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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Flooding in Texas; Memorial Day Ceremonies; Big Rulings for Supreme Court; Yahoo! Looking Towards Hulu

Aired May 27, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Honoring the fallen on this Memorial Day. We remember those who gave everything for this country.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And while many today will be doing that, also hitting the beach our host a barbecue, folks in Vermont are not exactly welcoming the unofficial start to summer thanks to this, snow. We have a roundup of all the extreme weather from coast to coast.

ROMANS: And for those who may actually find a beach this Memorial Day, check your bottle of sunscreen. A new report on why they're not all created equal.

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

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Monday, May 27, Memorial Day. Welcome to STARTING POINT.

BERMAN: We'll get right to the deadly weather slamming so much of the country right now. Historic flash floods claimed several lives in Southern Texas. In one case a woman was swept away just as responders were trying to free her from her vehicle.

The Southwest is not alone. Unseasonable weather dumped feet of snow in New York and Vermont.

Indra Petersons is following all of this for us. Nuts.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, I thought I was complaining about having to wear a little bit of a scar of, some boots. They had highs in the 30s over holiday weekend. Unbelievable.

Let's show what you it really looked like there this weekend in case you missed it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

DAVID HARRIS, SCHERTZ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SUPPORT: 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, talk 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 Northeast. 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 Stowe, Vermont, more than a foot of snow recorded on Sunday. The latest in the season it's ever had that much snow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PETERSONS: Turn around, don't drown. The National Weather Service slogan for good reasons, only six inches remember sweeps you off your feet. Two feet of water moving water can take away a large vehicle. We saw that. Keep that in mind, as we see heavy thunderstorms once again going right through the Midwest.

Look at the lightning and thunder right through Des Moines currently. We're going to be looking at unsettled weather throughout the afternoon.

But it does look better somewhere and one of those places are Northeast. It was so chilly over the weekend. Finally, temperatures are rebounding, 10, 15 degrees 30 degrees warmer in Vermont, where they had the snow today. They will mid-60s.

In New York, in fact, instead of the 60s and 50s, we're starting to see the 70s. Gorgeous out there, 74 degrees today. Also currently drying out in Texas. So that's the between news.

The slight risk still with us, of course, this time of year, looking at anywhere from the Dakotas, Montana, all the way down to Texas and even through Illinois. And, unfortunately, we're going to see this weather enhanced as we go through the middle of the week.

We keep talking about Oklahoma. It looks like potentially by Wednesday more severe weather in the forecast for them again.

ROMANS: Certainly hope the best for them as they still have digging out from last week. Thanks, Indra.

All right. On Memorial Day, we remember those brave Americans who died fighting for our freedom. In just a few hours, President Obama will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery.

CNN's Barbara Starr live at Arlington this morning. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine.

We are at the section 60 in Arlington. The cemetery opened to the public just a few moments ago on this Memorial Day. And I think you can already see people are beginning to arrive to pay their respects. Family members, friends, we will see people coming here throughout the day as we do on every Memorial Day.

As you mentioned, the president will be at Arlington in just a few hours offering his respects for all of those who have served over the years. But section 60 really such a special place. In this area, nearly 1,000 troops have fallen on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are buried here. This is the place where cities, towns, names like Fallujah, Ramadi, Kandahar, Jalalabad, all the places in Iraq and Afghanistan are so deeply remembered by the friends and family of those who have served.

So, we'll be here throughout the day. We'll be talking to some of the people who come here, we'll be seeing what is happening. We'll see the mementos that are left here.

Teddy bears, flowers, pictures. And occasionally maybe just a nice frosty bottle of beer left by a young soldier who comes to visit a friend who is here -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you, Barbara.

BERMAN: New this morning, fire on board a cruise ship. This one, a Royal Caribbean vessel called Grandeur of Seas, headed to Coco Bay in the Bahamas. The company is saying that fire is out and there are no reports of injuries to passengers or crew.

We also understand the ship is in calm seas right now and running with full power. It is now headed to Freeport to get checked out.

The British government is targeting extremist groups following the murder of a soldier in broad daylight in the streets of London last week. At least nine people have been arrested connection with the case now. At least two had been released without being charged. Three other suspects have been released on bail.

British Prime Minister David Cameron says he will personally head up a new anti-terror task force looking into extremist activity in the U.K.

ROMANS: The body of a missing teenager has been found in San Antonio. It's the third reported fatality as a result of that severe flooding in South Texas. The 18-year-old's body was discovered one day after he was reported missing near a local creek. Two women died on Saturday, a 30-year-old and a woman believed to be in her late 60s.

CNN weather center says the worst of the rainfall is now over and the National Weather Service expecting those flood levels to quickly fall. BERMAN: A new scandal facing Rutgers University. The new athletic director, the one hired to clean up the program after basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for abusive behavior, the new athletic director is herself accused of being an abusive coach.

1996, all 15 members of Julie Hermann's volleyball team at the University of Tennessee submitted a letter claiming she ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse.

So earlier on STARTING POINT, we talked to Kim Obiala, one of Hermann's players on that team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM OBIALA, FORMER UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE VOLLEYBALL PLAYER: I think once it went off the court and became a personal attack on us, we all came together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he wants to talk to the Rutgers University president about this new issue.

ROMANS: Ten fans were injured Sunday at the NASCAR race in North Carolina when an overhead TV camera fell from the grand stand and on to the track. According to Charlotte Motor Speedway, three people were taken to the hospital, seven treated for minor cuts and scrapes. The incident happened in lap 121 of a 400-lap race delaying the race by 27 minutes. Three drivers reported damage to their cars.

BERMAN: So, "The Hangover" disappointed. "Fast and Furious", not at all. The sixth film in the popular cars and crime franchise ruling the Memorial Day weekend box office. It's estimated four day gross more than $122 million.

"The Hangover Part III", a distant second. It's predicted to haul just $51 million. That is less than half of "The Hangover Part II" opening.

In third place, "Star Trek Into Darkness" expected to earn $48 million.

When all is said and done, this is expected to be a record setting Memorial holiday at the movies.

ROMANS: Wow.

All right. Ahead STARTING POINT, Supreme Court preparing decisions that could affect the lives of every American. We're going to run through the cases for you.

BERMAN: And then another child star on a downward spiral. The difference here, Amanda Bynes antics playing out in real time. Fresh off of her arrest, she starts really a strange Twitter war. Find out with whom, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It's decision time for the Supreme Court, 30 cases a wait final opinions, some of them on major controversial issues from affirmative action to same-sex marriage. And the answers to these cases could have a big impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

CNN's Athena Jones takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From now until the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on big issues: affirmative action and same-sex marriage.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, CO-FOUNDER, SCOTUS BLOG: It's almost unimaginable the number of things the Supreme Court is going to decide that affect all Americans in the next month.

JONES: First up could be whether public schools can consider race when admitting students. Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas, arguing she was rejected because she's White.

ABIGAIL FISHER, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAINTIFF: I hope the court rules that a student's race and ethnicity should not be considered when applying to the University of Texas.

JONES: The school says race is one of many factors it uses to achieve diversity on campus. Court watchers say Anthony Kennedy could side with conservative justices to overturn or limit a major Supreme Court decision from ten years ago that allowed affirmative action.

The justices are also dealing with another hot-button issue, same-sex marriage.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- a marriage is between one man and one woman. You guys won't accept it.

JONES: Considering whether California's Proposition 8 ban is constitutional, and in a second case, if the defense of Marriage Act can deny same-sex couples the same federal benefits as heterosexual ones.

EDITH WINDSOR, DOMA PLAINTIFF: I think it's going to be good.

JONES: That case was brought by Edith Windsor, a New York woman who had to pay higher estate taxes after her wife died than someone in a heterosexual marriage would have.

GOLDSTEIN: I think it's likely in the defense of Marriage Act case that the Supreme Court will invalidate the federal law that says we won't recognize state same-sex marriages. But in the California Proposition 8 case, the justices seem unlikely to require under the Constitution every state to recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling may not be a huge gay rights victory at all, but I doubt it's going to be a significant loss either.

JONES: Another case involves the kind of genetic testing that led actress, Angelina Jolie, to undergo a double mastectomy. The court is considering whether human genes, so-called products of nature, can be patented.

Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: I want to talk about the upcoming decisions, plus the week ahead in Washington because it is a busy one for the president.

Ron Brownstein, he is CNN senior political analyst and the editorial director of "National Journal."

Ron joins us now. Great to see you this morning. Really appreciate it.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, John.

BERMAN: Let me ask you this. Let's talk about the Supreme Court first. You heard that story.

Affirmative action, we have gay rights issues coming up before the court right now. We're expecting their decision this week, also the Voting Rights Act.

Which of these decisions do you think has the most potential to kind of cause a little bit of an earthquake and perhaps push the administration off message?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Well, look, if they rule in the most expansive way possible, gay marriage would probably be that. As is on which the case, the most explosive Supreme Court decisions are those that are about aligning the law to the changing demography of the country. But since, as Tom Goldstein pointed out, most are expecting a fairly narrow ruling on the underlying issue of the California gay marriage initiative.

I think it's the affirmative action questions. You know, we are in a country that is going to be majority nonwhite in our under 18 population, not in 2040, not in 2030, but in this decade, the Census Bureau projects. And in that reality where most of the K to 12 students are nonwhite, the question of how we use race and apportioning opportunity particularly to our elite institutions of higher education I think is an increasingly pointed and urgent issue.

So I think that may have the biggest ramifications. And they have been dealing with this since the 1970s, since the landmark Allan Bakke case in 1978. So it has taken a long time to try to get this right and maybe be one of the issues that we maybe never entirely resolve.

BERMAN: You know, they had to rewrite all the school rules after Bakke and they could have to do it again after this ruling. On the issue of gay rights, we're talking about DOMA and other things, if it is a limited ruling, as many people suggest it might be, where then do you see the evolution of gay rights, the right to marry? How do you see that progressing around the country?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, on gay marriage, in some ways, we are running the experiment. We did not run with abortion because of the Roe decision in 1973, which established the nationwide right to abortion. Instead, we are seeing states moving in very different directions.

The overall public opinion clearly moving toward greater acceptance of gay marriage particularly among the millennial generation where it's up to about 70 percent, but you were seeing a stark divide. In blue states, this is becoming a norm. We have seen two more blue states legalize gay marriage just this month.

And I think, you know, before -- by 2016 of the 18 states that have voted Democratic in the last six elections, 14 of them could have either gay marriage or civil unions. On the other hand, you don't see any movement in red states. You have, you know, roughly 30 states that have barded (ph) in their constitution, and there really is no political pressure to do it there. So, unless, the court establishes a nationwide right, we could see a very divergent system for quite a while.

ROMANS: Let's talk about immigration reform in the upcoming fight in immigration reform. You wrote a column about how the gangs in Congress have had mixed results, so far. What do you think about the Gang of Eight proposal and whether they'll have to trade away major parts of their proposal to get actually something done?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, I know that the Gang of Eight in the Senate, the bill has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. I think in the end, it will pass the Senate. People forget as recently as 2006 the Senate with 62 votes, including 23 Republicans, did pass comprehensive immigration reform where they pathway to citizenship.

And I do think, you know, despite some near death experiences likely they will get through the Senate again, and then, the issue will be what will the House do. I think the House initially will pass a more conservative bill and the real question will be, will they go to conference, and in the end, will John Boehner let a bill pass that a majority of House Republicans oppose.

To me, that has always been the critical question on whether immigration happens or not because it's hard to see a majority of House Republicans voting for a bill that could pass the Senate and President Obama could sign.

BERMAN: This is a major piece of legislation. It could be the hallmark. It could be the only significant piece of legislation the Obama administration gets through in the second term. How do you think, Ron, it will be affected by all these controversies that are going on right now?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, a controversy -- what scandal does is it sends each party to their opposing corner, makes it harder for President Obama to make deals that Congressional Democrats don't like if he needs them to defend him against Republican investigations. On the other hand, it strengthens the portions of the Republican Party that don't want to make any deals. The argument becomes the president is drowning, don't throw him a lifeline with a policy achievement.

But you know, it makes immigration different is that so many Republican strategists consider an inconceivable to go into 2016 without this issue resolved, and despite all the opposition in the House, the argument that if you don't do this, you may not work with a Republican president again for quite some time could prove persuasive. It could be the exception to what may be, as you point out, a very dismal legislative year in Washington.

BERMAN: And time is running out. All right. Ron Brownstein, great to see you this morning. Really appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, guys.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, Will and Carlton back together showing off their moves and bringing in the next generation. It's a fresh prince reunion you don't want to miss. STARTING POINT back after the break.

BERMAN: You never want to miss --

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: U.S. markets are closed today for Memorial Day. After four straight weeks of gains. Dow, the S&P, and the NASDQ all fell last week. Traders worry that the Federal Reserve may start to pull back on its bond buying program called QE3. That's been driving the markets. Ahead this week, we're going to get reports on consumer confidence and personal spending. We're going to get a reading also on economic growth.

Banks are behaving badly again. That's according to a letter from the New York State attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. Last year, five banks agreed to pay out $15 billion as part of a settlement designed to put a stop to mortgage and foreclosure abuse. But in this letter obtained by Reuters, Schneiderman says, some of the banks are, quote, "engaging in much of the same misconduct that precipitated the national mortgage settlement."

You know, it's not just New York. The AG says other states have identified similar recurring deficiencies.

Just one week after paying $1.1 billion for Tumblr, Yahoo! is reportedly looking to buy Hulu. National (ph) reports that Yahoo! has bid about between $600 and $800 for the video streaming service. Under new CEO, Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! has become aggressive about buying up talent and ideas from other companies. Hulu says, in the last year, the number of users paying for its services has doubled.

It's got about four million users. Let's compare to that Netflix. It has about $29 million streaming subscribers in the U.S.

BERMAN: Yahoo! on a buying spree.

ROMANS: It really is. She's getting talent and she's getting some younger, younger users, trying to skew that demographic, Yahoo! demographic.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty-three minutes after the hour right now.

Angelina Jolie has lost another close relative to cancer. Just two weeks ago, the star announced she had a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. Now, we've learned that her aunt has died from the same disease. Debbie Martin was the younger sister of Julie's mother who died from ovarian cancer in 2007. Martin reportedly had the same mutated BRCA1 gene. That's her niece.

ROMANS: Actress Amanda Bynes lashed out this weekend on Twitter, angrily tweeting about singer, Rihanna, firing off some vicious comments about Rihanna's abuse at the hands of singer, Chris Brown. This is what she tweeted, quote, "Chris Brown beat you because you're not pretty enough."

Rihanna responded, "You see what happens when you cancel intervention?" That was a reference to Bynes arrest in New York Thursday on drug charges.

BERMAN: Will Smith may be a big movie star now, but he has not forgotten his time at the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or his career as a rapper.

ROMANS: I love that show.

BERMAN: It's a great show. Well, appearing on Graham Norton's BBC talk show, Smith joined his old musical partner DJ Jazzy Jeff for a rendition of the fresh Prince theme.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

BERMAN (voice-over): Smith then brought out his former co-star, Alfonso Ribeiro, and his son, Jaden Smith, to show off some fresh prince era dance moves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (on-camera): Very impressive. Very impressive.

ROMANS: Some things just stand the test of time.

BERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

ROMANS: And that is one of them. DJ Jazzy Jeff for the Fresh Prince.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, the "Jersey Shore" making a comeback seven months after Superstorm Sandy, but did the weekend weather dampened the rebound? We'll tell you.

BERMAN: Then, you probably do it all day and it could just be as bad for you as smoking. Why a new study says you need to get out of that chair immediately, but don't stop watching TV.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's been anything but summer like on this first unofficial day of summer. Deadly flash floods in Texas, storms dumping feet of snow in New York and Vermont. CNNs Indra Petersons joins us now with a look at, wow, this wild weather, and what is happening? Hello, summer.

PETERSONS: Right. So close to June. It feels absolutely nothing like and in so many places. It was cold in New York. Of course, Vermont, snow out there. Unbelievable. And still seeing the thunderstorms this morning throughout the Midwest. Flood watches are in effect for portions of Iowa and even through Illinois and you can see easily why. Look at all this instability.

Thunder, lightning all of it still in the picture today, unfortunately, for a soggy Memorial Day. Where is it getting better? Well, I have some good news. Finally, right? We're warming up in the northeast. It was cold. It was wet. It was windy out there. Temperatures are rebounding. In fact, we're actually going to see some 70s out there, and in Vermont where they had the snow, it will quickly melt.

In fact, we're actually going to be seeing those 60s. Good news also towards Texas. They're going to be drying out, so we're not looking for that flood threat much once that starts to recede, but unfortunately, we are looking at the severe weather slight risk today once again stretching really from Montana all the way down through Texas, even through portions of Illinois.

What are we talking about? Well, some thunderstorms will be popping up. The threat isn't too high for tornadoes. We can't rule them out, but really looking for the large hail, the gusty winds. In fact, Moore, Oklahoma has potential for some 50-mile-per-hour gusty winds out there today. One of the things we're going to be watching, showers currently on the west coast. The reason for that it's a very cold low.

Once that makes its way across the plains, we are looking for the potential for severe weather outbreak or tornadic outbreak, again, by the middle of the week and that is tough news considering they're still trying to recover at this point.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: Tough news. All right. Indra, thank you so much.