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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Carnival Conundrum; Portman Supporting Gay Marriage; Mons Vs. Mac & Cheese; Senate Says JPMorgan Ignored Risks

Aired March 15, 2013 - 06:30   ET

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


CRISTINA PUIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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.

We've been told that hourly flights beginning at 9:00 this morning are going to begin to transport those families and then again tomorrow. Six more scheduled flights.

Now, that makes four ships altogether in just this last month that have been experiencing difficulties. Last night, the Legend, Wednesday, the Dream as you said, Saturday was the Elation which had steering problems. And then as we all remember, last month, the Triumph, as we watched that ship be towed back to Mobile, Alabama.

In the meantime, we've asked Carnival CEO Gary Cahill what could be causing all of these problems, and they issued this statement yesterday. "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 in fact that fleet consists of 23 ships in total -- Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Cristina Puig live for us in Miami. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, the gay marriage movement has an unlikely new ally this morning. Republican Senator Rob Portman, staunch conservative, announcing an extraordinary about-face in an exclusive TV interview with our Dana Bash. Portman is now supporting gay marriage, after learning two years ago that his son, Will, is gay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What was your reaction when he told you?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Love. Support. You know, 110 percent.

BASH: Surprised?

PORTMAN: Surprise, yes.

BASH: You had no idea?

PORTMAN: No idea. Yes. And, you know, again that launched a process of rethinking the issue. You know, I've come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married and to have the joy and the stability of marriage that I've had for over 26 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Coming up at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," Dana Bash will have more of her exclusive interview with Senator Portman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking live at the Vatican right now where Pope Francis is greeting each of the cardinals from the College of Cardinals. He held an audience with the full college just moments ago, including those who were too old to take part in the conclave that appointed him. The pope offered a message of encouragement to his spiritual brothers.

And take a look at this somewhat scary moment, Pope Francis almost tripped and fell as he stepped down in front of the cardinals. As you can see, quickly regained his footing, though.

CHO: Grand jury in Florida is reportedly investigating New Jersey Congressman Robert Menendez. "The Washington Post" is reporting that the FBI has interviewed several people in a probe of the Democrat's role in advocated business interests of a wealthy friend, also a major political donor. Last year, Menendez wrote a check for $58,000 to reimburse the friend for trips to the Dominican Republic.

ROMANS: President Obama says Iran is more than a year away from developing a nuclear weapon, but that does not mean he's going to let it happen. In an interview with Israeli television, Mr. Obama downplayed differences with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran's nuclear program and he stressed his desire to prevent a possible arms race in the region.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we're going to be doing is continuing to engage internationally with Iran, understanding that we've set up the toughest sanctions ever, it's having a significant effect. If we can resolve it diplomatically, that's a more lasting solution. But if not, I continue to keep all options on the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Next week, the president will meet with Netanyahu during a three-day visit to Israel, his first visit there since becoming president.

CHO: News crews follow a police pursuit to the bitter end. Take a look at this. State troopers in Fayette County, Georgia, followed three suspects in a carjacking for a half hour. The chase ended when police forced the car off the road as it tried to get onto a ramp to Interstate 20. That's in Southwest Atlanta. All three suspects were captured at the scene.

ROMANS: Caught on camera, a suspect using his pickup truck like a wrecking ball. Happened in Riverdale, Utah, in the parking lot of a Home Depot store. Police arrested Dave Arvey (ph) who they say (INAUDIBLE) before running down a row of storage sheds. When they arrested them, officers found two loaded handguns, three loaded rifles inside his truck. Police say even before the camera started rolling, Arvey struck a stop sign and then a light pole.

All right. Here's a look at some of the stories trending on CNN this morning.

A grand jury in California has indicted a social media editor at "Reuters". Matthew Keys allegedly gave the hacker group Anonymous his log-on info after he was fired from a TV station in Sacramento. This was back in 2010. The company was Tribune before he worked at "Reuters".

Justice Department and prosecutors say a hacker used the info to sabotage a story on the "L.A. Times" Web site. He could get up to 25 years in prison.

CHO: After almost 50 years of searching, physicists at CERN believe they have finally found the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle". If that is the case, it will help scientists give them a better understanding of how the universe was formed. The Higgs boson is named after physicist Peter Higgs, who first proposed such a particle back in 1964. The subatomic particle was discovered last July. Researchers have since been studying data collected from their $10 billion atom smasher since then.

ROMANS: Then, we'll know the meaning life.

CHO: We will.

ROMANS: Although I don't know what we'll do with that information.

Bill Clinton, he's been photo bombed. The former president paid a visit to the locker room after the Cardinals 74-55 victory over Villanova last night at the Madison Square Garden. The Louisville player (INAUDIBLE) -- help me -- Behanan --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: -- posted the candid locker room photos and they quickly went viral. The former president spent about 10 minutes hanging out with the players following their victory in the Big East quarterfinals. Behanan says Bill Clinton's got swag.

CHO: You know what our friend Ali Velshi says? Always wrong, or rarely right but always confident.

ROMANS: Exactly. Stay with being confident, you're right.

CHO: She's not a driver like Danica Patrick but Christmas Abbott is getting ready to make history in NASCAR's sprint cup series. Abbott has joined Michael Waltrip Racing where she's training as a pit crew member.

Have a look at her. She is working as a tire changer during pit stops. First woman to do so in NASCAR's top series. One mistake can make all the difference between winning and losing.

Abbott says her competitive nature drew her to NASCAR.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTMAS ABBOTT, NASCAR PIT CREW MEMBER: Kind of, you know, the adrenaline of running alongside of a car and then having the car zip by you, 50 to 60 miles an hour behind you, and literally two feet of safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: She is small in stature, 5 feet tall, 115 pounds. Again not sure what's wrong with that.

Physical conditioning obviously not an issue for this 31-year-old. She's worked as a crossfit trainer and can dead lift 255 pounds. A little bit more than we can.

ROMANS: Wow, about 250 pounds more than we can.

All right. Still ahead, moms versus mac and cheese. Why they say Kraft should get rid of the key ingredient to mac and cheese because of a potential they say health risk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It's Friday. It's John Berman and Brooke Baldwin are in for Soledad today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but only I'm here right now, to tell you a little something about "STARTING POINT".

We're going to start with a big political and personal story you're starting about. A key Republican senator having a change of heart on the issue of gay marriage. Our Dana Bash got the exclusive television interview with Ohio's Rob Portman. She's going to be live at the top of the hour. And this is a really interesting story about why this conservative is changing course.

Then Legend, Dream, Triumph -- oh, gosh, this has been a rough few weeks for the carnival cruise line. At least three of the ships have suffered major setbacks with the Legend suffering to even reach full speed at this moment this morning. We're going to go live to Miami with a look at why it's happening.

Plus, he's 48 years old, but he's still bad. But Bernard Hopkins is going to be the oldest fighter to win a boxing title. He's going to join us live with his remarkable accomplishment. He gives us hope, everyone over 40.

ROMANS: Forty is the new 30, baby. BERMAN: I could be champ one day.

And this is a great business story. You thought it would take a month but it has taken less than 12 hours. "Veronica Mars" fans have raised $2 million in a kick-starter campaign and they're making this dream of a movie a reality. Rob Thomas, the creator of that beloved TV series, is going to join us. He's going to talk about "Veronica Mars". He's going to talk about the business. That's going to be fun.

ROMANS: What's interesting about that, it takes sort of the Wall Street suit out of -- and the Wall Street suit and L.A. out of the moving making business.

BERMAN: Fans produce their own movies.

ROMANS: Thanks, John.

All right. Talk about David versus Goliath. Two moms are taking on food giant Kraft. They started a petition online calling on Kraft to remove two ingredients from its mac and cheese.

CHO: That's right. Now, more than 220,000 people have signed on asking Kraft to take out the artificial coloring called Yellow 5 and Yellow 6.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Elizabeth, good morning.

You know, these ingredients are just cosmetic. But what was so interesting to me -- you put them side by side with them without that artificial coloring and it basically still looks the same. Doesn't it?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it probably can look a little bit different. And I'll tell you this color that you get from these dyes that are become so controversial. The bright yellow orange and kids really seem to love it. It's bright and it's fun.

But there are concerns that it is associated with hyperactivity in children. There have been some studies that show that which is why in the United Kingdom it's basically banned. You can't use these colors and it's why these two mom bloggers, Vani Hari and Lisa Leake want it out of those products. They have petitioned for it to be out of those products. They put their petition on change.org, over 200,000 signatures.

And so, we asked Kraft, hey, what do you think about all this? And Kraft told us, "In the U.S. we only use colors that are approved and deemed safe for food use by the Food and Drug Administration."

So there you have it. Moms versus Kraft all over a bright orange yellow color.

ROMANS: What's the science behind it? Because you know, as you know, anybody who knows a mom, or a dad, who's trying to get rid of some of the stuff from their kids' diet to see if they can control behavior in young children especially, they're trying to get this stuff out of their kids' diet.

What does the science say about it?

COHEN: You know, the science, as you might guess, is kind of inconclusive. There was a study done in England where they gave some kids food with these dyes in it and then gave some kids food without. And they said that they then observed that the kids who had the dyes were more hyperactive. And that's why you have this sort of ban in the United Kingdom.

But other scientists will say that wasn't a well-done study. Not only did that food have the dye in it, it had some other stuff in it. So, maybe it was the other stuff that made kids hyperactive and not the dye.

You know, scientists could probably fight over this for the next 100 years. As a parent, I think that what people ought to do is think for yourself. Like, if you're concerned that this might cause hyperactivity in your kids, then it's an easy, easy move here. Don't feed it to your kids. Kraft, itself, makes a ton of other products that don't have these dyes.

Other companies make foods that don't have these dyes. You can also make your own mac and cheese. That's also something possible.

CHO: OK.

ROMANS: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

COHEN: It is. I've done it. I swear it's possible.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Well, no, there's a mom at my kids' school who is just adamant about don't serve the bright yellow -- the bright orange cheeses. There's a dye in there that's probably not good for your kids. Now, I don't know the science about that -- behind that, but there are a lot of moms who just say I'm just going to rule it out. What's the harm in ruling it out.

CHO: You know, growing up, I ate mac and cheese every day. Every day.

ROMANS: Really?

CHO: For lunch. I did. Fifth grade, maybe.

COHEN: And I can hear a lot of people saying, look at Alina Cho, she doesn't look hyperactive.

(LAUGHTER) CHO: I don't know about that. They're probably saying, look at Alina Cho, that's the reason we shouldn't be eating this.

(LAUGHTER)

COHEN: No, no, no. That is not true. But you know, Christine, I think you bring up a really good point that as a parent, you can just decide, you know what, the science isn't conclusive, it will probably always be conclusive. I'm just not going to give it to my kids, or you know what, I grew up with it and I'm fine. I'm going to give it. This is a great empowered parent moment. You get to make the decision.

ROMANS: And sometimes, before the FDA decides that something shouldn't be used, it's the marketplace. Parents who are buying things that are sort of demanding that there are other versions of things. All right. So, thanks so much. Have a great weekend, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHO: You know, we're going to talk to moms who took on that food giant, Kraft, one of the most beloved products, mac and cheese, Vani Hari and Lisa Leake, will be on "Starting Point" in the eight o'clock eastern hour. I look forward to hearing from them.

ROMANS: Yes. Me, too.

CHO: Still ahead, the hair-raising rescue of a hiker after a near- death ordeal in a canyon.

ROMANS: Plus, who doesn't love a buzzer beater. See it again. Yes. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Look live at the Vatican where Pope Francis is greeting each of the cardinals in the College of Cardinals. He held an audience with the full college just moments ago, even including those who were too old to take part in the conclave that appointed him. The pope offered this message of encouragement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): Do not let give in to bitterness, to pessimism, something offered to us every day, but therefore, do not let us give way to pessimism or to discouragement. We are certain that the Holy Ghost will inspire the church and give the church the courage to persevere and to find new means to evangelize to evangelize, to take the dust bowl to the furthest ends of the earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: He's wearing a simple iron cross, not the big, elaborate gold cross that his predecessors have worn. Pope Francis asking the cardinals to not give way to pessimism. Again, those are live pictures there of the pope.

CHO: A scathing Senate report blames JPMorgan Chase for ignoring signs that led to a $6 billion trading loss. A nine-month investigation from the Senate says JPMorgan ignored limits on risk taking, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public. Lawmakers also blame regulators for missing warning signs. JPMorgan, it says that its senior management acted in good faith.

ROMANS: Dramatic video of the rescue of a hiker who fell into a gorge in Arizona. The man was hiking with a friend this week when he fell off the canyon wall. He plunged about 70 feet. Crews reached him and they stayed with him through the night. He was airlifted out of the canyon and is being treated for several broken bones.

CHO: Pretty remarkable. Meanwhile, an 11-year-old girl in Philadelphia has won her fight to play football with her boy teammates.

ROMANS: Jared Greenberg joins us with more in today's Bleacher Report. Good morning.

JARED GREENBERG, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning. Hey, ladies, are you ready for some football? If you live in the Philly, you can now suit up with the guys. The city of brotherly love with a change of heart, and Caroline Pla (ph) is the first beneficiary. The 11-year-old was told last year the gridiron was no place for girls.

The archdiocese of Philadelphia has reversed an earlier ruling, now allowing girls to play youth football. Caroline's mom credit an online petition which received nearly 110,000 signatures for helping pushed the archbishop the change in policy. Playing with the boys since she was five, Caroline says she'll be ready for the upcoming season.

The NBA says my bad. Kobe Bryant should have been awarded two foul shots at the end of Wednesday's game against the Sixers. The referees on the court didn't blow their whistle when Philly held on to beat the Lakers. The Laker fans, well, it's a day late and a dollar short.

It still shows up that a loss in the standings and the hindsight announcement doesn't heal Kobe's severe ankle sprain. He is not expected to play tonight when the Lakers visit Indiana.

It's not madness until we get a buzzer beater. Thursday, we hit the jackpot, Big Ten Tournament, Brandon Paul, make your parents proud, please. Paul in the white Illinois jersey tie the game, Paul for the win, you betcha! Illinois knocks off Minnesota, a tough blow for the Golden Gophers who now may not make the NCAA tournament.

Up next for the Illini, the big 10 quarterfinals against the number three team in the country, Indiana.

Like filling out March madness brackets, but you're more of a sci-fi fan instead of basketball. No worries. The creators of "Star Wars" has discovered Lucas films will launch their own bracket style tournament next week with all your favorite "Star Wars" characters. Fans will be able to vote each day on the match-ups from both sides of the bracket, the light side, and of course, the dark side.

Now, really, I got my eyes here on the early R2D2 C3PO pairing. The Han Solo and Lando Calrissian first round matchup will be interesting as well. A lot of bad blood there. So I've been told, because ladies, I've got to be honest with you. I've never watched a day of "Star Wars" in my entire life.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENBERG: But good job by Nick, our producer, coming up with that.

ROMANS: OK. We respect your honesty.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Thanks, Jared.

Coming up, the mystery of the missing iPad and the bizarre even amusing clue as to what might have happened to it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: All right. Before we go, have you seen this woman? An Arkansas man hopes someone has. Here's why.

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: Allen Engstrom left his iPad on a plane recently. He thinks it was stolen. Probably was. Soon, his family started getting unflattering photos of that woman, the one from Arkansas, streamed to their phones and other devices through iCloud. So, he's plastering her face all over Facebook in an effort to get that iPad back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN ENGSTROM, LOST IPAD: Every time i get a picture from her, it's like a continuing fountain of entertainment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Engstrom is going to file a theft report today. He also has people looking for the woman using facial recognition software. Boy, he wants that iPad.

ROMANS: Yes. We don't know if she just found it. We don't know if she bought it. We don't know. We have no idea how she got it, but it's her picture.

All right. That's EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

CHO: Have a great weekend, everybody. I'm Alina Cho. "Starting Point" begins right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Happy Friday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Soledad is off today.

BERMAN: Hello, there.

BALDWIN: Hello!

BERMAN: Our "Starting Point" today is a CNN exclusive. Conservative Ohio senator, Rob Portman makes a stunning reversal on gay marriage, and he's talking to only our Dana Bash.

BALDWIN: And then, not just one, but two Carnival cruise ships in trouble this morning. Folks, this is the fourth time the company has had problems in a month. This morning, we're asking, are the ships safe?

Also, a developing story, a suspect in that deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi from last September, this morning, behind bars. Could we finally learn more about what sparked the violence that killed four Americans?

BERMAN: And a disturbing video of a four-year-old attacked by a dog in a terrifying moment all caught on camera.

ROMANS: Plus, it's now a 10-day winning streak for the Dow. It's not just markets seeing a boost, it's turning more Americans into millionaires.

BERMAN: It is Friday, March 15th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.

And our "Starting Point" this morning is a CNN exclusive. The gay marriage movement getting an unexpected lift from a most unlikely backer, one of the leading conservative voices on Capitol Hill. Republican senator, Rob Portman of Ohio, is reversing his position on the issue after his son revealed that he is gay.