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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Rockets Fired From Gaza; Obama In The West Bank; Dueling Requests For Investigation; South Korean Hackers; U.S. Offers Huge Bounty For Two Americans; Biden Backing Gun Ban; Narrowly Avoiding A Government Shutdown; Late Night Shuffle?; Colorado Prison Chief Killed In Cold Blood; Colorado Prison Chief Killed in Colorado; Airline Profits Expected to Soar

Aired March 21, 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: That's about 60 miles away. We are getting some reports of property damage but so far no injuries. This is the second leg of the president's visit. He has already had talks with Israeli leaders on three critical issues, Iran, Syria and the west bank.

In about 45 minutes, the president is scheduled to sit down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a working lunch. He is already meeting with President Abbas, I should say. After that, the two leaders also address the media.

We will take that live as soon as it happens. President Obama returns to Jerusalem for a state dinner in his honor later tonight. That is hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin is live in Ramalla this morning in the west bank. Jes, the president is meeting with Mahmoud Abbas right now. Any concrete accomplishments they're looking for in this meeting?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, nothing that he plans to announce when he comes out, John. The goal today is really for the president to see what it would take for Palestinians to go back to the negotiating table and begin the process to talk again about reaching a peace agreement.

Those peace discussions stalled out back in 2010. There's been stalemate since then. The president deliberately came to the Middle East, he said, without some sort of Obama accord, if you will, or a specific road map to peace.

He said that he came here to listen. He said his mom taught him that's the best way to approach these kinds of situations. He made a joke about that yesterday. But his mom was an expert in these things, as you recall.

She was an anthropologist who studied working with different cultures and this is one area where the president who is not always credited with being so great about listening is actually said to be a much better listener when he is traveling overseas, maybe not so much, John, with Congress. He is meeting with Abbas and -- go ahead. BERMAN: I was going to say Republican congressmen might have a different view of his negotiating tactics generally. Jes, I should say, you look at these schedules, trips like this. It is a very delicate thing. How much time is he spending in the west bank versus how much time is he giving the Israelis? Are we talking about equal time on this trip?

YELLIN: Yes, not equal time. He is spending about four hours total here in the west bank and that's, you know, a choice because he's really come to, in a sense, balance out his first overseas trip of his first term with his to visit the Arab world. His first overseas trip of his second term is now a visit to the Jewish homeland, Israel.

So this trip is really focused on Israel. He is doing just four hours in the west bank. After his meeting here, he will do a lunch and then he visits a cultural center in the west bank and then he goes back over into Jerusalem and a series of events, including a speech, a major speech that is a highlight and a focus of this trip where he speaks to Israel's youth. That's this afternoon -- John.

BERMAN: Jes, what do we know about that speech? Again, he is speaking to Israeli youth, university student. That's interesting in and of itself mostly because of who he is choosing not to speak to.

YELLIN: Yes, such a good point. He is not speaking, you're pointing out, to the Israeli Knesset, the Israeli legislature and many foreign leaders come and do address the legislature. And, you know, one of the reasons it's said he's not doing that is because they can get very boisterous, outspoken and sometimes engage the speaker while he's speaking.

That would not be so comfortable maybe, but the White House says he is really doing this because he wants to speak directly to the people, something he does in the U.S., often through YouTube. But he is also trying to connect with people in Israel who don't always hold the highest opinion of him.

Not necessarily at -- he's not disliked here. It's just a neutral opinion. And he's trying to connect with Israelis and share with them his views and he has already said that he will outline a little bit more of what he believes should take place to bring both sides to the negotiating table for a peace deal. So look for that, in part, today in that speech -- John.

BERMAN: We will be watching. Jessica Yellin with the president in Ramallah this morning. Thanks so much, Jes.

In the next half hour, we'll have much more on the president's Middle Eastern trip and the challenges he faces. We're going to speak with Stuart Holliday, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Security Council.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Competing request to the United Nations for an independent investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, President Bashar Al-Assad and his government accusing opposition activists of using them during clashes in Aleppo and a Damascus suburb. The opposition pointing its collective finger at the Syrian government and as both sides continue to squabble, U.S. officials are trying to get proof that the chemical weapons were used.

Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following all of these developments for us. There's an interesting article this morning in the "New York Times" that says some American officials worried a lot about whether the Syrian government was accusing rebels of using the weapons to prepare cover for its own future use of them -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Zoraida. That certainly is one consideration that U.S. officials are looking at, as they begin to conduct their own intelligence investigation into whether or not chemical weapons were used.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): As more pictures emerge of hospitalized Syrians, CNN has learned U.S. intelligence agencies are in a massive, around- the-clock effort to determine if these people were attacked by chemical weapons. So far, U.S. officials say there is no corroboration.

ROBERT FORD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: So far, we have no evidence to substantiate the reports that chemical weapons were used.

STARR: In a classified briefing to Congress, intelligence officials said it's not clear what happened, but CNN has learned new details about how the CIA is trying to figure out exactly what did happen here.

U.S. intelligence operatives are now talking to rebels and defectors to see what they know. At Fort Dietrich, Maryland, these videos are being analyzed by the Pentagon's Classified Medical Intelligence Unit.

Officials tell CNN military analysts are looking at the patients' symptoms and conditions, along with reports from Syrian doctors to see if the symptoms of suffocation and convulsions match a potential chemical attack.

Intelligence analysts are also looking at satellite imagery to identify movement of chemical weapons or launches of missiles that could have carried chemical warheads. They're looking at intercepts of cell phone and internet traffic for chatter about attacks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, one of the problems, of course, is the U.S. has no military personnel, none of its own intelligence operatives on the ground inside Syria. So, officials tell us it may be very difficult to figure out what really happened here -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon. Thank you.

BERMAN: New overnight, some more tough talk from North Korea, issuing new threats to the United States. Pyongyang expressing anger that the U.S. is flying B-52s over South Korea. Military bases within Guam and in Japan are, quote, "within striking distance of North Korean weapons."

Also officials in Seoul say a major hacking attack on the servers of South Korean banks and broadcasters originated from an IP address in China. North Korea is still the prime suspect because they previously used a Chinese IP address on hacking attacks of a South Korean newspaper.

SAMBOLIN: Two Americans in Somalia have prices on their heads and the U.S. is putting up the bounty. Omar Hammami from Alabama and Jehad Mostafa from Wisconsin are said to be part of a group linked to al Qaeda. Both are believed to have planned attacks on Americans. The State Department is offering up to $5 million for each man's arrest.

BERMAN: Vice President Joe Biden teaming up with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and families affected by the Newtown school massacre to take on gun violence. At a conference in New York City Hall later this morning, they'll be calling for passage of new federal gun laws that so far are struggling to find support in Congress.

Biden spoke last night on national public radio about limiting the number of rounds in magazines to ten bullets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You can't get the deer in three shots, you shouldn't be hunting. You're an embarrassment, putting ten rounds, limiting it to ten rounds makes a difference. Makes a difference in terms of how many shots you can get off before someone can intervene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Meantime, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tells this morning's "New York Times" that he is in favor of changing his state's tough new gun law to allow ten rounds of magazines instead of seven because seven-round magazines currently are not manufactured. That law is set to take effect April 15th.

SAMBOLIN: It's 9 minutes past the hour. We may narrowly avoid a government shutdown with a few days to spare even. The House is expected to vote on a short-term budget measure today that would keep the government funded beyond March 27th. The Senate passed a six- month budget measure yesterday that keeps most of the automatic across the board budget cuts in place.

BERMAN: This may be the first story people looked at when they got the paper this morning, big changes coming in late night. The "New York Times" reporting that NBC is set to have Jimmy Fallon replace Jay Leno as the host of "the Tonight Show."

This may be the real shocker, though. The network plans to bring "The Tonight Show" back to New York. Here is what Fallon said in last night's monologue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, NBC'S "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": I have to talk about the rumors that came out today which says I'll be moving up to 11:30 or, as my parents call it, still too late. Actually, the rumors are true. NBC is turning "The Tonight Show" into a diving competition so exciting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Fallon making reference to the new celebrity reality show called "Splash." The "Times" report says the only thing not set in stone right now is NBC's timetable for the change.

SAMBOLIN: Let the rumor mills swirl.

All right, it's 10 minutes past the hour. What's in a name? Controversy over the Washington Redskins team name is making its way to the halls of Congress. What 10 lawmakers want to do about the NFL's trademark. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We are following new developments this morning in the manhunt for a killer in Colorado who gunned down the head of the state's correction department. The family of 58-year-old Tom Clements say they lost a devoted husband and father. He was shot Tuesday night as he answered the front door of his home outside Denver.

Investigators have not identified a suspect or motive. They're looking for the driver of a car seen in the neighborhood the night of the murder. CNN's Jim Spellman is live in Denver. Jim, this is such a troubling story. What's the latest?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really hit a lot of people in the law enforcement community here really personally that somebody would go after an official like that. Like you mentioned, that car is still the number one lead in the case, but they still don't have a description of the driver. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SPELLMAN (voice-over): Police scouring for potential leads in the shooting death of the head of Colorado's prison system, Tom Clements, as he answered the door at his home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very sensitive to the fact that because of the position he held, there could be any number of people who may or may not have a motive to perpetrate a crime like this against him.

SPELLMAN: So far there are few leads, only a car seen idling nearby around the time of the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That vehicle is described as a late '90s model boxy style two-door, something similar perhaps to a '90s model Lincoln, although we're not definitively saying it is a Lincoln. SPELLMAN (on camera): The same witness who saw the car idling near the crime scene minutes later saw it driving on this road towards Interstate 25, near the on-ramp in the interstate there are numerous cameras. Police are checking them to see if they can spot the car.

(voice-over): As police pursue the killer, Colorado's governor signed controversial gun control legislation that requires universal background checks and bans high-capacity magazines.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: As far as we know, two completely unrelated subjects. Tom Clements was somebody who worked in what is often times a cold, dark world with a remarkably open and generous heart. He would have expected us to sign these bills and go forward today. It's just the kind of man he was.

SPELLMAN: The governor was less composed earlier in the day when he remembered the man who he had to cajole to take the job.

HICKENLOOPER: Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lisa, their two daughters, certainly with all the employees of the Department of Corrections who Tom worked so hard with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SPELLMAN: Investigators are hoping to speak with a woman who was seen near the scene of the crime out exercising. They hope that maybe she can help fill in a picture and get a description of the driver of the car. Police here say that though they are looking for a connection to the prison system in which Mr. Clements worked, they're keeping all their options opening and looking at everything they can, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Our Jim Spellman in Denver -- thanks.

Later on "STARTING POINT", we're going to get reaction from Paula Presley. She's the El Paso County undersheriff. That will be at 8:15 Eastern Time.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Sixteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date, shall we?

A Saudi native described as a hardened al Qaeda terrorist has been secretly held in New York since October. Federal authorities revealed the terror suspect best known by the nickname "Spin Ghul" was extradited from Italy. He is due in federal court tomorrow for a hearing on a series of charges, including conspiracy to bomb government facilities. If convicted, he faces a possible life sentence.

BERMAN: Sexual assault charges filed against two high school football players in Connecticut. Their alleged victims, two 13-year-old girls, who are reportedly being taunted and harassed online. Torrington High School football players Edgar Gonzalez and Johan Toribio (ph) both pleading not guilty to felony charges. They have been suspended from school.

Education officials in Torrington say they are cooperating fully with the police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNETH TRAUB, TORRINGTON BOARD OF EDUCATION: We want to assure our school community that we are very concerned about the safety and wellness of all of our students and that all possible steps are being taken to keep our students safe in school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Of course, the charges in this case come just a few days after two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl.

SAMBOLIN: Two very different accounts of what happened when a wheelchair-bound Marine went through airport security in Phoenix. His fellow Marines say the TSA humiliated him. A volunteer escort for the marine backs that up, saying the screener asked the marine to remove his prosthetic legs, then put them back on, stand up and then walk through the scanner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM PHILLIPS, VOLUNTEER ESCORTING MARINE (via telephone): He cannot stand up by himself. And I tried to explain that and they don't want to hear it. Then I said, man, I'm sorry that has to happen to you. He just goes, you know what? Get me the F out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The TSA says surveillance video shows screeners did nothing wrong. They did not ask him to remove his prosthetics and they say the marine wanted to stand up. The TSA says all traveling wounded warriors should call airports ahead of time in order to speed up that security process.

BERMAN: Eighteen minutes after the hour now.

And Congress is getting involved in the growing controversy over the Washington Redskins team name. A bipartisan bill introduced by 10 lawmakers would cancel the NFL team's trademark of the word "Redskins." This measure comes at the same time a federal court considers a petition by a group of Native Americans to also cancel the trademark.

The NFL team says the Redskins brand is not meant to offend. This debate has been going on for ages. The trademark debate I find interesting and it is very new.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, well, I think that that dialogue is going to continue. It happened in Illinois also with one of the teams there. It was the same thing. They say there's no sensitivity. You've got to figure this out.

Nineteen minutes past the hour.

More people are flying. So, is the airline industry now in recovery? Christine Romans is live with that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. We are minding your business this morning.

And after hitting a new intraday record high, the Dow is set to struggle a little bit today. Wall Street was pleased to hear that the Federal Reserve is going to keep stimulating the economy with billions of dollars each month. But today some caution ahead of a new report on jobless claims.

SAMBOLIN: An interesting career advice for women from a major American female CEO.

Our Christine Romans has that for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people buzzing about this, this morning.

What is that career advice? Marry an older man. This is coming from the Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. She is a woman who rose from being an intern at Xerox to leading that company. She's the first African- American woman to run a Fortune 500 company.

She is the big leagues. Speaking at a conference this week, she said the secret to success for women is to marry someone 20 years older. She was half joking here.

She went on to say her husband is 20 years older than she is. This helped her, because when her job required her to start traveling and leave the kids at home, long meetings, a lot of time at the office, her husband was able to retire, take care of the kids.

It's interesting because Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, who said the most important career advice a woman will make in her life is who her life partner is.

So, from very successful women, be careful who you choose, because they're the one who is going to help you when you're out there, trying to climb the corporate ladder.

SAMBOLIN: I think that's probably the bigger, broader message, is be careful who you choose as opposed to choose someone who is 20 years older than you are.

BERMAN: I think in general, choosing who you marry is a fairly very big decision. Just throwing that up there.

ROMANS: It is a very big decision. You know what? I've interviewed a lot of very, very successful women in corporate America, either CFOs or CEOs, and they, to a person, have a life partner whose there, doing a lot of work around the house making -- when I say around the house, I mean making sure the kids are getting raised, doing their homework and all that stuff. So, it's really important stuff.

SAMBOLIN: It is a partnership after all.

ROMANS: It sure is.

BERMAN: We have some others -- we're hearing a forecast that says the world's biggest carrier is expected to take in billions this year?

ROMANS: Aren't you so happy the airlines are making money? Zoraida is like, why do I care the airlines are making money?

Look, the airlines are in recovery. And a new industry forecast says global airlines will make $10.6 billion this year, $2 billion more than originally expected. The biggest areas of strength in the Asia- Pacific region and North America. Airlines tend to be tied to the economy. And those are the areas we're seeing economic improvement.

So, those airlines are recovering, too. Overall, more people are flying, by the way. Manufacturing is picking up. That means more cargo being transported.

There have been major cost cuts in the form of mergers. And that's paying off. Still, profit margins are very slim and jet fuel prices are up.

It also may be no coincidence that we're hearing so many reports of aggression in the air. International Air Transport Association says instances of air rage rose more than 29 percent in 2009 and 2010, Berman, a rise of 27 percent from the year before. Look at that guy. Very bad day. Bear in mind, those are only reported incidents.

So, what gives? HLN's Dr. Drew weighed in on this for us on why this is happening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN'S "DR. DREW': We are all under tremendous economic stress these days. Planes are now more loaded with people at closer quarters than ever. You can get a little bit of even brain swelling at very high altitudes, that can contribute to irritability. Excessive consumption of alcohol is adding to this expression of rage in the air and in other circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Yes, the alcohol thing is definitely one of those triggers. When you hear these stories of air rage, that make into the airwaves, there's usually alcohol involved.

Dr. Drew also has some tips if air rage happens to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: If you feel yourself swelling up with anger, get out of your seat, walk around, talk to the air staff. The same thing if you see somebody else getting into a state. Warn them about the alcohol you've seen consumed, pull yourself out of the situation and let the pros take over. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: See, your natural thing would be, take a drink. That's the whole problem in the first place. So, that's your "Road Warrior" this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Apparently. I say, take a deep breath, a little yoga.

What's the one thing we need to know about our money?

ROMANS: All right. Tech jobs, this is such good news. Tech jobs are turning up in unexpected places, folks. Yes, New York, Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C. -- those are still the top places for tech jobs. The biggest growth area for a tech job is St. Louis, tech openings up to 25 percent in the last year. Pay is rising, too.

One analyst says St. Louis is becoming a start-up town. Also on this list, Charlotte, Austin and Phoenix. Thank you, CNN Money for that.

Very cool, huh?

BERMAN: All right. Thanks.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: I'm a very Zen flier, by the way.

SAMBOLIN: I wondered why she was calling out your name.

ROMANS: I can't even imagine him having an air rage. I imagine him reading "Businessweek."

BERMAN: And my brain doesn't swell. My feet do.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Twenty-seven minutes after the hour. Right now, President Obama meeting with Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas before they meet with the press. We will go live to Ramallah with the latest.

SAMBOLIN: And talk about deer in the headlines. Police officer gets a real shock when a deer he thought was dead leaps out of the trunk.

BERMAN: Oh, my goodness!

SAMBOLIN: We're going to be back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)