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Wicked Weather Nationwide; Obama To Oklahoma: "We've Got Your Back"; Oregon School Bomb Plot; Man Dies After Struggle With Police; Resetting The Agenda; Death Row Mom

Aired May 27, 2013 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly flash floods, snowstorms in May. Extreme weather clobbering the country this holiday weekend.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A closet full of bombs. A high school student accused of planning to blow up his high school and it may have been modeled after the Columbine attack.

BERMAN: Oklahoma strong. President Obama giving people in Moore words of hope and comfort as they face the tall task now of rebuilding.

ROMANS: And good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is Monday, May 27th. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East. Memorial Day.

ROMANS: Let's get right to the dangerous and deadly weather slammed much of the country this weekend. At least three people died in historic flash floods in Southern Texas. One woman swept away as first responders were frantically trying to free her. And the southwest wasn't alone. The wild and unseasonable weather reached all the way up to the northeast. CNN's Indra Petersons is following all of this for us this morning.


ROMANS: Wow! Tough. The pictures out of Texas are amazing.

PETERSONS: Unbelievable and also snow in Vermont. I mean, it's been a holiday weekend of weather extremes, and that has had many wondering, if really -- does it really say May on the calendar. May, really?


PETERSONS (voice-over): The unofficial start of summer looking nothing like it's supposed to. Torrential rain and historic flooding blamed for at least three deaths in the San Antonio area. The body of an 18-year-old missing since Saturday was recovered from floodwaters on Sunday night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether it's the floods of '98, 2002 or again this year in 2013, powerful force of water comes down that creek, and it takes out homes, disrupts lives, in this case, took a life of a young man.

PETERSONS: Drivers had to be rescued from floodwaters submerged in more than nine inches of rain that fell in less than seven hours. Even this bus was no match for flooded roads. Riders escaped the bus through the hatch in the roof. Drenching rains and flooding washed away any outdoor plans in the central plains.

In Iowa, residents breaking out their shovels, instead of their grills, to make sandbags to protect from rising waters. The final week of may looking more like a winter wonderland in parts of the north east. The Memorial Day weekend storm brought chilly temps and dumped nearly three feet of snow on a New York ski mountain in the Adirondacks. And in Stow, Vermont, more than a foot of snow recorded on Sunday. The latest in the season it's ever had that much snow.


PETERSONS: Unbelievable. Yes and definitely very cold storm bringing that snow in Vermont. Today, we're looking a lot of instability in the Midwest, still seeing a lot of showers out there, about half an inch to an inch of rain possible and of course, some heavier in the mountains and local thunderstorms.

But if we take you to the northeast, finally we are thawing out. Vermont had highs only in the 30s as you can imagine with snow. Today, they are going to be seeing some mid 60s so big 30-degree temperature jumps that they've been waiting for, for this Memorial Day weekend in New York about a 10-degree jump. We will be seeing the 70s instead of that cold, soggy, wet, windy weather that we saw over the weekend.

In Texas, all that flooding, things are drying out for the next several days there, but we do have a slight risk out there again today. We're Looking anywhere from the Dakotas down to about Lubbock, Texas. We do have about 10 million of you with the threat of some heavier thunderstorms, some larger hail, and strong winds.

Moore, Oklahoma, in fact, could see some 50-mile-per-hour gusts out there today. One of the things we are going to be watching very closely though is a low producing some showers out on the west coast. Now the reason for that, once you get a really cool low this late in the season producing showers on the west coast, once that tracks off to the east we have the threat for instability so potential tornado outbreak again bull's-eyeing right around Oklahoma.

The central plains here by Wednesday so we're definitely going to be monitoring over the next several days and of course, for today, definitely enjoying at least the warmer weather out in the northeast.

BERMAN: All right, Indra Petersons, it would be nice if they get a break out there in Oklahoma as they continue to try to clean up from those storms. It's been one week since a tornado nearly destroyed their town in Moore, Oklahoma. People there they still face the monumental task of recovery. The two dozen victims who lost their lives were remembered last night during a memorial service. Just hours earlier, President Obama surveyed the devastation, promising that the country will not turn its back on the people who've lost nearly everything.

CNN's Nick Valencia, who was on the ground there minutes after that storm hit, he is in Moore, Oklahoma for us this morning. Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. So much has changed here in the last week. We've gone from chaos to calm as the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, begin to slowly piece their lives back together again.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Thousands gathered at the First Baptist Church in Moore Sunday night to remember the 24 lives lost including 10 young children. Last Monday's tornado was the strongest and deadliest to strike Oklahoma in years.

GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: Our spirits have been shaken this week. Our hearts have been broken, but our resolve is strong, and we will rise again.

VALENCIA: President Obama saw the devastation left by the powerful tornado.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously the damage here is pretty hard to comprehend. Our hearts go out to the families who've been impacted including those who've had loved ones who were lost.

VALENCIA: The president offered solace and aid to those hard-hit by the tornado.

OBAMA: It's going to take a long time for this community to rebuild. So, I want to urge every American to step up.

VALENCIA: This weekend, the parents of Bethany Pate joined her at what was once her house. The cleanup has just begun.

BETHANY PATE, TORNADO SURVIVOR: We're just getting real and starting to clean up, starting to take the next steps.

VALENCIA: Bit by bit, piece by piece, the residents of Moore, Shawnee and other cities impacted by the recent outbreak of tornadoes, are beginning to put their lives back together. And they're not doing it alone. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin offered her help to the residents of this Moore neighborhood.

FALLIN: For those that are just overwhelmed and it's just too much to do, get their personal belongings out, and then we'll come in and then we'll take care of it as a state.

VALENCIA: A bittersweet yet familiar sound of pomp and circumstance provided a need respite from the devastation as seniors from three area high schools graduated.

SAWYER TUMBLSON, HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE: I mean, it kind of seems we're ending our senior year like this, but then again it brings us all a lot closer and more together. So that's always a good thing, too.

VALENCIA: It's a closeness that will bring renewal to a community ravaged by the storm and provide them the courage to rebuild.


VALENCIA: Last night, John, I ran into a group from Joplin, Missouri. You remember the tornado that shredded through that community just two years ago. They've been playing a very important part in the recovery process. They also came with a very important message that with each day that passes here, things will get better -- John.

BERMAN: Nick, you're still standing in front of a debris field which is right behind you. When I was walking through it last week with you, you know, you can't imagine where all this stuff can go. How will they get rid of it?

VALENCIA: That's a great question. I actually spoke to Governor Mary Fallin yesterday and I asked her that question. She says that they have a designated landfill for all of this stuff behind me. Our viewers can see this stretches block after block, mile after mile, 17 mile stretch of tornado when it touched down. So, it's going to take a long time, though. She said it could take weeks, months, perhaps even the rest of the year -- John.

BERMAN: It looks like junk, nick, but remember, you know, these are pieces of people's lives here that will be going to that landfill. Nick Valencia in Moore for us this morning. It's great to see you this morning, Nick. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: A disturbing developing story this morning. An Oregon high school student is accused of planning an attack on his school that was allegedly modelled after the Columbine shootings and prosecutors say he had enough firepower to pull this off. The 17-year-old Grant Acord will be charged as an adult for attempted aggravated murder. Oregon state police say they found bomb-making materials and at least six explosive devices inside Acord's home in Albany, Oregon.


JOHN HAROLDSON, BENTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The types of bombs include pipe bombs, napalm bombs, Drano bombs, Molotov cocktails, those that were intended to be used in carrying out the aggravated murder.


ROMANS: CNN now attempting to reach Grant Acord's attorney for comment.

BERMAN: Two Sacramento police officers on leave this morning after they struggled with a suspect. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The police got him! The police got him!


BERMAN: Police say the man tried to barricade himself inside a cell phone store and overpowered the officer trying to arrest him. It took several more officers and a couple of customers to subdue him. At least one witness said officers kept beating the man after he was already on the ground.


DOUG MORSE, SACRAMENTO POLICE: Just prior to that video the suspect actually was on top of the officer assaulting him, and pinning him down to the ground. You can imagine how dangerous that is for an officer with all his weapons systems.


BERMAN: The 42-year-old suspect was pronounced dead a short time later. It is not clear yet how he died. Police have not said if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

ROMANS: Congress is dark for this week's recess and the president seizing this opportunity to brighten up the national conversation hoping to turn away from those controversies dominating the last few weeks and toward his own agenda, like immigration reform and major changes to national security. But he's already getting pushback from opponents who are not going to go down without a fight. Here's CNN's Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After weeks of dealing with scandals, the president is struggling to reset his agenda and with Congress off this week, he has a chance to do so. But even as he tries to limit damage from the IRS uproar, Republicans are demanding a broader investigation.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There's clearly an organized effort within the IRS to target political opponents of the president. That's undeniable. How does such a culture come about? How vast was it? Who was involved? This really does call for a special council.

LOTHIAN: The president wants his attorney general to review whether his own Justice Department has gone too far pursuing those leak investigations targeting reporters.

OBAMA: And I've raised these issues with the attorney general who shares my concerns.

LOTHIAN: But Republicans are pressing for a special council for that, as well. Noting Eric Holder was involved in seeking a search warrant against Fox reporter James Rosen.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: You cannot investigate yourself and I think it's a total conflict of interest.

OBAMA: We have to be determined to stop these problems.

LOTHIAN: Mr. Obama is also dealing with a sexual assault scandal in the military, giving Republicans a new line of attack.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think the constellation of these three scandals ongoing really takes away from the president's moral authority to lead the nation. Nobody questions his legal authority, but I think he's really losing the moral authority to lead this nation.


LOTHIAN: Immigration reform, a top priority for the president, is headed to the Senate floor after winning committee approval, but it's not clear there are 60 votes to stop a Republican filibuster. And his new push to close the Guantanamo facility is facing stiff opposition on Capitol Hill.

OBAMA: I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from Gitmo.

LOTHIAN: So after a Memorial Day break, Mr. Obama faces no shortage of political headaches. Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.


BERMAN: A heck of a week ahead for the president. It's 10 minutes after the hour right now. Ahead on EARLY START, she's been on death row for 22 years. Now death row Debbie may be about to walk free. We're going to talk about the key to her successful appeal, next.

ROMANS: And the Jersey Shore open for business this Memorial Day weekend, just months after Hurricane Sandy. Will the tourists be there?


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back. About 14 minutes after the hour on this Memorial Day. After more than 20 years on death row an Arizona woman could soon go free, but she has one big stumbling block. The state's attorney general says he will do everything he can to keep Debra Milke behind bars.


ROMANS (voice-over): A death row inmate convicted of killing her 4- year-old son could walk free next month. Debra Milke had her conviction overturned by a federal appeals court after arguing for years that she was the victim of a crooked cop. Known locally as Death Row Debbie, Milke has been sitting on Arizona's death row for nearly 23 years for the murder of her son Christopher in Phoenix. MARK MILKE, FATHER OF 4-YEAR-OLD MURDER VICTIM: He was my pride and joy. I mean, he was so much more brighter than me and stronger.

ROMANS: In December 1989, according to the prosecution, Christopher was told he was going to see Santa Claus at a local mall. Two male friends of Debra Milke drove him instead to a desert where one of them shot the young boy three times in the back of the head, allegedly on her instructions.

The two men told police the boy disappeared at the mall, but a day later one of them confessed to police and led them to the boy's body. Prosecutors argued the boy was killed to collect on a $5,000 life insurance policy. She has always maintained her innocence, but the key witness said she confessed to the plot to him and him alone.

ARMANDO SALDATE, JR., DETECTIVE: She then manipulated two other gentlemen to get rid of the child, and they got rid of the child, and made up a story that he had gotten lost at a mall.

ROMANS: The appeals court said prosecutors should have revealed the detective Saldate's history of misconduct, which included lying under oath in other cases. Because Milke's guilty verdict was based largely on Saldate's testimony the appeals court overturned her conviction.


ROMANS: Later this morning, we'll hear from Debra Milke's attorney Lori Voepel. That's coming up at 7:30 on "STARTING POINT."

BERMAN,: Secretary of State John Kerry is teaming up with his Russian counterpart to try and bring the Syrian government and opposition leaders to the bargaining table. Kerry meets tonight in Paris with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Both the Syrian government and the opposition Syrian national coalition have expressed interest in peace talks which are set to take place next month in Geneva. But opposition leaders have not yet confirmed that they will attend.

ROMANS: Angelina Jolie's aunt has died of breast cancer. Just two weeks after Jolie revealed she had a double mastectomy to prevent the disease. That's according to "E! Online". Debbie Martin was the younger sister of Jolie's mother. Her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2007. Martin, like Jolie, had the defective BRCA1 gene.

The three women rescued from Ariel Castro's Cleveland home have the chance to keep any of the three dogs found with them. The city's chief animal control officers says Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight may have bonded with the dogs in the almost 10 years Castro allegedly held them captive. The dogs are being kept at a foster home until the women decide what they want to do.

BERMAN: Jose Canseco taking and apparently passing a lie detector test. A woman recently accused him of sexual assault. Canseco said he wanted to take the polygraph to prove his innocence. The man who gave him the test said the results were some of the cleanest he has ever seen. The accuser has not filed charges but now Canseco says that he might sue her. ROMANS: Actress Amanda Bynes took to Twitter this weekend, lashing out at New York police over those charges that she threw a bong out of a window of her Manhattan apartment. Bynes called the drug charges, quote, "all lies", saying she's the real victims. She claims one of the arresting officers sexually harassed her the night before her arrest, slapping her genitals she says.

The NYPD is investigating those allegations. Bynes due back in court, July 9th.

BERMAN: The story is getting more and more disturbing.

ROMANS: The wigs. Yes, the wig.

BERMAN: All right. So it is a record-setting Memorial Day weekend at the box office, led by "Fast and Furious 6". It is time to catch up on the first five, folks. This is the latest in the fast franchise. It's expected to bring in over $122 million over four days. This virtually guarantees there will be a "Fast and Furious" seven.

It's estimated "The Hangover Part III" will gross $51 million, which was actually lower than was anticipated. And in third, 'Star Trek Into Darkness" expected to earn $48 million. The total holiday weekend box office take expected to top $320 million.

Quick, Christine Romans, what was the last movie you saw in the theaters?

ROMANS: Oh, wow. "Raiders of the Ark"?

BERMAN: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" exactly.

ROMANS: I don't know. I can't even think.

BERMAN: That was a good action movie like Gandhi. Great action. That was the last movie I saw in the theaters.


ROMANS: Coming up on EARLY START: as you get ready to fire up your grill this Memorial Day, get ready to pay a little bit more for your burger.


ROMANS: Beef prices are on the rise.

BERMAN: Outrage.

ROMANS: Only one burger for you today.


BERMAN: Beautiful picture of Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta, the world headquarters of so many important companies, like Delta and Coca-Cola, and other companies, I think. But a beautiful morning there. ROMANS: All right. Welcome back.

Minding your business this morning.

U.S. markets closed for Memorial Day. That means traders are going to have just four days this week to make up for last week's losses. After four straight weeks of gains the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ all fell last week.

Traders are a little worried that the Federal Reserve may start to pull back on its bond-buying program known as QE-3. The Fed has been pumping $85 billion into the economy every month, in an effort to bring down the unemployment rate. That's been driving gains in markets over the past few years.

But if the Fed can't juice the markets anymore, I don't know, maybe consumers will. We're going to get reports on consumer confidence and personal spending. We'll also get a reading on economic growth. So, a lot in store for us.

Just a week after paying $1.1 billion for Tumblr, Yahoo is reportedly looking to buy Hulu. Mashable reports that Yahoo has bid between $600 million and $800 million for the video streaming service. Yahoo, one of seven companies bidding on Hulu, according to "The Wall Street Journal." Yahoo is looking to add video content that it could use to lure advertisers.

Hulu launched in 2007 as a joint venture between News Corp, Disney, ABC and NBC Universal now Comcast. Hulu says in the last year, the number of users paying for its services has doubled to 4 million. By comparison Netflix has about 29 million subscribers in the U.S.

It's hard to say Yahoo Hulu.

BERMAN: Yulu (ph) is what it will be called. I'm not making that up. Or Halo. They haven't decided yet.

Yes, but what's interesting there, Yahoo going on a buying binge and trying to stay a little bit relevant.

ROMANS: Yes, Marissa Mayer is absolutely trying to get young users, also trying to get talent. I mean, she's been buying companies. Her company has been buying companies for ideas and talent for the engineers that they have.

So, yes, she has been buying a lot of companies.

BERMAN: Watch this space.

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

ROMANS: I told you so. If you're going to be planning a barbecue, it's going to cost you a bit more. Wholesale beef prices hit an all- time high last week. That means the price you pay at the store could hit records. Right now, a pound of choice beef costing an average of $5.26. It's all caused by the terrible droughts in the heartland over the past few years. Especially last year, they brought down the size of the U.S. cattle herds the lowest level in six decades and also drove up corn prices. You use corn to feed hogs. So, hogs and the whole shebang, beef and also poultry. Maybe a hot dog.

BERMAN: Hot dogs and beef both more expensive?

ROMANS: Maybe I should have a hotdog instead of a hamburger.

BERMAN: How about both? Why do I have to limit myself?

ROMANS: Just one hamburger. Prices are going up. Got to conserve in the Berman household.

BERMAN: Twenty-four minutes after the hour right now. That will not happen.

Coming up on EARLY START: watch out for that cable. A television cable comes tumbling down on a NASCAR track, sends the race into chaos. This is really amazing picture.

ROMANS: And flash flooding turns deadly in Texas. Today, more severe weather could be on the way.