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"Truly Historic" Blizzard Batters Southern Plains; Blizzard Batters Plains States; Deadly Storm Moving North; Hot Air Balloon Horror; Rocket Explodes In Israel; World Concerns Over Italian Elections; Budget Cut Countdown; Scandals Sour Pope's Final Week; CPAC Snubs New Jersey Governor Christie; Trayvon Martin Shot Dead One Year Ago; Dow, S&P 500 Post Biggest Drop of 2013

Aired February 26, 2013 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- more than a foot of snow this morning. Roads are impassable. Drivers are stranded. This picture, really dramatic picture was sent to us from I-Reporter Philip Prince, a trucker who was stuck on Interstate 40 about 50 miles east of Amarillo.

He says the highway has been shut down and he had been stuck for about eight hours when he took this picture. Two people have been killed, one on an icy road in Kansas. The other had a home in Oklahoma where the roof collapsed under the weight of the snow.

At this hour, winter storm warnings are in effect as far north as Illinois as this massive system tracks north and east with Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan next on its hit list.

So minute by minute, state by state, we are tracking this dangerous storm for you. Jennifer Delgado is in the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta. But first, let's get to CNN's Erin McPike who is live in Kansas City where they are just getting slammed by their second snowstorm in a week. Good morning, Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Yes, the roads are covered here again and there is all this heavy wet snow from the storm last week and what that means is that branches are snapping and power lines are coming down.

So we're seeing power outages, about 10,000 in Kansas City alone, about 10,000 in Texas, thousands more in Oklahoma. So folks need to be careful because we're going to see more of that throughout the next couple of days -- John.

BERMAN: The mayor declared a state of emergency. How long with that stay in effect, Erin?

MCPIKE: Until sometime on Wednesday and Mayor Sly James actually had this warning for residents yesterday.


MAYOR SLY JAMES, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: We'll be keeping community centers and shelters open. There will be crews on the roads, and emergency personnel on alert and doing their jobs. We'll do our part. We need our Kansas City citizens to take this seriously and spread the word and to be off the roads as much as possible.


MCPIKE: They had about 175 snow plows out last night. Another 65 will hit the residential areas of Kansas City starting at about 6:00 a.m. Central Time -- John.

BERMAN: All right, our thanks to Erin McPike in Kansas City, which, again, is getting slammed for the second time in a week.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: This is terrible. So we want to get more on the situation in Kansas City. Joining us on the phone is the Mayor Sly James and we were just talking about the conditions there. How are you coping with all of this?

JAMES (via telephone): Well, we are fortunate that we have a great crew of people out working with it and they've been on the road now for quite some time, trying to keep things as clear as possible. But we're monitoring the situation.

We're doing everything that we can, we've got a great group of citizens who are heeding our warnings, at least so far, trying to stay off the roads and stay at home and that helps quite a bit. We'll get through this. I mean, weather is something we have to expect where we live and we'll get through it, we just have to be smart and safe.

SAMBOLIN: Mayor, what would you say is your greatest challenge?

JAMES: Probably right now, I would say the -- the really -- in terms of weather itself is the wind is really very strong. It's blowing the snow quite -- quite forcefully, the temperatures are going to be felt in terms of wind chill.

Our biggest challenge will probably be making sure we get through this rush hour as well as we possibly can. And probably for those who are home bound or need public transportation, that is going to be a huge challenge, because our public transportation system is definitely affected.

SAMBOLIN: Do you feel are you getting all the assistance that you need?

JAMES: Yes, I do. I think that at this stage, our crews are working hard. They are out there. I'm not at the emergency operations center, but I will be shortly. I'll get an update then. At this point, I don't think we are lacking for outside resources. We have good neighbors, but their hands are full as well.

SAMBOLIN: It's great to hear that everybody is pitching in there. Mayor James, we know that you are incredibly busy and appreciate you taking some time with us this morning. Good luck to you.

This historic storm is churning to the north and east. Let's get right to Jennifer Delgado in the CNN Weather Center. Where is the system right now, Jennifer, and who is actually awaiting it next?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we are seeing the system right now affecting parts of the Midwest. We've talked to officials coming out of Kansas City and Kansas City is really picking up the heaviest snow right now for areas like St. Joseph down to Sedalia. Now for Wichita, you're getting a break from the heaviest snow, but notice for St. Louis, a break in the rain.

Of course, they will start to see that snow working in as we go later into the afternoon, roughly around noon. Now we're going to take a look at Kansas City. Now this is a live view of the road. This is Interstate 70 and Ninth Street. You notice, here is the overpass, here is the snow. I want to point out to you, nobody on the road.

That's good news because the snow is going to be coming down in some of these locations, 6 to 10 inches of snowfall with winds gusting to 35 at times, 40 throughout the afternoon. This is going to lead to the blowing snow, especially that dry snow.

Right now, you can see some of those winds roughly right around 23. Now we talked more about snow totals. Notice for Missouri, it looks like you are going to be the bull's-eye, 10 inches to 12 inches of snowfall.

As we move it up towards the north, for areas like Nebraska and Iowa, you're going to be picking up snow. Chicago, 3 inches to 6 inches for you. Good for you and then for Detroit, you'll see that snow working in.

For Chicago, expect that to change over to all of the white stuff by roughly by about 3:00. Now some of these totals have been quite impressive for Amarillo, 19 inches of snowfall yesterday and for Perryton, Texas, 15.

So the snow continues to pile up. These numbers are quite impressive. I'm a little jealous of Erin because she keeps all these great stories and going through the winter storm.

SAMBOLIN: Why don't you send her a little e-mail? Thank you, Jennifer. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: It's 5 minutes after the hour right now. We are following a developing story this morning, 14 tourists trying to get a birds-eye view of Egyptian sites were killed when their hot air balloon exploded and plummeted 1,000 feet to the ground.

State run Nile TV reports the crash happened in Luxor in Southern Egypt. A total of 21 people were on board, 19 visitors from Hong Kong, Japan, Belgium, the U.K. and France, and two Egyptians, one of whom was the pilot.

SAMBOLIN: And also developing tensions in the Middle East are pretty high this morning after a rocket fired from Gaza struck Southern Israel overnight. This is the first such attack since the truce in November ended a week of cross-border fighting and it follows days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in the west bank over the death of a Palestinian man inside an Israeli prison. The rocket did cause damage, but no deaths have been reported.

BERMAN: Markets around the world a little shaky this morning after the outcome of the Italian parliamentary elections. For the first time ever that country has elected a hung parliament, which will make it difficult if not impossible to pass further austerity measures, which arguably are needed to save that country from further recession. Italy is the euro zone's third largest economy. This election yesterday helped lead our market to the worst day of the entire year.

SAMBOLIN: It's 7 minutes past the hour. Two powerful Senate Republicans are just hours away from a face-to-face meeting at the White House the president. Immigration reform is on the agenda. But it seems almost certain John McCain and Lindsay Graham will also be trying to head off massive forced spending cuts.

And the two sides better come up with something fast because the slashing begins at midnight on Friday. Graham sounding convinced a deal will not get done by the deadline, but the South Carolina senator says he has an offer for the president that can ease the pain for everyone.


SENATOR LINDSAY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is the chance to do the big deal. I'm willing to raise revenue, $600 billion in new revenue if my Democratic friends are willing to reform entitlements.


SAMBOLIN: President Obama will be talking about the forced spending cuts at a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. An estimated 40,000 civilian Defense Department jobs in the region could be furloughed once those cuts begin.

BERMAN: A string of sex abuse scandals continue to emerge all during the pope's final week as leader of 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church. Some of the scandals involve those who may choose the pope's successor.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles will be part of the conclave. He will be part of the conclave despite damning new revelations about his handling of pedophile priests.

Then there was yesterday's stunning resignation of the U.K.'s leading Catholic cleric, Archbishop Keith O'Brien, amid accusations of inappropriate behavior with men studying to be a priest. A claim he has denied despite stepping down. Pope Benedict XVI's last day is Thursday. He is the first pope to resign in some 600 years.

SAMBOLIN: This year's CPAC is giving New Jersey governor and potential 2016 presidential contender, Chris Christie, the cold shoulder. A source close to the Conservative Political Action Conference says organizers didn't invite him to the event, which is set to happen next month near D.C. One likely reason? Christie's praise to President Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy, which some in the GOP say swung the November election in the president's favor.

BERMAN: There have been other past snubs. You know, Rudy Giuliani was not invited to speak in 2007. The difference here is Chris Christie is a pro-life governor who governs with the types of conservative values that CPAC usually likes. His one transgression seems to be the embrace of President Obama after Sandy also going after John Boehner dealing with the Sandy relief bill.

SAMBOLIN: He is also hugely popular.

BERMAN: In New Jersey. Maybe not nationally with conservatives, but in New Jersey he certainly is.

It's 9 minutes after the hour. Today marks one year since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in the case that captured nationwide attention. We will hear from Martin's father, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It was one year ago today that Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Sanford, Florida. The 17- year-old got into a confrontation with George Zimmerman who claims he was attacked and shot Martin in self defense.

Martin's family claims the unarmed teen was racially profiled. Last night, Trayvon's father had this to say to CNN's Piers Morgan.


TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: It's time for America to take a look at gun laws, do something with the gun laws, take a look at people who are purchasing guns, people that they are giving gun licenses to. There is too much senseless violence.


SAMBOLIN: There are many unanswered questions in a case that even caught the attention of President Obama. Martin Savidge has more from Sanford, Florida.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It starts with a phone call, February 26, 2012.

ZIMMERMAN: We've had a lot of break-ins in our neighborhood recently and I'm on the neighborhood watch.

SAVIDGE: It's a cold and dreary night in Central Florida, a neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has just spotted 17- year-old Trayvon Martin walking through his gated community in Sanford.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Are you following him?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK, we don't need you to do that.

SAVIDGE: Moments later, Martin who is black and Zimmerman who is Hispanic struggle in the dark. Neighbors call 911.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Do you think he is yelling help?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Yes, there's gunshots.



SAVIDGE: Zimmerman shoots the teen, claiming self-defense. Photos show Zimmerman bleeding from the nose and back of the head. Sanford police decide not to bring charges perhaps because of Florida stand your ground law.

That decision triggers a national outcry. Three weeks later, the Justice Department announces its own investigation into Martin's death and Sanford police. Meanwhile, tensions rise with the release of 911 recordings.

In them, some hear Zimmerman using a racial slur. Analysis by CNN is inconclusive. March 22nd, Sanford's Police Chief Bill Lee steps down. That same day, Florida Governor Rick Scott appoints State Attorney Angela Curry to lead a special investigation.

The next day, President Obama speaks publicly about the case for the first time.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.

SAVIDGE: March 24th, a group called New Black Panther Party offers a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman's, quote-unquote, "capture".

Two days later, Trayvon Martin rallies are held across the country, demanding Zimmerman's arrest.

April 11th, Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder and turns himself in. Bond is eventually set at $150,000. And three days later, he walks out of jail in the middle of the night only to return six weeks later when a judge revokes his bond after prosecutors say Zimmerman and his wife lied about being poor at his bond hearing, failing to mention hundreds of thousands of donated dollars from supporters.

This time, Zimmerman's wife is also arrested, charged with perjury.

July 6th, Zimmerman's release now on $1 million bond and goes into hiding.

Zimmerman appears on FOX News.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Is there anything you might do differently in retrospect, now that time passed a little bit?


SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, his defense team successfully lobbies to have the judge in the case replaced.

February 9th, 2013, the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation host a day of remembrance in his hometown of Miami and takes place four days after the youth at the heart of a national debate would have turned 18.


SAVIDGE: The next big step in this case will be in April where there's going to be a "stand your ground" hearing, and that's particular to the state of Florida. A judge will listen to the evidence in what's expected to be a mini-trial and then issue a ruling as to whether or not "stand your ground" applies in the case of George Zimmerman, is self-defense under Florida law. If he is granted immunity, he wouldn't be prosecuted. In fact, there would be to trial. It would go beyond that, he wouldn't be tried criminally and he couldn't be sued in civil court.

Now, if the judge turns it down, it will move on to a trial that's expected to begin in June.

There is a lot more to come -- Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. Martin Savidge, thank you.

Meantime, Trayvon Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, along with family attorney Benjamin Crump, will join Soledad this morning on "STARTING POINT". That is at 7:30 Eastern.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, an epic winter storm slamming the Midwest. At this hour, it is tracking north and east, targeting Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. Texas and Oklahoma are already reeling, airports closed, roads shut down with drivers stranded. Amarillo, Texas, buried under 19 inches of snow this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And deadly. Two people have died in that winter storm.

And former U.S. surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, has died at the age of 96. He served from 1982 to 1989 and elevated the profile of the surgeon general's office. Koop was instrumental in getting the nation to focus on key health issues such as HIV and AIDS prevention, and convincing Americans to stop smoking.

BERMAN: Easily the most famous surgeon general of all time.

Meanwhile, and the winner is -- Seth MacFarlane. Sure, he may have brought with him a little controversy, but Oscar's newest host also delivered higher ratings for the show and that is the name of the game. More than 40 million viewers tuned in to watch Sunday's Academy Awards. That's up 3 percent from last year and the second biggest audience in six years.

Ratings shot up by 20 percent in the key younger demographic. That's 18 to 34 year olds.

SAMBOLIN: Is this funny? It was one of those things where you laugh and you think, oops, should I be laughing at this?

All right. Eighteen minutes past the hour. Today's "Road Warriors", shifting gears in how we drive.

BERMAN: If renting a car for a whole day seems like a wasted money, then car sharing, it might be for you.

Christine Romans tells us more.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the big players are really trying to get in on this to see if this is the trend that's going to explode.

Car sharing is gaining in popularity in many cities mainly because of convenience in cities. You can simply rent a car by the hour and not by the day. So whether you need a car for a few hours to go to a meeting or to explore a city during the layover, then car sharing could be your best bet.

According to a 2010 report from Frost & Sullivan, it's estimated 4.4 million people will join these car sharing networks in North America by the year 2016.

The big car rental companies want into it because they're realizing that travelers want more options. Avis recently bought Zip Car for $500 million and both Enterprise and Hertz have launched car sharing programs.

What it means for you, you'd be able to customize your rental service and your rates maybe lower as big companies are competing for your business. So, watch this space so to speak because this is a trend that started as a niche. And it's getting bigger and the big players are involved now.

SAMBOLIN: When people save money, I'm always on board with that.

ROMANS: I know, I know.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, you think you are saving enough for your kids' college. Not really. Coming up, some new numbers that might make you think again. Oh, no, Christine.


SAMBOLIN: We are minding your business this morning.

So much for all that talk about the Dow's record high, right? Stocks sold off yesterday. It was the worst day for the Dow and S&P 500 this year.

BERMAN: Christine Romans here to explain everything to us.

SAMBOLIN: OK. Well, a big thing that's going on is Italy and chaos Italian politics right now. And basically, people who -- party members who were against austerity, tightening the belt, they had some big victories and so, now, have you crisis about what direction Italy is going to take going forward. Italy a very -- has a lot of debt. Italy is very important part of the Europe story. Unemployment rate is 11 percent. Economic growth is negative. Economy is shrinking. It's got among the highest debt loads for its size in Europe.

This is interesting, because in this country, we're talking about austerity. In this country, we're talking about tightening the belt. In this country, we're talking about living within our means.

In those Europe countries, while they're doing it, they are throwing the bums out. We are trying to do it. So, connecting the dots there is sort of interesting story.

I want to share the Dow really quickly. We've been talking about knocking on the door of, you know, all-time highs, instead, you had a six-month rally and now, a big pause. Washington and it's talk about austerity is a big part of this, Europe concern is a big part of this, there's just no new impetus to hit those highs right now. And so, you have people talking money off the table.

The dashboard of the market was really interesting. Fear spikes. Gold prices rose, interest rates fell. There's a very nervous and skittish kind of internal look to the markets yesterday. So, we're 380 points from an all-time high in the Dow.

I think right now, we're not with -- right now, this is more of a pause button, or we're going to have to pull back here. Dow futures up 45 points right now.

But I want to talk about saving. One thing you need to know about your money. Half of Americans are saving enough for retirement. Which half are you in?

Half of us are. I want to look at the positive of this. Half of us are saving enough for retirement. A new study from the Consumer Federation of America says we're 50/50 on good saving habits like even having a plan to save. And this is shocking. If you've got a kid going to college, another brand new study this morning from Sallie Mae finds a typical family saving for kids or planning about $38,000 sock away, they are only putting in $19,000. It's not enough.

We've got a savings rate in this country of only 3.9 percent. That's down from after the recession. Look, in 2010, we were saving 5 percent because we were scared to death, right? Now, we're down to 3.9 percent. We need to be saving 10 percent for all of these responsibilities, retirement, for college, the Sallie Mae study, I'm going to tweet out.

The Sallie Mae study finds if you have an eighth grader and you want your eighth grader to go to private college, you're going to need to fork over $203,000. Do you have the money? Most of us don't. SAMBOLIN: I have an eighth grader.

ROMANS: You have an eighth grader, but you're saving, right?

So, here's something interesting. Our grandparents and our parents, in many cases, deprived themselves of something, not necessarily their retirement. Deprived themselves of something so they could save for college starting early.

We're not really doing that in this country. We don't want to give anything up to save for the future, which is, again, connecting the dots, a big problem in this country. But personally, it's one thing we can control.

You have been saving for a long time.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh, since he was born.

BERMAN: Since conception.


BERMAN: Twenty-six minutes --

ROMANS: Save more money, Mr. Berman.

SAMBOLIN: Those prices keep on going up for college.

BERMAN: Sure do.

It is 26 minutes after the hour right now and a popular diet, it proves so healthy that it surprised even the doctors who were studying it. We're going to tell you what it is.

SAMBOLIN: And it's yummy.

BERMAN: And how it could help you. You're going to like this.

We'll tell you about it, coming up.