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Kansas Braces for More Snow; Interview with Delaware Governor Jack Markell; Catholic Cardinal Resigns; "Life Threatening Blizzard" Conditions; Pope Benedict's Last Days; Funny or Not?: Seth McFarlane at the Oscars

Aired February 25, 2013 - 06:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. It's 28, almost 29 minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: And we are dealing with just another powerful winter storm as it bears down on the Plain States this morning. The National Weather Service warns the storm is bringing potentially life threatening and crippling blizzard conditions to portions of southeast Kansas, northwest Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.

Power storm system that's threatening the Plains States has already made a mess in Colorado. More than nine inches of snow blanketed the Denver area. Even more snow fell in other parts of the state, including 19 inches in Jefferson. The heavy snow dumped on Denver International Airport, forced hundreds of flight and delays up to four hours for those flights that were able to take off.

Our Jim Spellman is live in Denver this morning. And, Jim, does it look like people are going to get to work this morning?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's going to be a kind of a messy commute, but I think they'll be OK. This is Interstate 25 here, one of the main roads that goes right through the middle of Denver. This is in good shape. People are making it through. And I think they'll be OK once they get on the freeway.

Take a look at here, though, on these on-ramps, icy, slick. These are going to be the trouble spots and bridges. But take a look at what I- 25 looked like yesterday when the storm was coming through. There was a multicar crash that jammed up the highway. Things like that were going on all across the state.

I just spoke with the Department of Transportation here in Colorado. There were about 300 plows out on the front range of Colorado here doing this thing. They tell me that they're really doing well with the snow, but they're really having trouble with the ice layer underneath a lot of the snow.

Take a look at some of this. It's not really too bad on the top, and underneath, there is this really slick ice layer, we saw a woman fall in a parking lot across the street from our live location just a few minutes ago. Much more treacherous than it looks on the surface.

Those conditions we saw yesterday here, they are heading East right now. The storm is still going to have a lot of work to do. A lot of damage can be done as it moves East -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jim. And, of course, you're in Colorado right now. In Kansas, things appear to be much, much worse. They're still under a state of emergency. The state got hit last week and there's more extreme weather headed their way.

SPELLMAN: Yes, the governor extended the state of emergency. They're still digging out from about 20 inches of now just a few days ago. And they could get another foot on top of it today.

Also, expected, a heavy storm warning for Oklahoma and a blizzard warning for the panhandle of Texas. This storm was the storm that would not end yesterday, John. It just hung around hour after hour after hour. That's what they can look forward to the East all through today and into tomorrow morning even.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Spellman in Denver, it is a mess out there, but still, nice to see you this morning.


ROMANS: A Coast Guard rescue crew near San Francisco are now searching for two adults and two young children who were forced to abandon ship after their 29-foot sailboat started taking on water. The vessel was about 65 miles of the coast of Pillar Point when someone on board radioed for help Sunday afternoon. They said the boat's electronics were failing. About an hour later, the Coast Guard got a message, that they were abandoning ship.

BERMAN: So, there are now four days until your schools, your health, your safety, might be affected by massive forced spending cuts that Washington said would never happen. Politicians are calling it the sequester, but really, it's forced budget cuts that will slash $85 billion in spending.

The White House last night put out a list of how they say each state will be hit.

Governor Jack Markell is the chair of the National Governors Association. He's a Democrat from Delaware. He was welcomed to the White House, along with other governors over the weekend.

Good morning, Governor. Nice to see you this morning.

GOV. JACK MARKELL (D), DELAWARE: Good morning. Good to see you, too.

BERMAN: I am a bearer of bad news. The White House putting a list out of how states will be affected by these spending cuts.

Let me show you what they say will happen in Delaware. They say 2,000 fewer students will be served in schools, about 2,000 civilian Department of Defense employees furloughed, $201,000 less for senior seniors, 380 children getting vaccines, 1,800 fewer HIV tests, 100 fewer domestic violence victims serve.

We are now five days away from this. Is it inevitable?

MARKELL: Well, I hope not. I mean, it's not looking good at the moment. And my biggest concern, I think the biggest concern for many governors is the effect on the economy. You know, we -- a lot us feel the economy is starting to come back, and right at the time where we would like to see it accelerate, this could really put a slam on the brakes. And that's the biggest issue for us.

BERMAN: You know, GDP is approximately $16 trillion. And there are people, there are accounting firms would say this might not affect it so much. And there are some Republicans who say that President Obama is painting something of a doomsday scenario, saying it will be worse than it actually is.

This was Tom Coburn, the senator from Oklahoma speaking on "FOX News Sunday". Let's listen.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Senator Coburn, is the president exaggerating the impact of these cuts?

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Absolutely. And you see the typical set up a straw man. What sequestration is, it's a terrible way to cut spending. I don't disagree with that. But to not cut 2.5 percent out of the total budget over a year when it's twice the size it was 10 years ago? Give me a break.


BERMAN: So is the president exaggerating, sir?

MARKELL: Look, here is the issue. I mean, if you're one of the people -- if you are a kid in Head Start and you're going to be impacted, if you are somebody that's supposed to get job training to go get a job and you're not going to get it, and you are impacted. I mean, there is no exaggeration for you.

And, you know, that's the particular frustration for many of us because the most frustrating conversation any governor can have these days is when we talk to a business who says I'd love to hire, but I can't find people with the right skills. So we have resources available for job training, and if those resources get cut, it really puts -- it stops the recovery in its tracks. And that's just not what we should be doing.

BERMAN: You are a powerful governor. You are close to the White House. What is the White House doing today, other than telling us how bad it will be? What is the White House doing today to make sure these forced spending cuts don't happen?

MARKELL: I think the most important is the White House did put out a plan, and that's the one plan out there. So I think it's time for others to react -- to respond to the plan. But I can tell you, my sense is the president and others in the administration, in addition to being focused on the sequester, of course, the main issue is how do we make sure we're continuing to build a strong economy, making sure that people have the skills they need? We can't lose sight of the issues.

BERMAN: What Republicans say, though, is that the president has put out a plan that's a nonstarter. He is calling for new revenue from the wealthiest Americans and there are people who say that that's disingenuous in some cases.

You know, Bob Woodward wrote the book on the budget negotiations from 2011. He has an article or he had a comment in "The Washington Post" over the weekend where he said what essentially what essentially the president is doing is moving the goal posts here.

Let me read from this. He says, "When the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he's moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made."

That is Bob Woodward again who wrote the book saying this new revenue was not part of the deal for the sequester made back in 2011.

MARKELL: And I went back and I read the statements that the president made back in 2011. He did make -- he was very clear about the need for balanced approach.

I think, you know, the difference here -- they are not looking to do with rates. What they're looking at is closing some of the loopholes. And as well, I mean, the president has put forward a plan that has significant cuts as well.

That being said, I can tell you what the governors are focused on. What does it mean for our economy? What does it mean for jobs? That's the big concern.

BERMAN: I've heard from a lot of governors over the weekend, Republicans and Democrats. And you all seem frustrated with both sides, Congress and the White House.

Is Washington letting us down?

MARKELL: You know, I think it's less about trying to assign blame and is more trying to say, what can we in our states do to make sure we get back to work? And what can we make sure that we're doing with the federal government as well? I mean, I think, one of the key things, we do partner with the federal government on a number of programs, let's make sure we're pushing forward and putting people back to work.

BERMAN: All right. Five days to go.

Governor Jack Markell, chair of the National Governors Association -- nice to see you this morning. MARKELL: You too. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. The spread the wealth at last night's Oscar ceremony. No single film dominated. "Life of Pi" won the most with four, including gold for Best Actor (sic) Ang Lee. "Argo," won Oscar's top prize, best picture and a total of three. Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence for "Silver Linings Playbook." Daniel Day-Lewis won a record third Best Actor for "Lincoln". Best Supporting Actress went to Anne Hathaway for "Les Mis," Best Supporting Actor to Christoph Waltz for "Django Unchained".

I was just reading, the last time best picture was not also nominated for best director, "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990. It's rare.

BERMAN: That was a great film. I really did like all the movies this year. They were simply fantastic.

ROMANS: Yes, they really were.

BERMAN: Thirty-seven minutes after the hour. Look out, Apple and Google, the FOX is being unleashed. Nonprofit Mozilla is launching phones that run its new Firefox mobile operating system. Company officials say they are expecting some great apps because the new software is built on open web standards.

Mozilla's mobiles go on sale this summer in nine countries. However, the United States is not one of them.

You have Firefox tourism now, going to other countries to buy phones.

ROMANS: All right. Take a look at the top trends at

Police have identified the suspect in a fatal shooting and crash last week on the Las Vegas Strip that left people dead. The police say 26- year-old Ammar Harris is at large wanted but they've impounded his car. They say the suspect fired from his Range Rover at a Maserati. The Maserati's driver, an aspiring rapper known as Kenny Clutch, he was shot and then he hit a taxi, spurring an explosion that left two others dead.

BERMAN: So, owning a part of a miracle. A jersey wore by the captain of the 1980 U.S. men's Olympic hockey team in the famous miracle on ice win over the Soviet Union sold at auction for more than $657,000. Mike Eruzione scored the winning goal, from Boston University by the way -- he scored the winning goal in a 4-3 upset. The United States would go on to win the gold medal after they beat Finland that year.

The jersey had been sitting in a bag in his attic. He decided to sell it to help out his family. Captain Michael Eruzione has been an inspirational speaker. He's a great guy.

ROMANS: That's cool.

BERMAN: Glad to see the jersey sold.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on EARLY START, a major winter wallop for people in the middle of the country. Jennifer Delgado is going to stop by and give us the latest on where the storm is heading, after the break.


ROMANS: This just in to CNN. More drama for the Catholic Church this morning. Britain's most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has resigned, that following accusations he abused young men studying to be priests in the 1980s. It's an accusation he has fought.

Becky Anderson is live in Rome with more. Good morning, Becky.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, an absolute bombshell out of the Vatican this morning. In the past 24 hours, the British media publishing stories of allegations that Cardinal Keith O'Brien had been involved in inappropriate behavior with four priests, three current priests and one former priest back in the 1980s.

He should have been at mass on Sunday. He wasn't. The congregation there in Scotland we're told of these reports and told the pope is aware of them.

We just got the news that he is resigning today.

Now, as far as we understand it from the Vatican, he actually tendered his resignation back in November. He cited ill health. He was 75 and he should go. That was expected to happen over the next few months. But today, February 25th, the pope has actually said he wants his resignation today.

In response, Cardinal Keith O'Brien -- remember, this is Britain's top cardinal, and the only man in the U.K. had involved in what will be conclave in two or three weeks' time here at Vatican City.

He has said today, and I quote, "I have valued the opportunity of serving the people of Scotland. Looking over my years of ministry to any good I have been able to do," he said. "I thank God. For any failures, I apologize to all who I have offended."

We know he's seeking legal advice. But those were his words. The words of Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who has today resigned, that confirmed by the Vatican.

This amongst a whole bunch of other legs to the story, of course. Italian media abuzz with allegations of a sex scandal, right at the heart of the Vatican behind me. Storm clouds over there, and you couldn't underestimate what is going on at the Vatican today -- Christine.

ROMANS: Certainly a turbulent time for Vatican City and the Roman Catholic Church. Becky Anderson, thank you, Becky.

BERMAN: Big news this morning. Meanwhile, a major winter storm is hitting the central plains. I want to check in with Jennifer Delgado for the latest. Good morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, guys. You're right. It is pounding the Central Plains right now. We do have a blizzard warning in place across four states. We're talking about Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, as well as Kansas. Now, on the radar, things are already getting started. You can see where the snow is coming down.

What we have is into us, Interstate 27, that goes from Amarillo to Lubbock, Texas, has actually been closed because of whiteout conditions. Visibilities are down, and this is going to be the big problem as we go through the day. You can see that snow coming down just west of Wichita. Lots of lightning through parts of Central Oklahoma.

And, we're going to continue to see those storms popping up throughout the day and visibility going down because winds like what you're seeing in Amarillo at 37. They're going to continue to increase as we go throughout the afternoon and really we're talking about blizzard conditions potentially through tomorrow morning and then you add in, 12 to 18 inches of snowfall across parts of Kansas as well as up towards Northern Missouri.

This is going to be a big mess. This is not a day that you say, oh, you know what? I think I'm going to go to the grocery store in the peek of the blizzard. No, don't do that, because this is certainly going to be dangerous. The other part of our story here, the heavy rainfall, and of course, the severe thunderstorm watch in place across parts of Louisiana. That is until 8:00 a.m. central time.

The storms will be dumping a tremendous amount of rainfall. We're talking two to four inches of rain. Plus, we have a tornado threat as we go into the afternoon from Texas all the way to Florida. And also, I want to point out to you is convention with the storm, we're going to get some great reports of thunder snow. So, hopefully, our iReporters can take some of that safely.

BERMAN: Thunderstorm --

DELGADO: Putting the call out there.

BERMAN: But some serious weather to keep your eye on over the course of the day.

DELGADO: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Thank you, Jennifer.

BERMAN: Jennifer Delgado, thanks to you.

DELGADO: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So, Soledad O'Brien joins us now. She is out in Hollywood with a special look at a special edition of "STARTING POINT." Hey, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": That's right. Good morning. Ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT," we'll talk about new Oscar host, Seth McFarlane. How do you think he did? He certainly brought a whole new feel to the Oscar's last night. Was he, as he was joking in the middle of the show, the worst Oscar host ever or did his brand of humor him the show kind of a shot in the arm and need it? We're going to talk about how he did this morning.

Also, some breaking news out of the Vatican. You guys are just talking about this. Pope Benedict accepting the resignation of one of his cardinals just days before the pope retires himself. We'll have a live report on that.

And Danica's day at Daytona. We knew she'd make history at least once. It turns out she did it three times. We'll talk to NASCAR's Kyle Petty. That's all ahead this morning on "Starting Point." We start right at the top of the hour. We'll see you then.

BERMAN: Can't wait to see you out there with all the big stars who are, no doubt, still out partying at this very moment. Our thanks to Soledad.

ROMANS: Hollywood's Soledad O'Brien. All right. We'll be right back right after this quick break.


ROMANS: Good morning. It's 51 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date.

Now, the powerful winter storm bearing down on the plains states this morning after dumping nine inches of snow on Denver. The National Weather Service warns this storm is bringing potentially life threatening and crippling blizzard conditions to parts of Southeast Kansas again, Northwest Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle.

BERMAN: Pope Benedict XVI is entering his final days as head of the Catholic Church. On Sunday, the pontiff delivered his final public prayer ceremony in Vatican City. The pontiff who was 85 cites advancing age as the reason for his resignation, which becomes official Thursday at 8:00 p.m.

ROMANS: Secretary of state, John Kerry, is in London this morning. It's the first time I've said that. Secretary of State John Kerry is in London this morning for the first leg of his first trip as the nation's new chief diplomat. A short time ago, he met with Britain's prime minister, David Cameron. He will visit nine countries over the next 11 days, traveling to Europe's key capitals into turkey, and finally, to the Middle East.

BERMAN: You know, he was a big fan, John Kerry, of "Argo," and fellow Massachusetts resident Ben Affleck, last night was "Argo's" crowning glory at the Oscars. The Iran hostage drama winning three awards, including Best Picture. It was sweet revenge for Ben Affleck who was famously snubbed by the academy in Best Director category. The top acting awards was Daniel Day-Lewis for "Lincoln," his record third win for Best Actor. Best Actress went to Jennifer Lawrence for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook."

ROMANS: She was sweet in that movie. I mean, sweet -- she played a very troubled role and she's so you, but she really had a lot of --

BERMAN: No. She did a great job.

So, we have a question for you, funny or not so much? A lot of chatter this morning about Seth McFarlane's performance as the host of the Oscars last night. We're going to look at some of the hits and some of the misses when we come back.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Perhaps, more than anyone, host, Seth McFarlane, was in the Oscar's spotlight.

ROMANS: And people do no wait until the Oscar telecast was over. The blogs and social media weighing in on his performance. Here's little sample.


SETH MCFARLANE, OSCARS HOST: "Django Unchained," now, that was an intense film.


MCFARLANE: This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman who's been subjected to unthinkable violence or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.


MCFARLANE: Oh! Oh, no. Now, that's what we were afraid he would do. Our next presenter played a raging alcoholic in "28 days," which is kind of a weird coincidence, because I'm going to be playing one in about an hour and 45 minutes.


MCFARLANE: The actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth (ph). Really, 150 years, and it's still too soon, huh?


MCFARLANE: "Argo" tells the previously classified story about an American hostage rescue in post-revolutionary Iran. Now, the story was so top secret that the film's director is unknown to the academy.



ROMANS: The last one was funny. I thought --

BERMAN: And the fact that everyone is talking about his performance this morning, whether it was good or whether it was bad is actually, I think, a big win for the academy finally getting someone who captures the zeitgeist for good or bad, at least, in some way.

ROMANS: And he sang.

BERMAN: He sang brilliantly. He's got a terrific voice.

ROMANS: And he danced.

BERMAN: Look, a lot of people are saying that there were some humor that was downright sexist (ph). There was a whole song he sang about actress' crest chests (ph), for instance, which you know, I have to say, as I was watching it, I thought it went a little far. And as you look to the women in the audience who he was singing about Charlize Theron, you know, she wasn't laughing at all.

And you know, if they're not laughing, there's a little bit of a problem right here. He pushed the envelope, but again, we're talking about it this morning.

ROMANS: That's right. And we're not just saying, oh, he was OK. People were saying was he great or was he totally tasteless? All right. There we go.

That's EARLY START for today. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "STARTING POINT," a special version of "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien out in Hollywood starts right now.