driving home the week long blitz launched by President Obama.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. It's about them and all the families going forward, so we can prevent this from happening again. That's what it's about.

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COSTELLO: We're covering all the angles of the Obama offensive. Dan Lothian is in Washington. Dana Bash, of course, covers Capitol Hill. So I want to go to you first, Dan. How important is it for these families to be part of this campaign?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for many of them, it is very important. We heard from one mother yesterday and this is a really a healing process. There's a great loss that they're dealing with.

But at the same time, something that helps them through this is knowing that their child did not die in vain and so they're hopeful that they can be part of this overall process. As you pointed out, the president putting pressure on members of Congress in order to embrace, move forward on some of these gun policies, these gun proposals.

But the thing about it is it is somewhat of an uphill battle and it's not everything that the president initially set out to do after the shootings. Remember, the president wanted that ban on assault weapons. He wanted the universal background checks.

Now we're talking about limited background checks if in fact this moves forward, but nonetheless, the president hoping that these family members can help to put some pressure on Congress so they can take some action. Take a listen to what the president had to say yesterday.

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PRESIDENT OBAMA: We have to tell Congress it's time to require a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun so that people who are dangerous to themselves and others cannot get their hands on a gun. Let's make that happen.

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LOTHIAN: Of course, there continues to be that resistance from lawmakers, also from gun rights groups. Fourteen or so Republican lawmakers saying that they plan to filibuster or block any vote on these gun control measures.

Their big concerns are what this could mean to their second amendment rights, but nonetheless, the president and other members of his administration pushing very hard. The vice president today will be holding meetings at the White House.

The attorney general will be there saying that it's time to deliver on the promise that these lawmakers made in order that another mass shooting like this doesn't happen again -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, let's talk about those filibuster loving Republicans with Dana Bash. She is our chief congressional correspondent. So Dana, these 14 Republicans, they don't want a gun bill to reach the Senate floor. They don't want to debate this issue at all. What's going on here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's going on is that the people, the Republicans who signed the letter to the Democratic Leader Harry Reid simply do not believe that any new gun measures are needed.

At least that's their initial point of view. I will say that whether or not they're going to follow through on their decision to filibuster or not even as you said, allow a vote to come to the floor is really going to depend largely on what is going on behind the scenes with two very key senators, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Those are two senators who are very much in favor of gun rights, but are working towards some kind of compromise with regard to background checks. It would not be universal background checks. It would just be to expand to gun shows and to internet sales.

My understanding is that those two senators are coming back today and they are going to meet and we are going to have a better idea whether they can get a deal and that will determine whether or not those senators you just put up on the screen will back down and allow something that is a lot less stringent so to speak than what they're filibustering right now.

COSTELLO: Do you think Gabby Giffords -- and I know you talked with Gabby Giffords and her husband. They are also pushing for some sort of gun control legislation. Will they call these Republican senators and say, look, loosen up? At least let us debate the issue. At least let us have a national conversation on the floor of the Senate?

BASH: They have been. You know, I spent two days with Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly in Arizona late last week, and that's exactly what they're doing. They, of course, have a new organization where they are pushing for more gun restrictions. When it comes to background checks, they seem to be willing to take baby steps just as the White House is. But we should remember that it has been more than two years now since Giffords was shot in the head. She's doing extremely well, Carol.

I can report that to you first hand. But the brain injuries from being shot make speaking very difficult. She has become an active spokeswoman, as I said, for new gun restrictions. But the irony is that she hasn't lost her appreciation for gun culture. It's something that I saw with her and her husband at home in Arizona.

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BASH (voice-over): Target practice is still a form of entertainment at Giffords' mother's house, deep in the Arizona desert.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's aiming for my pot. Whoa.

BASH: Husband, Mark Kelly, using planting pots and water bottles as targets, while Giffords watches from the patio with her mother, cheering him on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent! Excellent.

BASH: Kelly isn't shooting with just any kind of gun.

MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: This is the same kind of gun Gabby was shot with. A Glock, a 9-millimeter Glock, but in that case it had a magazine that held 33 rounds. This when it's full holds 17. He shot 33 rounds. Every round hit somebody, we think.

BASH (on camera): How long have you had this gun?

KELLY: Well, I gave this to Gabby as a gift.

BASH: When?

KELLY: A number of years ago. She's a gun owner. You know, she's from the west.

BASH (voice-over): Still, we asked the question a lot of incredulous people seeing this scene would ask.

(on camera): Really? This guy sort of still has -- gets his kicks or recreation for him is shooting a gun, after his wife was shot through the head?

KELLY: Well, Gabby used to like shooting a gun, too, occasionally.

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BASH: Giffords and Kelly told me that it's because of their appreciation for guns and the culture that they are both so familiar with that they have credibility in this fight that they are waging to expand background checks to private sales, which again, they are actively doing every day, lobbying Giffords' former colleagues to support some kind of background checks.

Carol, we're going to have a lot more on her recovery and her bone chilling experience coming face-to-face with her shooter. That's all going to be tonight. Tune in to "AC 360."

COSTELLO: I'll be there. Dana Bash, Dan Lothian, thank so much for being with me this morning. We are committed to stay on this story and all day tomorrow CNN is going in depth and exploring the issue of background checks.

It's called "Guns Under Fire," a CNN special report. We'll debut new polling, explore the politics of background checks and follow the money trail both sides of the issue. That's all day tomorrow on CNN.

A search for two little boys turns its focus to Cuba. Officials now believe 2-and 4-year-old brothers kidnapped from their grandmother's home in Florida may now be in Cuba with their parents.

Joshua and Sharyn Hakken lost custody of their boys last year and then their parental rights a week ago. Florida authorities said the family may have fled in a sailboat. The State Department official tells CNN U.S. officials in Cuba are aware of the situation.

But a congresswoman in Florida who is born in Havana doesn't think Cuban authorities will help bring those boys home.

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REPRESENTATIVE ILIANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Unfortunately, those parents and those poor children, those innocent ones will now be in a country where there are no laws. There is no redress and where it has been a refuge for fugitives and for wanted criminals for many years.

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COSTELLO: Victor Blackwell is in Tampa with more on this story. Why Cuba?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this, up to this point there had been no mention of Cuba. These are not Cuban-Americans. There is no clear connection to Cuba. The first sign that the deputies here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, that Cuba could be involved is when they received information that the family had arrived in Cuba.

They're not elaborating on who offered that information or what that specific information was. It's also important to say that Cuban officials say they are not aware of this and the U.S. has not asked them for any information.

We also want to say that a U.S. official says here in the U.S. says that U.S. officials in Havana are aware and are involved. But there's one other element, this father, Joshua Hakken, is described by law enforcement as having antigovernment views. And it's very likely that if he indeed planned this and is in Cuba that he knows that extraditions between the U.S. and Cuba are inconsistent and unpredictable. Sometimes fugitives in Cuba are extradited back to the U.S.

The FBI estimates that there are about 70 who are there now. Some have been there for decades and are not being extradited back to the U.S. The same goes for the U.S. in extraditing fugitives to Cuba. So if this was a plan to take his children and take them to a place where no one could take them from him then Cuba would be a place that would make sense -- Carol.

COSTELLO: From that standpoint, I totally get it, but going to a communist -- well, OK. That aside, why did these parents lose custody of their kids?

BLACKWELL: Well, for that we've got to go to Slidell, Louisiana, June, 2012. That's when police in that city say that they went to a hotel room and there were Joshua Hakken, Sharyn Hakken, the parents, the two boys, Chase and Cole, but also inside that hotel room, guns, drugs, alcohol.

Not just those elements, but they say that Joshua Hakken was erratic and he said that they were on a journey to the end, a journey to Armageddon. And because of that erratic behavior, these confusing statements, they then took the children and placed them into foster care.

Then two weeks after that in Hammond, Louisiana, we're told that Joshua Hakken showed up at the foster home with the gun, trying to take the children. He faces charges for those two incidents.

And now this list is growing here in Florida for the accused kidnapping and false imprisonment of his mother-in-law and then taking those children and running off. We're still waiting to find out, hopefully find out today if Sharyn Hakken, the mother here, is also being charged those charges, if they exist, have not yet been released. We're asking those questions, hoping to get the answer soon -- Carol.

COSTELLO: What a strange, strange story. Victor Blackwell is reporting live from Tampa this morning.

Other top stories for you at 11 minutes past the hour, fears of military action rumbling across the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

Japan is now bracing for the possibility of a North Korean missile test by setting up patriot missile batteries in and around Tokyo. South Korea has predicted a launch could come as soon as tomorrow. In the meantime, North Korea is warning visitors to South Korea to take action just in case war breaks out.

Parts of the west are bracing for more intense weather today. Here you see some of the hail that's already rained down on Kansas. You can hear it as it hits the ground, nasty. In Colorado storm chasers capture what appeared to be a possible tornado touching down last night. Right now, snow is falling. Parts of the state could see blizzard conditions. Before the day is done, Denver could see up to a foot of snow. Schools are closed. More than 400 flights have been canceled.

Margaret Thatcher's funeral will be next Wednesday in St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Buckingham Palace's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip do plan to be there. Britain's only female prime minister will have a ceremonial funeral with military honors.

If you are in the market for a brand new car, you may be thinking about a two-year, three-year, maybe even a five-year loan to pay off that car, but eight years, an eight-year car loan?

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'd like to call to it the forever loan. It goes on and on and on.

COSTELLO: Yes, just like a house.

KOSIK: Exactly. So the reason people are taking out these long car loans is because you get a lower monthly payment. But these are so long that the lengths are at record highs, 65 months, 65-month car payments. That's about 5.5 years.

Not to be outdone, of course, the most popular is the 61 to 72-month car loan. Another 17 percent of people, they take out car loans up to 84 months or seven years. and the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that some even hit eight years.

What winds up happening though, Carol, is it winds up costing people more in the long run because those loans, you know, they typically go on and on forever and they come with the higher interest rate. But once again it also means a lower monthly payment.

And that's generally attractive for people who have bad credit. So as a result of that, guess what? Subprime borrowing is back. It's growing. Loans to prime borrowers, meaning people with good credit, those loans are actually down.

So this is a trend that we're seeing, these longer terms, looser credit. That's good for banks. It helps to attract borrowers, but it's also a sign of an improving economy. So that's good too, but there is a caveat here.

There really needs to be a medium ground when it comes to credit. Kind of like it goldilocks. You don't want it too tight, too loose, too much free and easy money. Who can forget that led to the housing bust -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, who could forget? Unbelievable. Alison Kosik live from the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks.

Coming up next in the NEWSROOM, the Rutgers president under fire, calls for him to lose his job, and a community meeting, let's just say he wasn't the most popular person there.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a town hall meeting. We have been waiting for 25 minutes to have a chance to speak to you.

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COSTELLO: So, will the president of Rutgers step down? We'll talk.

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COSTELLO: It's 18 minutes past the hour, time to check our top stories. A wildfire forces people to flee their homes near Los Angeles. The fire has already burned at least 170 acres in Ventura County. Four hundred firefighters are trying to contain the blaze. No injuries reported. Two structures have been damaged though. The "L.A. Times" reports the fire started after a power line came down in strong winds.

Beyonce and Jay-Z are back from the Caribbean, but still taking heat for their trip to Cuba. The communist nation remains off limits for Americans looking for a tropical vacation. The Reuters news agency cites an unidentified source that claims the U.S. Treasury Department actually did OK the couple's trip. The Treasury Department says the couple did not violate the U.S. trade embargo and was fully approved for their visit as a cultural visit.

"The Bible" now the top selling TV miniseries of all time. The History Channel docu-drama sold 525,000 home video copies in the first week. It also makes it the best selling TV show on DVD in past five years.

The Rutgers University scandal has a group of faculty members calling for the school's president to step down. You remember Head Basketball Coach Mike Rice now out of a job after this video surfaced of Rice physically and verbally abusing his players.

Last hour I talked to a history professor who wants the president out.

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PROF. BERYL SATTER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: The reason it was allowed to continue was because President Barchi allowed it to. It was his job to say this coach must go, but he didn't.

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COSTELLO: There are a lot of faculty at Rutgers who think that way and it made for a very heated town hall meeting with the president. Pamela Brown was there.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to go, sir. Sir, you have to go. Please. PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was anything, but a warm reception for Rutgers University President Robert Barchi as he faced students, faculty and staff for the first time since the release of this video originally obtained by ESPN, showing former Head Basketball Coach Mike Rice beating and berating his players with slurs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a complete lack of transparency in your administration.

BROWN: The controversy took center stage in a town hall that was meant to focus on planning for Rutgers' future. Attendees held signs like "give Barchi the boot" and confronted him with tough questions about what he knew and when.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has been done since then to change the climate and culture? Because what I see from what happened in December, nothing was done. In fact, it was covered up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to tell you that I'm not covering up for anybody.

BROWN: Adding fuel to the fire, both former Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and Mike Rice will receive payouts of more than $1 million each according to these settlement contracts obtained by CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you pay the next basketball coach half of what you pay now, Mr. President, please. You have to do something about these inequalities. You have to.

BROWN: Some students feel there's a double standard when it comes to academics versus athletics.

JANNEL VARONN, RUTGERS STUDENT: They would have been fired right away, because I mean, I feel like a coach is more needed than a teacher.

BROWN (on camera): That's what this whole controversy has made you feel?

VARONN: Yes.

BROWN (voice-over): New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is standing behind Barchi, but offered this pointed opinion when asked about the former coach.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What parent would let this animal back into their living room to try to recruit their son?

BROWN: Moving forward, Barchi has ordered all practice tapes from all Rutgers teams to be reviewed and he's ordered an independent review of how the university handled the situation. Pamela Brown, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO: Our Talk Back question for you this morning, should Republicans allow a vote up or down on gun control. Facebook.com/CarolCNN or tweet me @CarolCNN.

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COSTELLO: Now is your chance to Talk Back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, should Republicans allow a vote up or down on gun control?

Make that 14. Mitch McConnell, the powerful Senate minority leader just boarded the filibuster bus along with 13 other Republicans who have absolutely no interest in allowing any gun bill to hit the Senate floor. If it does, they'll pull a Rand Paul.

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SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes.

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COSTELLO: That he did. Paul filibustered like a champ and he got what he wanted, information on drones. This time it's a little different. Republicans, including Paul have vowed to filibuster away any debate on guns as in we don't want to talk about guns period.

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and vote and let the people know where we stand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you'd encourage Republicans not to filibuster.

MCCAIN: I would not only encourage it. I don't understand it. What are we afraid of.

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COSTELLO: Former Republican presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani, Republican Peter King and the president surrounded by stunned Newtown families wondered the same thing.

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OBAMA: I know that some of these proposals inspire more debate than others. But each of them has the support of the majority of the American people. All of them are common sense. All of them deserve a vote.

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COSTELLO: If you're looking for an answer from those 14 filibuster- loving Republicans, they say it's simple. The second amendment trumps debate, compromise even an up or down vote. Talk Back question for you today, should Republicans allow a vote up or down on gun control. Facebook.com/CarolCNN or tweet me @CarolCNN.

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