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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Wintry Mess in the Spring; John Kerry Accuses Iraq of Aiding Syrian Regime; Supreme Court Seats; E.U. Agrees to Cyprus Bailout; Florida Gulf Coast Makes NCAA History; Will Knox Be Re-Tried for Murder?

Aired March 25, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So is this finally winter's last gasp? The calendar says spring but the scene outside says snow -- from the Midwest all the way to the Atlantic seaboard.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Amanda Knox in a new fight for her freedom. A court hearing underway as we speak, to decide if she will be tried again for murder.

BERMAN: Cage match. Man versus shark. A tourist terrified when a great white gets all up in his grill.

HARLOW: And Cinderella still dancing. Florida Gulf Coast and its dunk city act advancing to the NCAA sweet 16, making a little bit of history along the way.

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Poppy Harlow. Zoraida is off today.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Today, we're all Florida Gulf Coast. It is Friday, March 25th, 5:00 a.m. in the east.

We're going to start with the epic seasonal lie. No matter what anyone tells you, it's not spring. From Missouri to Pennsylvania, millions of people are dealing with rain, snow, potentially dangerous wind this morning. The mix proved dangerous from Indianapolis. Cars collided on slick, icy roads.

You have to look at this scene in Kansas City, Missouri. The storm causing significant disruptions at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. This is not done yet. Parts of eastern Indiana and western Ohio are under a winter storm warning from early this afternoon. And the system continues to track eastward.

We've got it covered for you. Susan Candiotti in Dayton, Ohio, and Jennifer Delgado in the CNN weather center in Atlanta.

We're going to start with Susan standing in the snow, in the spring, in Dayton, Ohio. Good morning, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. You know, as one youngster told me, "I haven't seen one flower yet!" That's right. What kind of spring is this? And here comes the trusty ruler, John and Poppy. We're going to do this right up top here. Right here in this spot, five inches. That's what they were talking about in this region, anywhere from five to eight. The snow isn't over yet. We remain under a winter warning until about 2:00 this afternoon.

I'll tell you, as you can see, some of the streets, it's been a wet snow. Some streets are wet. But remember the temperature is just below freezing. So, you might be seeing some black ice out there. Slushy streets in other areas. It has been a wild weather weekend all the way from the Colorado Rockies to the Southeast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Icy roads, slippery going near St. Louis as a pickup truck slides down a street. Just about everyone's tired of winter weather in spring.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's crazy. I'm just sick of all the snow, like I was so ready for it back at Christmas. Now I'm over it.

CANDIOTTI: Plows were tripling up in some parts of Missouri as relentless snow blanketed highways. At Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, nasty weather forcing cancellations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, it's just going to be a long day sitting around waiting. One flight canceled and then been rerouted.

CANDIOTTI: The severe weather sweeping into the South. High winds up rooting trees in central Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe the tree fell on the car. This guy got it a lot worse than I did.

CANDIOTTI: Violent thunderstorms washing out Tiger Woods' shot and a number one ranking after two holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Broken tree limbs and flooded fairways postponing the tournament.

At Orlando International Airport, a wind gust clocked at 86 miles an hour, a jet swept against a hangar.

In Kansas City, eight inches of snow forced churches to call off services.

Coloradans were among the first to feel the storm's fury -- whiteout conditions, 150 mile stretch of interstate shut down. Even a major pile up on I-25 that left a tractor-trailer in flames. By late Sunday in Indiana and Ohio, the skies opened up dropping freezing rain and snow, making people wonder, where is spring?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes, it comes. This is Ohio. We get snow.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Everybody says oh, yes, spring is around the corner.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: That's right. Spring's around the corner but not here just yet, at least when you look around. You know, we understand that in the entire month of February, the Dayton area had four inches of snow. Clearly, this one snowfall is taking care of that. That young man will have some school delays. Other schools in this area are closed for the day.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Susan Candiotti, hopefully we can put that ruler away soon. Thanks, Susan.

HARLOW: Let's go now to parts of Kentucky and Tennessee where people there have been dealing with hail and very strong winds.

A CNN iReporter sending us video from front porches, also from their apartment windows. So, when should we at least get a break from this extreme weather?

Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Jennifer Delgado. It doesn't look like spring. It doesn't feel like spring. It doesn't feel like it here in New York either. Jennifer, what's ahead?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. Everybody is complaining about it. They want to know when are we going to finally warm up? You saw the storms coming out of the Midwest.

Well, the good news is we're not going to see any severe weather today. We're just talking all snow. But still, a lot of snow to talk about in many areas covered from Illinois, all the way over towards Pennsylvania. You can see down to Kentucky, as well as into Tennessee.

We're dealing with snow where Susan was in Dayton, still looking for snow coming your way. Areas like Cincinnati, Indianapolis, you're going to get that backside of the snow.

So, how much are we talking about? For areas like Indiana, as well as into Illinois, we're talking one to four, four to six in some parts. Cleveland, the bulk of the snowfall, of course, is going to be to the South. But we're talking winter storm warnings and advisory in place all the way over towards New York City.

You can see anywhere in pink and red, we are talking about three to five inches of snowfall. And again, that includes areas like New Jersey.

Now as we zoom in a bit more for you, to get to your morning commute, Interstate 95, notice snow coming down in Washington, D.C. We're expecting for you anywhere between one or two inches. You've got a really nice burst coming through right now. And then for New York City for the five boroughs, we're talking potentially one to three, more of that arriving later in the afternoon. But for Pennsylvania, it is snowing out now and it's going to continue to spread in from West to East. As we track this for you, very quickly, I want to show you -- here's our low that is moving to the North, one off the coast, is what's going to be bringing that snow for parts of New York City as we head late near the day.

Poppy, we'll send it back over to you. But winter still feels like it's here even though spring is on the books.

HARLOW: It does. I was getting ready at 1:00 a.m. and I put my snow boots on. I thought it's almost April.

So, Jennifer, thank you. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: That may have had more to do with the 1:00 a.m. thing. You kind of get a little delusional.

HARLOW: Yes, just got a lot of it.

BERMAN: I have every morning.

Six minutes after the hour here. Secretary of State John Kerry remains in the Middle East this morning. On Sunday, he met with the Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, but apparently made little headway convincing Maliki to stop allowing the flow of arms and troops fueling Syria's bloody civil war. Secretary Kerry is accusing Iraq of helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by allowing arms and fighters from Iran to cross into Syria from Iraq.

HARLOW: And former Penn state assistant coach Jerry Sandusky breaking silence from behind bars. A documentary filmmaker says he has recordings of telephone conversations with Sandusky in jail that will air today on NBC.

The family of the late Joe Paterno, the head football coach whose legendary career ended in disgrace, is already speaking out. They call the recording, quote, "a sad and unfortunate development" that is, quote, "transparently self-serving, and yet another insult to the victims and anyone who cares about the truth in this tragic story."

BERMAN: A public memorial service for Colorado's prison chief will be held today in Colorado Springs. Tom Clements was laid to rest yesterday in a private funeral. He was shot and killed Tuesday in his driveway. The man who police believe was responsible, a white supremacist and parolee was killed Thursday in a shootout in Texas. He's also believed to have killed a pizza delivery man just days before Clements was shot.

HARLOW: And this is big. The Supreme Court takes up the issue of same-sex marriage tomorrow. Dozens of people have been camping out in front of the Supreme Court since Friday, braving freezing weather, trying to get a seat at the historic hearing.

The court will hear oral arguments on California's Proposition 8 on Wednesday. They will take up the defense of marriage act. Both of those laws ban same-sex marriage, a decision will not come until later this year.

BERMAN: "The New York Times" had a really interesting article, saying that a lot of the people in line are actually paid place holders in that line.

HARLOW: I wouldn't be surprised.

BERMAN: I think there are like 50 seats, people are dying to get their hands on.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. Eight minutes after the hour. Thirteen billion dollar deal is in place to bail out Cyprus. The European Union agreeing to rescue the island nation from economic collapse. The plan shrinks Cyprus' bloated banking system and account holders at some banks with balances above 100,000 euros, they could suffer heavy losses. It also calls for dismantling of the popular bank of Cyprus with shareholders and bond holders expected to be wiped out.

HARLOW: And one lucky Powerball winner is holding a tickets worth -- get this -- $338.3 million this morning. It was sold in New Jersey. It is the fourth largest jackpot and Powerball history. The lump sum payout: a cool $221 million.

Here are your winning numbers from Saturday in case you have that ticket: 17, 29, 31, 52, 53, Powerball is 31.

BERMAN: Sigh. Not me.

HARLOW: Sigh. Not me. But I love the next story so much, and I know you do.

BERMAN: I love it. For the first time in NCAA history, a 15th seed is advancing to the sweet 16. Florida Gulf Coast made history with their dunk city acrobatics. Man, is this team fun?

The Eagles knocking off San Diego State 81-71 last night. They were the better team on the court. They've only been Division 1 for six years. I think the school didn't start until the '90s.

So they'll have to beat the Florida Gators Friday night, a 3 seed, to make it to the elite eight. That could be tough. But, man, like I said, they are super fun to watch.

HARLOW: I mean, how can you not be on their side in this, I guess, to be on the opposing team?

BERMAN: We're all on their side.

HARLOW: All right, guys. This was the murder trial that captivated the world. You know it well. Could it happen again to Amanda Knox? We go live to Rome where a decision on a retrial could come down any minute.

Plus, look at this video. A great white gives some underwater adventurers more than they bargain for.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Happening now: prosecutors in Italy making their case before that country's highest court to retry Amanda Knox for murder. They're hearing arguments as we speak. The American student has been free since an appellate court in Italy overturned her conviction in the deadly stabbing of a British student Meredith Kercher back in 2007. The one day hearing could also free Knox of slander charges. That would clear the way for her to sue her accusers.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is live in Rome with the very latest. Hello, Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Pop. Well, the court is due to meet within an hour, it could decide whether this is the final legal chapter for Amanda Knox in Italy or the beginning of yet another sensational trial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): An emotionally overcome Amanda Knox is led from an Italian courtroom moments after learning she was free at last. The murder conviction against her and former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito overturned on appeal. That was October 2011.

They had spent four years in prison for the 2007 sexual assault and murder of her roommate, British exchange student Meredith Kercher.

It was a tabloid case that riveted the media, attracting an army of journalists to the medieval town of Perugia where Knox and Kercher had been studying Italian language and culture.

Knox's tearful return to her family home in Seattle, Washington, seemed like the end of her ordeal.

But it may not have been the end after all. The prosecution is demanding a retrial and will appeal the conviction before the Italian Supreme Court in Rome. The wheels of Italian justice, however, grind slowly.

If the acquittal is overturned, the case could go to an appellate court. If that happens, Knox might have to return to Italy. If she refuses, the Italian authorities could appeal to the U.S. government for her extradition.

If the acquittal is upheld, it's case over.

Rudy Guede, a native of the Ivory Coast who was raised in Perugia, is serving a 16-year prison term for Kercher's murder.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: Now, if, in fact, there is a retrial, the question is: will Amanda Knox come to Italy? She is currently in Seattle, Washington. The Italian authorities would have to request extradition from the American government. And it's not at all clear at this point whether the U.S. government would be willing to hand Amanda Knox back to the Italian authorities -- Poppy.

HARLOW: That is the big question. Thank you very much, Ben.

BERMAN: Sixteen minutes after the hour right now. Let's bring you up to date. The calendar may say spring, but do not trust it for a second. From Missouri to Pennsylvania, millions of people hammered by wind, rain and snow. And the severe weather, it is not done yet. Parts of eastern Indiana and western Ohio were under a winter storm warning from early this afternoon and the system is headed east.

HARLOW: A very sad story for you this morning. A group skydiving trip taking a tragic turn. An instructor and student from Iceland found dead in a wooded area in Zephyrhills, Florida. Investigators say neither of them attempted to deploy they're main parachutes and may have somehow lost their altitude awareness.

Their backup parachutes, we're told, activated automatically but too late to save them. We're also told the student who was killed had executed several successful jumps previously.

BERMAN: That is sad.

A train conductor in Houston is accused of failing to conduct himself properly. Authorities say Robert Hartman (ph) confessed to stealing 50 train horns since 2009 and selling them on eBay. So, this costs about 50 bucks a piece. Union Pacific officials say every train engine missing a horn has to be taken out of service and fixed. They say Hartman's actions cost the railroad more than half a million dollars. Wow.

HARLOW: Who is buying those?

BERMAN: I have no idea.

HARLOW: Berman, for your office?

BERMAN: I need souvenirs like that to get people out of my office.

HARLOW: All right, guys. Look at this video. Some adventure seekers getting too close for comfort with great white sharks off the coast of South Africa. Take a look. This is like a scene out of "Jaws."

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

HARLOW: The tourist thought they were safe inside that cage. As the great white sharks checked out the bait, it was dangling outside of the bars. But one shark skipped that, tries to go right for the divers. His entire head went inside the cage, narrowly missed two divers. As horrific as this looks, nobody got hurt.

I think their hearts stopped for a moment.

The man that shot that incredible video, Brian Plumber (ph), he's going to join us in our 8:00 a.m. hour, live on "STARTING POINT."

BERMAN: So you heard the bleeps version. The unbleeped version which I've heard a few sometimes, has the most creative language I have ever heard in my entire life.

HARLOW: What comes to mind when you're about to idea.

BERMAN: Exactly right.

When a shark is attacking you, the things you'll say.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Coming up, a tiny country with a huge impact worldwide. Why Wall Street is paying attention to Cyprus this morning. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. We are minding you business this morning.

And U.S. stock futures are pointing higher following that bailout agreement in Cyprus.

HARLOW: Christine Romans out watching Wall Street.

So, tiny country, huge impact.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

HARLOW: Very different than we saw last week the reaction when this whole crisis unfolded. What's the latest?

ROMANS: Well, futures are up right now. You know, Cyprus really matters to what is happening in Europe. Cyprus is 0.2 percent of the eurozone economy. It's banking sector accounts for most economy. But what's happening there has Wall Street's attention because of the precedent it may set for other struggling nations.

Also, Russian business has about $19 billion in Cyprus. That's according to Moody's. So, it's a very unique economy.

Wall Street happy with the plan in place right now. It's also the last week of the first quarter.

Check out your investments this morning. If you haven't looked in a while, you'll be pleased.

The S&P 500 is up more than 9 percent over the first three months of 2013. You can see the rally took off from around November of last year. Nine percent will be a solid return for the entire year. But it's happened only in the first three months of this year. The S&P 500 is up 11 percent over the past year overall.

Everyone keeps asking me, over and over -- when is this going to end? And that is nearly impossible to predict. But there is one ratio Wall Street looks to and it shows that prices are still fairly valued right now, maybe even cheap at least historically speaking.

Look at this. This is something that measures the value of the stock market compared to what companies are making, what they're earning. It's called the price-to-earnings ratio. At the end of the 1990s bull market, it was 29. 2002-2007, and the late 1980s, it was at 17. Historical average during good times and bad times is about 16.

Today, the S&P 500 -- or the P.E. ratio of the S&P 500 is below all that, 15. Interesting, right?

HARLOW: So when people keep saying I can't get in the market now because it's too high, is that as high, we really don't know.

ROMANS: We don't know. We never know.

And, you know, you don't know if you're getting in at the end. You don't know if you're getting in at the beginning. The ends of bull markets tend to be -- especially old bull markets like this tend to be the most lucrative part of the game. But people especially people who have houses and jobs, that's how they make most of their income, they get very nervous about stocks at this point.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

ROMANS: It's the professional investors who get real excited when they see P.E. ratios like that.

HARLOW: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: That's what the mattress is for.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: All right. In a bid to become the number one golfer in the world, again Tiger Woods stopped cold but not by one of his opponents.

If you're leaving the house right now --

BERMAN: You can watch us anytime, just go to you desktop or mobile phone, just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)