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Winter Storms, Wild Fires Rage; Cyprus Causes Fears for Economy; GOP Outlines Plans for Makeover; March Madness Picks

Aired March 18, 2013 - 13:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Winter going out back in the eastern half of the U.S. Today, blizzard warnings in effect from North Dakota through southern Minnesota and into Iowa. This, after the snowplows were in full force just last week. After hitting Ohio, the storm takes aim at the east coast, Maryland to New England could actually see some wet snow or some sleety mix. Spring officially however begins on Wednesday.

And wildfire season off to an early dangerous start in several states. The National Guard is helping fight this massive wildfire. This is in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. A state of emergency has been declared in that resort town. About 30 cabins have already been destroyed. Propane tanks have been exploding. The fire actually started in a house.

Now, near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, raging brush fire gobbled up an entire community. About 26 apartments were destroyed over the weekend. Dry and windy weather being blamed for the flames that are spreading there.

And in Colorado's Larimer County, hundreds of homeowners were allowed back into their home but told to be ready to evacuate again if the fire kicks up. Cold air and snow helping firefighters get a handle on that one as well. Officials say this fire was intentionally set. The wildfire, dry conditions, high winds creating a deadly mix. How bad is all of this? It's going to be taking the east coast.

Bring in Chad Myers to tell us, what do we expect on both fronts? First the blizzard.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The blizzard is coming. There's going to be snow again in Concord, in Manchester, in parts of Boston. Boston, tomorrow, you'll wake up to snow but changes over to rain at least part of the day. And it changes back over to snow as the storm exits. So it's just warm enough to make rain for a while.

But here's the blizzard conditions from Minneapolis out toward Bismarck and into the Dakotas. This is where the snow is right now. Winds are blowing 50 or 60 miles per hour. It's the same winds that really fueled those fires in Colorado, just in a different state making a different outcome, making snow instead of the fire.

Back to Boston, not so much the cape, about five inches on the ground tomorrow as you wake up. Some schools could be canceled. That will change back over to rain but will not in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine. It will stay snow the entire time. The snow is already in parts of Dubois, parts of Pittsburgh. The higher elevations seeing the snow. You will take a look at these colors, 10, 12 and 20. There are spots in the Green or White Mountains where we will see 20 inches of new snow. Think about how much snow some of these places have had. Now, I have friends who have a cabin in Killington and they try to rent it out and there's been so little snow for so many years, they're very happy there's no this year they can rent the cabins and skiers don't have to fly all the way to Utah or Colorado where there's snow.



MYERS: Finally, good news for people affected by Irene and Sandy and everything else. Now, obviously, they're getting some snow. But when you want to play in it, sometimes can be good news.

MALVEAUX: Yes, good news. You have fire news as well. Fire is pretty dangerous.

MYERS: They are. It's the wind. It's the same storm system. But what we've had for so many years is the drought in the west. The drought has fueled the fires. All the timber is dead. All of the stuff is dead. There's so many trees killed because of the pine beetle out there. So from Nebraska through Kansas into Colorado and all the way through Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, this could be a very deadly I want to say because it's going to go that far. We're just getting the winds and wildfire starts. We had almost 12 million acres last year. Could be a bigger year this year. Could be a really, really bad season.

MALVEAUX: And spring right around the corner, huh, Chad?

MYERS: We hope so. That's what Punxsutawney Phil said. And then all of a sudden, the snowstorms and another one coming. I don't know where Phil has been, but he went back and is staying in there until spring really comes.


MALVEAUX: You can't believe him.


All right. Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Exciting 10-day rally on Wall Street now coming to an end. And, today, a tiny country causing big problems for the world economy, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Could be another financial crisis brewing in Europe. This time it is the tiny country of Cyprus that actually needs a bailout. People there, they are fuming because the rescue plan could actually cost them as much as 10 percent of the money that they have in the bank. So what does it have to do with us? Our Dow, lower right out of the gate this morning than usual.

I want to bring in Zane Asher, following this for us.

How is this impacting our markets, first of all?

ZANE ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Suzanne. We saw an initial knee- jerk reaction this morning. The Dow tumbled 110 at the open but it's bounced back. Trading slightly lower right now. Investor reaction here is nowhere near dramatic as the oversea market. In Asia, we saw the Nikkei, Hang Seng and Shanghai Composite lose 1.7 percent or more. But American investors have been bullish, as we all know, lately. And it's going to take more than that to turn this around.

Make no mistake this is a big deal for residents of Cyprus who have money in the banks. We complain about bank fees here, Suzanne, but this is like the monster of all fees. Basically, banks holding your money hostage. Cyprus citizens, who have $129,000 in the bank, could have almost $9,000 taken out if they're indeed taxed at 6.75 percent.


ASHER: Unlike Greece, though, they're not going to be seeing things like wages and pensions cut. So if this does happen in Cyprus, it's going to be sort of a quick and painful one-time event instead of a more prolonged agony -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Are U.S. investors concerned about the possibility of a ripple effect? Is that basically the idea? Because Cyprus is so small, but they could see this in many other places?

ASHER: Exactly. That's what they're concerned about right now. Europe is one of our biggest trading partners. If Cyprus's situation starts to affect other European countries, that could easily ripple over to the U.S. and effect a stock rally that so many of us have profited from in our mutual funds, retirement plans and so on. One analyst says markets are calm for now but things could get bad quickly if this combines with any future crisis in the Eurozone.

We'll see what happens with the vote tomorrow. Stocks seem to be mostly holding their own here. We're not seeing too much panic -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: OK. That's good.

Zain, thank you. Appreciate it.

So the question is, do you think you got your job because of the school you went to? There's actually a new study that says where you went to school matters less than it used to. Starting at a two-year college, for example, can save a lot of money. In today's "Smart is New Rich," Christine Romans shows us how a community college degree can provide the ticket to the middle class.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ethan Dumeyer chose a two-year liberal arts degree at the Burrough of Manhattan Community College.

ETHAN DUMEYER, COLLEGE GRADUATE: I thought it would be a great place to find direction.

ROMANS: He found more than that. His degree landed him a job in the college's computer center and later a promotion.

DUMEYER: I was making $62,000. I felt good about how things went even without having a bachelor's.

ROMANS: Ethan's one of many community college graduates proving that a four-year university isn't the only gateway to the middle class. According to a Georgetown University study, 28 percent of Americans with associate's degrees make more than those with bachelor's degrees.


ROMANS: That's exactly what it was for Ethan, a start. He went on to get his bachelor's degree on his employer's tab.

DUMEYER: Because of my role working for a CUNI, they were able to waive the tuition.

ROMANS: His salary now $76,000, not a bad return on a $10,000 investment. His sister chose a different path, an expensive master's degree from New York University.

DUMEYER: She went in for biology. And I believe that she's opting more into wanting to teach. So, a pretty expensive way to switch gears.

ROMANS: Enrollment at community colleges spiked during the recession. Now, it's beginning to fall as the economy improves. But tuition at four-year colleges is rising. The job market is still struggling and student loan debt is skyrocketing.

CARNEVALE: Attending a community college and getting an associate's degree is a more practical decision.

ROMANS: If you are trying to trim your college costs, start at a community college.

CARNEVALE: Where you went to school matters less and less. What matters more is what you take.

ROMANS: Second, learn a practical in demand skill like computer science. And finally, see if your employer will chip in. DUMEYER: That was essentially to help me finishing my bachelor's.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


MALVEAUX: The Republican Party says it wants to end the perception it is a bunch of stuffy old men. A new inside report on how Republicans plan to make the party more relevant, up next.


MALVEAUX: After months of soul searching, Republicans today released their plan to give this party a makeover. The RNC chairman says the party needs to address its problems of getting its message across. This new thinking started after Mitt Romney's loss to President Obama in the November election. So what is the grand plan?

Political director, Mark Preston, joining us.

Mark, do you know? What? They say they don't want to have an image of stuffy old men, yes, is that it?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That is it. Let the recalibration begin, Suzanne.


You know, you and I have heard this time and time again. After every presidential election you hear the losing political party talk about how they need to change their message. But Reince Priebus, who is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Suzanne, says that he has really got to recalibrate what they're doing. He spent the last several months right now putting together a proposal that would not only overhaul the mechanics of how Republicans pick their presidential nominee, but would also overhaul the message. He's talking about spending $10 million and dedicating that money to put people on the ground, paid workers in the communities such as African-American communities, Hispanic communities, to try to recruit voters. They got clobbered in the November elections amongst Hispanic voters and African-American, Suzanne. A lot of work to do for the Republican Party.

MALVEAUX: Mark, are they planning on actually having African-American Republicans or Latino Republicans do that recruiting to put those folks out there, to try to attract more?

PRESTON: Yes. No doubt, that's what they're telling us because they said they need people in the community. You know, one of the big criticisms that you get, certainly from African-Americans, and you hear with the Democratic Party as well, is that they parachute into these communities a few months before the election and they expect their vote. But now Reince Priebus says that they've learned a lot from the Obama campaign where Obama put people in these communities. They lived there. They worked there. And they tried to get them to support them. Of course, Democrats are very successful back in November.

This is what we're going to see now, at least is what we're told we're going to see now. One example of this, Suzanne, when you look at the Hispanic community, they say that they're going to start sending people to naturalization ceremonies to try to get people who have just become citizens, explain to them why they should become Republicans.

MALVEAUX: Are they changing any of their policies? I mean, you know, it sounds skeptical, but some people aren't part of the party because they don't believe in what the party believes.

PRESTON: And that's what puts them in a very tricky position because the RNC is a political organization, not a policy organization. Policy's supposed to come off of Capitol Hill. However, they do say that they need to loosen their rhetoric specifically on social issues, primarily, when it comes to gay voters. And one of the reasons is because younger voters tend to be a little bit more open about gay issues. And that is very destructive or was very destructive for Republicans in the November election. If you look at the exit polling, Obama just walked away with the real younger voters. Republicans realized the future of the party lies in the hands of the youth. This is one of the issues they have to be more accepting of.

MALVEAUX: Mark, good to see you as always.

Want to remind viewers to watch CNN's new show, "The Lead," with Jake Tapper, starting today at 4:00 eastern.

Get your brackets ready. CNN picking brackets with you. The giant bracket board in the Atlanta center at the CNN headquarters. I'll show you my picks for March Madness, up next.





MALVEAUX: That music will get you going. It's pretty hot. March Madness starting already. 68 teams vying for college basketball's biggest prize. They're all set now. Championship is going to be decided right next door to CNN world headquarters right here. That is right, in the Georgia Dome. You can see here -- this is a time-lapse video in the atrium of the CNN Center, that they have built that huge NCAA bracket. And you can join the bracket challenge. It is pretty cool. You can compare your picks with all of us, the CNN anchor choices. Just logon to

Rachel Nichols, she's here.

Yu have to school me in all this.

(CROSSTALK) MALVEAUX: By the time we get to the end of the week, I'll be an expert. This will be almost as big as the Super Bowl, especially if you're into B-ball at the college level. So give us a sense of the cedes.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a better excuse to blow off work for the week. Super Bowl happens on Sunday. What a waste. This, you can watch in your office.



NICHOLS: A lot of fun for a lot of people. And that big banner you showed, the committee that picks the ceding for that bracket, the committee that takes the ceding for that bracket, they had an extremely difficult time this year. That's because this was such topsy-turvy season in college basketball. A lot of teams as soon as they get the number one ranking, it would seem like they lose it with a loss in the next couple of games. So the committee chairman said, they actually had six teams vying for the four number one cedes, but the four they ended up with, it's Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, and Gonzaga. Louisville the overall number-one top cede. But those are the favorites. Those are the teams to beat.

I do want to talk to you guys this afternoon about one of the more underdog team, St. Louis. They won the Atlantic 10 tournament. That gives them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but weren't sure where they were going to be ceded. So they're going from Brooklyn to an airport in New Jersey where they would fly back home to St. Louis. They were going to watch the selection show that aired at 6:00 p.m. in the airport. But, of course, traffic in New York, not going to let them do what they wanted to do. So they had the bus pull over at a Best Buy right outside of the tunnel in Manhattan to New Jersey, stormed in, the entire team in their team sweat shirts, gathered around the big TVs. You know how guys did, right? And watched where their team was going to play in the NCAA tournament.


So I would say that the people of St. Louis and the people of New Jersey have the sympathy. They're St. Louis fans now.

Nice story with this team. Their coach unfortunately, very respected guy, he died unfortunately in December. So this team has been playing in his memory. Very nice moment for them to be able to make the tournament in his honor. And certainly an unusual way to do it, right -- Suzanne?


Thanks, Rachel.

Chad, would you ever crash in a Best Buy?

MYERS: Absolutely. (LAUGHTER)

Like the last three laps of a NASCAR race? Of course, I would.

MALVEAUX: So hear your brackets. What you got?

MYERS: I have Ohio State going all the way about. That that's my pick.


MYERS: Well, I think they'll beat Wisconsin, but I have Wisconsin going all the way even beating Gonzaga. And Gonzaga getting to the elite eight. Other than that, then, all of a sudden, it gets down to who will be the best players -- who the best players will play on the last couple of games. And I think Ohio State is now peaking.

Go ahead.


MALVEAUX: And this is me. I'm not an expert here, but I picked two of the top ones.


MALVEAUX: Rachel said Louisville and Indiana. I got them going up to the very end there 37.

MYERS: I like your pick of VCU. You have them going to the final four. I watched them play Butler. I was in Richmond for a golf tournament raising money for Fisher House and we watched VCU/Butler play. And it was an amazing game. And I think VCU is a very good team.

MALVEAUX: So if you're going to bet, you're going to bet on my bracket, not yours.

MYERS: There is no money involved. You have to understand that. This is a non-betting issue.


But please go to and pick out your brackets. We will look at some of the best in the entire country day by day. And obviously, look at ours. We'll not be the winning brackets.

MALVEAUX: Chad, we've got to go. We'll pick this up tomorrow.

MYERS: All right.

MALVEAUX: All right. Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, not taking the stand in the wrongful death trial next month. Hear what the Jackson family actually thinks about that, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: A small Catholic university outside Pittsburgh is now mourning the loss of one of its own.




MALVEAUX: Students, teachers, friends of Seton Hill University gathered to say good-bye to two victims of a tragic bus crash. Christina Quigley was the head coach of the woman's lacrosse team and she was also six months pregnant. Her child did not survive. The bus driver was also killed in that accident. The 22 player and coaches were heading to a game when the bus veered off the road on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The accident is now under investigation.

Trial on the death of Michael Jackson is about to start April 2nd. Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's personal doctor, says he will not testify in the wrongful death lawsuit against concert promoter, AEG Live. He aims to plead the Fifth Amendment, according to a statement from the Jackson family. Murray was found guilty of causing Jackson's death. That was back in 2009. He's now serving a four-year prison sentence. Jackson died weeks before his tour was about to begin. Jackson's mother is asking for billions of dollars. Her attorneys say the money is what Jackson would have made during the rest of his life time.




MALVEAUX: That's it for me.

Brooke Baldwin is next.