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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Pope Benedict XVI to Resign on February 28; Tornado Leaves Line of Destruction in Mississippi; Blizzard Moves off, Cleanup Begins; President Obama to Award a Hero; $1 Million Reward Offered in Dorner Case

Aired February 11, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


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SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, we begin with breaking news. Pope Benedict XVI has resigned. He is going to step down in 17 days. He would be the first Pope to resign since the 1400s. We'll have developments on this story.

Also this morning, a line of destruction as a tornado rips through parts of southern Mississippi, destroying homes, injuring more than a dozen people. We'll have a live report on the damage and the cleanup ahead.

And then, here in the Northeast, millions of people digging out after a history-making blizzard. The dangers have not passed. We have live team coverage for you this morning with everything you need to know.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Meanwhile, a $1 million reward. Police searching high and low for the man accused of killing three people, including a police officer. How close are authorities to catching Christopher Dorner?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You might not even know they're there. They could cost you big time. Mistakes on your credit report that could have life-changing effects. That's coming up.

O'BRIEN: It's Monday, February 11th -- and STARTING POINT begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

We begin with breaking news. Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. The Vatican has released a statement indicating age and fatigue as some of the reasons behind his resignation.

Here's a little bit of what they say in that statement. Quote, "Both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I've had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me." Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York reacted to the news just moments ago on the "Today Show". Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: You can verify that I was startled.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Yes, exactly.

DOLAN: In fact, I was joined here and Greg Burke (ph), and old friend from St. Louis, by the way, my home town, settling all in (ph), because I'm as startled as the rest of you, and I'm as anxious to find out exactly what's going on. So, apparently, it is confirmed. When you called first, Matt, when you and I both chuckled and thought this might be another rumor. But it's sure enough confirmed.

So, I find myself eager for some news. I find myself itching to read the statement in Latin. I hope you can translate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Of course, exactly what's going on is that the resignation will take place on February 28th, which means in 17 days. They will be in the position of picking a new Pope. Last time, a Pope resigned was about 600 years ago. That was Gregory XII. That happened back in 1415.

We want to begin this morning with Nic Robinson. He's live in London.

It's interesting to hear when a cardinal is surprised and is saying he'd like to understand what's going on. It makes me feel this has really become a surprise not just to those of us who follow the Catholic Church or who are Catholic and follow it through our churches, but really the people who are closest to the Pope.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really does show how carefully the Vatican has decided to release this information and kept it under very, very close hold. The details that we are learning, because of the Pope's health, because he needs to be sound in mind and body and doesn't feel his measure to that task.

We've heard the Vatican spokesman outlining how this has all been done within the law of the church itself, how the Pope has done this willingly after deep reflection and examination of his conscience, realizing that he is no longer capable of doing it.

But, yes, it has taken everyone by surprise. We know the Pope will step down on the 28th. But 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, he will step down, 28th of February. We will go into the papal summer residence outside of Rome. Following that, he will move back to the cloisters of the Vatican.

And the process, once he steps down, at the conclave of cardinals gathering, about 120 all under the age of 80, to choose the next Pope. So, it's all -- it's a shock and a surprise, but the system is in place to move the process forward, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson for us this morning -- thank you, Nic.

I want to get right to Archbishop Thomas Wenski. He's the archbishop of the diocese of Miami. He was appointed by the Pope Benedict back in April of 2010.

Nice to have you joining us here by phone.

So, we know, of course, that a Pope can resign, Code of Canon Law back in 1917 said as much. But does this come as much of a surprise to you as it did to Cardinal Dolan, who we just heard from a moment ago?

ARCHBISHOP THOMAS WENSKI, ARCHBISHOP OF MIAMI (via telephone): Yes, I was surprised to hear the news. I'm not sure if I should have been surprised because it's well-known that at the end of Pope John Paul II's reign as Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger had intended to retire from his position there as the head of the holy office and live in Germany with his brother and continue his works of scholarship.

So he didn't go into the conclave expecting to be elected Pope. He accepted it as the will of God, the will as expressed through the will of the cardinals that elected him, and he is given remarkable service in these past several years since he took over from John Paul II. I saw him in May when I visited Rome for our (INAUDIBLE) visit, a visit that the bishops are required to make to Rome every five years to give an accounting of how we're running our local churches.

And he was alert but certainly very frail. I remember earlier, when I came to Miami, I asked my priest to retire from my parish. He was 80 something years old. And when I asked him, I told him I wanted him to retire, and he looked at and he said, did I do something wrong? I said, no, Father, but 83 is 83.

And, of course, the Pope is I believe 85 years old, and 85 is 85. You can imagine that, you know, at that age, the rigors of the office, of running a universal church is indeed very pressing.

O'BRIEN: One would imagine. At the same time, really, the precedent would tell you that they don't retire. You die in office, frankly. We know that John Paul II had prepared twice to resign but never actually came --

WENSKI: This is not the first time the Pope has resigned. First time in about 400 years, but the church is an institution that dates back to the time of St. Peter, who was the first Pope, and in those 2,000 years of history, there have been occasions that Popes have indeed resigned for various reasons, and, of course, the Code of Canon Law, as you pointed out, has put into place provisions to anticipate such an eventuality.

O'BRIEN: Who do you think would be sort of top people who would be in the running to be the next Pope? And what does that tell us about the direction the church could go?

WENSKI: Well, it's hard to speculate. There's an old saying in Rome that a cardinal that goes into a conclave as a Pope usually come out of the conclave as just a cardinal. It's really difficult to speculate.

But there are about 120 cardinals, and certainly one of them will emerge as the next Pope. Even in that case, the cardinals are not obliged to select another cardinal as Pope. They could choose another bishop, but that would certainly be unprecedented as well. So, we would expect that one of the cardinals going into the conclave will emerge as Pope.

And again, I think they're going to be looking for a person that has some linguistic abilities as did Pope Benedict and John Paul II before him. They'll be looking for somebody that would have the ability to travel because that seems to be the new requirement of the papacy in the modern age.

Again, the Pope is scheduled to go to Rio de Janeiro this summer for World Youth Day, and I'm expecting the next Pope will go. We just don't know the name of that Pope as yet.

O'BRIEN: Interesting to watch as it happens. Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, joining us this morning -- thank you, sir. We appreciate your time this morning.

There are other stories making news we need to get to as well.

Several neighborhoods in Mississippi now are picking up the pieces literally after a violent tornado ripped through the town of Hattiesburg. That's about 70 miles north of Jackson. Storm chasers there shot these pictures.

Look at that. Well, obviously, a large funnel cloud moving.

Multiple buildings around the town have been damaged. At least a dozen of people are injured. University of Southern Mississippi campus was hit.

I want to get right to CNN's Victor Blackwell. He's live for us in Hattiesburg.

So, describe for us how bad it was and how bad it is. We can see a little bit behind you of some of that damage.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'll describe for you how bad it was as you take a look at how bad this building is.

First, this is the Ogletree House on the campus of University of Southern Mississippi. It started out 100 years ago as the home of the president of the college. Now, it's the alumni association's homes. You see piles of bricks here, and some parts of this building still intact. Chairs, tables, degrees hanging on the walls.

And d to talk about how bad it was, when it came through early Sunday evening, it's described as being 3/4 of a mile wide just charging through this town. We've spoken with the cops here who've been kind of touring this area. A few miles away, there's the Oak Grove High School. There's damage there. So, this stayed in town and on the ground for some time.

As it relates to injuries, we're told there were no injuries on campus. But about 60 injury reports from hospitals. Only 10 of the people's injuries were severe enough to be transported. Power outages at the height were at 13,000. Now down to about 4,000.

Homes damaged, buildings damaged here on campus. But we can tell you that students are not in class today or tomorrow. They're in New Orleans, most of them, for Mardi Gras -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. We're watching that as they face a big cleanup ahead of them. Thanks for the update. We appreciate it.

Northeast, of course, only just beginning to dig out from the weekend's history-making blizzard. Possibility, though, of another big headache today. Parts of the region, including parts of Connecticut, are now bracing for freezing rain.

The blizzard dumped 40 inches of snow in Hamden, Connecticut. Many roads are blocked in New York after crews worked through the night clearing snow. The governor announced the Long Island Expressway has been reopened. That, of course, is the main way to New York City from Long Island. Hundreds of cars ended up stuck on the LIE over the weekend.

Alison Kosik in Ronkonkoma, New York, out of Long Island. George Howell is in Hamden Connecticut.

So, George, let's begin with you. Forty inches, wow.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Soledad, 40 inches of snow, 27 degrees right now here in Hamden, Connecticut. And we're getting this freezing rain, the sleet that's making the snow hard as a rock.

To give you perspective, look at this. You know, I'm standing on about 15 feet of snow. You find these big mounds all over Hamden as crews do their best to clear the roads.

When we're talking about the roads, I want to show you what's happening. Many of the roads have been cleared, but the mayor here in Hamden said of about 240 miles of roads in the city, 50 percent are impassable.

Now, the highways are mostly clear. The side roads in the city are mainly clear. But when you get into the different neighborhoods, that's where you find a lot of the unplowed roads, people who have been stuck in their homes now for 72 hours.

And we found this interesting -- how emergency crews have been responding to calls for help during the last few hours. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had to walk here, use basically foot power. Park the truck as close as we can and get guys together. We jerry- rigged a sled to actually pull people out. So, we're going in there, sometimes up to a mile down these streets that aren't plowed, putting people on a sled, and dragging them out to an ambulance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And in some cases, we even learned that they used the payloaders and put patients in the scoop of the payloaders to get them out of the heavy snow, over to the fire trucks, where they could rush them to area hospitals.

So, it's been complicated doing that job. And again, the morning commute, Soledad, will be rough. We're talking about the freezing rain, the sleet, 27 degrees, and out here.

I mean, you don't have to be a professional to moonwalk. There's a lot of black ice out here. A dicey commute this morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. It just -- wow. It looks terrible, and the rain hasn't even started that they're expecting.

George Howell for us -- thanks, George.

Let's get right to Alison Kosik. As we said, she is in Ronkonkoma, Long Island.

I know that they just opened up the LIE, which is going to be a big help to folks, but still how messy is it?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very messy. The rain obviously not helping.

You know this, living in and around New York City, Soledad, you know, on an average day, commuting can be a real headache. Throw in the fact that the major highway here partially was shut down, that becomes a migraine.

But yes, some good news for commuters this morning, both the east and westbound sides of LIE have reopened from the portion that was shut over the past 12 to 15 hours.

You know, that's if you can get to the highway. A lot of these side streets here have yet to be really plowed. I've watched a lot of cars get stuck right on this road, just trying to get to the highway. That's another issue here, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it looks like a big mess out there. That's a major route, of course, to get into the city. So, as Monday morning commute starts, that's going to be a real challenge for some folks.

Alison Kosik for us -- thanks, Alison.

Another slippery threat in the East and the South and not out of the danger zone yet as well. Alexandra Steele is tracking some threats for us this morning.

What are you looking at, Alexandra? ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're looking at a little bit of everything. Here's Hamden, where George was. There was the freezing rain falling. Where Alison was on Long Island, here's the rain coming down. That's because of the temperature split.

For the most part, this will all move through, through the afternoon, and temperatures, even in Connecticut, will warm up. So, we will see a change over to rain. Where it will stay all snow, though, is Vermont and New Hampshire, northern New England, but it will through this afternoon.

The bigger trouble, what's happening here, of course, with that tornado we saw yesterday. Today, the threat in the South isn't so much rotation with these storms. It's more the heavy rain and the flooding rain. So, you can see this rain train on I-10, I-20, and some very strong storms and a lot of lightning, but not that rotation.

So, we're lower risk of tornadoes today, but very heavy rain. Between yesterday and Wednesday when the system finally moves out, a potential for three to five inches of rain, even isolated six inches or so. So, bigger threat today, the rain, the inundation of rain in the Southeast -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Alexandra, thank you for watching it for us.

Other stories making news and John has got that. Good morning again.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

Thousands of people expected at Cowboy Stadium today for Chris Kyle's memorial service. Kyle is the former Navy SEAL sniper shot and killed nine days ago at a shooting range in Texas. A friend was also killed in that incident. Police arrested and charged a 25-year-old ex- Marine. Tomorrow, there'll be a 200-mile funeral procession to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

President Obama today will award the Medal of Honor to a hero of the Afghanistan war. Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha helped rescue the injured and retrieved the dead during an ambush by hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. This is despite having a hole in his own arm from a rocket propelled grenade. He will also be Mrs. Obama's guest tomorrow at the State of the Union address.

Three people filming a new reality show for the Discovery Channel died Sunday when their helicopter crashed near Los Angeles. Right now, federal investigators don't know what went wrong. The pilot, a cameraman, and a cast member were killed. Discovery said the show is still in production and has a military theme.

So, "Argo" now is, really, the pretty clear front-runner heading into the Oscars. The film continued its awards season domination, this time, at Britain's Oscars, the BAFTA Awards, winning three trophies, including Best Picture and Best Director for Ben Affleck, not even nominated for a Best Director Oscar. Meanwhile, "Lincoln" had ten nominations but took home just one BAFTA for Daniel Day-Lewis -- O'BRIEN: Don't you just feel great if you're Ben Affleck? You have to be like, and I'd like to accept this other award, hmm, because I didn't get nominated --

BERMAN: Every (INAUDIBLE) will like the Nobel Prize for directing but not the Oscar.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I want to thank the committee for the Pulitzer.

All right. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, much more on the breaking news that we've been following all morning. The Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. It will happen right at the end of the month. We'll tell you what that means for the Catholic Church and what it means for choosing the next Pope.

And then, a manhunt for a man accused of killing three people in California. How close are they to catching Christopher Dorner, a former cop? We'll have live report up next.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Some big developments to share with you this morning and the manhunt for Christopher Dorner that's taking place in Southern California. A $1 million reward is now being offer to anyone who provides information that leads to Dorner's capture and conviction. Dorner is accused of killing three people, including a police officer.

Despite his pledge to wage warfare against members of the LAPD and their families, the mayor of Los Angeles issued a stern message to Dorner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: And let me be clear. Our dedication to catching this killer remains steadfast. Our confidence that we will bring him to justice is unshaken. This search is not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. And I want Christopher Dorner to know that. We will not tolerate this reign of terror that has robbed us of the peace of mind that residents of Southern California deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Nick Valencia is in Los Angeles for us this morning. Let's start with the very latest on the search for Dorner. Do they feel like they're getting closer?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Soledad. We're entering day five here in the manhunt for this renegade ex-cop, Chris Dorner, and there have been no new leads. He's accused, as you mentioned, of killing three people as well in his vendetta against his former police department. You mentioned this million dollar reward, well, that was pulled together by businesses, private donors, and community groups. It is the largest offer ever in a criminal investigation in Southern California. And yesterday, in a news conference, LAPD chief, Charlie Beck, explained why they're offering so much money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT: $1 million. This is the largest local reward ever offered to our knowledge. Some may ask why so large. This is an act and make no mistake about it of domestic terrorism. This is a man who has targeted those that we entrust to protect the public.

His actions cannot go unanswered. A society is defined by what it values, and we value our law enforcement family. That's why the reward is so significant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: I spoke to the LAPD this morning, Soledad, and they told me there've been hundreds of tips to come in since that reward went public. The latest being yesterday afternoon at a Lowe's home improvement store in Northridge. Police cleared the scene there, but they didn't find anything -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, is there any indication that this $1 million reward, which as they say, is the most massive local reward ever offered, is going to lead to information? I mean, do they feel that there's some people who are just not giving information and that money could motivate them?

VALENCIA: Well, there's concern among the police department. We've been in touch with them and talking to dozens of police officers over the last couple of days, and a fear, though, is that there's been empathizers that come out. One of the police officers we spoke to a few days ago, we talked to him about safety concerns, and they were saying the thing that concerns them the most is the empathizers that have come out, the support that's come out for Chris Dorner online.

Having said that, there have been thousands of alleged sightings of Chris Dorner in the last week. And again, nothing has come up, so far, and we're entering day five here. And police still have no new leads or developments. They had focused that search about 90 miles east of here, Soledad, in Big Bear Mountain, but they have not come up with anything yet.

O'BRIEN: We'll continue to watch it. Nick Valencia for us. Thanks. Appreciate the update. John's got a look at some of the other stories making news this morning.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Soledad.

A Carnival cruise ship is stranded right now in the Gulf of Mexico. A fire broke out over the weekend in the engine on the Carnival ship, Triumph, as it was on its way to Galveston, Texas. The incident left the ship really just dead in the water. More than 4,200 passengers and are crew on board the liner. There are no reports of injuries. Another ship is expected to meet up with the Triumph this morning and tow the stranded ship to port in Mexico. It's expected to arrive there on Wednesday.

The late Joe Paterno's family claiming he bears no blame in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case. Penn State's report last year concluded Paterno failed to stop his former assistant's crimes. The Paternos' own review of that report now claims it was based on speculation and opinion, not fact.

Paterno's widow, Sue, talked about this with Katie Couric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUE PATERNO, WIDOW OF JOE PATERNO: It is still hard to accept, but when I read the first charge, I actually got physically ill and couldn't read any more for a couple of days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Former FBI director Louis Freeh led Penn State's investigation. He says he stands by that report, and that the Paterno family's own review is what he calls self-serving.

The president's point man on tougher gun laws in Philadelphia today selling that message. Vice President Biden will meet with police officials and lawmakers in Philadelphia. The White House wants more police support for his gun proposals. President Obama expected to give some details on this tomorrow in his State of the Union address.

So, the greatest dog show on earth, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, starts today at Madison Square Garden. More than 2,700 dogs enter, but only one leaves as Best in Show. Golden Retrievers are this year's most popular entries in the show, followed by labs, Rhodesian Ridge Backs and French Bulldogs. You know, labs, retrievers, they never won. Like this show is rigged for terriers right now.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: So, if a Golden Retriever or the favorites (ph) going in, that would be a big deal. That would be historic.

ROMANS: John, do you happen to have a retriever?

BERMAN: No. No.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I've covered way too many of these, and it's always the little tiny Scottish terriers that seem to dominate.

O'BRIEN: Last year's winner was very poofy and cute. BERMAN: I want a dog. I want a big dog.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Labs are the most popular dog in America.

O'BRIEN: Right.

ROMANS: Yes. And poodles, I think, are another great popular breed in America.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I had a golden retriever, great dog, good dogs.

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: But could it win?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It's not about winning.

ROMANS: Just watch "Best in Show." That's --

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to continue to update you on our breaking news this morning about Pope Benedict XVI. He is resigning. Some are saying he's abdicating. We're going to have a live report, reaction from the Catholic Church straight ahead.

Also, what you don't know about your credit report could cost you some serious money. A troubling report about mistakes that could impact your family and you as well coming up.

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