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Six Teens Killed in Ohio Crash; Samsung to Unveil Galaxy S4; Creating Power out of Junk; Interview with William Kamkwamba and Ben Nabors

Aired March 11, 2013 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: In Warren, Ohio, a community reeling after a tragic accident. Six teenagers died when their SUV veered off a road, flipped over and rolled into a pond. Eight had crammed into a vehicle that only seats five. Some had seat belts on. Police say the car was speeding down a two-lane road and then this.


LT. BRIAN HOLT, OHIO STATE PATROL: As far as the vehicle's concerned, our preliminary investigation shows that none of the occupants of the vehicle had expressed permission to be in possession of the vehicle. However, no reports have been filed or anything of that nature at this time.


COSTELLO: Brian Todd is in Warren, Ohio, outside of Cleveland where a news conference has just wrapped up. What can you tell us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we do have some new information about how the two survivors were able to make it out of the submerged vehicle. You did hear the account about whether they had permission to be in the vehicle. That's another point of interest here but some dramatic new information about how the two survivors got out, the two survivors identified as Brian Henry, he's 18 years old and Asher Louis, 15 years old.

This is what Lt. Brian Holt of the Ohio State Patrol had to say about how those two young men got out of the vehicle after it flip over up and was hanging upside down in the water and it was submerged.


HOLT: I know that they were able to get to the rear of the vehicle in some fashion. They were able to break one of the windows. They swam out of the vehicle and surfaced. And to my understanding they ran approximately a quarter mile to a residence where they called 911.


Todd: And shortly after that, divers were on the scene, first responders were on the scene; they got there very quickly. They pulled five victims out of the vehicle. One of the deceased victims had been ejected from the vehicle. They recovered the body of that victim a little bit later on.

And they are telling us just now that the first responders themselves have been shaken by the experience. Carol, some of them were pretty new to the job. One other point of interest here, the toxicology tests have not come back yet. They are still doing those tests and they cannot determine right now whether alcohol or drugs were involved in this accident.

COSTELLO: Any idea yet who that SUV belonged to and where the kids took it from?

TODD: We do know who it belongs to. It's a gentleman named Marquis Stevenson. He lives in Youngstown, Ohio. And I specifically asked the officials at the news conference did he have any relationship to any of the occupants of the vehicle. He does not have the same last name as any of them.

The police -- the state patrolman told me that he does not have any relationship to them. They are still trying to determine how they came to be in Mr. Stevenson's vehicle. They are not quite sure of that yet, Carol. That's going to be something that just about everyone is going to want to know.

COSTELLO: Brian Todd reporting live from Warren, Ohio this morning.

Our "Talk Back" question today, will the Obama charm offensive work? Your responses and our panel discussion is coming up next.


COSTELLO: All right. Our "Talk Back" question today, "Will the Obama charm offensive work?" President Obama is pouring on the charm with Congressional Republicans, trying to improve relations after those forced spending cuts went into effect, but some aren't buying it.

One congressman even introduced a bill banning the President from using federal funds to pay for his golf games until the White House tours resume for tourists. One-time Republican New York -- one-time Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says quality time on the golf course and at its dinner could actually soothe tensions in Washington.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: I find it fascinating people criticize him for taking people to dinner. He should be doing that every night. They criticized him from going and playing golf with people who he's got to deal with. He should be doing that every weekend. You always can work better with somebody that you have a chance to build a social relationship with.


COSTELLO: Joining us to discuss, CNN political contributor Donna Brazile, CNN contributor and senior writer for ESPN, L.Z. Granderson and CNN contributor, an analyst for "The Blaze" Will Cain. Welcome to all of you.




COSTELLO: I guess -- I guess my first question is, when did the White House tour become this important cultural iconic sort of thing that if you -- if you cancel the White House tours, it's like oh, my God. When did that happen, Will Cain?

CAIN: Well, it's symptomatic. The point is, is it an evidence of grand standing of the whole Washington monumenting, we talked about that during the sequester battle. Is it an example of the President using a high-profile thing to show, hey, these cuts hurt? These Republicans attempt to convince you. These Republicans forced these cuts, see how terrible this is?

And that by the way, Carol, brings up the sincerity of this charm offensive. That's the whole point. Is the charm offensive seriously working towards a goal both parties want to achieve and that is a big, grand deficit reduction. That's the question.

COSTELLO: So -- so Donna is cancelling the White House tours, is that grand standing on the President's part?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, Carol, this city attracts more than 20 million visitors each year. Washington, D.C. is a tourist hub and the sequester will impact, not just White House tours, capitol tours, tours to other important monuments and -- and -- and it will also impact people who live in this region. So I think it's very serious in the hype.

Look, when President Obama was sworn in the first time, Kevin McCarthy, who was on CNN yesterday, the whip, said in a private meeting that we got to make sure this president failed. Every -- and it's in Robert Draper's book, we have to challenge in him on every piece of legislation.

President Obama is trying to find common sense solutions so that we can get this country moving again. And he's going to work with Republicans, he's going to identify them, whether Senator Kirk in Illinois on gun control, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator McCain on immigration reform.

His issue right now is to just find people who -- who are willing to work on behalf of the American people and not their partisan interests.

COSTELLO: So a lot of our viewers are writing on Facebook and they are tweeting me saying you know, charm offensive, it's kind of -- it's too late. It's too late for charm to work on Republicans.

This is from Peter. "He says, Democrats can't resist saying that Republicans are the ones responsible for the impasse, even as they try to charm."

L.Z., how charming is that?

GRANDERSON: Well here's the thing, right, is that when you look at who the American people put all this blame on in terms of where we are with the economy, by and large the American people still put the blame solely on the Republican Party. The President's approval rating remains two and a half to three times higher than that of Congress.


COSTELLO: But it dipped too L.Z., the President's approval rating has dipped, too.

GRANDERSON: I'm sorry. It's dipped, but it still remains significantly higher than Republican members of Congress and part of that is because the President has done a very good job of wanting to control the message. But then also, too, the fact that his policies are more in line with what the American people want and his tone in addressing those issues is what the Americans want to hear.

So in terms to this whole idea of like charm offensive, the Republicans in Congress really need the President to reach out to them more because he's the one that's actually carrying a lot more of the approval than the Republicans are. They are not coming from a power of strength, they are coming from a position of weakness.


CAIN: So listen Carol the issue is sincerity. That's it. So listen in Donna's answer to you, she assigned to the President some very laudable motives, some motives to actually reach some compromise, but as your Facebook poster just pointed out, it seems to be a long time in coming. It has been a long time. Why is it just now, five years into his presidency that you're significantly reaching out to Republicans? And the question then becomes sincerity.

Donna points out the Republicans want to fight President Obama. Well we know this, the White House has said they want to destroy Republicans and take back the House. They want Nancy Pelosi back in charge of the House of Representatives.

So the question is, when President Obama meets with these guys over dinner or he meets this week with Republicans, is he truly trying to achieve the thing Donna suggests and that is a bill everyone can agree on, or is he setting himself up to look like the good guy with the media so he can then win the midterms?


BRAZILE: Will --

COSTELLO: And Donna -- Donna I think --

GRANDERSON: Will -- Will --

COSTELLO: I think Will has a point here.

GRANDERSON: Will that is absolutely ridiculous.

COSTELLO: I think Will has a point here, because the President took his act on the road, right and that really wasn't working for him. Now he's doing this charm offensive hoping that you know voters might latch on to this and think better of his efforts with Republicans.

BRAZILE: Well, let me, first of all, say that President Obama's not only trying to woo Republicans, but he's also trying to woo Democrats, as well. He's meeting with both caucuses and both chambers this week. So he's talking to Democrats and Republicans.

The most important thing is that he's listening. He's listening to their ideas. He's saying, look, just -- let's stop thinking about the last election and the upcoming election. Let's focus on how we can restore economic growth, let's focus on these common sense issues that we have before us, gun safety laws, immigration reform. Let's fix our ailing economy so that people can get back to work.

And if you want to assign blame, fine. But right now the American people just want these guys and gals to get together and work on behalf of their constituents.

COSTELLO: You know L.Z., I hear Donna, but I really don't think the American people are paying much attention because they've lost it -- they've lost faith in our politicians. They are like, whatever.

BRAZILE: Right. That's true.

GRANDERSON: Well -- I think the difficulty in this is, one, the Republicans have been basically had their entire policies on the notion that the President's policy is hurting the economy. And every single time that they hear a positive job report, which we did last week, it makes the message more and more null and void.

And in terms of, again, going back to what Will was saying, you know it's five years and coming. The truth of the matter is that the President came into this position reaching out. His cabinet reached out across both parties. His approach towards the health care reform initially reached across both parties. And it wasn't until it was very clear to the administration the Republicans sole purpose was to defeat him and he became more partisan. So this has not been something he's been the hope for five years, this is a scenario that the Republicans started. And once the Tea Party came into power in 2010, it was accelerated.

So hopefully now that we're in 2013 and that we're into the second administration, that we can begin to heal some of those wounds that was initially created by the Republican Party, not this President.


COSTELLO: I got to wrap this up. I got to wrap this I'll buy some big old band aids to heal those wounds. L.Z. Granderson, Will Cain, Donna Brazile, thanks so much folks. CAIN: Thank you.

BRAZILE: Oh Carol you need to make some gumbo.

GRANDERSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: That would work much. Thanks to all of you.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still ahead in the NEWSROOM the world's largest maker of cell phones is about to join in on a new trend. We'll take a look at Samsung's big news.


COSTELLO: 46 minutes past the hour.

It's time to check our top stories. Venezuelans will go to the polls April 14th to elect a new president to replace Hugo Chavez. Candidates include Vice President Nicolas Maduro who is on the left of your screen. Maduro is the interim president. The opposition leader Enrique Capriles will also be on the ballot. He lost to Chavez in October.

Japan remembers the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit two years ago today. Memorial services included a moment of silence in Tokyo. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered massive waves and floods that wrecked Japan's northeast coast, killed more than 15,000 people.

Actress Valerie Harper is living with the knowledge she's dying at 73. The woman who made her name on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and then on her own show "Rhoda" has terminal brain cancer, but she told "Today" she's not giving up.


VALERIE HARPER, ACTRESS: First I saw, oh, my God, three months to live. It's not the whole truth. Yes, that may be, but it could be six. It could be five years. You know, you just don't know. The thing I have is very rare, and it's serious, and it's incurable so far. I'm holding on to the so far, but I'm also quite ready to say bye-bye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ever scared?

HARPER: Sure. Yes. And I'm scared for my family. I think of, you know, not going to Christina's wedding, but maybe I will.


COSTELLO: Maybe she will. You wouldn't expect anything less of Valerie Harper, right? She doesn't give up. Prayers are in order. Here's to you, Valerie. Samsung, the largest smart phone vendor in the world is expected to unveil its Galaxy S4 any day now. And experts say Samsung will likely continue a trend towards bigger smart phones, not smaller. Alison Kosik is live at the New York Stock Exchange. It's right, why change? It's working.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

You know Samsung's actually taken a page from Apple, Carol, in how it unveils its new device expected to be announced Thursday. This is of course in Apple form, but this is Samsung, of course. It's the worst- kept secret with all these rumors coming out about the potential features of this new Samsung device, including a five-inch screen. That's two-tenths of an inch bigger than the S3 and a full inch bigger than the iPhone 5.

Now Samsung is continuing to move into the fab-let market. That's phone so big they're almost a tablet or vice versa. Another feature rumored to be included in the S4, something called "eye scrolling". And that means the phone senses the users' eye movement. Let's say you're reading an article on, your eyes reach the bottom of the screen, the phone would automatically continue to scroll down for you.

Expectations are high for this one and it's going to be coming out right before the rumored iPhone 5 is going to be coming out and right around the time Blackberry 10 goes on sale. So if you're in the market for a new phone, you'll have lots of choices -- Carol.

COSTELLO: That should be quite the battle, too.


COSTELLO: Alison Kosik live at the New York Stock Exchange.

An inspirational story getting a lot of attention at the South by Southwest festival. A teenager builds his very own windmill out of junk parts and is now the focus of a fascinating new documentary. You'll meet him next.


COSTELLO: The South by Southwest festival is more than a showcase of technology, it's a showcase of life and how we can overcome any obstacle, including the struggle for electricity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kid has a chance. He has a chance to escape from poverty and to make a difference.


COSTELLO: The documentary "William and the Windmill" is being played at South by Southwest. It's based on a bestselling book about a teenager who builds his very own windmill in Malawi. It's the story of William Kamkwamba. He joins us now along with Ben Nabors, the film's director and producer. Welcome to you both.


WILLIAM KAMKWAMBA: Thank you. Thank you, welcome.

COSTELLO: So happy to have you here.

William, I want to start with you, because you have such an incredible story and it's certainly changed your life. Tell me first, I mean you're sitting in Malawi. One day you decide my village needs electricity so I'll build a windmill?

KAMKWAMBA: Yes, so what happened with that, when I was young, when I was 14 years, I dropped out of school because of my parents couldn't afford to pay for my school fees. I was forced to drop out of school. When I dropped, I went to the library to continue reading. I was thinking to keep up with my school work. And that's when I found the book which had the picture of the windmill.

So, when I saw the pictures of the windmill, I thought that I can be able to make mine so that I can be able to generate electricity and also pump water. That's what attracted my attention to build the windmill.

COSTELLO: What did you build the windmill out of?

KAMKWAMBA: I used bicycle parts and also tractor parts. Using the scrap materials that I found at the junk yard, which was just next to my high school.

COSTELLO: That's just incredible. So, Ben, what struck you about William's story?

NABORS: I was originally drawn to the imagination, I think, of William's invention. He did this when he was 14. I met him much later. I was attracted to the imagination, but also the transitions I knew that would happen in his life. And since his invention, William's life has completely transformed. That's really been the focus of the story and made for a great documentary.

COSTELLO: So William, tell us how your life as transformed since the book came out.

KAMKWAMBA: So, my life has transformed a lot. There's so many, like, changes. Because of my story, I've been able to go back to school. I'm in college right now, I'm a junior, I'm graduating next year. And (inaudible) different areas like learning how other people are doing different things in other parts of the world. It's beautiful for me. Yes.

COSTELLO: And Ben, what should people take from William's story?

NABORS: Well, I think there's a lot to learn from William's story, actually. One, it's incredibly inspiring, but the way the film functions, we really look at, I guess, what happens after a great success, the long tail of success. And that's what I hope people take from the film.

COSTELLO: Well, it looks like a terrific documentary. Thanks to both of you for appearing with us this morning. William Kamkwamba and Ben Nabors.

NABORS: Thanks for having us.

KAMKWAMBA: Thank you for having us.

COSTELLO: We were delighted.

We'll be back in a minute.


COSTELLO: I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me today and please, continue the conversation on Facebook, or tweet me @carolcnn.

NEWSROOM continues now with Ashleigh Banfield.