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Severe Weather Across the Country; Family Awaits Decision as U.S. Mom Held in Mexico; Queen In Waiting; Political Football; Tween Star to Troubled Actress

Aired May 29, 2013 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tornadoes tear through the heartland and today conditions ripe for more dangerous storms.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today, an American grandmother accused of smuggling drugs face to face with a judge. She says she was framed. Her family's emotional plea to get her back home.

ROMANS: New this morning, a major announcement from former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

BERMAN: And royal watch: queen-in-waiting. Camilla makes her solo debut. There are the parallels to Princess Di.

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty minutes after the hour right now.

And we are on high alert this morning as a new round of severe weather pounds the Midwest. Two more tornadoes touched down in Kansas, damaging homes and power lines. And forecasters say that conditions are ripe for even more severe weather outbreaks in the Midwestern plains states today and through the end of the week. Indra Petersons is tracking all this for us. What does it look like, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We definitely have a lot of crazy weather out there today, and unfortunately, the threat for severe storms will be out there. First, I want to start off in the northeast and let you know there'll be huge warm up out there, anywhere from 20 to 25 degrees warmer that we saw yesterday, 60s (ph) and the rain. Also the threat for some thunderstorms farther north out towards New England.

Out through the West Coast, we've been talking about all the fire danger, definitely dry conditions, still seeing high wind warnings. We saw dust storms out there and a lot of fires ripping through the area. We could see winds as high as up 60 miles per hour. Temperatures soaring to triple digits by this weekend. So, no help there.

And this being the big story today, once again, we're dealing with that dry weather we just mentioned on the west coast, really banking up towards all that moist there coming out of the gulf. You add that low that now exited out of the Rockies. You add the jet stream, and all of this bringing that threat for severe weather again right to Tornado Alley.

And of course, what we're looking at here is more of a moderate risk, unfortunately, in that same area right around Oklahoma and Kansas today. That's where we have the higher threat for tornadoes. This is one of those days everyone really needs to be paying attention again to the NOAA weather radio and really your surroundings.

Isolated tornadoes, damaging winds, severe storms, large hail, all of this going to be in the country today, just a quick check to keep in mind. Yes, it is hurricane season. The first tropical storm expected to make landfall is out there currently. We have Barbara moving northeast at five miles per hour towards Mexico seeing about 60-mile- per-hour winds.

It's expected to make landfall late this afternoon into the evening. Expected to make landfall as a tropical storm, but eventually diminishing here into a tropical depression, just expected to drop about six to 10 inches of rain. So, yes, a lot of weather out there, Christine and John.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Indra. And again, we are on high alert all day watching the potential for storms in the middle part of this country. Thanks, Indra.

So, the Arizona mother accused of trying to smuggle 12 pounds of marijuana out of Mexico is back in court today. A judge is now considering whether Yunira Maldonado will go free or remain behind bars in Nogales, Mexico. Her family denies the charges. They say authorities arrested Maldonado to get bribe money.

Maldonado's daughter spoke last night with CNN's Piers Morgan.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: How are you feeling about the fact your mother tonight is in a Mexican jail and facing very serious charges?

ANNA SOTO, DAUGHTER OF YANIRA MALDONADO: Well, it's something horrible, definitely. I don't feel any good about where she's at. I miss her dearly. She doesn't me want to be in there. She's an honest woman, and she's innocent. It's not a place for someone of her kind. It hurts just to know that she's there, to have seen her there.


BERMAN: You will hear more from this daughter, Anna Soto, talking about her mother, Yanira Maldonado, behind bars in Mexico. We'll speak with her after 8:00 on "STARTING POINT."

ROMANS: A Congressional committee has subpoenaed state department officials over the Benghazi talking points. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wants paperwork and communications from ten people, including the state department's number two, the top aide to then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the department's former spokeswoman.

The House Committee says the state department has refused multiple requests to voluntarily hand over the communications in those documents. The attack last September killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

BERMAN: One of the suspects in last week's hacking death of a British soldier is out of the hospital and in police custody this morning. Twenty-two-year-old Michael Adebowale will now be interrogated by counterterrorism investigators. Eight other people were arrested in connection with the murder of Lee Rigby. Five have made bail, two released without being charged.

A new era for Britain's royal family as the Duchess of Cornwall practices her queen in waiting technique on her first solo trip abroad.

ROMANS: And you know, Camilla made what some are calling a bold choice as she tries to step out of the rather large shadow cast by the late Princess Diana. CNN's Max Foster joins us live from outside Buckingham Palace in London with that story. Good morning -- good afternoon to you. Good morning from us here.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hello, Christine, John. It's interesting. It's been 16 years, do you believe, since Diana died in Paris. But so interesting that Camilla chose that very same city for her first big solo event abroad. This is a part of her defining herself, but very interesting that she chose Paris.


FOSTER (voice-over): The duchess at Dior, an iconic French brand, also coveted by her husband's first wife. There are obvious parallels between Diana, Princess of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, but also stark differences. These are Camilla's first tentative steps towards defining herself outside the UK. And luckily, there are horses at hand, Camilla's big passion. This is the duchess in her element.

She also showed her down to earth, approachable side, at a Parisian market. Traders getting a glimpse into Camilla's legendary sense of humor.

(on-camera): So, this is the piece of meat that she actually tried?


FOSTER (voice-over): "I thought she was very nice," he tells me, "very agreeable, "very in mind of her status."

(on-camera): So, the duchess came here, bought some dresses for her grandchildren. What did you think of her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She was very nice, polite. She loved everything I sold. She was very respectful. FOSTER (voice-over): And before she heads home, a must do for all visitors to Paris. She went to see the Mona Lisa. All this part of a long, slow emergence for a queen in waiting.


FOSTER (on-camera): I was talking to someone close to the duchess, and it's interesting seeing her buying those dresses. They describe her as a professional grandmother. And I understand that she's been really involved with Kate's pregnancy, been involved with Kate really, getting involved in the royal family increasingly over the years, and she's been involved in this process, leading up to Kate's birth.

You know, this is a future heir to the throne, and Camilla's been really involved in that. She's a professional grandmother, and she's going to have a step-grandchild to look forward to in July.

BERMAN: There's a whole lot going on these days, Max. We're going to see all the royals out pretty soon for the 60th anniversary of the coronation.

FOSTER: Exactly. We had all the celebrations last year, 60 years of the queen being on the thrown, but it was 60 years ago this year that she actually had that big coronation ceremony. And on Tuesday, they're going to go back to Westminster Abbey and really relive that moment. And, all the royals will be out, including the Duchess of Cambridge, and we'll see how pregnant she is.

People are seeing real big changes in her body, and they're fascinated. I have to say, Christine, as well, maybe you're interested as well, but the fashion and how she copes with what to wear.

BERMAN: Why just Christine? I'm totally interested in the fashion and what she chooses to wear, Max.


BERMAN: And I can tell you --

FOSTER: John, I'm sorry. That was sexist of me, I apologize.

BERMAN: Very sexist. And I guarantee you, if that happens, if we see Kate, CNN will bring you every last second of it as it happens.

ROMANS: We will break it if she wears the top shop of black and white polka dot dress one more time. We will break in with breaking news on that. Max Foster, thank you so much, Max.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on EARLY START, the bromance is back, but could the union between President Obama and Governor Chris Christie have some big political fallout?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: About 42 minutes past the hour. Welcome back. New this morning, Tea Party favorite, Michele Bachmann, now said she will not seek a fifth term in Congress. Bachmann made that announcement in a video posted this morning on YouTube and on her website.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: My good friends, after a great deal of thought and deliberation, I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth Congressional term to represent the wonderful people of the 6th district of Minnesota. After serious consideration, I am confident that this is the right decision.


ROMANS: Bachmann did not rule out a run for future political office.

Against all odds, former congressman Anthony Weiner is gaining ground in his bid to become the next mayor of New York. Despite resigning in disgrace after sending lewd photos of himself on Twitter, a new Marist poll shows Weiner closing the gap on Democratic frontrunner, Christine Quinn. He's just five points behind the city council speaker. And according to the poll, 53 percent of Big Apple voters believe Weiner deserves a second chance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you getting a second chance? Is that what this means?

ANTHONY WEINER, (D) NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Look, I have said from the moment I got in this race that I, you know, honor the idea that people are going to have questions of me, but for the most part, the questions people have been asking have been about the things that affect their families.


ROMANS: If no Democrat receives 40 percent of the vote in the fall's Democratic primary, there will be a run-off.

BERMAN: So, it was an unlikely political marriage, President Obama and Governor Chris Christie renewing their Bromance with a tour of the Jersey Shore on Tuesday, promoting a big summer comeback, a credit, they say, to cooperation between federal and state government, but as CNNs Jessica Yellin reports, the union is not without its risks.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The political odd couple together again.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me, first of all, say thank you to Governor Christie for that introduction and the great work he's done here.

YELLIN: Visiting a reopened boardwalk and facing off at an arcade game where the president went 0 for 5.

OBAMA: Little high. Oh, well done.

YELLIN: But no worries. The governor won him a stuffed bear. The Obama-Christie political bromance started days after superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey, and the president promised --

OBAMA: We will not quit until this is done.

YELLIN: Since then, the federal government has poured more than $3 billion into the state. For a governor facing re-election, this visit is a chance to highlight progress rebuilding after the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty amazing what they've done.

YELLIN: And win some free media for the shore.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Welcome back to the Jersey Shore.

OBAMA: The jersey shore is back, and it is open for business.

YELLIN: That's got to be a plus for Christie who was slammed for spending $25 million in federal funds on this ad campaign.

CHRISTIE: Because we're stronger than the storm.

YELLIN: The president's return is not without long-term political risks for New Jersey's Republican governor. Just months after he welcomed the president last time, he was not invited back to the annual gathering of conservatives known as CPAC, important to GOP presidential hopefuls.

And the latest visit should offer plenty of fresh material for future GOP attack ads. But so far, in this blue state, his bipartisan approach has been a political plus.

WILL WRIGHT, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: I really admire the fact that him and the president work together, and that's the way they should be working together in Washington.

YELLIN: Since Sandy, Christie's poll numbers have risen 15 points, now at 69 percent approval in the latest survey. The governor told NBC News, when the president wants to visit --

CHRISTIE: I'm the governor. I'll be here to welcome him.

YELLIN: -- this resident who is also a little league coach, says the dieting Mr. Christie should apply his governing principles to his waistline.

WRIGHT: I suggest to him that he's just got to get in a training program and just stick to it like he's sticking to his problems with helping the people here in New Jersey.

YELLIN (on-camera): The president had something to gain from this visit also. It gave him a chance to pivot away from the controversies in Washington and focus on an example of government working.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, traveling with the president in Asbury Park, New Jersey.


BERMAN: So, coming up on EARLY START, really Christine Romans obsession here. The bizarre blond wig, the Twitter rant, how Amanda Bynes has gone from tween star to troubled actress?


BERMAN: Welcome back. Forty-nine minutes after the hour. Some top stories we're watching right now.


BERMAN (voice-over): Prosecutors revealing details of their case against Grant Acord (ph). He's the Oregon teenager accused of plotting to bomb his high school. They say the 17-year-old's plan allegedly included napalm bombs, firearms, and committing suicide before police could get to him. Acord, who's being charged as an adult, did not enter a plea when he appeared in court yesterday on a video plea from jail. Bail is being set at $2 million.

More questions swirling around Rutgers new athletic director, Julie Hermann. We've learned she was named in a sex discrimination lawsuit in 2008 during her tenure as senior athletics administrator at Louisville. In the suit, an assistant track coach alleged she faced gender and sexual discrimination and was fired after placing a complaint with the university's human resources department. The lawsuit holds Hermann largely responsible for the coach's firing.


ROMANS: If you Google the words "hot mess," you just might find the picture of Amanda Bynes. From slamming celebrities on Twitter to her new legal trouble, this actress appears to be on a downward spiral. So, what happened to the Amanda Bynes America once knew and loved? "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT's" A.J. Hammer takes a closer look.


A.J. HAMMER, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT ANCHOR (voice-over): The images of Amanda Bynes hiding behind a blond wig and under arrest by a New York City police have let many people asking what happened to this Amanda? The successful young actress with the once clean cut reputation, Bynes first rose to fame as a child on Nickelodeon's "All That" and "The Amanda Show."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just happen to be Amanda's number one fan.

HAMMER: Her television work led to several movie roles, most recently playing a virtuous teen opposite, Emma Stone, in 2010's "Easy A."

AMANDA BYNES, ACTRESS: I'm not the one that you have to answer to for your deprate (ph) behavior. There's a higher power that will judge you for your indecency.

HAMMER: After that film, Bynes stepped away from acting and into a serious of legal problems. She's fighting a 2012 DUI case pending in California. late last year, two separate hit and run charges against her were dismissed. Earlier this month, the actress was sentenced to three years probation for driving on a suspended license.

Now, Bynes is answering to a New York City judge for allegedly tossing a bong out of the window of her 36th floor New York City apartment last week. Appearing in a long, blond, disheveled wig, Bynes was charged with reckless endangerment, tampering with physical evidence, and criminal possession of marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My client completely denies of ever having thrown anything out the window.

HAMMER: Bynes denies the charges and has subsequently made allegations of her own against the NYPD in a series of strange tweets. "He slapped my vagina. Sexual harassment, big deal," adding, "The cops sexually harassed me. They found no pot on me or bong outside my window. That's why the judge let me go."

A spokesperson for NYPD internal affairs tells CNN they found no evidence to support her claims. In spite of her legal troubles, Bynes sounds upbeat and optimistic about her future, tweeting, "I'm getting in shape and getting a nose job. I'm looking forward to a long and wonderful career as a singer/rapper."

Perhaps, but for now, Bynes is getting attention for her rap sheet and tweets.

A.J. Hammer, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: And CNN, of course, has reached out to Bynes for comment, but she has not yet responded.

BERMAN: So, Justin Bieber at it again. For the second time in two months, the singer is accused of dangerous driving in his Calabasas, California neighborhood. Police say they're investigating this latest incident.


STEVE WHITMORE, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We got a couple of calls from two witnesses that said that they saw Justin Bieber driving recklessly in his white Ferrari inside the gated community known as the Oaks. This kind of behavior, if, in fact, it did happen, this kind of behavior cannot be done by anybody at any time anywhere.


BERMAN: Not even Justin Bieber. So, Bieber apparently refused to speak with sheriff's deputies who went to his home to investigate. He also reportedly slammed the door on one of his irate neighbors, someone you may know, former NFL star, Keyshawn Johnson. Interesting.

So, up next, one fan showing Beyonce a little too much love. Jeanne Moos -- did you see that? Jeanne Moos reports on that little slap seen around the world.


BERMAN: So, welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is not the first time that Beyonce's back side has made headlines, but this time, a fan got within slapping distance. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beyonce may be celebrated for her booty, but she almost had to boot out a fan for celebrating it a little too much. It happened at a concert in Copenhagen. Beyonce was interacting with fans. She shared her mic with a guy, and as she started to walk away, he gave her derriere a little slap.

BEYONCE, SINGER: Now, I will have you escorted out of here now, all right?

MOOS: Beyonce sashayed away. We're not sure whether the butt slapper went or stayed. Fans captured the swat from all angles and debated it online. "If you don't want it slapped, girlfriend, stop flaunting it in their faces" versus "just because she performs for a living doesn't give you the right to violate her space."

(on-camera): Reporters wanting to ask Beyonce about the butt grab might as well butt out. No comment was all her workered label would say.

(voice-over): Now, Beyonce is no stranger to administering a little booty love to her dancers and getting it from her husband, Jay-Z. Beyonce seemed to reward Jay-Z for his playful pat. Not playful is how some over excited fans acted in Belgrade, Serbia, pulling Beyonce's hair and touching her face. Earlier this month, the fan rushed the stage where Justin Bieber was seated at the piano.

Security instantly jumped in, knocking down the piano in the scuffle while Justin calmly walked away performing. And who could forget Will Smith when a Ukrainian prankster interviewer tried to kiss him.

WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Man, what the hell is your problem, buddy?


SMITH: It's just awkward, Dave.


MOOS: Oddest of all was when Britney Spears invited a guy from the audience on stage so she could perform a pole dance on him. He bit her. "Bit Knee Spears," they called her. And now, the personification of booty-liciousness -- (SINGING)

MOOS: -- had to just turn the other cheek.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: Wow! Don't touch her. I hope she booted him out of there, seriously.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.