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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Blizzard Targets Northeast; Christmas Tornado Hits Alabama; Back To Tackle Fiscal Cliff; Holiday Storms Hammer South, Midwest; Bush Senior Remains Hospitalized; President Obama Thanks Marines; Rihanna And Chris Brown Courtside; 2013 Top Movie Picks

Aired December 26, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Drew Griffin.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Alina Cho. Soledad has the day off today. Our top story, tornadoes, blizzards for millions of people in the south and Midwest. Christmas Day brought nothing but chaos and there is plenty more to come.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My God, we need to go. It's right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: A lot of damage reported overnight in places like Mobile, Alabama and a tower cam video from CNN affiliate, WALA, capturing a twister blowing transformers and knocking out power to 25,000 customers.

And throughout the Midwest, another holiday headache, snow, and lots of it, up to a foot of it in some places, and parts of the northeast could be facing blizzard conditions today.

GRIFFIN: Guess what? This may be just the beginning of a mess, heavy snow, driving winds, expecting to create blizzard conditions today in Ohio, Pennsylvania, parts of New Jersey. We've already seen snow as far south as Texas. Meteorologist, Bonnie Schneider, tracking the system for us -- Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Drew, it's interesting to note that the snow that occurred is so unusual that it shattered a record, I'm not just talking about a record for a few years. You see here how we have in Little Rock, Arkansas, nine inches of snow on the ground on Christmas Day.

That hasn't happened in 86 years so huge records. Highly unusual to see this much snow as far south as Texas and Oklahoma and Arkansas on Christmas Day. That's exactly what we've seen here going forward. So it's important to note that it's not over yet. We're going to see more snow and possibly more records. It's snowing right now across Indiana, much of Southern Illinois and even Western Tennessee. Memphis, are you getting some snow. In terms of heavy snow, though, not too much for Memphis, the heaviest won't be too much further north.

Drive a few hours up I-55 at Cape Girardeau, and that's where you are likely to see a foot. Southern Ohio, stretching all the way to Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, all looking at snow for today and tonight and then heavy snow in the north east, and interior New England where we could see up to a foot.

We're not out of the way here for the threat for strong thunderstorms. Even though there is a lot of colder air from the south. Look at the squall line of strong storms, frequent lightning stretching across the panhandle of Florida. The biggest threat for tornadoes today will be extreme eastern North and South Carolina.

Including Wilmington, Myrtle Beach, this is where we could see damaging winds and possible tornadoes so it's a big day for severe weather again, but in a smaller area. It is so cold. The temperatures have been in the single digits and even below zero this morning with blizzard conditions.

I want to take a look at highs today, and even though you see highs in Minneapolis at 19 degrees, Kansas City at 28, note that the morning temperatures much colder than that and throughout the day it will be colder. Dallas saw a big temperature drop as well. Today's high is 36 degrees.

Just yesterday, we had temperatures in the 70s along the gulf coast so 20 degrees cooler today for New Orleans. It will stay warm down in South Florida, the front not making it through there.

But again, keep in mind that when you see temperatures this cold in Oklahoma and Arkansas, that snow will stick and with so much of the on the ground and so much of it still falling, it's really going to make for troublesome travel throughout the day.

So it's something we're monitoring very, very closely. We'll continue to here in the CNN Weather Center -- Drew.

CHO: Yes, as you know, there was a 21-car pileup in Oklahoma City yesterday so it's already causing some big problems. Meanwhile, Bonnie, I want you to take a look at video that we got in of a wedge tornado seeing ripping through Mobile, Alabama.

I want to take a look at another view, as a car race away from the storm. The people who captured this on camera were actually on their way to their family Christmas celebration.

GRIFFIN: Yes, David Saraceno was driving, his wife shooting the video and David joins us on the phone this morning from Fair Hope, Alabama. David, take it you are not a storm chaser. You probably were going to use that camera to shoot people opening up gifts instead of a tornado?

DAVID SARACENO, WIFE SHOT VIDEO OF MOBILE TORNADO (via telephone): Yes, sir. That's correct.

GRIFFIN: What was going through your mind when you decided, number one, look at that tornado and number two, honey, get out the camera?

SARACENO: Before we had actually hit that area, I told my wife, on the way over, any storms hitting our area, to go ahead and keep the camera handy, and videotape them, see if anything happens.

CHO: Did you at any point, think if you knew that storms were headed your way, maybe we ought to stay home? I know we need to get to grandmother's house, but maybe we should delay it a bit?

SARACENO: Yes, we actually thought about not going at all and spoke with family and said if we didn't feel comfortable, just stay at home. And we've seen a break in between the storms and attempt to make it over there. Didn't actually realize how severe it was going to end up being, and we tried to head that way.

GRIFFIN: When you guys were -- we're seeing the video now. I don't know if you can see it. It seems like are you going parallel with the tornado. Did you feel at any time this was going toward you?

SARACENO: Yes, sir. We were heading north bound on I-165 that's when the tornado formed to our left side and we proceeded ahead to I-65 northbound, and you could see the tornado coming toward us at our left probably about two miles.

We kept going to decided at that point we were going to get off at the next exit and head back home, and when we did, it was actually a large circle and we came back through, and headed south, back toward Fairhope.

When we came back through town, I guess you could say the back roads, that's when we ran into the devastation where the tornado seemed to have went across the interstate and went through Pritchard, Alabama.

CHO: David, the video is so ominous. You can just see this enormous funnel cloud, and it appears you're fairly close to it. How scared were you as you were driving alongside it?

SARACENO: We were absolutely terrified at that point. Toward the end of the video when it cut off, I could see up ahead of me, the clouds looked like they were forming a tornado. And I just kind of, you know, decided that we were going to get out of there very quickly as possible.

And, you know, me and my wife, we were shaking to death. We were scared. We had our 1-year-old daughter with us in the car, so it was really a tough thing to see coming toward us.

GRIFFIN: Well, David, we're certainly glad that you your family are well and OK. We do hope that things go well in putting those damaged homes back together and damaged lives back together. David, thank you for sharing the video. Thank you so much and Merry Christmas to and you your family.

SARACENO: Thank you, you as well.

CHO: President Obama cutting vacation short, heading back to Washington to tackle the fiscal cliff today. He will get to D.C. just as the House and Senate are expected to reconvene tomorrow.

But there's not much time left for a notoriously slow-moving Washington to get something done. Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, following all the drama from Honolulu, Hawaii. She's there with the president. Hi, Brianna. Good morning. So what is the latest?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alina, President Obama is now officially cutting short his Christmas vacation. He'll be heading back from Hawaii. Tonight, Hawaiian time, early in the morning on the east coast and he'll be returning to the D.C. area on Thursday.

As the Senate is set to reconvene and all eyes really are looking there to see what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can cobble together in order to get Republican support to avoid the fiscal cliff. Of course, he'll also have to put together something that will get Republican support in the House.

So you can see this is a last-ditch effort and it's going to be obviously very difficult if it succeeds at all. At this point, the White House still wants that threshold for income tax rates to be at $250,000. It's unclear, though, exactly what the Senate proposal is going to look like.

As we understand from sources, Alina, it could be a couple of days, even though they are reconvening tomorrow, Thursday. It could be a couple of days before they actually outline the proposal.

We're told by sources that they are waiting not only to get Republican support in the Senate, but also to build some pressure in the House. If they move the deadline as close -- if they sort of move their timeline from unveiling a proposal as close to the New Year as possible.

It increases pressure on the House and, of course, if the House doesn't take up the bill, you can see that we're already sort of setting the scene for the blame game. Democrats would point the finger at Republicans for going over the fiscal cliff.

CHO: That's been going on for a while as you well know, Brianna, and as the president cuts his vacation short, we know what that means, you are cutting your working vacation short. So I hope you enjoyed the rest of your time in Hawaii as much as you can.

KEILAR: I'll be back soon to see you.

GRIFFIN: Listening to those beautiful waves behind Brianna.

CHO: Brianna, thank you.

GRIFFIN: Well, from Brianna to Rihanna, ahead on STARTING POINT. Rihanna and Chris Brown, see what looks like more proof these two are back together again.

CHO: A story Drew has been following very, very closely. You're watching STARTING POINT back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: It's 42 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date on this morning's top stories. Tornadoes tearing up parts of the south overnight, three deaths are now being blamed on the storms, and hundreds of thousands are still in the dark, 186,000 people are without power in Arkansas alone. More than 27,000 without power in Alabama and thousands in the dark in Mississippi and Louisiana as well.

And a devastating snowstorm is crippling parts of the Midwest. (Inaudible) look there at Seymour, Indiana, the snow was coming down pretty hard earlier. It's lightened up a bit, but they are going to get quite a lot of snow in that area. Blizzard conditions are also in the forecast today for Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Some places could see a foot of snow or more.

GRIFFIN: George H.W. Bush, forced to spend Christmas Day in a Houston hospital. His wife, Barbara, and other relatives were at his side and we're told the former president was treated to a special holiday meal.

He is 88 years old. He has been in the hospital for more than a month now with a lingering cough. Doctors remain cautiously optimistic as they say for a full recovery for the former president.

Before heading back to D.C., to try to head off the fiscal cliff, President Obama along with the first lady, Michelle Obama, kept up a Christmas tradition they have, which is visiting Marines at their base in Hawaii, thanking them for their service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The greatest honor I have as president is being commander in chief and the reason it's an honor is because not only do we have the finest military in the world, but we also have the finest fighting men and women in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Mrs. Obama and their daughters will not be cutting their vacation short. They will stay in Hawaii.

CHO: Good for them.

L.A. has the best record in the NBA. No, not the Lakers, the Clippers! Look at Billy Crystal. The Clippers won their franchise record. He's court side a lot apparently, a record 14th game in a row on Christmas night. Beating the Nuggets by a score of 112-100 and they are 22-6 on the year.

Now earlier in the day, in the very same building, the L.A. Lakers beat the Knicks, winning their fifth game in a row, and look who is court side, take a look. Rihanna, Chris Brown, together. You know, the guy who beat her up in his car the night before the 2009 Grammys? Brown actually pleaded guilty to assault after that. He is it still on probation.

GRIFFIN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, what could be the sure fire movie blockbuster of next year, Leonardo DiCaprio in a classic remake with a modern twist. We're looking at that and more of the big releases to come in 2013.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: One more week to the you New Year and if you've already caught up on the 2012 news, get ready for the 2013's new releases.

CHO: That's right. Expect movies with big special effects and lots of zombies, aliens and parasites. That's not your cup of tea? How about a famous love story in 3D?

Chris Farley is the senior editor of "Speakeasy" that's the "Wall Street Journal's" cultural web site and the editorial director for WSJ blogs. He is here with us with his 2013 movie picks. Good morning, Chris. Nice to see you.

CHRIS FARLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, "SPEAKEASY": Happy holidays.

CHO: Listen, let's talk about the one movie on the list that I really want to see, "The Great Gatsby."

FARLEY: "The Great Gatsby," Baz Luhrmann, the guy behind "Moulin Rouge." He is now turning his attention to the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. It has Leonardo DiCaprio. It's the jazz age and age of hip- hop, Kanye West music over the scenes from the jazz age, the scenes from "The Great Gatsby." So it will be interesting to see if this style really works, but certainly one of the more anticipated movies of next year.

CHO: Beautifully shot. A classic sort of --

FARLEY: It looks like it will pull you in. We will have to see if to see if all this really works.

GRIFFIN: I wouldn't think that would be a blockbuster type of movie with a lot of special effects and stuff that draws the really huge numbers, right?

FARLEY: Yes, well, a movie like that, if it gets really good reviews, given that it has Leonardo DiCaprio. It has people like Kerry Mulligan who is a star that has a lot of critical acclaim. All of the things could combine to some major Box Office next year. But, again, you have to see it first and see what it all works.

CHO: You know, I have seen the trailer for "World War Z" it looks pretty good.

FARLEY: You have Brad Pitt, in peril, a lot of special effects. Again, one of the movies people are looking for to seeing. It's based on a book and the book was much acclaimed because it's a book that sort of tells the story of these zombie wars.

But tells it as an oral history as if it really happened so this movie is going to draw on some of the acclaim of the book and hopefully get a larger mainstream audience because of it.

GRIFFIN: Do we want to show a clip of this? Let's look at it right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terry, what is this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is worldwide. There's no one doing better than we are. We don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I'm scared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do we know they're coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: It looks good.

GRIFFIN: That's what I'm talking about, right, guys? Mowing down the zombies on the bridge, like it.

CHO: I saw the trailer in the movie theater and people were jumping out of their seats.

FARLEY: It's great.

CHO: It's a thriller.

FARLEY: And "The Walking Dead" they're walking, not that they're moving too quickly. These are the sprinting dead, they're fast and that's scary. You got to avoid these things.

GRIFFIN: "The Host."

FARLEY: Based on a Stephanie Meyer book, the woman behind the "Twilight" series, she wrote a book for adults and adapted it to the movies and we'll see if she can get audiences beyond the "Twilight" audiences.

But still it's for adults, it's about aliens that take over human beings, but it's told from the perspective of one of the aliens who has taken over a human being.

CHO: I'm surprised about this when I read this, I thought I was reading it incorrectly but there's actually going to be another "Hobbit" film? FARLEY: Two more. You can't get enough of "The Hobbit." So next year, we'll see "The Hobbit, The Desolation Of Smog" and after that, the year after, we'll see yet another "Hobbit" movie, it will be a "Hobbit" trilogy.

CHO: Peter Jackson is just really, really churning them out.

FARLEY: Will Tolkien wrote a lot of books and Peter Jackson is a big Tolkien fan. He is turning them out one after another. There's some debate in the Tolkien community wonder if there's too much "Hobbit."

I mean, the book "The Hobbit" is a small children's book. He stretched it out to three movies, which are all really long. I don't know if you saw the first one, but --

CHO: Three movies that will make a lot of money.

FARLEY: The first is almost three hours long so he's got two more to go.

GRIFFIN: Were they all shot at the same time like other movies?

FARLEY: They were all pretty much shot at the same time. There's still some work to do on the other two post production stuff, but Peter Jackson has the last "Hobbit" movie and second pretty much all done on his computer. Just doing post production stuff on it.

CHO: And he is shooting it in his native New Zealand.

FARLEY: So it's really a boon to the New Zealand economy.

CHO: What a beautiful setting. Meanwhile, there's going to be a "Star Trek" film coming out?

FARLEY: Why not? The first "Star Trek" movie was rebooted by J.J. Abrams, people thought he couldn't do it, casting younger actors in some of these iconic roles as Shatner and Kirk and Spock.

He's got younger guys playing those roles and it was a huge hit, coming down with original story "Star Trek: Into Darkness." We'll see whether he can do it again and continue to sort of establish this old franchise with new faces.

GRIFFIN: Any sleepers that are not on the list that you're looking forward to seeing?

FARLEY: I'm looking forward to "Old Boy," a spike lee adaptation of a South Korean thriller, which is based on a Japanese manga so that seems a little bit out of left field, but this is a well-respected South Korean film, a manga from Japan, a lot of boys are into.

GRIFFIN: What is the storyline?

FARLEY: It's a thriller. It's about a guy who is trapped in a hotel room for like 15 years and afterwards, he is given a few days to figure out why he was trapped in the hotel room or he will be killed. So it's a psychological thriller, it's very strange, it's different, and spike lee had a huge hit with "Inside Man" so he knows how to do thrillers. This could be a big hit for him. We have to wait and see.

CHO: For people like me still catching up on the movies of 2012, if you had to pick the top five say that you should try to see not before the end of the year, but maybe before the end of January, before the Oscars, what should you try to see?

FARLEY: Well, I think you should definitely go see "The Sessions." It's a Helen Hunt movie and it's a little bit controversial. There's a lot of nudity in it, but it's a very touching film about a man who is sort of, he can barely move, and he wants to sort of experience sexual relations for the first time.

And enter Helen Hunt and it's in her role in the film is much buzzed about and I think it is worth seeing, I'd say "Les Mis," Hugh Jackman does a terrific job in the film. Those are the two main films I'd go out and see before the Oscars begin handing out awards next year.

CHO: Also on my list "Lincoln." "Argo" I've seen, and "Silver Linings Playbook."

FARLEY: It's worth seeing, an interesting storyline, two people who really are facing some emotional and psychological difficulties who come together and find some romance.

CHO: Great casts, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

FARLEY: And Jennifer Lawrence, of course.

CHO: All right, Chris Farley, thank you so much.

GRIFFIN: Thanks for coming in and reminding me that I haven't seen any movie this is year, but I will. Thanks, appreciate it.

FARLEY: Thank you.

CHO: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, free condoms for high schoolers? That's right. The city of Philadelphia says it's to help avoid a health crisis, but is it just promoting sex? We're going to talk to one of the people behind the plan.

GRIFFIN: And a dual storm danger the day after Christmas now the continued threat of tornadoes in the south, dozens spotted yesterday.

CHO: Plus blizzard warnings to the north. The snow is already coming down hard in some spots. We are tracking the storms for you and that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Severe storm threat turns deadly, the risk of more tornadoes and a blizzard across a big chunk of the country today.

CHO: Chilling words left behind in a note. What detectives are learning about the sniper who set a deadly trap for firefighters.

GRIFFIN: And vacation over, President Obama cuts his trip to Hawaii short, but is there enough time to find a fiscal cliff compromise with Republicans or will your taxes go up? On that note, good morning. I'm Drew Griffin.

CHO: The question everyone wants answered. Good morning, everybody. Glad you're with us. I'm Alina Cho. Soledad is off today. It's Wednesday, December 26th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

It's 8:00 in the east, our STARTING POINT, a Christmas to forget for millions of Americans in the south and Midwest, battling blizzard conditions and tornadoes.