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EARLY START

Knox Guilty, Again; Obama's New Jobs Plan; The South Thawing Out

Aired January 31, 2014 - 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: Guilty again. Amanda Knox's murder conviction reinstated. An Italian court says she did kill her roommate back in 2007. We have breaking news on this, this morning, a lot of it, including the family of the slain woman responding to the verdict. We're live.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama in a CNN exclusive this morning, set to announce a major initiative to get jobless Americans back to work.

BERMAN: And then, the South thawing out. Cities crippled by an historic winter snowstorm slowly returning to normal, but there is new fury this morning over the ice chaos that crippled the roads. Who is now stepping up to take the blame?

ROMANS: Those pictures, I still can't get over that!

All right. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. It's Friday. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's Friday, did you hear? January 31st, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

ROMANS: We begin this morning with breaking news in the Amanda Knox case. The family of the woman Knox was just convicted again of killing in Italy is speaking out just moments ago about the verdict and who they think was responsible.

Erin McLaughlin is live in Florence for us this morning.

Erin, what is Meredith Kercher's family saying?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Well, Meredith Kercher's brother, Lyle, and her sister, Stephanie, gave a press conference this morning. They were present in court for the verdict reading last night. Their attorney has long supported a conviction in this case. They told the media that nothing could bring Meredith Kercher back, but they are hoping for closure in this case.

Also, we are hearing from Italian authorities, this just breaking now from police in the Italian town of Udine, which is located on the Austrian and Slovenian border. Apparently, they're telling CNN that at 1:00 a.m. last night, they stopped Amanda Knox's fellow defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, who was convicted yesterday of Meredith Kercher's murder, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, they stopped him at a hotel near the Austrian and Slovenia border on court orders. The court yesterday ordering that his passport be taken away, deeming him a flight risk.

They found him in the hotel, they said with a woman. They brought him to the police station where he remains. He's apparently filling out paperwork. He has not been arrested. He says that he was not trying to flee the country -- Christine.

ROMANS: That's a dramatic turn. I mean, this is something -- you know, Amanda Knox is in this country. She's in Seattle. Authorities obviously can't take her into custody, but he, he faces -- he faces prison again.

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely, yes, absolutely does. That is if Italy's Supreme Court ratifies the decision that the court took yesterday.

Now, the decision, the court's verdict, they have 90 days to write that up, to create a written decision. From there, the defense has another 90 days to appeal that decision to Italy's Supreme Court, but let's remember, that is the same Supreme Court that overturned the 2011 decision to acquit them.

So, things at the moment not looking good for Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Erin McLaughlin for us in Florence this morning -- thank you.

BERMAN: Dramatic developments still going on right now.

ROMANS: Yes, really.

BERMAN: So, we'll check back in there in just a moment.

Meanwhile, happening overnight in Atlanta, road crews are racing to tow the last remaining vehicles from the city's frozen interstates, a job that began overnight after many who had abandoned their cars at the height of this week's paralyzing storm returned on Thursday to retrieve what they left behind. Officials are hopeful that today's morning commute will be nothing like what the city went through on Tuesday and Wednesday, when just a few inches of snow left many of these highways impassable. Residents there still seething.

And the governor of Georgia told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he's sorry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: That long delay and stalling of traffic was hard on everybody, and it is for that that I am most apologizing, because I don't want that to happen to any of our citizens. I think it's been a big wake-up call. I think it is going to cause all of us to be more aggressive in terms of declaring states of emergency, in terms of deploying our emergency personnel.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Now, the governor said he is not looking for a scapegoat. He also said the buck stops with him, but he implied that he was not given accurate information from forecasters about how bad the storm would be.

ROMANS: The death toll from the storm stands at 10, many of them in Alabama, where the highways remain a mess. These pictures are from Birmingham, where roads froze again overnight after much of the snow and ice had melted. Officials are warning residents, don't travel today. Do not travel today unless you have to.

BERMAN: So, what is the state of the roads? What's the state of the freezing that may happen?

Indra Petersons with a look at the forecast for today and heading into the weekend.

ROMANS: Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning.

It's getting a lot better. The temperatures already this morning, I can show you the comparison between today and yesterday, and you can see how much warmer it really is into the South, and it's only going to be improving each day here on forward.

You can really see the temperatures starting to climb to even a good ten degrees above normal as we head in through the weekend. That's for Atlanta, also through New Orleans. They'll actually see some 70s.

So, much improvement there. The entire east coast, in fact, starting to see temperatures climbing. The story really through the next several days is a couple series of storms here. First one, a little minor, kind of maybe out through Des Moines, through Chicago today, but a system behind it will start to bring in heavier snow, really as we go through tomorrow, kind of stretching from the lower plains all the way in through Michigan.

And some of those totals will be pretty heavy out there. Look at Chicago. By tomorrow, it could be seeing anywhere from six to even 10 inches of snow, so tough day for them. Detroit about four to six inches. Even through Iowa, could see about four inches of snow.

Back through Colorado, the system's kind of hanging around today, also some of the heavier snow. Some of these rates one to two inches an hour.

The big thing is we'll be watching whether or not we're going to see anything here for Super Bowl Sunday. And let me tell you guys, this is tricky. These forecasts are so on the margin, there could be some scattered showers now right around game time, calling official forecast not during game time, but maybe before and after. It's tough.

BERMAN: Hmm.

PETERSONS: That's not good news, right?

BERMAN: Interesting. All right.

Indra getting into the Super Bowl -- thanks, Indra.

PETERSONS: Sure.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, President Obama set to announce a major initiative by some of the nation's biggest companies to hire the long-term unemployed. Just one of the things the president revealed in an exclusive interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, talking about his state of the union pledge to take action with or without help from Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the biggest problems right now on the jobs market is the long-term unemployed.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, they're having trouble -- people won't hire them because they've been unemployed so long.

OBAMA: Because they've been unemployed so long, folks are looking at that gap in the resume and they're weeding them out before these folks even get a chance for an interview. So, what we've done is to gather together 300 companies just to start with, including some of the top 50 companies in the country, companies like Walmart and Apple and Ford and others, to say, let's establish best practices. Do not screen people out of the hiring process just because they've been out of work for a long time. We just went through the worst recession since the Great Depression.

And so, I'll be convening a meeting where a number of these top companies will be coming in, agreeing to these best practices, and we'll have an opportunity to, you know, encourage more people to come in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Watch much more of Jake's exclusive interview with the president coming up just a few minutes from now on "NEW DAY," and this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. on "THE LEAD", right here on CNN. And you know, the president's really on to something here. There are companies who advertise for -- and head hunters who advertise for jobs, saying current employees only need apply.

BERMAN: Yes, so if you're unemployed, don't even bother.

ROMANS: Yes, don't even bother. If you don't have a job, they don't want you to even apply.

BERMAN: This will be a welcome change, if these companies follow through with this promise.

ROMANS: And if it's more than just symbolic.

BERMAN: Seven minutes after the hour.

This morning, President Obama is a step closer to having a new leader for the NSA. His pick is Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, who if confirmed, would also head up the U.S. Cyber Command. Rogers is a Navy veteran and trained cryptologist. That's a study of secure technology.

The current holder of those jobs, General Keith Alexander, steps down next month.

ROMANS: Due out today from the State Department, a highly anticipated report that could decide the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The analysis of the proposed Alberta-to-Texas pipeline expected to conclude. The project would pose little risk to the environment.

President Obama has opposed the pipeline but promised last summer he could get on board if the project does not contribute to carbon pollution.

BERMAN: The president facing a huge amount of pressure from the left in his own party to oppose this, but no one knows which way he's going to go here, so that will be very interesting to see.

Meanwhile, could now be the time for significant immigration reform? Washington is waking up this morning to a new blueprint unveiled by Republican House leaders on Thursday. The plan, which includes providing legal status for 11 million undocumented workers, was reportedly met with sharp criticism from rank-and-file in the House, some who reportedly said they don't want to deal with this in an election year. Still, some Democrats, most of whom favor a path to citizenship, not just legal status, do see this as a possible new jumping off point for negotiations.

ROMANS: Some Republican senators have said, how can, with 12 million people unemployed and with the long-term unemployed, the president's concerned about how did you give legal status to all these other workers for the very jobs that out-of-work Americans should have a shot for, too? That is an interesting angle in all this.

All right. Some low-level drug offenders in federal prisons today are encouraged to ask for clemency from the president. The Justice Department saying those whose crimes were nonviolent and have clean prison records should file the paperwork to have their sentences reduced. The federal bureau of prisons will even be telling inmates good the new opportunity. Deputy Attorney General James Cole says it's the best way of dealing with an exploding prison population.

BERMAN: This morning, the Air Force cheating scandal keeps growing. Officials say the number of nuclear missile launch officers now under investigation has ballooned to 92. That's nearly a fifth of the entire nuclear force. 40 are suspected of actually cheating on a proficiency exam by getting answers in advance. The remaining 52 were allegedly aware of the cheating but failed to report it to their superiors.

ROMANS: All right. Wall Street gearing up for another loss, I'm sad to say. Dow futures down 70 points. No major news behind it. It's this generally negative sentiment we've been seeing all year.

Investors looking at more than just one trading day, they're looking at the entire month. And according to the January barometer, how stocks do in January predicts how they're going to do for the year. Right now, it's right about 90 percent of the time. If it holds true again, 2014 could be tough. The S&P 500 is down nearly 3 percent this month, just this month.

One big mover today, Amazon down 5 percent premarket. Amazon reported more than $25 million in sales over the past three months, but Wall Street isn't impressed. Amazon thinking about raising prices for the prime membership service.

BERMAN: Uh-huh.

ROMANS: That's the headline for you. Instead of $79, it could be $119, higher fuel and shipping costs.

BERMAN: That's a big deal, because a lot of people chose Amazon Prime for free shipping, 79 bucks. Maybe not so much if it keeps going up and up --

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: -- it would be interesting to watch.

All right. George Zimmerman back in the news this morning, now planning to fight for charity. Zimmerman telling "Radar Online" that he's agreed to participate in a celebrity boxing match. As of now, he doesn't have an opponent, but finding one may not be too difficult.

The promoter says he's had some 8,000 e-mails from people who want in. Zimmerman will not be getting paid for the fight, which will take place at an undisclosed location and be streamed live online for pay- per-view. The fight is scheduled for March 1st.

ROMANS: Coming up, the final day to negotiate peace in Syria. Can anything be accomplished? We are live.

And a fire department under investigation, accused of standing by as a man died. Helpless on the pavement. We'll have that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Happening today, an end to this round of the international talks about the war in Syria.

The peace conference wrapping up today with little progress reported in both the government and opposition seemingly no closer to a deal to end the conflict that has been raging now for three years. That as attention turns to a different international summit in Germany that will bring Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders together again. They still have Syria on their minds.

Mohammed Jamjoom with the latest on this -- Mohammed.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John.

What's come out of this conference so far is mostly just frustration. To give you some example of just how difficult it's been to come to any kind of agreement, despite the fact there's been so much pressure in these talks put on both sides to come to an agreement about getting aid to the city of Homs, where people there have been under siege for 600 days and are starving to death in some cases, even an agreement on that couldn't be reached, about how to deliver aid.

We've seen so many amateur videos come out of Homs this past week and spoken to so many residents, and they tell us the same kind of thing. We hear about men that are foraging through shelled-out buildings looking for fire wood that they can provide their family with. We've spoken to women who have talked about how they are trying to get their children to drink any kind of water they can find. Most of the time, it's dirty and it has bugs in it.

And we see pictures that are so dramatic that show neighborhoods that are laying there in ruins. There are injured people there that desperately need medical attention. At one point, there was talk of an agreement for evacuating women and children. Even that couldn't be accomplished this week in Geneva.

So, it really has been a disappointment and fraught with a lot of frustration. Now, we'll see what happens in Munich. Secretary Kerry is going to be there.

He's going to be talking with Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint U.N./Arab League envoy to Syria. He's going to be talking with his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov from Russia. But whether or not anything be achieved, and even though Syria is expected to take up a lot of talking room there -- well, at this point, there's not a lot of hopes -- John.

BERMAN: They leave these talks in Geneva with nothing tangible, except for the fact that they spoke at all, and maybe, just maybe going forward that will count for something.

Mohammed Jamjoom, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: The death penalty is now on the table in the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston marathon bombing suspect. He faces 30 charges in the case, and prosecutors are saying they plan to pursue the death penalty on more than half of them. Tsarnaev has pled not guilty in the attack last April, an attack that left three dead and injured 260 others.

BERMAN: This morning, changes are coming to New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk program. The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, announcing that the city has given up its appeal of a judge's ruling and will accept reforms, including an independent federal monitor.

Now, this is a major change from the last mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who insisted the program was legal and did not unfairly target minority groups. ROMANS: This morning in Washington, D.C., a firefighter and a fire lieutenant are on administrative leave as authorities investigate whether a man died outside a firehouse because firefighters refused to help. It happened on Saturday when 77-year-old Cecil Mills collapsed across the street from a fire station. Those with him called 911 and ran to the door, begging for help, but they were told fire crews couldn't do anything unless they were dispatched.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIE MILLS, DAUGHTER OF CECIL MILLS: It's hard, and that's how I felt, because the person stood there and watched the entire thing and did nothing to help. I even ran to the curb and said, "Are you going to help me or are you going to let my dad die?"

PAUL QUANDER, DEPUTY MAYOR, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Firefighters routinely go into danger. They don't wait to be called. They respond. And so, that's what's troubling about this. This goes against what firefighting is all about. And that's one of the reasons that it's so troubling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: A police officer eventually flagged down an ambulance for the man. He later died. Washington officials are calling the entire episode unacceptable.

BERMAN: It's a shame.

A marine who served his country in Afghanistan is back home with his family this morning. This was a big surprise for his kids, who did not expect him back for another six weeks. So, when Gunnery Sergeant Robert Clement showed up at their high school during an assembly on Thursday, his 12-year-old daughter was shocked. His 9-year-old son was stunned. And everyone, everyone in the school was sobbing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just happy.

GUNNERY SGT. RONALD CLEMENT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: My number one value, you know, is family. So, definitely being reunited with them is -- I've just been waiting. It really is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Just the most amazing things to see. He could not possibly squeeze his son tighter and his son squeezing him back there. Oh, my goodness!

The marine, this guy thanks his wife, who hatched the whole idea with a lot of help from the school. She was also crying, as you can imagine, saying her eyes were watering so much. She had trouble using her camera. ROMANS: Oh, wow.

Super Bowl smackdown. The big game just two days away. The trash talk between the teams -- whoo-hoo! Andy Scholes live from Super Bowl Boulevard, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: So, I don't think there's anything going on this weekend.

BERMAN: Nothing at all. I haven't heard of anything going on this weekend.

ROMANS: Two days away from the Super Bowl. The trash talk between the two teams is really getting entertaining.

BERMAN: That's why we have Andy Scholes live on Super Bowl Boulevard with the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, so, we keep hearing about this year's Super Bowl. It's got the number one offense in the league, the Denver Broncos, taking on the number one defense in the Seattle Seahawks.

And the matchup to watch when those two units are on the field is going to be Peyton Manning versus Richard Sherman. Now, these two actually had a little fun with each other this week. Sherman said, "Peyton's passes, while they're on time and accurate, look like ducks flying through the air." Now, Peyton fired back at that yesterday, but he definitely did have some fun with it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEYTON MANNING, DENVER BRONCOS: I believe it to be true as well.

(LAUGHTER)

MANNING: I think that's a real reach what he's saying there. I do throw ducks. I've thrown a lot of yards and touchdowns ducks. So I'm actually quite proud of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: All right. Rachel Nichols is going to have a special episode of "UNGUARDED" tonight right here from Super Bowl Boulevard. She's going to sit down with John Elway, and he's going to talk about getting the Broncos back to the Super Bowl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ELWAY, BRONCOS VP FOOTBALL OPERATIONS: You know, as a player, this is the biggest game of your career, and you know, especially as a quarterback. There's, you know, a lot of things that ride on this game because of the fact of the attention that the game gets. And so, being with a coat on, you're a lot more in the background, which is a little bit more enjoyable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: And you can catch that interview tonight at 10:30 Eastern, right here on CNN.

All right. Trending on bleacherreport.com today, animals around the world are making their super bowl picks. Hailing from Montana, Ozzie the Grizzly Bear, he went with the Denver Broncos peanut butter cake.

Now, Buffett the Manatee in Florida, he agreed with Ozzie. He also went Broncos. And you're going to want to take Buffett seriously. He's got a six-game winning streak going in the Super Bowl.

But hold on a second! Eli the ape in Utah, he has a six-game winning streak going as well, and he picked the Seahawks.

So, guys, it's a dilemma for gamblers everywhere. Who do you go with? Do you go with Eli the ape or do you go with the manatee and the grizzly bear?

BERMAN: I've got to talk to the wildebeest to break the tie or something.

ROMANS: I know, I know. I need to ask where they think he's going to end this year because I need some real good information. They might be the people to turn to.

BERMAN: The manatee is not the bear. The bear is the bear.

ROMANS: I know. We need a bull in that group.

BERMAN: All right.

ROMANS: All right. Andy Scholes, thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: Have a good one.

ROMANS: Amanda Knox -- Amanda Knox found guilty of murder again. We have new reaction from the victim's family, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)