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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Oscars 2013: Ar-Go Celebrate!; "Life Threatening Blizzard" Conditions; What Will Be Cut?; Pope Benedict's Final Days; Raul Castro's Announcement; NASCAR Crash Injures Fans; Oldest Marathon Runner Retires At 101; Oscar Pistorius' Terms Of Bail; Britain's Cardinal Resigns

Aired February 25, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Oscar's big winner, "Argo," takes home the Best Picture award. We're live from Los Angeles with highlight from Hollywood's biggest night.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Blizzard warning. Some states fairly digging out from last week's storm brace for another round of potentially life-threatening conditions.

ROMANS: And the Pope's final blessing. Pope Benedict, in his final days, leaving the Catholic Church amid reports of a corruption scandal.

Good Monday morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Zoraida Sambolin is off today. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East. It is the morning after.

Up first, Ben Affleck, he gets the last laugh, along heartfelt rambling laugh in some cases, his Iran hostage rescue thriller "Argo" winning Best Picture at last night's Oscar ceremony. The film had emerged as the pre-Oscar favorite after Affleck was snubbed for Best Director. And last night, of course, "Argo" sealed the deal.

Now, the 85th Oscars also featured a celebration of music and an irreverent host. It was a very different, edgy Oscar ceremony. And CNN's Nischelle Turner is live with no sleep this morning, the morning after take on Hollywood's biggest night.

Hey, Nischelle.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Yes. I'm the captain of team no sleep this morning, John Berman. So, you guys might have to call me irreverent after a little bit, because you never know what I'm going to say after a night of no sleep.

You know, one of the things though about Seth MacFarlane, the host of the Oscars was that he really is this old-fashioned song and dance kind of guy. And that was very much on display all throughout the ceremony last night. I think he was definitely one of the stars as well as well as all of the big winners last night. So what I wanted to do is kind of put a little something together, condense it all for you folks who missed the ceremony itself. Here is kind of the Oscars in a nutshell. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: And now for moment we have all been waiting for.

TURNER (voice-over): First Lady Michelle Obama gave the Oscars a jolt of excitement and a huge surprise when she appeared from the White House to announce the night's biggest prize, Best Picture.

OBAMA: And the Oscar goes to "Argo."

TURNER: It was an especially sweet victory for Ben Affleck who wasn't even nominated for directing the Iranian hostage thriller.

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR/DIRECTOR: I thank everyone in the movie, on the movie, worked on the movie, did anything with this movie.

TURNER: "Life of Pi", based on the best-selling novel about a boy who drift at sea with a tiger, won the most Oscars, including Best Director for Ang Lee.

ANG LEE, DIRECTOR: Thank you, Academy. Xie-xie. Namaste.

TURNER: He played one of the greatest presidents in history, and Lincoln's leading man, Daniel Day Lewis, made history of his own becoming the first male actor to win three Oscars.

DANIEL DAY LEWIS, ACTOR: I'm so grateful to the academy for this beautiful honor.

TURNER: She took a tumble heading to the stage, but everyone else was on their feet when "Silver Linings Playbook's," Jennifer Lawrence won for Best Actress.

JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ACTRESS: I fell and that's really embarrassing.

SETH MACFARLANE, OSCAR HOST: And the quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins now.

TURNER: Host, Seth MacFarlane he poked fun at himself during a visit from "Captain Kirk."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seth MacFarlane worst Oscar host, is that bad?

TURNER: Music though was the theme of the night and the show boasted full throated performances from the cast of "Chicago," "Dream Girls" and "Les Miserables." And music was the memorable part of Oscar's 50th anniversary tribute to James Bond. Shirley Bassy got a standing ovation after belting out "Goldfinger." And chart topper Adele sang the latest 007 theme "Skyfall," which won the Oscar for Best Song. Barbara Streisand returned to the Oscar stage to sing "Memories" and indeed the night's biggest winner remembered his last time earning Oscar gold.

AFFLECK: I never thought I would be back here, and I am. And it doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life because that is going to happen. All that matters is you got to get up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TURNER: That was a great moment last night. I don't know if you noticed, but George Clooney on stage as well. He didn't say a word. I asked him why he didn't talk during the acceptance speech. He said because it was Ben's night.

You know what? It was also Seth MacFarlane's night, John Berman. I don't know how you thought he did as a host, but the reviews this morning have kind of been mixed. The people saying they thought he was better than Billy Crystal. But they thought he may have been a little sexist. I laughed out loud so many times during the show last night. But I did think that his opening monologue may have gone on a couple beats to long.

BERMAN: You know, I thought he was edgy. He spoke to sort of our generation of viewers, broadly speaking, because now I'm an old, old man. Occasionally with the one song, everybody knows what I'm talking about, that may have crossed the line and not gender sensitive shall we say.

But anyway, Nischelle Turner, thanks very much. It's great to see you this morning, a big night at the Oscars.

ROMANS: All right, completely switching gears. Let's call it a severe weather sequel. Just days after a powerful winter blast blanketed plain states with record snow, right now, a crippling winter storm is bearing down on the very same region, bringing with it what the National Weather Service is called life-threatening blizzard conditions.

The weather service had issued urgent winter warnings for western and northern Oklahoma. Kansas City is also expecting another 9 inches to 15 inches of snow tonight into Tuesday. The same system just left a blanket of white over much of Colorado canceling hundreds of flights out of Denver International on Sunday.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownbeck is calling for drivers to stay off the road in his state and he worries this storm has the potential to be more dangerous than last week's.

Jennifer Delgado live in the weather center. Jennifer, welcome to winter.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Welcome to winter and he's absolutely right. Because the winds will be really gusting like last week we didn't have the blizzard conditions in place. But as I show you on the radar, notice what's coming down, snow, very heavy through parts of Texas as well as Oklahoma, and storms moving through central parts of Oklahoma.

Notice for yourself, with the light in here. Once again, we're look telling potential for thunder snow, but on a serious and more important note, with winds, gusting up to 50 in some locations, right now, sustained, 38 in Amarillo. And you can see that is what is going to be limiting visibility.

We're talking quarter-mile visibility. Don't get on the roadways because this is potentially dangerous then when you add in nearly a foot of snowfall, even more in some of those locations across parts of Kansas as well as into regions like Oklahoma.

We're dealing with a blizzard warning in place across many states, four of those and winter storm warnings to areas like Chicago, where they expect 6 to 8 inches of snowfall. And on the other side, the southeast is flooding and a tornado threat for the gulf coast state as well.

BERMAN: What a mess?

DELGADO: A big bag of weather today, a blockbuster of weather.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, Jennifer.

BERMAN: It's 6 minutes after the hour right now. The White House budget office is talking about the programs that they say would take a hit if the forced spending cuts known as the sequester go in effect this Friday.

Food safety inspections, mental health, vaccines and early childhood education programs are at risk the White House says. Defense cuts would stall maintenance on Navy ships and Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood says the FAA is facing cuts that could disrupt air travel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: In the end, there has to be some kind of furlough of air traffic controllers and that then will also begin to curtail or eliminate the opportunity for them to guide planes in and out of airports. It's a big part of our budget.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Some Republicans say the Obama administration is painting a doomsday scenario as an excuse to push them into a deal that includes more tax increases for the wealthy and of course, Republicans don't want to do that.

So in just three days, Pope Benedict will step down as the leader of the Catholic Church. On Sunday, he delivered a final public prayer ceremony before a packed St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.

The Pope's resignation becomes official at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday. The pontiff cited his advancing age, he is 85, as the reason for his decision, and Pope Benedict's resignation comes amid rumors of a brewing sex scandal reported by Italian media involving what it calls gay priests being blackmailed by male prostitutes, a charge that the Vatican has flatly denied.

CNN's Becky Anderson is live at the Vatican with more. Good morning, Becky.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very good morning to you. The stakes could not be higher for the men who run Vatican City behind me and the 1.3 billion people of the Roman Catholic faith around the world. There is a meeting going on as we speak behind me there.

John Allen, our senior Vatican analyst is with us. What's going on, John.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: This morning, roughly an hour ago, Rome time, Pope Benedict XVI had a meeting with the commission that reported on the leak mess, which of course, has been the object of so much speculation in recent days, Becky, about whether it considered the existence of the gay lobby, and so on.

There is some thought that Benedict might authorize those three cardinals to release that report to the other cardinals who will be sometime in early March, electing the next Pope.

ANDERSON: What do we know about that secret dossier at this point?

ALLEN: Honestly, Becky, we don't know anything. As far as we know, the only thing guy who read it Pope Benedict XVI. Now obviously there have been many in the Italian media and other places in the world who have been talking about what might be in it.

Whether or not the cardinals, for example, consider that there are people who have secrets to keep about their sex lives who would have been vulnerable to pressure the leaked documents. We don't know if that's true.

ANDERSON: And the British media publishing stories about a sex scandal or inappropriate behavior in Scotland. What are the legs on that?

ALLEN: Well, what we know is there have been very serious charges made against Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland who was one of the 116 cardinals. He was scheduled to participate in this conclave.

We know that Cardinal O'Brien has retained legal counsel. We know the Vatican is looking into it. However, whatever Vatican investigation is launched is not going to conclude before the conclave. It's in his hands.

ANDERSON: The Pope held his final public blessing yesterday. They say that a day is a long week in Vatican politics as it were, John. We'll be back to you with more as we get it out of there.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Becky. A lot of tension in the final days for Pope Benedict XVI. Our thanks to you and John in Rome this morning.

ROMANS: It's the end of the era for the Castro era in Cuba now officially in sight. Cuban President Raul Castro says he plans to step down in 2018 at the end of his second term. Fidel Castro's 81- year-old brother making this announcement Sunday shortly after the country's national assembly elected him to a second five-year term.

So how about a possible successor, Raul Castro said Cuba's new first vice president, 52-year-old Miguel Diaz Canal is part of a new generation that will provide the future leadership of that country.

Coast Guard rescue crews now searching for two adults and two young children who are missing after their 29-foot sailboat started taking on water near San Francisco. The vessel was 65 miles off the coast of Pillar Point when someone on board radioed for help Sunday afternoon. About an hour later, the Coast Guard got a message that they were abandoning ship.

BERMAN: So Danica Patrick got all the attention going into Sunday's Daytona 500, but in the end, it was all about five-time NASCAR champ, Jimmie Johnson. Johnson held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the final lap to win his second Daytona 500.

A crash during the Nationwide series race Saturday at Daytona sent parts of Kyle Larson's car into the grandstand, injuring at least 28 people. The hospital says seven fans are still being treated. All are listed in stable condition.

ROMANS: The world's oldest marathon runner is putting his feet up. Fauja Singh finished his final race Saturday in Hongkong. He is 101 years old and a great, great grandfather. He took up running when he was a Spry 89 to cope with the death of his son.

Since then, he has run nine full marathons and became the first person over 100 on record to do it. He's raised thousands for charity. He doesn't have a secret diet or training regimen. He just loves the sport.

BERMAN: I want what he's having, man, 101 and running marathons?

It's 11 minutes after the hour, Olympic runner and now accused murderer, Oscar Pistorius has to check in with police today we think, but maybe not in person. We're going to live to Pretoria with details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We have some confusion this morning about Oscar Pistorius. We were led to believe that the Olympic hero was required to check in at a police station in Pretoria, in South Africa, this morning, and he had to do it every Monday and Friday as part of his bail last week.

But now there is late word that he doesn't have to do that. Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his home early Valentine's Day morning. He claims he mistook her for a burglar. Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson is live for us in Pretoria this morning thankfully. So Nic, can you clear up this confusion for us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, perhaps no surprise. Another surprise in this bail hearing, at least that has been a rollercoaster so far.

Look around me just now. You can see journalists here packing up and getting ready to leave. Everyone has been staked out. Everyone was expecting Oscar Pistorius to show up.

As the deadline came, it seemed that he wasn't coming. We talked to officials and we were told were, well, this was discussed in the court with the judge between the two principal lawyers, but it wasn't what was finally written down in the final bail document.

It was out there. The judge decided he was going to just release the cost of the bail for about $10,000 to $112,000, and that's been it. Since then, everyone believed Oscar Pistorius would show up here. It hasn't happened, but we're just learning about it now, John.

BERMAN: Not surprising, yet another twist, still more confusion in the case of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa. Nic Robertson, our thanks to you.

ROMANS: All right. Sixteen minutes past the hour. Let's you get up to date now.

Call it a severe weather sequel. Kansas hasn't finished digging out from last week's storm, and hello, another powerful system expected to drop several more inches across the state today, into Tuesday. The Kansas state emergency operations center has now been activated. And the governor, Sam Brownback, is asking drivers to stay off the road.

BERMAN: Congress is back in session today after a week off. Lawmakers have until Friday if they want prevent a series of forced spending cuts, also known as the sequester. The White House says air travel, food inspections, childhood vaccines, and maintenance for Navy ships, would all take a hit of these cuts go into effect.

ROMANS: "Argo" all the way. Ben Affleck's Iran hostage rescue thriller winning Best Picture last night in an Oscar first. The award was presented by Michelle Obama from the White House.

The 85th Oscar is also a big night for "Life of Pi". The film took home the most awards. That included perhaps the biggest upset, Ang Lee winning Best Director over Steven Spielberg.

BERMAN: Pope Benedict is entering his final days as the leader of the Catholic Church. He's stepping down on Thursday. Cardinals from around the world are now heading to the Vatican for the papal conclave where they will select the next Pope. The Vatican expects a new Pope to be in place in time for Easter.

ROMANS: And South Korea made history today. The country inaugurated its first ever female president. Park Geun-hye pledged to secure her country against North Korea, while also trying to build trust between the two. Her father ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979. She has apologized for human rights abuses during her father's time in power.

Now, if you feel pain at the pump, you're not alone.

BERMAN: But, could there be light at the end of the tunnel. We will take a look at prices across the country, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: More shock waves this morning just in. News that will affect the Catholic Church.

We're learning just now that Britain's most senior Catholic cleric, Keith O'Brien, a cardinal, has resigned. This following accusations that he abused four men studying to be priests, four men who were priests, one a former priest in the 1980s. Cardinal Keith O'Brien was actually scheduled, he was allowed to vote in the papal conclave, which is due to begin as soon as two weeks from now.

Pope Benedict XVI, his last day will be Thursday. And then this, this major news out of Britain, that Keith O'Brien, the most senior Catholic cleric in that nation resigning. Just getting that news right now. We'll bring you more as we get it.

ROMANS: This as the cardinals are actually getting ready and going to the Vatican. So, you know, cardinals are in motion for the conclave, which begins later this morning.

BERMAN: Turmoil in the Catholic Church, I think it's safe to say.

ROMANS: All right. Minding your business this morning.

A quiet start to the week on Wall Street. Stock futures are mixed. And, you know, we'll take mixed because stocks are coming off their worst week of the year.

And good news on gas prices -- I have not said those words in a really long time. They're holding steady right now after a really big run-up earlier this morning. That run-up seems to have stalled. Gas prices unchanged for the second day in a row. It's not enough to call it a trend, but it is a good sign that the rising gas prices have stalled here.

According to the AAA, the national average now, $3.78 per gallon of regular, up 44 cents from last month. Premium gas well over $4.

But at least one analyst says prices could actually be set up to fall. How much we don't know. But Trilby Lundberg says prices may fall because of the main drivers behind the recent rally are out of the picture for now. Crude oil prices are down. You can see the recent decline on the right side of your screen there.

Crude is the biggest factor in gas prices. Oil had been rising because the economy is recovering. But now, it seems to have fallen a bit here.

Housing reports have been good. Job market is growing, but with forced spending cuts looming, there are now questions about how far the economy can really go here. So, it'd be a double-edged sword. We want gas prices to fall, but we don't want that to come at the expense of a weaker committee, right?

For now, though, people in Los Angeles are paying, $4.29 on average a gallon, Billings, Montana, has the cheapest gas.

BERMAN: This is really amazing. We complain when the economy is doing well and gas prices go up, and we complain when the economy starts to slow down and gas prices go down.

ROMANS: In the presidential election, when you heard people who are promising $2.5 gas, they keep saying, yes, a recession would give you $2.50 gas. You got to be careful what you wish for.

And the one thing you need to know about your money today. People aren't saving enough. We've got a new study from Bankrate. It says 45 percent of Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings. Not a huge change from last year, which means we haven't made much headway on this.

So, new report from Bankrate reminding us that we've got to put money in the bank, not necessarily on the credit card.

BERMAN: What she said. Christine Romans knows what she's talking about on that.

Twenty-four minutes after the hour. Ahead on EARLY START, forced spending cuts are just a few days away. What will that mean for state budgets? We're going to talk to Delaware's governor, Jack Markell.

ROMANS: And we'll update on that major winter storm hitting the middle of the country. A live report from Denver when we come back.

And if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop, on your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Potential for deadly conditions. Blizzard warnings for some states still digging out from under last week's storm.

ROMANS: And forced budget cuts that never supposed to happen are day as way. What impact could they have on you? We'll tell you.

BERMAN: And hits and misses. We rounded up the best and worst from Oscar host Seth MacFarlane. What a night it was.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.