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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Carnival Conundrum; New Era For Catholics; "I'm Announcing Today A Change Of Heart"; Pistole Sticks to His Guns; Number of Millionaires Nears Record High

Aired March 15, 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: -- 15th, the ides of March. I hope you have a great day. It's 6 a.m. in the east.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: As Christine just mentioned, happening right now Pope Francis is about to begin an audience with the College of Cardinals. We are told that the cardinals will be able to individually greet the pope. What an amazing picture there.

We're talking about the full college that includes the cardinals who did not take part in the conclave, some of the older ones, 80 years old and the like. The pope also may speak. We will bring that to you live if it happens.

ROMANS: The other big story we're following for you this morning, a Carnival cruise ship in trouble at sea again. That's three major mishaps in a month and two just this week. Right now the Carnival "Legend" is having propulsion problems in the Caribbean and can't operate at full speed so it's bypassing a stopover in Grand Cayman and limping straight home to Tampa.

On Wednesday, generator problems idled the Carnival "Dream" at St. Maarten and passengers were stuck on board there for hours with reported of toilets overflowing. They're being flown home.

Cristina Puig live in Miami. Cristina, these two ongoing incidents come just a month after an engine room fire on the "Triumph" left 4,200 people stranded for days in the Gulf of Mexico. What's the latest here?

CRISTINA PUIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And aside from them the passengers on the "Dream" who are stuck in St. Maarten are waiting for their transportation to come back to their homes.

We're being told they're going to start flying out beginning at 9:00 this morning on hourly flights. In the meantime here's what's been happening with them over the last couple days.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PUIG (voice-over): For some passengers, it was a cruise that didn't live up to their dream. And to some of us their complaints sounded a note of deja vu, clogged toilets, interruptions to elevator service, power outages. It was the same cruise line, Carnival, but a different ship than the one that left passengers at sea for several days with no air conditioning, and unsanitary living conditions.

But the problems on the cruise liner "Dream" were nowhere near as nightmarish as those aboard the "Triumph" just a month ago.

KRIS ANDERSON, CARNIVAL DREAM PASSENGER (via telephone): Our toilets weren't working and the water rose up, like you would at home, if your toilet was clogged. The water would start to rise up to the top of the bowl.

PUIG: Carnival says the "Dream" with 4,300 passengers got stuck in port at the Caribbean Resort Island of St. Maarten's when the backup emergency generator malfunctioned during a routine inspection.

The company issued a statement saying that at no time did the ship lose power and the ship's propulsion systems and primary power source was not impacted. The statement also said all guests are safe and comfortable with only periodic interruptions to elevators and rest room services for a few hours.

ANDERSON: They thought it was something minor, ended up being something more complicated, which is why we're still here. As far as the power outages go, I mean, I didn't notice at first.

PUIG: The latest aborted voyage comes on the heels of the debacle involving Carnival's "Triumph" cruise liner that spent five days adrift at sea. Attracting worldwide attention as passengers posted picture after picture of the unsanitary and altogether unpleasant conditions on the ship.

CHRISTOPHER MULLER, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: This is a management problem. They're doing something wrong with preventive maintenance. Carnival has so many working ships that to say that the fleet is in distress is maybe a little bit broad, but clearly something is not working right.

PUIG: Ironically, just one day before "Dream's" problems, Carnival had announced it was conducting a comprehensive review of its entire fleet. The cruise line was quick to offer its "Dream" guests a refund for the three days the cruise was cut short, and 50 percent off a future cruise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PUIG: Now with the report of the "Legend" that makes four ships that have had issues just recently. That makes the "Legend," which was yesterday. The "Dream" on Wednesday, the "Elation" on Saturday, and last month the "Triumph" -- Christine

ROMANS: Cristina, you reported that carnival said they were going to do a comprehensive review of all of the ships. What's the problem here? Is this the age of the fleet? Is this maintenance? Is it simply the volume of passengers and how briskly -- there's a lot of demand for these cruises. They're booked and they're booked well into the future.

PUIG: That's right. And we asked Carnival all of these questions and this is the statement they gave us. We have comprehensive maintenance programs in place. Immediately after Carnival Triumph arrived safely in Mobile, we assembled an expert team from across the company as well as outside experts in the areas of fire, marine, technical and electrical systems to complete a fleet wide assessment. And that fleet consists of 23 ships -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Cristina Puig, thank you so much in Miami.

CHO: What legal rights do all these disappointed Carnival passengers have? At 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time on "STARTING POINT," maritime lawyer, Jack Hickey will be live. He specializes in cruise line liability.

ROMANS: All right, let's go back live to the Vatican now where the full College of Cardinals beginning an audience with Pope Francis right now. This meeting involves all of the cardinals including those who are over 80 and were not involved in the conclave.

CHO: Let's get right to senior European correspondent, Jim Bittermann, following the papal developments from Rome. Jim, good morning.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Yes, in fact, this is a chance for him to meet some of the people that didn't elect him. These are basically the over-80 cardinals. They've all gathered in a small chapel in the Vatican, and it's basically just a chance to say hello.

We're expecting him to make some remarks, probably nothing too elaborate. There's been nothing public from the Vatican press office, any prepared remarks published. So it will probably be somewhat off the cuff and we'll see what happens beyond that. We'll kind of keep the coverage this morning -- Christine.

CHO: You know, I think what's interesting is "The New York Times," Jim, is reporting this morning that the choice of Pope Francis was so surprising that Italian bishops actually sent out an e-mail congratulating the wrong man. But right now we want to listen in to Pope Francis as he is talking to the entire College of Cardinals. Let's listen.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): We have noticed the effect and solidarity of the universal church, and also the interest of so many people who may not share our faith. Nonetheless they respect it and admire the church.

From every part of the world there has been raised the prayer of Christians for the new pope, and very moving to meet the people in the Square of St. Peter and I thought the image of the people praying, and joyous.

And so I do want to express my appreciation to the priests, bishops and other religious young people, and to families, and to old people for their spiritual closeness, which was so moving.

I feel the need to express my great gratitude to all of you, my dear brothers, cardinals, for the collaboration given towards the church during the period when there was no pope, and I greet each one of you warmly, starting with the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

I thank him for the devotion and good wishes, which he addressed to me on your behalf, with him, I thank also the Cardinal Bersconi, the chamberlain of the Vatican for his excellent work during this difficult stage of transition.

CHO: Pope Francis addressing the entire College of Cardinals live in Rome this morning. What just a spectacular picture there that we're looking at. We want to bring back Jim Bittermann, who is here with us.

Jim, I think what's so interesting about this pope is that he is known and shown examples already of his humility. My favorite story is that on the day he was elected, a lot of Vatican staff were coming to introduce themselves and he said you know what?

There are a lot of people waiting outside. Can we talk a bit later, and then went out and addressed the crowd. But for all of these examples, this is also a man who is known for his traditional values, isn't he?

BITTERMANN: Absolutely right. And we don't expect that there's going to be much in the way of final changes sort of the guiding philosophy of the Catholic Church. We don't, expect, for example him to change policies on celibacy or the ordination of women or those sorts of things.

No I expect what we're going to see are a lot of style changes, however. And already he's not wearing his papal red shoes. He's wearing black shoes. He's wearing iron cloth, not the traditional gold cloth on his chest.

So, in fact, there are a lot of changes as far as style is concerned. One of the things the Italian papers printed this morning I found kind of interesting was an interview with his former girlfriend.

Now I must say, he was 12 at the time, but she said that he said that if you don't marry me I'm going to become a priest, and look what happened.

CHO: My gosh, what a great story. That will be repeated many times, I'm sure. Jim Bittermann, live for us in Rome. What a great assignment. Great to see you, Jim, thanks.

ROMANS: And even these style changes so monumental because remember change in the Catholic Church takes hundreds of years.

CHO: That's right.

ROMANS: It's not something that often happens just with a changeover of a pope. It's something that really takes a very, very long time. All right, CNN exclusive now.

CHO: That's right. Senator Rob Portman a leading conservative voice in the Senate who was on a short list to be Mitt Romney's running mate is now reversing his position on gay marriage. CNN's Dana Bash landing the only TV interview with Portman. The Ohio Republican revealing his decision just one month before the Supreme Court hears arguments on the issue and two years after learning his own son, Will, was gay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: My son came to Jane, my wife and I, told us that he was gay. And that it was not a choice and that, you know, that's just part of who he is and he's been that way ever since he could remember.

And that launched an interesting process for me, which was kind of rethinking my position. You know, talking to my pastor and other religious leaders, and going through the process of, at the end, changing my position on the issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: At 7:00 a.m. Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Dana Bash will join John Berman and Brooke Baldwin with more of her exclusive TV interview with Senator Portman including what he told Mitt Romney about his son when he was being vetted as a possible VP candidate.

ROMANS: All right, a Wall Street history in the making, folks, the Dow at a record high. It looks like today could be the 11th straight win, if all holds. Futures are up if that happens it would be the Dow's best rally in more than 20 years.

And it isn't just the Dow. The S&P 500, which many mutual funds track, is within two points of its record high.

Analysts say this is like water torture for both the Bulls and the Bears because Bulls, they worry this whole thing is going to come down, that momentum could slow. Bears they're spooked by the gravity defying rally that they've been out of.

CHO: He is one man against a whole tide of criticism. Coming up, watch the head of the TSA defend his decision to allow small knives on planes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Fifteen minutes after the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START: The director of the Transportation Security Administration is not backing down from his controversial decision to let passengers bring small knives on planes.

John Pistole sticking to his guns at a hearing on Capitol Hill, despite the fact that the entire airline industry is blasting him.

Here's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, was sticking to his message on Capitol Hill. He's taken harsh criticism on his decision on March 5th allowing small knives on planes, while the limit on liquids you can carry on a plane remains in effect.

Pistole was on the Hill restating his position.

JOHN PISTOLE, ADMINISTRATOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: That a small pocketknife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft. An improvised explosive device will. And we know from internal covert testing, searching for these items which will not blow up an aircraft can distract our security officers from focusing on the components of an IED.

JOHNS: To underscore the idea that people need to focus on the threats that could blow up a plane, Pistole even played an old video of the detonation of a chemical explosive called PETN. TSA says this is the real danger.

But Pistole hasn't been able to tamp down the uproar.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: This is a big deal and I'm trying to figure out how this could not be perceived as something potentially dangerous to the people on planes.

JOHNS: Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee wants TSA to rethink this.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: You need to stop this now. These cause bleeding. These cause injury. These can cause a terrible tragedy. And I don't want to take it to the next length. It can possibly cause someone to lose their life.

PISTOLE: The fact is, there are so many objects already on flights that can cause the type of harm you're talking about.

JOHNS: Three airlines and the flight attendants association don't think it's a good idea either.

SARAH NELSON, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS INTERNATIONAL: We have to help de-escalate conflicts on board. Sometimes we even have to ask passengers to help us contain those conflicts. If you introduce a weapon into the scenario, it is not helpful at all.

JOHNS (on camera): There's also legislation. Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts has a bill to keep knives off of planes.

But people we spoke with in the law enforcement community said TSA's got it right. That you don't allow your agency to spend all its time looking for knives when the bad guys are trying to bring bombs onto planes.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. You might not know it by looking at them, but some of your friends and neighbors may be hiding a secret.

That's right. A whole bunch of millionaires have been minted over the past year. We'll explain who and why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: All right, I know it's Friday. You should be up by now.

ROMANS: Say it again, it's Friday.

CHO: Twenty-two minutes before the hour. Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

Business news this morning, seems the Dow is just unstoppable. This is pretty amazing.

ROMANS: It is, and quite a run. This is a blue chip run of 10 days, 10-day winning streak.

Today could be number 11. Even though Dow futures are down, they're only off about two points. So, we'll be looking very closely at some inflation data earlier later today.

A gain today would make this the best rally since 1992. A lot of this is due to the improving economy. You've got housing market looking like it's a little bit better. The jobs market slowly healing. The Fed pumping a ton of money into the system.

The S&P 500, much broader index. It's got 500 stocks, instead of just 30. The Dow is within -- or the S&P rather is within two points of its record highs. So, we're really watching that.

And this rally is so good that new millionaires are being minted every single day. Spectrem Group, a wealth research firm, says there were nearly 400,000 new millionaires last year, 8.9 million households now have net worth over $1 million. That's pretty close to a record high.

So what's the secret? Spectrum says these are households of people who buy stocks. They stayed in the market during the recession. Left wealthy investors bailed.

There's also a flip side here -- 46 million, that's how many Americans are in poverty. You want to talk about the two extremes there, that's what it looks like.

Samsung's Galaxy S4, on the tech front. The smartphone was unveiled last night. Some analysts say it will compete for the title of best smartphone of the year. The S4 comes with a high resolution screen, a front and back facing camera, lightweight because of the plastic shell. The Samsung isn't giving any details on the processor. But a lot of people talking about the Galaxy S4 this morning.

All right. The one thing you need to know about your money today, houses are flying off the market in a matter of days in some parts of the country. Notably parts of the country where they've had a big housing sell-off. Look at this -- in Oakland, California, takes about 14 days to sell a home.

CHO: Wow.

ROMANS: That's right. Local economists say their houses are getting multiple offers, they're selling above the asking price. Want you to check out the full list on CNNMoney.com. Four of the five best places to sell a house in America right now are in California.

CHO: Wow.

ROMANS: Yes.

CHO: That's amazing.

All right. Ahead on EARLY START, two moms taking on Kraft. They just don't like the way the food giant is making its mac and cheese using a chemical that's actually banned in other countries. And now, more than 200,000 people have joined that fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Happening right now in Vatican City, that's a live look as Pope Francis meets individually with the entire cardinal -- College of Cardinals in the Catholic Church.

ROMANS: Yet another cruise cut short this morning for the second time in two days, problems plague a Carnival cruise ship.

CHO: A rare and dramatic change of heart. Staunchly conservative Senator Rob Portman changing his hard-line stance on gay marriage and revealing a deep family secret in a CNN TV exclusive.

ROMANS: Stopped cold. Cops pull a risky move to put an end to this wild high-speed car chase.

Welcome back to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

CHO: Good morning, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. Friday, March 15th. It's 29 minutes past the hour. Let's get started.

New problems this morning for Carnival cruise line for the second time this week, third time this month, a ship is malfunctioning at sea. Right now, the cruise liner Legend limping slowly home to Tampa, with propulsion problems, forced to bypass a scheduled stop in the Caymans.

Just two days ago, generator problems idled the Carnival Dream at a port in St. Maarten and passengers are being flown directly home. All of this follows last month's debacle on the Carnival Triumph. Remember that one, when an engine room fire left 4,200 people stranded in filth and human waste in the Gulf of Mexico. An eight-day nightmare.

Cristina Puig following the latest developments for us. She is live in Miami.

So many incidents it's hard to keep straight. Christina, what's the latest?

PUIG: Alina, that's right. The Legend is Carnival's latest casualty of their fleet to be experiencing difficulties. In the meantime, there are passengers on the Dream that have been stranded in St. Maarten since Wednesday waiting to get off the island and transported back to their homes.