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President Obama Arrives in Tel Aviv; Campus Massacre Avoided?; NCAA Tournament Officially Tips Off

Aired March 20, 2013 - 06:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Sara, continue if you could --

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: We can listen in a little bit.


OBAMA: Good to see you.


OBAMA: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for coming.

OBAMA: Wonderful to be here. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Great to see, brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to have you here.

OBAMA: It's great to be here. Thank you so much.

How are you? So nice to see you. Thank you so much.

How are you, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm the chief of protocol. Nice to meet you.

OBAMA: Thank you so much.

How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Military chief of protocol and the two ABCs (ph). And we'll go --

OBAMA: Very nice to see you, sir. Very nice to meet you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to meet you.

OBAMA: Nice to meet you. Thank you so much. Where would you like me? Right here? OK.




SAMBOLIN: I have never really heard conversations like this happening.

HARLOW: We only see the president, and it's usually --

SAMBOLIN: We see the mouth moving but we never hear what's coming out. This is interesting to eavesdrop on this conversation.

HARLOW: And as you heard, a very warm welcome. Hugs exchanged, saying we're very happy to have you here. The president is saying very glad to be here, as well. All smiles.

Really a nice inside look at the greeting of the president, president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of such a significant historic visit for our president, and to be able to hear that warm welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Sara, we're going to let you jump back in here again.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, I can hear you now. I could also hear the greetings there. There have been other meetings where things weren't so chummy.

So you're seeing again this relationship, there has been a lot of talk about the fact these two men have had a very cool relationship, to say the least.

Look, there are some really serious issues that these two and President Abbas over in the Palestinian territories need to talk about. One, of course, for Israel is security. That is their main concern. Of course, they want to talk about Iran and the potential of it obtaining nuclear weapons.

The United States and Israel differ on when they think Iran could obtain a nuclear weapon. The United States has been wanting Iran to give it some time, more time to try and deal with this diplomatically. Israel saying, look, we've given them plenty of time, there needs to be more force used against Iran in case of this building of this nuclear weapon which Netanyahu has said many times he believes is going to happen this spring or summer. The president saying, look, we think that if they do, indeed, decide to build nuclear weapons that won't happen for a year.

We'll see what happens with that discussion. That's on the agenda.

Also as you mention, Syria and chemical weapons. New reports from the Syrian regime that rebels were using chemical weapons. The U.S. is not buying it. They believe it may have been the regime that used chemical weapons. Whoever it is, this could be a game changer, and that is on the agenda, as well.

A senior Israeli official telling me that there will be discussions with the president between him and Mr. Netanyahu as to whether the U.S. should take action, perhaps to keep it from sending missiles, for example, over to Lebanon, to Hezbollah, a group both say is a terrorist organization but when it comes to chemical weapons, very difficult to deal with, something that has to be dealt with on the ground.

So, we'll have to see what happens with those discussions, that's certainly an important discussion being had.

And then, lastly, the two-state solution, the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. That is certainly on the agenda. There is not a lot of hope that there's going to be actual paperwork, an actual agreement or an actual start to the peace process. It has been failed for about three years, a lot of people say it's dying.

But the president clearly wants to push the peace process to try to get something done. We'll have to find out to see if anything happens when it comes to that -- Zoraida, Poppy.

HARLOW: Sara Sidner, thank you very much. Zoraida I think it's so interesting, it was just a few months ago at the U.N. General Assembly where we can never forget those images of Prime Minister Netanyahu holding up a photograph of the bomb, and drawing that red line. And also all of the discussion around him not being able to get that meeting with the president while he was in the United States now that he's got a warm welcome.

Let's let our viewers listen in a little bit more if we can to this.


SAMBOLIN: These are live pictures of a historic moment, President Obama making his first visit to Israel as president of the United States there. He is with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It's a historic trip.

It's also a very important trip as there are many items on the agenda, including the crisis in Syria that's happening, and, you know, the chemical weapons -- the suggestion of chemical weapons being used against the people in Aleppo. It's a packed agenda for the president.

Our question was whether or not he would be addressing the situation in Syria.

HARLOW: It's been unclear whether or not the president was going to make official remarks here, right as he touched down or not. We know that he will view the Iron Dome, that is the aggressive defense system that Israel has use even just in its most recent conflict. He will go view that.

We will be monitoring this, and, of course, if we hear any remarks from the president or Prime Minister Netanyahu, we will bring those to you live.

SAMBOLIN: It is 35 minutes past the hour. We have some other top stories that we'd like to tell you about. More details coming to light about what could have been the start of a massacre on the University of Central Florida campus. Police say 30- year-old James Oliver Seevakumaran had a detailed checklist and plenty of firepower, as well. But a 911 call from his roommate may have saved the lives of many students inside tower one. It's a dorm on the UCF campus.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more from Orlando.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fire alarm starts blaring as Arabo Babakhani calls 911. His roommate and would-be killer James Oliver Seevakumaran just pointed a gun right at him.

ARABO "BK" BABAKHANI, ROOMMATE OF UCF ATTACK PLOTTER: My roommate just pulled a fire alarm and he's got a gun out.

911 DISPATCHER: All right. Where are you at?

BABAKHANI: I'm in the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The fire alarm went off. I opened the door to see what was going on and he's there with, like, some sort of, like, gun, like, large assault gun.

I was definitely scared. But I was scared but calm. I was just taking cover, like in my room behind objects.

LAVANDERA: Campus police released this dramatic helmet camera video of officers making their way inside the gunman's dorm room. This might be disturbing for some to watch but this is the moment police find the 30-year-old lying dead on the floor. They also found that he apparently was planning a massacre, with an arsenal of weapons and explosives.

CHIEF RICHARD BEARY, UCF POLICE: I don't think you acquire 210 round magazines and numerous .22 capacity magazines and that you purchase a thousand rounds of ammunition and that you purchase the .45 ammunition. I don't think you just do that as a joke.

LAVANDERA: Investigators say they also found a bizarre handwritten timeline for the attack. In Seevakumaran's words he would visit this bar called the Mad Hatter, get drunk, then go back to his dorm, take a shower, shave up, and then get equipped, scratching off items as he went down the list. The last item read, "Good luck and give them hell."

The would-be killer's roommate had lived with him for the last seven months.

BABAKHANI: I tried to get to know him and stuff but, you know, we're not friends. He's just very anti-social. He doesn't -- he doesn't want to know me. He doesn't want to make friends. Just keeps to himself.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Orlando, Florida. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: The family of the suspect has issued a brief statement to the Sarasota County sheriff's office. They say the suspect was a loner and does not have a history of violence.

HARLOW: Well, new developments this morning. The Pentagon has moved to ban the use of the type of weapon used in the fatal shell explosion during a military training exercise. It happened at Hawthorne Army Depot in western Nevada. Seven marines were killed, several others very injured. Officials say the cause of the blast was a 60 millimeter round that detonated inside of a mortar tube.

SAMBOLIN: And still no leads in the search for New Orleans teacher Terrilynn Monette. She's missing for more than two weeks now.

Police divers as you see there, have brought in advanced sonar equipment to help in the search for the 26-year-old teacher. She was last seen drinking in this bar, where she was celebrating her teacher of the year nomination.

HARLOW: And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pulling a proposed ban on assault weapons from new gun legislation that he will go to the full Senate with for consideration. Now, Reid says that keeping that assault weapons ban in place in this legislation would have guaranteed a Republican filibuster to the measure.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed. I want something that will succeed. I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there.


HARLOW: Reid says Senator Dianne Feinstein that was her proposal, that assault weapons ban, could still get a vote on still get a vote it would have to be introduced as an amendment to the new gun legislation.

SAMBOLIN: Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for demanding girls be educated there - -look at her. She is headed back to school. The 15-year-old started class in England this week. And she's really excited about it.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, SHOT BY TALIBAN: I think it is the happiest moment that I'm going back to my school. And today I will have my books, my bag and I will talk to my friends. I'll talk to my teacher.


SAMBOLIN: Malala has been getting medical treatment in Birmingham, England. We are so happy for her. HARLOW: What a wonderful, wonderful, inspiring young woman.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, she is.

A high school senior making an argument for why supermodel Kate Upton should be his prom date. Poppy is all for this.

HARLOW: Why not?

SAMBOLIN: The video has gone viral this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't dance, at all. You're Christian, 5'10" and that Cat Daddy video should have won an Oscar for best short film.



HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to EARLY START.

John Berman is in for Soledad O'Brien this morning. A lot of news.

BERMAN: There's a lot of news going on right now as we speak.

President Obama has arrived in Israel. He's going to be meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister there, later today. They have a lot to talk about.

Nothing probably more important at this point than what is going on in Syria, with the discussions about the possibility that chemical weapons are now being used there. Does that violate the red line that President Obama has talked so much about?

Then, there's an election. There was an election here in the U.S., believe it or not. South Carolina last night, there he is, Mark Sanford is leading right now among Republicans in a primary there for a House seat. You remember Mark Sanford. He was the governor who, who ran off to the Appalachian Trail, kind of ran off with his Argentinean mistress, left his wife.

But redemption may finally be his. Is he on the way to winning back a political office?

And then, finally, this has been my favorite story for days now. I'm a huge basketball fan. Adrian Dantley was one of the best players of the 1980s. This guy scored a ton of points.

SAMBOLIN: Is he coming in?

BERMAN: We're talking to him live. There's AD right there, small forward, 6'5". He scored from anywhere. Now, he's a crossing guard in Maryland. You know, he says he doesn't need the money. He just wants to work. HARLOW: Right. He seemed to be worked out all day and one of his friends said to him, you know, being a crossing guard is a great, great job, a great deal. You get health care benefits.

SAMBOLIN: And one hour a day.

BERMAN: And, he was a basketball player so he has long arms, you know?

SAMBOLIN: Think how cool for those kids.



BERMAN: Keep the kids, keep the cars away. He's well suited for the job.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We're looking forward to that. Thank you.

All right. Forty-five minutes past the hour. Finally, I guess, it's spring today, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. Let's check in with Jennifer Delgado. What's going on, girl?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Zoraida, everything is going on. We have the threat for snow. We have cold temperatures. And we have spring showers out there. Now, we want to know what spring looks like for you today. If you have the photos, submit to us on Instagram and hash tag it with SpringCNN. It kicks off, guys, in about 20 minutes.

And here are the spring showers and thunderstorms we're talking about moving through parts of Texas, Houston getting pounded with some lightning there. Same for Baton Rouge. And, storms developing right off the coast of Florida. We're going to see more of those moving into Tampa as we go through the morning.

We expect the rain to stick around in both those areas through the evening hours. Now, New England, a lot quieter than it was yesterday. Still going to be looking at some snow flurries and a lot coming down from the lake effects for areas right along Lake Erie as well as Lake Ontario. You can see about five to nine inches of snowfall.

And the same for parts of the Midwest, starting Thursday morning through Friday, and the southern parts of Missouri into Arkansas, yes, it's going to be snowy there. We're talking nine inches potentially. Of course, this is going to lead to some travel problems. Yes, it's spring. But it doesn't feel like it. We have a freeze warning in place for Alabama all the way up towards North Carolina.

That is until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. So, did you go out and plant some of those vegetables over the weekend because it was warm, hopefully, you kept them in a pot, because it is going to be cold out there.

Here's a look at some of your high temperatures today. We are talking for Chicago, your high temperature in comparison to last year, 60 degrees cooler than where it should be. Now for areas like Milwaukee, today only high of 21 degrees, last year, 83 degrees. And then St. Louis, cold there, as well.

I want to leave you with some video coming out of Washington, D.C. This is actually some of the cherry blossoms. They're starting to bloom. But guess what, guys? They're going to be late. It looks like the ideal time will come late March as well as into April.

SAMBOLIN: Something to look forward to.

DELGADO: Exactly.

SAMBOLIN: Not the allergies. Thank you very much, Jennifer.

HARLOW: Thanks, Jennifer.

SAMBOLIN: And up next the Wildcats' worst nightmare. Defending champion, Kentucky, left out of the NCAA tourney, and now, a stunner in the first round of the NIT. Can you believe it?


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-one minutes past the hour. Let the madness begin. The NCAA tournament kicked off last night with the first two games and already I'm ahead of John Berman in the CNN bracket. That's right, Berman. Sshhh. I'm ahead of you.


SAMBOLIN: He got both games wrong.


SAMBOLIN: Andy Scholes joins us now with this morning's Bleacher Report. Good morning to you.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning, guys. Much of the talk surrounding these first two playing games last night with Liberty University who was just the second team ever to make the tournament with 20 losses.

So, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that they lost last night. Liberty -- they trailed in the game by seven point with about four minutes to go, and they were almost able to make the comeback, but, their last-second attempt would be no good.

North Carolina A&T holds on for their first ever tournament win. They will play Louisville in the second round. The other playing game last night featured St. Mary's versus Middle Tennessee State. This was the Matthew Dellavadova show. He led St. Mary's to a 13-point win. The Gale (ph), they'll take (ph) on Memphis in round two.

The playing games will wrap up tonight on truTV. LIU Brooklyn takes on James Madison followed by La Salle versus Boise State.

What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Kentucky Wildcats were the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament. And they went on to win it all. This season, they failed to make the big dance, settling for the NIT, and last night, they were bounced in the first round by Robert Morris. Not exactly the kind of March Kentucky fans had in mind.

Well the power of the plantain must be real. The Dominican Republic team calling the fruit their good luck charm throughout the world baseball classic. And it's hard to argue against it. The Dominicans dominated the field in the tournament going a perfect 8-0 capped off by last night's 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in the championship game.

Fernando Rodney (ph) said he doesn't plan on eating his lucky plantain now that they've won. Instead, it will be his black diamond because, hey, it's starting to change color. Fruit will do that after a couple of weeks.

If you head over to, you can check out this story in the lineup section. Spring train can become a bit of a drag after about a month of meaningless games. So one way, the Phillies have spiced things up. They have (ph) hooters girls down the foul line. You can probably guess how this one went. This poor girl made two errors in the same inning and the Phillies fans they, of course, let her hear about it.

And, guys, Philly fans have been known to boo Santa Claus. So, there's pretty much no way these hooters girls were going to get off the hook for making a couple of errors in the same --

SAMBOLIN: So, the players are happy.


SAMBOLIN: All right. On that note, Andy Scholes, thank you very much.

HARLOW: Ever think of asking a supermodel to the prom? What could go wrong with that? The high school kid with a lot of guts. That's next.


HARLOW: Turning online this morning. It is that -- is that triple venti latte not enough to keep you awake during those 16-hour days at work or at school? Check this out. This may be the coffee for you. It is called "Death Wish." It comes in a black bag, look at it, with a skull and cross bones on the label. It's said to have 200 times the amount of caffeine of a regular coffee.

SAMBOLIN: With a name like that, not really interested. All right.


SAMBOLIN: All it takes is a little courage to ask a supermodel to your high school prom. Let's pull this up. California high school senior, Jake Davidson (ph), making some compelling arguments why supermodel, Kate Upton, should be his date.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't dance at all. You're Christian, 5'10". And that video (ph) should have won an Oscar for best short film. You could say this is destiny.


SAMBOLIN: Kate responded to Jake with this tweet, "You can call me Katie if you want. How could I turn down that video? I'll check my schedule." So, folks stay tuned.

HARLOW: Stay tuned. All right. That's EARLY START, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "Starting Point" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Christine Romans. As you can see, the president is speaking in Tel Aviv. Let's listen in right away.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages, to be masters of their own fate in their own sovereign state. And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.

As I begin my second term as president, Israel is the first stop on my first foreign trip. This is no accident. Across this region, the winds of change bring both promise and peril. So, I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security, and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors.

I want to begin right now by answering a question that is sometimes asked about our relationship. Why? Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the state of Israel? And the answer is simple. We stand together because we share a common story. Patriots determined to be a free people in our land.