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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Severe Weather Warnings; Storm Rolling Through Midwest; Washington, D.C. Braces For Snow; Chavez Battling Infection; Security Council Meeting On North Korea; Commit To "Zero Tolerance"; Escort: Menendez Prostitution Claims Made Up; Casey Anthony "Living Off Kindness"; Martha Stewart In Court; NRA Sponsors NASCAR Race; Jodi Arias' Murder Trial; Martha Stewart to Testify

Aired March 5, 2013 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- Washington, D.C. where preps are underway to be totally paralyzed by the storm, which happens every time it snows there. And Karen Maginnis is monitoring the storm from the CNN Weather Center. Jennifer, we're going to start with you in Chicago. What do things look like there?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I can tell you right now, no snow out here. It's still roughly about 50 miles away from Chicago. So we're expecting the snow to come mid morning, late morning and it's going to be heavy at times. We're talking some of that snow about 1 inch to 2 inches, and then later into the evening, of course, that's snow kicks in, it's going to be a mess out here.

So it's quiet now, but don't let that deceive you. Right now, you can see the Chicago River. Here's the magnificent mile. I'm telling you right now it's cold out here. I checked the wind chill is like 23 degrees is what it feels like. My photographer Steve says this isn't cold, but I feel like this is pretty brutal out here.

Now again, we're expecting anywhere between 6 inches to 8 inches of snowfall. Some of these locations could potentially get 10 inches of snowfall. Now keep in mind, Chicago, the metro area, northern parts of Illinois, they're still in an abnormal as well as moderate drought. So they do need the snowfall and they're below average for the season right around 8.5 inches.

So the snowfall is certainly going to help. It's been rather bleak when you talk about the snow. Roadways right now are nice and clear. I know the crews have been now getting things ready. But again, once we get into rush hour, we could start to see conditions going downhill because we're also expecting those winds to gust up to about 30 miles per hour.

That's going to reduce visibility. Of course, that is going to hamper travel. We already know hundreds of flights have been cancelled out of O'Hare as well as Midway. So let the fun begin and I'm getting ready to run back into the truck and warm right up.

BERMAN: That's right. Jennifer Delgado, Atlanta resident in Chicago right now where this storm is coming. Our thanks to you. ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I was about to call her a wuzz for complaining about the cold. All right, 1 minute past the hour here. Tonight, the nation's capital and the surrounding areas will get hit by the storm as well. They could see up to 9 inches of snow.

The D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, is prepared to deploy 4,000 trucks and snowplows. Our Shannon Travis is there live. Shannon, how are they getting ready? That sounds like quite a fleet.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, quite a fleet, and they're getting ready by getting the plans together to actually prepare for the storm. They've even got a name for it, Zoraida, "snow- questration," a little play on words there, potential storm and sequestration.

We're right now at one of the super size salt domes here in Northern Virginia. It's going to give you a sense of how massive this thing is right here. Look up to the top and tell me that about 6,000 tons of salt in this dome alone. I've been kind of playing with a little bit, Zoraida.

It's basically what you would expect to see on your typical highway or on your local street or what have you, but right on 495, which is obviously the capital beltway. But just to give you a little sense of the process of what will actually happen here, you basically have these huge front loaders. The front loaders will be coming in from this direction right here with the huge big blades.

They'll scoop up some of the salt right here in this dome and they'll basically take that salt over to some trucks, load it just beyond my shoulder over here. Each one of those trucks has a capacity of about 11 tons of salt. So you'll basically see those front loaders come in and out all morning.

And basically some of the spokesmen -- one of the spokesmen that we spoke with basically said that they'll be ready and deploy them on the interstates -- Zoraida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER MCCORD, SPOKESPERSON, VDOT: They will be in place as soon as this storm hits. They'll be pre-staged on interstates and major roads, including subdivisions throughout Northern Virginia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRAVIS: VDOT says that they'll be ready for whatever happens -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So I've got to tell you, judging from where you are, it looks like they are well-prepared. Thank you.

BERMAN: No matter how prepared they are, I promise you, when it snows there, the city will still shut down. It's just what happens. It's the law of nature in Washington, D.C. It's 4 minutes after the hour. Interstate 70 in Colorado has reopened this morning after severe weather out there made a huge mess of that highway. Blizzard conditions near some of Vail's popular ski resorts caused two massive pile-ups. You can barely see through the snow.

A 30-car wreck right there shutting down several miles of I-70. We want to go to Karen Maginnis at the Severe Weather Center in Atlanta now. Karen, enough snow already, but where is it going to go? Where is it headed next? Where is spring? Give us some reason for hope here.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, there is not definitive confidence as to where the system is going to head. But John, I will tell you that for Chicago, you may remember, Chicago for 335 days, they didn't see any measurable snowfall and now they see these back- to-back storm systems.

It is good because they do need the moisture and 48 inches, that's what some of the amounts are expected. Washington, D.C., it may shut down. May or may not. Because it does look like right around the metro D.C. area, we could see 3 to 7, 3 inches to 7 inches of snowfall.

But well to the west, this is where we're looking at significantly heavier amounts. But this isn't going to happen until overnight and going into Wednesday. Then you'll start to see the wind really pick up. Here are some of the snowfall totals we've already seen.

You can see it's North Dakota. You would expect some significant snowfall expected there. But yes, 12 inches, beginning of March, not that unusual but definitely delays spring just a little bit. Why is this not a definitive forecast?

Well, the computer models have been all over the place. They have been. Actually, two systems coming together for the mid-Atlantic, and if it travels up the eastern seaboard, New York, Boston, you're in on the game, too -- John and Zoraida.

BERMAN: All right, our thanks to you in Atlanta right now. A lot of the country watching that storm.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely. Thank you.

All right, it's 5 minutes past the hour. Big story developing right now in Venezuela, the health of President Hugo Chavez taking a turn for the worse, a government spokesman saying Chavez is battling a severe new infection and his condition now is being called very delicate.

Shasta Darlington is live from Caracas, Venezuela this morning. What do you know?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, as you say, this announcement was terse and it was extraordinarily bleak. I think that's what really hit people. They haven't heard this kind of bleak announcement almost since he fell ill. He went to Cuba for cancer surgery on December 11th, and of course, they haven't seen him in public since then.

So for many people, it didn't come as a surprise, especially critics who have stepped up demands in recent days to know just what condition the president is in, if he's really leading the country, and if he'll ever be able to fully assume the presidency.

On the other hand, there are those supporters, Chavez enjoys a kind of religious-like fervor following. And many of those people have believed up until now that he will be cured, that he will come back.

A poll just last week showed that 57 percent of Venezuelans thought that Chavez would recover. So this kind of news, this announcement will indeed be bad news for them. And in some ways, it paves the way for what could come next, either the death of Chavez or an announcement that he won't be able to assume the presidency -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Now, we know that when he was in ailing health, that he left his vice president basically in charge saying that he would be a great leader, but there is really no successor that he has mentored, so what happens if he dies?

DARLINGTON: Well, Zoraida, exactly as you say, the idea is that his vice president, Nicolas Marudo, is ahead in the polls if they were to hold elections today. If he dies, they have to hold elections within 30 days. He is very likely to win those elections, but he doesn't have the following that Chavez has. A lot of people feel that he's even more hard lined trying to get that kind of support -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. It's that charisma they say that he's lacking. Shasta Darlington, thank you so much for that report.

BERMAN: It's 8 minutes after the hour right now. U.N. sanctions against North Korea now fortified with China. In just a few hours, the U.N. Security Council meets to consider a resolution punishing North Korea for last month's nuclear tests.

Like the regime's previous test, this has drawn widespread international condemnation, this time even from China, which has blocked action in the past. The U.S. and China have reportedly agreed of wording of a draft resolution this time for new sanctions.

SAMBOLIN: And the cardinals are meeting again this morning and that means we may learn today when the conclave will actually start. This is an American cardinal in Rome to help choose the next pope is addressing the child sex abuse scandal head-on. Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago, said the next pontiff must commit to zero tolerance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE, ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO: So whoever is elected pope, he governs by law. We all do, not by whim or desire on our part. So we're governed by law in all particulars. The church is not a tyranny. So he obviously has to accept the universal code of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has ever abused a minor child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: A Vatican spokesman says a new pope could be in place within the next 10 days, trying to do that before Easter.

BERMAN: A Dominican woman who said she had sex for money with New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez now says her story is false and that she never even met him. According to court documents, the 23-year-old Nexus Delos Santos claims she was paid to make the whole story up.

But the "Daily Caller," which first broke the scandal says reports on this story are getting their escorts mixed up. The "Daily Caller" claims this woman is not one of the two prostitutes they originally interviewed for their expose last fall. This is confusing, I have the say.

So out of hiding and back into court, Casey Anthony making her first public appearance since being acquitted of murdering her daughter Caylee nearly two years ago. Anthony claims to be $800,000 in debt.

At a bankruptcy hearing in Tampa, Anthony testified she has no job, no car, can't pay rent and utilities, and depends on the kindness of those she's living with plus unsolicited donations and gift cards.

SAMBOLIN: The color coordinated towel and sheet set wars. Martha Stewart expected to testify in a couple of hours in a civil case pitting Macy's against retail rival JC Penny over their relationship with Martha Stewart living on the media. An issue, whether Stewart's company broke an exclusivity agreement with Macy's by signing a $500 million deal to sell housewares at Penney locations.

BERMAN: Big business there. The National Rifle Association is getting into NASCAR. It is sponsoring the upcoming Sprint Cup race at the Texas Motor Speedway. The NRA 500 will run on primetime on Saturday, April 13th. This is the first time that the NRA has sponsored a race in NASCAR's top series.

There is one big connection, NASCAR team owner Richard Childress is a member of the NRA's board of directors. Sprint Cup winners at the Texas Motor Speedway usually celebrate by firing of six guns filled with blanks in victory lane. Here's a picture of Jimmie Johnson doing it when he won last year at Texas 500.

SAMBOLIN: It sounds like shades of the infamous bloody glove in the O.J. Simpson trial. Lawyers for accused killer Jodi Arias offering up a finger defense on the stand, more from the courtroom coming up.

BERMAN: Drones flying secret missions over the United States. You'll hear one pilot's sky high encounter captured in realtime.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. When the Jodi Arias murder trial resumes in just a few hours, it will be day 15 of the defendant's testimony. Arias could get the death penalty if the jury convicts her of murdering her lover, Travis Alexander. She claims it was self-defense.

Day 15 was filled with more of what we have been hearing during this trial, gruesome and graphic details about the murder and the couple's sex life. So we want to warn you, some of the content here is graphic. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a damaging week on cross-examination, the first order of business for Jodi Arias' defense team was knocking down any hint at premeditation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you go to Mr. Alexander's home on June 4th with the intent on killing him?

JODI ARIAS, MURDER DEFENDANT: No. I didn't.

KAYE: Another attempt to convince the jury she murdered Travis Alexander in self-defense even though she's changed her story three times.

Testimony quickly turned to Arias' broken finger on her left hand.

The prosecution has tried to prove she hurt her finger while stabbing her ex-boyfriend dozens of times and dragging his bloody body around the house.

To dispute that, Arias' defense lawyer offered a show-and-tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that is the injury you incurred when you testified to having received when Mr. Alexander was kicking you in the ribs and he ended up kicking your hand, correct?

ARIAS: That's correct.

KAYE: Arias says Alexander broke her finger six months before the murder, the day after she caught him allegedly masturbating to a photo of a little boy. She claims he became increasingly violent after that.

(on camera): Even though the couple had broken up, Arias says she and Alexander continued to have sex, but she wasn't the only one Alexander was seeing.

Now, the state has painted her as jealous and obsessive. But here in court, Arias portrayed herself as unfazed by this other woman. She even asked Alexander about her.

ARIAS: I didn't want to be confrontational. I wanted to just throw it out there, let him know it's OK if you're dating someone. You can let me know. I'm going to be cool about that.

KAYE (voice-over): Again, the couple's sex life was on full display. The defense worked to convince the jury it was Alexander, not Arias, who was the more experienced sexually. Listen to this recording of the couple's phone sex played in court. TRAVIS ALEXANDER, VICTIM: You cannot say I don't work that booty. We've had two or three-hour sessions many times.

KAYE: All along, the prosecutor has painted Arias as the one who unleashed Alexander's sexual appetite. The defense tried to counter that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So based on what you've told us in your testimony, before you met Travis in your sexual history, you would have had anal sex no more than four times, is that accurate?

ARIAS: That's accurate.

KAYE: And what to make of Arias' strange behavior at Alexander's memorial service? She left him a note shown in court telling him she loved him. Remember, this was less than two weeks after she slit his throat, nearly cutting his head off.

ARIAS: Well, I still have love for him, yes, and I was thinking now more in terms of eternity.

KAYE: Arias told the court she still had deep love for Alexander on June 4th, 2008, the day she killed him.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our thanks to Randi.

The deep spending cuts that kicked in last week are already costing you time.

SAMBOLIN: Customs and Border Patrol reported longer lines at major points of entry over the weekend due to a reduction in the overtime staff. And the TSA and FAA are warning travelers this is only the beginning.

BERMAN: So, Christine Romans is here. She will tell you how this will affect you and your travel plans in this edition of "Road Warriors."

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So far it's been international travelers waiting to go through customs. That's where the delays have been. It's already started. Customs officials say lines at New York's JFK Airport and Miami International spiked this weird, and the officials are blaming a reduction in the overtime staff due to sequestration, those forced budget cuts.

They say waits are likely to worsen as hiring freezes go into effect. Officials say it could also affect the TSA with up to a thousand vacancies by Memorial Day. TSA says fewer staff means longer security lines at major airports.

Secretary of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, she predicts waits may increase up to 200 percent. Here's her advice to fliers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Look, people, I don't mean to scare, I mean to inform. If you're traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would. There's only so much we can do with personnel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Another transport authority feeling the sting, the FAA. It has announced plans to close 168 air traffic control towers at small and medium sized airports by April 1st and potentially more throughout the year if sequestration, these forced budget cuts stay. Closure will affect around 5.8 percent of all commercial air traffic as well as considerably many more business and private flights from some of those smaller airports.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Amtrak says its service won't be affected. It credits good budget management for keeping the company from getting derailed by these cuts.

But I will say, look, the issue here when you look at some of these flights coming into Miami this weekend, some of them coming into JFK, getting through Customs, it was two and three-hour delays, much more than is usual at this time of the year.

So, I guess pack your patience, because this is the way it's going to be until this is sorted out.

BERMAN: You know, and Amtrak is doing fine, but that does not help international travelers. You can't take the train from New York to New England.

ROMANS: You can't?

BERMAN: No. Bummer.

All right. The Martha Stewart trial, nearly 10 years ago, it was a media sensation. In just a couple hours, she is back in court. A closer look at the case, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Minding your business this morning.

Thirty-eight points -- that's it -- 38 points. If the Dow can gain more than that today, we will have a record high.

SAMBOLIN: And, Christine, some good indications that perhaps it may happen.

ROMANS: Look, all three of the averages are up in pre-market trading. Futures are indicating a higher open. So, it's a psychological milestone. But one solid day of gains and essentially we are there.

The broader S&P is a bit further from its all time high. And, you know, Sam Stovall, the chief equity strategist at S&P Capital, put out actually kind of a warning yesterday that we might have very little time to celebrate and that stocks could drop right after hitting new highs. The S&P 500 is up nearly 40 percent since it hit the lows in October of 2011. And he said to us yesterday, we may be in for a bumpy ride. He said it's wise to fasten your safety belt when you set a high in the market.

Meantime, we're watching a really interesting testimony today from Martha Stewart. The domestic diva, the peddler of perfection.

BERMAN: Oh wow, do another one.

ROMANS: I can't think of one.

But she's -- remember, this was exactly eight years yesterday when she came out of prison for lying about a stock. She was convicted about lying about a stock sale in a drug company.

And she came back and it was a company called Macy's that gave her a real shot at rebuilding her brand and going from ex-convict back to Martha Stewart, a brand, a brand, you know, that is -- a brand that is about good things and clean and light and bright, right?

SAMBOLIN: Organized.

ROMANS: And organized. We're about to see her messy business dealings in court. She's being sued by Macy's for going behind their back to do another deal with JCPenney to sell her protects in a JCPenney store, specifically her home goods products, which Macy's believes it has exclusive rights to.

Terry Lundgren, who's the CEO of Macy's, said that when Martha Stewart called him in 2011 and said she was going to do a deal with JCPenney, he felt stick to his stomach and he hung up the phone on his friend and business partner and has not spoken since. Meanwhile, her products are selling in his stores and he's profiting from her. So, it's a very messy kind of triangulation of business deals here.

We will hear from her on the stand today, I may (ph) go to court and watch it. But we're going to hear from the stand today and she's going to -- and her company has told us this, they have a contractual loophole and their Macy's deal allows her to sell her home goods also in JCPenney. Two household names and a brand, a very top female brand all in court today.

SAMBOLIN: And she's ventured to Staples recently, too.

ROMANS: Yes, her products in a lot of different places. At issue here is sheets and linens and things like that in two competitors at the same thing.

BERMAN: What's the thing we need to know about your money?

ROMANS: Pack your patience. We've been telling you about how sequestration, the forced spending cuts, the bite from them starting to reveal itself over the next couple of days.

Already, we told you passengers at JFK and Miami spending more time in customs lines. Two and three-hour waits. Bring your patience because it won't just be customs travelers. We're expecting across the travel sphere, you're going to start to be feeling this as the furloughs start going out this week.

BERMAN: Good luck with that. Good luck with that patience packing patience there.

SAMBOLIN: Nice to warn them, but whatever. Thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Most people spot a shark and they high tail out of the way, right? You would, Berman. Not this crew. Coming up, cameras capture the tagging of a 2,000-pound beast with enormous teeth.

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