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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

"Life Threatening Blizzard" Conditions; Snow Blankets Colorado; Kansas Braces For More Snow; End Of An Era In Cuba?; Kerry's First Trip As Secretary Of State; South Korea Inaugurates First Female President; Comeback Complete!; Oscar Fashions; "Drivers And Danica, Start Your Engines"; 9/11 Victim's Family Outrage

Aired February 25, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN AFFLECK, DIRECTOR, "ARGO": You have to work harder than you think you possibly can, can't hold grudges, it's hard, but you can't hold grudges. And it doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life because that's going to happen. All that matters is that you got to get up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I love this speech. This is a great speech from Ben Affleck, sweet victory for him last night, the director of "Argo" celebrating his "Best Picture" win at the 85th Oscars.

Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're coming to you from California this morning. We're going to have more on Oscar night and also Ben Affleck's comeback just ahead.

First though, we want to get right to the news. John Berman has an update on today's top stories. Hi, John. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. We're all Ben Affleck fans this morning. Meanwhile, another powerful winter storm bearing down on the plain states, 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.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is asking drivers to stay off the roads in his state. This powerful storm system has already made a mess in Colorado, more than 9 inches of snow blanketed the Denver area.

Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed out of Denver International Airport. Jim Spellman is live in Denver this morning where people will try to make it to work in a few hours. Will they actually get there?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think they are going to do OK once they get on main arteries. This is Interstate 25 right through the middle of downtown Denver. We have seen plows out here repeatedly keeping this road open. As you can see as traffic begins to pick up here, it looks like they are doing OK.

The problem is getting to the interstates. Take a look at this on- ramp right here. You can just see how slick the ice is here and in a lot of residential areas, the roads are not plowed yet and they are still very slick.

Here's what they are dealing with, John, an upper layer of this nice fluffy Colorado snow, but underneath, as soon as you step on it or drive on it, it just turns to ice, really difficult, 300 plows out across the state and they are using de-icing material to try to deal with that sub-layer of ice -- John.

BERMAN: However bad it is where you are, Jim, it is much worse in Kansas. They are still under a state of emergency in Kansas. They got hit badly last week and there is more extreme weather ahead.

SPELLMAN: Not even done digging out from the 20 or so inches they got just a few days ago. They could another 10 or so inches today. They are extending the state of emergency. Also Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas have blizzard warnings in effect -- John.

BERMAN: All right, thanks. Our thanks to Jim Spellman in Denver this morning.

It's 32 minutes after the hour and this question, could it be the end of the Castro era in Cuba? Cuban President Raul Castro says he plans on stepping down in 2018 at the end of his second term.

Fidel Castro's 81-year-old brother made the announcement on Sunday shortly after the country's national assembly elected him to a second five-year term. CNN Patrick Oppman is live in Havana with more. Good morning, Patrick.

PATRICK OPPMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. That's right. One more term for Raul Castro and then he says he is going to retire. So it's not a complete surprise. He said that Cuban officials should only serve two five-year terms in office.

So of course, when he steps down in five years, he'll be a young 86 years old. The big surprise here though is the man who is next in line to Castro. As of yesterday, that's Miguel Diaz Canal. He studied as an electrical engineer before steadily rising through the ranks of the Communist Party here in Cuba.

And most tellingly he was born after Fidel Castro's revolution. He is the first member of his generation, the post-revolution generation to rise to such a powerful position here in Cuba. And Raul Castro said yesterday the transfer of power, the generational transfer in Cuba is finally at long last taking place -- John.

BERMAN: More than 50 years of power the Castros leading Cuba by 2018. Our thanks to Patrick Oppman in Havana this morning. Meanwhile, new developments this morning, the latest chapter of American diplomacy opens. The new Secretary of State John Kerry has begun his first trip as the nation's chief diplomat.

And on the first stop on his 11-day, 9-country tour, 10 Downing Street in London where he met with British Prime Minister David Cameron, following that meeting, Kerry and his aides sat down with Foreign Minister William Hague.

The secretary will visit key European capitals before heading to Turkey and then he moves on to the Middle East.

South Korea made some history today. The country inaugurated its first ever female president. Park Geun-Hye has 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 his time in power.

Let's go back now to Soledad in Hollywood. Hi, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, John, thanks very much. Back to the Oscars talk. After a big night at the Oscar's Ben Affleck's comeback may be complete, he is now a two-time Oscar winner. But the road to becoming a top Hollywood director has been a rocky one for him. CNN Nischelle Turner is back with more on that.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, who would have thought 15 years ago, he and Matt Damon were on the stage getting the Oscar for "Goodwill Hunting." He would have this overnight success and then where would he go.

He crashed pretty hard and had to rebuild his life and his career, both. It seems like he did because last night Ben Affleck was back on top.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AFFLECK: I thank everyone in the movie, on the movie, worked on the movie, who did anything with this movie.

TURNER (voice-over): It was a speech full of thank yous for Ben Affleck after earning an Oscar for producing the best picture winner, "Argo."

AFFLECK: I'm honored to be here. I'm honored to be among these extraordinary movies and I'm really, really honored to win an academy award.

TURNER: It's the second time he's won the academy's gold statue, but his career in showbiz hasn't always been golden. Fifteen years ago, he and fellow Boston buddy, Matt Damon, took home screenwriting Oscars for "Good Will Hunting."

He quickly became one of Hollywood's hottest young stars, but after early success, came a series of flops like "Jersey Girl," and "Gigli," both costarring Jennifer Lopez, to whom Affleck was once engaged. The couple dominated tabloid headlines throughout their relationship, which ended in 2004.

AFFLECK: I had some tough work and I ran afoul of the press a little bit, became overexposed causing me to question what I wanted to do in this industry.

TURNER: What he did was became a director, starting with "Gone Baby Gone" in 2007 followed by "The Town" considered one of the best films of 2010. George Clooney, co-producer on "Argo" credits Affleck's move behind the camera is for the resurgence.

GEORGE CLOONEY, PRODUCER, "ARGO": He was in actor jail for a couple of years. We've all done it. He directed his way out of this.

TURNER: Which brings us to "Argo," widely regarded as Ben's best directing project. It's been a Box Office success and was an early contender heading into awards season. Then last month, came the snub heard round Hollywood, when Affleck was not nominated for best director at the academy awards, despite "Argo" getting best picture snub.

That snub however hasn't hurt him in the awards circuit, quite the opposite actually, Golden Globes, Director's Guild, Baptist, you name the award Affleck has won it for directing "Argo." Now with Oscar's biggest award under his belt, Ben Affleck is Hollywood's comeback kid.

AFFLECK: It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life because that's going to happen. All that matters is you get back up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TURNER: Yes, the look on his face there kind of gives you those goose bumps when you hear those words because they are very inspirational. And this morning, Ben Affleck is the director that everyone in Hollywood now wants to work with. I mean, even when you say that, still, it's a little -- the director that everyone wants to work with.

O'BRIEN: I loved his speech, right. It really, really spelled out in a relatively short speech the whole trajectory of his entire career. It was wonderful. Thanks, Nischelle.

Of course, much of the buzz when you talk about Oscars is about the fashion, who is wearing whom on the red carpet? Alina Cho joins us now. What did you love? What did you love less?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can talk about what I love less, but I can tell you that we saw a lot of strapless, a lot of form-fitting gowns, sort of that old Hollywood glamour, Soledad, the Oscars are really considered the Super Bowl of fashion.

The most important red carpet in the world, where you see the most expensive, most glamorous, most over the top gowns and jewelry on the planet and this year was no exception.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHO (voice-over): The Oscars, the glitz, the glamour, where arguably the most important words of the night are not this --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Oscar goes to --

CHO: But this --

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": What are you wearing?

CHO: Halle Berry in Versace.

(on camera): I heard you wanted to look like a Bond girl, is that true?

HALLE BARRY, ACTRESS: I did.

CHO (voice-over): Nicole Kidman in Lauren Scott and Jessica Chastain in Georgio Armani.

JESSICA CHASTAIN, ACTRESS: This was a happy birthday, Mr. President kind of dress. I love.

CHO: Old Hollywood glamour on full display, in a sea of strapless gowns including Helen Hunt's. Guess who made it?

HELEN HUNT, ACTRESS: H & M.

MORGAN: No?

HUNT: Yes.

MORGAN: Really?

CHO: Accessorized with $700,000 in diamonds. Fashion favorite, Anne Hathaway turned up in Prada, deciding on it just three hours before the show.

ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS: I really like the back.

MORGAN: I really love the back too.

CHO: During the show, she changed into Armani, and the face of Dior, Jennifer Lawrence wore, you guessed it, Dior (inaudible), but it was this moment that caught everyone's eyes.

GERARD BUTLER, ACTOR: She said before she would do that to guarantee a standing ovation.

CHO: Jennifer Aniston and Sally Field wore signature red, Valentino.

MORGAN: Do you still feel pressure about what to wear?

SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: My God, yes. We didn't feel any pressure at all in the old days literally. You just walked in a store and got a dress and put it on. There wasn't all this kind of stuff. CHO: But don't tell that to Quvenzhane Wallis. She wore --

QUVENZHANE WALLIS, ACTRESS: I am wearing Amari Jr.

CHO: Actually Giorgio Armani, custom made with an accessory no other nominee had, a doggy bag.

WALLIS: It's a puppy purse. I usually wear them since Sundance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Those Poochy & Co bags, all the rage. This 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis has become something of a fashion starlet herself. Soledad, you asked me earlier about my favorites of the night. I have to tell you I really thought Halle Berry in Versace looked spectacular.

O'BRIEN: Jennifer Lawrence too, maybe that dress is going to trip you, but it's fabulous.

CHO: Let me tell you this because she tripped, we saw the full layout of that gown.

O'BRIEN: All right, thanks, Alina.

In the next hour, we're going to take a look at Hollywood letting loose. The once big Oscar ceremony is over. We'll get a sense of how it went. We're talking about the after parties too, that's ahead.

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BERMAN: A whole lot of eyes on one driver at the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick and she was right in the thick of it until the very end. Joe Carter is here with more on Dayton in today's "Bleacher Report." Hi, Joe.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, Danica's day was memorable right from the jump. She came out during driver introductions, got a huge roar from the crowd, and that's saying something for this Daytona crowd.

I mean, as big as the roar as Dale Jr. gets, and he has been voted the most popular driver for the past 10 years and then the grand marshal, actor, James Franco, gave her a very flattering nod when he officially started the race.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drivers, and Danica, start your engines!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: That really set the tone for her day. Danica Patrick made history from start to finish. She is the first woman to start front row in the Daytona 500. She is the first woman to lead a lap at this race. She led five in all and she is the first woman to finish in the top ten, she finished eighth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANICA PATRICK, FINISHED EIGHT PLACE AT DAYTONA 500: I didn't think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice job. Great job, great job. Who says girls can't do this?

PATRICK: It's a little bit maybe more calm driving around here than in Indy, so I guess I had -- at least on your own, in the lead. I had a little more time to look around and see the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Well, what she saw was Jimmie Johnson make a late-race charge to the front row. Johnson took home the checkered flag to win his second Daytona 500. The five-time Sprint Cup champion adds another piece to an already legendary racing career.

Mix martial arts fighter Rhonda Rousey rock the house and made history Saturday night by winning the first women's match in ultimate fighting championship history. Rousey defeated fellow American and Marine Liz Carmouche late in the first round. This is the highest women's pay- per-view event in history, beating out a boxing match between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier's daughters.

The NFL combine is a time where perspective draftees get drilled not only physical tests, but psychological tests as well. Over the weekend, NFL teams did one-on-one interviews with players to test their mental aptitude and character.

Saturday Manti Te'O took questions from reporters for the first time and he said NFL teams were definitely curious about that fake girlfriend hoax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANTI TE'O, "EMBARRASSED" BY FAKE GIRLFRIEND HOAX: It's definitely embarrassing. I guess it's part of the process, part of the journey. But, you know, it's only going to make me stronger and it definitely has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: Manti Te'O was met with 20 teams over the past two days. He will now work out for teams later today. You can check out bleacherreport.com to see how he's improving his draft stock.

Guys, I can tell you it was a great weekend here at the Daytona 500. It's great to see Danica Patrick make history three times and obviously this race did crowned a great champion in Jimmie Johnson.

BERMAN: That's right. Jimmie Johnson, a huge day turning into a legend on the track. All right, thanks, Joe Carter in today's "Bleacher Report." Let's go out to Soledad in Hollywood now.

O'BRIEN: All right, John, thank you. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, while the rest of America was waiting to hear who won the Oscars, the family of one 911 victim was waiting for something else. They were waiting for an apology. We'll talk to a family member up next. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. On September 11th of 2001, San Francisco native Benny Ann Ong was a flight attendant on board the first plane that would hit the World Trade Center in New York City. Ong risked her life by alerting American Airlines that a hijacking was under way, and she died a hero.

There was a message that was recorded from that discussion between the tower and Miss Ong on the plane, and that was played in the Oscar nominated film "Zero Dark Thirty." The family says it was improperly used, and they wanted an apology if, in fact, "Zero Dark Thirty" won an award last night, which they did.

Her brother, Harry Ong, joins us this morning from San Francisco. It's nice to have you with us. Thanks for talking with us. What she said in that clip of a longer 25-minute conversation she was having with the control tower was the plane is being hijacked, and we can't get into the cockpit.

When you heard they were using it -- I don't know if you had a chance to see the film -- what did you think?

HARRY ONG, BROTHER OF BETTY ANN ONG: Actually, I have not seen the film, nor do I intend to, but there was a pre-screening of the movie back east in the Boston area, and one of our friends which know our family very well, she sent us an e-mail and said she had pre-screened the movie.

Right away in the first 90 seconds of that movie in a very darkened background scene, 10 or 11 voices came out, real voices. They were not makeover voices, in which she immediately recognized Betty's voice.

She subsequently went up to the movie film producers and asked whether the families of those whose voices were used were notified or asked for permission to do so, and they responded, no, they had not.

Subsequently, she e-mailed me, informed me about the movie, and that they had used Betty's voice and that perhaps whether it was okay for me to -- for her to send them my e-mail address for contact.

O'BRIEN: There were a couple things that you wanted. You wanted, if they won an award at the Oscars, you wanted an apology, and you also wanted to make sure there was a link going to the foundation that you started in your sister's memory. They've done some of that. As you well know last night, the one award they won, they did not mention your sister's name. How disappointed or maybe even angry are you?

ONG: It's really up to them, and I was hoping that, obviously, that they were nominated for five academies and that they had won a lot more and to give them a platform to express really their -- give an apology and mention the names of the victims that they had used in the film to give credit basically.

Credit really in the movie, after the movie, there are credits to be given, and none of the victims really were given credit at all. And as far as I know, my family and Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Mary Thatchet of the voices of September 11th, they were also not asked for permission as well, and we both have the same feelings and concerns about this issue.

O'BRIEN: Harry Ong is the brother of Betty Ann Ong, who was a flight attendant on September 11th, annoyed with how they used her voice in "Zero Dark Thirty." Thank you for talking with us this morning. I know you've been able to get a lot more notice with people to understand what was done in this movie. We appreciate you talking to us about it.

We got to take a short break. But still ahead on STARTING POINT, we'll have much more on last night's big Oscar winners, one on stage talking about a fall. The other talking about how he got back up. That's ahead.

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