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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Government Joining Suit Against Lance Armstrong; Blade Runner Under Restrictions; March First Deadline for Cuts; New England Braces for Winter Storm; Counting Down to the Oscars; Daytona 500 on Sunday

Aired February 23, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Victor Blackwell. Randi Kaye is off today. Thanks for starting your day with us.

We're starting with Lance Armstrong. The Department of Justice is now set to join a lawsuit against this disgraced cycling star. Armstrong admitted using performance-enhancing drugs when he won his seven Tour de France titles.

And the suit centers on the fact that Armstrong rode for the Postal Service team and it alleges Armstrong and his manager filed false claims for federal money because they had to agree to play by the rules. But using drugs broke those rules and the original suit was found by former Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis and could be worth $100 million.

Oscar Pistorius is free, up to a point that is. The South African magistrate granted the Olympic sprinter bail yesterday, eight days after the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He'll be back in court by June 4, although it could be months after that.

Meanwhile, he will live under bail conditions posted here. He can't go back to his home. He had to give up his passport. He can't even go near an airport. He surrendered his weapons. He can't drink alcohol and he has to report to police every Monday and Friday.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is in Johannesburg.

Nic, what are people saying about, before this death they considered a national hero?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And they've been tracking this, following it on Twitter, following it on, any way that they can. The newspaper headlines are full of it, the television stations have been full of it here.

And people, really, now they've heard this decision, they're divided.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's fair. I think the man is not -- we don't know if he's guilty or not. And to try him now, it's not really fair. And I think they've set the right conditions for the bail. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) enough to think that despite all the evidence that were mounted up against him, he still managed to get bail. You know? It's -- I guess it's inflation of (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: You know what the legal experts here are cautioning, bail hearing is not really a trial. They're going to get deeper into a lot more technical criminal issues yet. So the verdict here most people think ultimately when he does go to trial, he probably will end up in jail -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, one of the stipulations of jail is that he can't go back to the crime scene, which is his home. So where is he staying?

ROBERTSON: He's staying with his uncle right now. It's a very large house in a well-heeled suburban neighborhood of Pretoria, high walls, big gates on the compound. Parole officers showed up there this morning. His uncle has said he's had a bath, that he's some food. There was a sense really that he been eaten much over the past six days.

But the important thing for the family is they've been spending time with him, trying to sort of heal him. He's obviously shown a lot of distress while he's been in the courtroom, and there are concerns about his mental well-being. So, his family, spending time with him in the uncle's house.

BLACKWELL: All right. Nic Robertson for us, live this morning in Johannesburg -- thank you.

Now to Washington, and that's where the White House and Congress are playing a high-stakes game of chicken. They are fighting over forced spending cuts. They're set to go into effect on March 1st, just a few days away, but, really, do they affect you? What's the trickle down, if there's no deal?

CNN's chief business correspondent Ali Velshi takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forced government spending cuts take effect March 1st. It's what Washington has been calling the sequester. It's a stupid name for a stupid thing.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.

This is not an abstraction. People will lose their jobs.

VELSHI: You've heard the big numbers: $1.2 trillion dollars in cuts over 10 years, $85 billion this year. That's 13 percent cuts to defense, 9 percent to everything else.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're weeks away from the president's sequester and the president laid out no plan to eliminate the sequester and the harmful cuts that will come as a result of it.

VELSHI: The forced budget cuts were created during the 2011 debt ceiling debacle. They were passed by Congress and signed by the White House. A worst-case scenario that would be so bad it would force lawmakers to make a deal.

Now, it's become a poison pill that the nation may have to swallow beginning March 1st. And if it happens, 70,000 children kicked off Head Start programs, putting more than 14,000 teaching and staff jobs at risk. Fewer inspections for things like horse meat in your burgers. Cuts to mental health programs mean almost 400,000 seriously mentally ill people will go untreated.

Homeland security draw-downs would result in longer wait times at airports, and scaled back cyber security would mean more vulnerability from hackers in China and at home threatening our infrastructure. Furloughs and layoffs would affect 800,000 workers in the defense industry at the same time that North Korea is testing a nuclear bomb.

Cuts at the IRS would mean fewer tax return reviews, and longer waits to get refunds. And more than 100,000 people would be thrown out of emergency housing and on to the streets.

One way or another, everyone is going to feel this, while Washington continues to play the blame game.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The bottom line is very simple. The Republicans have proposed devastating cuts.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Washington Democrats have gotten used to Republicans bailing them out for their own lack of responsibility.

VELSHI: Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Ali mentioned expected problems for travelers, the spending cuts would change the way airports work. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has this warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Flights to major cities, like New York, Chicago and San Francisco and others, could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours, because we have fewer controllers on staff. Delays in these major airports will ripple across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: OK. So New York, Chicago, San Francisco. But it's not just the big airports that will have to scale back. Smaller airports across the country could be forced to close. The Transportation Department could close control towers at as many as 100 small airports.

And this is not the weekend to visit New England. Several states are about to get a third straight weekend of snow. Now, it won't be as bad as the blizzard of two weeks ago, but it won't be much fun, either.

Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is tracking the storm for us.

There are people waking up this morning just saying, come on!

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know.

This has been one of the most unusual systems to try to forecast for. We watched the one that moved across the Central Plains and really walloped that area. I'll show you some pictures in just a second.

But, now, we've got a secondary area of low pressure. That's going to make its way across the mid-Atlantic. As it does, it's going to start to generate some moisture, and I say it that way, because yesterday, we looked at all of the computer models, and they were all over the place as to just how much snowfall is going to occur right around Boston, maybe New York, extending up to Nashville, also Bangor and Portland, Maine.

This area of low pressure by this afternoon and this evening is going to just be off the coast, but then it starts to make its turn towards the east. And as a result, on the back side of that, yes, some snowfall. So the window that we're looking at is between, right around midday today for places like Boston, going into tomorrow morning.

So how much snow does that allow? Well, the computer models are saying, maybe two or four inches of snow, but in other places across interior New England, we could see substantially more.

But take a look at what happened as we look at the snowfall total ace cross the central plains. I point this out because we have very dramatic video.

This is from an iReporter and her name is Amanda Laviana. She says she was her office building. This is in Wichita.

They heard a noise in the office that was a roar. Thought, is this an earthquake? She ran downstairs and we captured this video of these huge chunks of ice that were falling off of her building and you can see and hear her response to that. The very dramatic pictures from iReporter Amanda -- thank you for sending that in.

But just to give you some idea of the snowfall totals, 22 inches in Russell, Kansas. Kansas City set at day of snowfall total. They shattered it. Before, it was about five inches. They saw almost twice that much there.

Well, then we turn our view across the southeast, and this is where we're looking at the rainfall. It's going to be heavy. It already is. In places around Atlanta, down towards Mobile, you're waking up to some pretty good thunderstorms. Four to six inches possible, and look at those thunderstorms erupting along the Gulf Coast, and that spells out some flash flood watches, as well as warnings across these regions.

So, we'll stay on top of it. We'll look at those computer models again. And, Victor, hopefully, will narrow it down how much they're going to receive. And, hopefully, not much for a lot of people.

Karen Maginnis, thank you very much, Karen Maginnis.

Hey, we've got a lot more coming up at this hour. Here's a look at what is coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Gas prices on the rise while take-home pay is shrinking. A look at just how much your wallet is getting squeezed.

Tomorrow may be Hollywood's biggest night, but it's racing's biggest day. We'll talk with the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500.

A jointed doll with a plastic smile. That's how one novelist is referring to the duchess of Cambridge. But was it a harsh slam or a plea for sympathy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Thirteen minutes after the hour. Good to have you this morning.

Royal watchers working overtime this week defending Catherine, the duchess of Cambridge. It's over controversy sparks by renown British novelist Hilary Mantel when she referred to Catherine as a, quote, "jointed doll" with a, quote, "plastic smile". And that's just paraphrasing here.

Here, listen for yourself.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HILARY MANTEL, BRITISH NOVELIST: I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain racks are hung. In those days, she was just a shop window mannequin with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. And these days as a mother-to-be, she's draped in another set of threadbare attributions.

Once she gets over being sick, the press will decide she's radiant and they will find that this young woman's life, until now, was nothing. Her only point and purpose, like other royal ladies, we have come to -- her only point in purpose being to give birth.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Hmm. Now some people are saying, Mantel was lecturing how the media and public view Catherine.

But the tabloids have been raging against Mantel, saying she's bashing the duchess.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams joins us from London to help us sort this out.

I want to start with this. What do you think about the comments?

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, frankly, this sort of thing is very rare. To have a top novelist say what she said and the way she said it and have the prime minister and the leader opposition, and as you mentioned a large amount of the press ferociously attacking her, this is certainly an amazing episode. The lecture that Hilary Mantel, and I'd emphasize, she's won the book of prize twice and she's highly respected. (INAUDIBLE) was entitled "Royal Bodies," and it was about the way we perceive royalty.

What was, I felt, unacceptable about it, was the language she used to describe the duchess of Cambridge. For example, to say of Kate, the perfect plastic smile that she had. She was doll to hang certain rags -- quite a lot of very personal language, and it is that, I think, a lot of people felt very objectionable.

The other aspect of this is that there's a certain intellectual snobbery about it. Mantel is a superb writer. She knows the English language, but she also knows how to wound and there's a considerable amount in this -- the phraseology, which could and should have been very different.

BLACKWELL: You know what's interesting about this, is that that typically what we see in the British press is that many of the tabloids go after the royals, but in this case, it seems that they're pretty protective of the duchess. Is that rare?

FITZWILLIAMS: I think it's unusual in one sense. They want it both ways because, of course, a lot of people buy the tabloids to read about the royals, and the more the tabloids can tell them, the more they read, and the symbiotic relationship. And Mantel mentions that a good deal in her lecture, it's one of the considerable problems, as we saw with Prince Harry interview where he showed intense dislike of the media.

The problem with Mantel's lecture, much of it, as her defenders pointed out, dealing with past centuries she uses Anne Boleyn, the wife of Henry VIII, who met a pretty unfortunate end. She uses Mary Antoinette, who also did, as examples. And she looks in a good bit of detail at the problems of being, so to speak, in the royal cave.

But an illustration of the way Mantel speaks is her visit to Buckingham Palace once on a trade, for a trade function, and the other occasion, she as receiving a medal from the queen. There's no doubt that her behavior and her attitude and the way she's described staring at the queen is unusual.

So I rather feel that Mantel success has gone to her head, in the sense she is extremely good at historical figure, and the way she describes that, but it's says a good deal about her, the language she uses, to describe the royals today. BLACKWELL: Well, we reached out to Hilary Mantel for response and we're told she's not commenting on this to anyone.

Richard Fitzwilliams thank you for this. As we see what happens with the fallout from these comments.

FITZWILLIAMS: Pleasure.

BLACKWELL: Google putting out some high-tech specs. We'll give a sneak peek at the web giant's latest offering.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: In its first downgrade ever, the U.K. has lost its AAA rating. On Friday, the rating agency Moody's knocked the country down by one notch, says the U.K.'s rising debt and tepid growth prospects don't match up with other top-rated companies.

Microsoft says it was hacked. The company announced yesterday that its investigators found some computers had been infected with malicious software but added that no customer data was affected. Microsoft is the third major tech company to report a hack attack in recent weeks. Apple and Facebook also reported being victims of cyber attack.

And Google finally releasing details about its highly anticipated Google Glass, including a video showcasing some features. It includes being able to make videos, stream Wi-Fi. The high-tech specs also come with a high price tag. They go for a little less than $1,500 a pair when they go on sale to the general public later this year.

Those Google glasses are not the only thing causing sticker shock. Have you checked out gas prices lately? Some gas stations in L.A. are selling fuel at well above $5 a gallon.

And as Felicia Taylor explains, that's not the only thing that has folks feeling pinched.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor, we're in the middle of one of the most dramatic run-ups in gas prices in the last decade. The average price of a gallon of regular ended the week 14 cents higher than it was the previous Friday and almost 50 cents higher than it was more than a month ago.

But higher gas prices are just one reason consumers are starting to get seriously squeezed. The end of the payroll tax holiday has taken a bite out of every American's paycheck since the beginning of the year, and a delay in tax refund checks going out, a result of Congress' delay to decide on a fiscal cliff has forced some tough choices.

This week, we found out just where people are cutting back. A new survey from the National Retail federation found 24 percent of shoppers putting off big-ticket purchases. The same number of people said their forgoing everyday treats, like an after latte, and almost half plan to pocket their tax refunds rather than spending them. That has retailers worried. This week Walmart reported results for the last three months of 2012. They weren't bad. In fact, holiday sales were pretty good, but the world's largest retailer warned February sales started slower than planned and said it would continue to monitor economic conditions that impact sales.

The good news is prices won't stay high forever. AAA says it expects gas prices to peak in early spring, and that prices shouldn't go any higher than it did last year when the national average topped out at $3.94 a gallon.

And the U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting a record high corn crop this summer, which would put downward pressure on meat, poultry and dairy prices, and help ease some pain at the grocery store by the end of the year -- Victor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Felicia Taylor, thank you.

The CDC says most senior whose took this year's flu vaccine got nothing out of it. For people 65 years and older, it was an ineffective thing, just 9 percent saw some evidence of being affective. Researchers say the rates of hospitalization and death for the most common strain of the flu this year were some of the highest they've ever seen. The vaccine did help more than half of those under 65.

Police are searching for answers in the death of Elisa Lam. She's the woman whose body was found in that water tank in the Hotel Cecil. We'll have the latest on the mystery surrounding that woman's death.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Let's get an update on mortgages. Rates are still pretty low this week. Take a look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: It's a good morning in Atlanta, but the weather is terrible. Look at this. We've got fog there. You can barely -- and, of course, a considerable amount of rain, if you wipe off the lens there.

You know, I bought new windshield wipers for my car. I can't figure out how to get the blades off. I've been working for like three days to try to figure out how to get the blades off. I don't know how to do it. @VictorCNN if you can tell me how to get them off.

All right. Bottom of the hour now. Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell. Thanks for starting your morning with us.

Let's start with five stories we're watching this morning.

In Los Angeles, the death of a Canadian tourist Elisa Lam has stumped investigators, at least for now. Her body somehow ended up in the water tank of a Skid Row hotel. These are the final haunting images we have of her. Now, this young woman appears to be frightened by something we can't see. She's waiting for the elevator.

The coroner has completed one autopsy but the results are inconclusive and more tests have been ordered.

Number two now, the Obama administration is urging the Supreme Court to strike down a federal law that denies benefits to married same sex couples. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. In a brief filed with the high court, the Justice Department says DOMA treats gay and lesbian couples unequally, violating the Constitution. The court will hear oral arguments next month.

Last week, it was revealed that a nuclear waste tank at a Washington facility was leaking. And now, the governor says six tanks at the Hanford nuclear site are leaking toxic sludge. He says there is no immediate health risk to the public but calls the leak disturbing.

The Hanford facility is considered to be the nation's most contaminated nuclear site.

Number four now, the Pentagon grounded the entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets because a crack was found in the engine of one of the planes during a routine inspection. At $400 billion, the F-35 program is the most expensive weapon system in military history.

Number five, police are on an intense manhunt for the occupants of a Range Rover involved in a Las Vegas shooting. Shots fired from that car killed the driver of a Maserati which then crashed into a taxi. The taxi driver and his occupant were both killed. It caused a major pileup on the Las Vegas Strip and there were three others injured.

Now to the high-profile case of Olympic icon Oscar Pistorius accused of murdering his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. A South African judge granted him bail saying he's not a flight risk. It's a tale that has more twists and turns than a Hollywood movie.

Earlier, I asked Jane Velez-Mitchell if granting bail was the right call.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST, HLN'S "JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL": I do not. I think it's actually an outrage. Imagine how all the people behind bars in South African jails feel right now accused of lesser crimes, mind you.

I think we're going to see quite possibly a whitewash in this case. I had worries about that, and here's why. It seems that the reputation of Oscar Pistorius is so closely intertwined with the reputation of South Africa, that there is a bias to accept the word according to Oscar Pistorius, because to make him look bad makes South Africa look bad. I think this is absolutely injustice.

BLACKWELL: So the question then is, going further along that line, can he get a fair trial? There are politicians in South Africa who say he's getting special consideration. There are some who believe because of his fame, he cannot get a fair trial.

What's your call?

MITCHELL: I think he's going to get more than a fair trial. What about justice for Reeva Steenkamp? Where does she come into play here?

She's been lost in all this. She's no longer around to tell her side of the story and frankly, his story does not make sense. I mean, the forensics don't back up his story. He says he was on his stumps and that he was in terror because he feared an intruder and then he shot through the door. The trajectory of the bullets according to the prosecutor shows he was shooting down.

And then there's the arguing that witnesses reportedly heard, prolonged arguing before the shooting. Who has a prolonged argument with a burglar before shooting at them? It does not add up, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a lot of questions. Then this entirely different story line about this lead investigator charged with attempted murder. Seven counts of attempted murder.

Where does that play into this story line?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I've got to tell you, this is an abomination and it essentially taints the entire case. Shades of the O.J. Simpson case where they argued garbage in, garbage out. Already, Oscar's defense attorney is saying, well, they contaminated the crime scene. Almost using the same terminology that was used in the O.J. Simpson defense, saying, they weren't wearing booties. This guy admits, oh, yes. They ran out of booties.

So everything that was collected under his watch is now tainted, another reason why we won't get justice, quite possibly.

BLACKWELL: And this bail hearing went on for four days, and there was a lot of information that the defense put forward. Has that jeopardized their case at all? And what is this -- the length of the hearing tell us about the trial that's upcoming?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this is just a national obsession in South Africa and, again, I just think that there is an institutional bias here to accept his version of events.

Let's face it, there's more and more evidence coming out that he may very well be a hot head. The judge even referred to allegations that he threatened to break someone's legs, the police, right after the shooting came out and said, there were previous incidents of a domestic nature. We still don't know what that is about.

And he has a past. A gun went off. Allegedly, he was holding it as a restaurant. Is he somebody who has a problem with temper and guns? And that as we know is a very deadly combination.

BLACKWELL: Just a few seconds left. I know we're still months out from the start of the actual trial, but do you have any prediction on this ultimate ruling? The outcome in this trial? VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, listen, the judge actually asked the defense attorney, what do you think he should be charged with? He said culpable homicide. That gives you an idea of where they're going. I think he'll either walk, or he will be convicted of culpable homicide.

Essentially, I don't think that justice is going to be done for Reeva, the forgotten person in all of this.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jane Velez-Mitchell, good to talk to you about this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You, too, Victor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: You can watch "Jane Velez-Mitchell", weeknights on our sister network, HLN.

Who's going to win? What will they wear? And what's going to be the gaffe of the night? We'll talk Oscars, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This week on "THE NEXT LIST":

DIANA ENG, FASHION DESIGNER: My name is Diana Eng and I trade fashion and accessories with a story.

I look at technology, math and science and how to integrate that into the fashion design. I try to make clothing and accessories that have a story to tell, and the story could be something about a new technology. Maybe it's creating laser-cut lace.

I thought, why not make t-shirts that are distressed in specific places to create a lace pattern?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's beautiful.

ENG: NYC Resistor and electronic arts collective based in Brooklyn. NYC Resistor is a hacker space and it's a community of people who get together to learn, make and share things. They have a whole bunch of electronics equipment there. I feel whenever I'm doing the technical development inside of things I'll go to NYC resistor.

GUPTA: That's this Sunday on "THE NEXT LIST."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Hollywood's biggest night is almost here. One day to go. Late night has been prepping audiences all week. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: And a movie about a guy with a bipolar disorder. We have a movie about a president and a soon to be assassinated. We have a movie about a woman dying from a stroke. Now, that's entertainment, ladies and gentlemen.

JIMMY FALLON, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: Have you heard about this? Officials in Pakistan are complaining that the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" contains a lot of errors about the country. They were, like, the movie makes Pakistan out to be a hellish wasteland of corruption and intolerance but they realize it is way worse than that.

CONAN O'BRIEN, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: "Lincoln" is one of the big favorites. Yes, yes. So, of course -- of course, like Lincoln, most won't stick around for the whole show.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLACKWELL: Here to talk Oscars this morning, entertainment reporters Amy Palmer and Kendra Gilliams.

Ladies, thanks for getting up early and speaking with us.

KENDRA GILLIAMS, ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Not a problem.

BLACKWELL: Let's start in New York with Amy.

Before we do anything else, what's your pick for best picture?

AMY PALMER, ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Best picture, we know it's going to be "Argo." It has been sweeping awards season. Ben Affleck is going to be walking away with an Oscar. You can guarantee it.

BLACKWELL: And, Kendra G, I heard you -- Kendra G, that's what she goes by.

GILLIAMS: Yes.

BLACKWELL: And that doesn't go for you?

GILLIAMS: You know what? She's right with "Argo" being the one everyone's thinking of. I'm going with "Life of Pi." "Life of Pi" to me deserves the best picture. It gives you every feeling -- happy, sad. You're involved in the whole movie.

"Life of Pi" is the winner in my category.

BLACKWELL: All right. Since I'm with the ladies this morning, Kendra, who's going to win for best actress?

GILLIAMS: Quvenzhane Wallis for the "Beast of the Southern Wild".

BLACKWELL: Really?

GILLIAMS: Six-years-old. This little girl is captivating. She is so amazing. And even behind the scenes. Her father in the movie, his name is White Henry (ph), she's shown giving him, like, acting lessons at 6 years old. She steals your heart, I'm going with her.

BLACKWELL: You know, I saw that movie and I don't see a whole lot of movies, but her role at hushpuppy.

GILLIAMS: Yes.

BLACKWELL: I mean, she makes you happy, she makes you cry. She brings you to, you know, her position. Her perspective as a child.

So, all right. Let's go -- Amy, the dark horse this year. We know there are a lot of favorites. You like "Argo". But there are a lot of people pulling for "Silver Linings Playbook."

PALMER: Yes. And I think that, you know, you should look at this movie. It's compelling. You know, we've seen Robert de Niro campaigning for this movie, and he has broken down on national TV and cried about it.

It's an important topic. Many families are affected by bipolar disorder, and I think that this is a movie that really touches a lot of souls.

Let's not forget, you know, the Academy is an older crowd. So maybe they haven't seen this film, or they're not that interested, but I have to say, the American public loves this movie, and I mean, Bradley Cooper. What an incredible performance, and Robert de Niro as well, who is actually my pick for best supporting actor.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And that could be one of the dark horses.

You know, Kendra, we know that the Golden Globes, they love a star.

GILLIAMS: Yes.

BLACKWELL: They want to reward a star for being a star.

GILLIAMS: Yes.

BLACKWELL: How much of that plays into the votes for Oscar voters?

GILLIAMS: Well, you know what? I think you have to just be really great in your movie. Speaking of a star, I think Anne Hathaway is going to have a big night tomorrow night for "Les Mis".

BLACKWELL: Yes.

GILLIAMS: She stole the movie to me. She sang. She again, to me -- when a person grabs you into their life and you're crying and you're with them every step of the way, they deserve the Oscar.

So, I think Anne Hathaway is a star and she should be fabulous in the red carpet because I see her walking onstage and getting an award tomorrow.

BLACKWELL: And we have seen the Academy reward stars for losing, gaining weight, cut their hair, you know, all of that. When you put your body into it.

GILLIAMS: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: So, what it's your dark horse tomorrow? A side from "Life of Pi"?

GILLIAMS: My dark horse tomorrow -- well, I'm just going for Quvenzhane Wallis for the "Beast of the Southern Wild." I think that's just going to be -- she'll be the youngest winner ever for her age. I can't wait to see her on the stage.

BLACKWELL: So, Amy, let's talk "Argo" -- because Ben Affleck has scooped up best director awards in everything else, from SAG to Critics Awards, but he's not even nominated here. How is this happening? How you think it's going to resonate during the ceremony?

GILLIAMS: Well, I think Ben Affleck is walking around Hollywood feeling justified these days. You know, he's been sweeping awards season. He really is Hollywood's golden boy at this moment and feels he's been redeemed for a lot of that J. Lo years. Let's not forget what he came from.

And I think what he's really saying to Hollywood, I'm a serious director. I love my art. I'm here to stay. And even though, you know, you guys didn't nominate me this time around, you can guarantee you're going to see me for many years to come.

So, I think this is while he's not nominated in the category he wants to be, I think that this guy is here to stay and I think that, you know, the public is very happy for him. We've seen Ben Affleck grow up before our eyes, and I think we're soon forgetting the J. Lo episode.

BLACKWELL: I forgot about the Bennifer years.

PALMER: How could you forget?

BLACKWELL: I forgot about those years.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Now he's got the beard and all that.

So let's talk about who's going to win overall. You know, we talked about best picture, but so many awards given out. Who's going to walk away with most, do you think?

GILLIAMS: Well, I think "Lincoln" might walk away with the most in several categories, because Danny Day --

BLACKWELL: Daniel Day-Lewis, yes.

GILLIAMS: She should win for best actor for sure. I think "Lincoln" is a big winner.

I see "Argo" being a big winner in different categories, too. But overall, my favorites. I just love "Life of Pi." I'm so sad the world is not talking about this movie more as in being an Oscar winner, because it was in 3D. It's a great family movie and I want it to do well.

BLACKWELL: A spectacle.

GILLIAMS: Yes. A lot went into that. Just to have that moment. You haven't seen it yet, but you have got to watch it.

BLACKWELL: I haven't. I will. I will.

GILLIAMS: It was a movie, though, worth watching.

BLACKWELL: Amy -- go ahead.

PALMER: I think that this movie, though, could take best director for Ang Lee. I mean, look at the cinematography. It's stunning. You know, he really wanted it to be authentic and actually worked with a real- life person that was ship wrecked to get that authenticity.

So, Kendra, they might walk away with this award. Don't fear over there.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, hopefully at least one. Hopefully more than one, at least, for "Life of Pi."

GILLIAMS: Yes, it's a big one.

BLACKWELL: We have an Oscar nominee who's related to this movie coming up later in the show. We're going to talk about that.

Kendra G, Amy Palmer, thank you so much.

GILLIAMS: Thank you.

PALMER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And be sure to watch our red carpet special tomorrow night. "The Road to the Gold" begins right here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Seeing the world at 200 miles per hour. That's what it would be like for the drivers at Daytona this weekend. Coming up, we'll talk to a history-making speed demon who's hoping that lightning will strike twice.

But first, here's a look at a memorable Oscar moment. Speaking of Bennifer, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, they win their first for "Good Will Hunting."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Sports fans are looking South this weekend to Daytona and the so-called Super Bowl of motor sports, the Daytona 500.

Most of the buzz has been about Danica Patrick. She won the pole and is looking to be the first woman to win the race. And there are drivers like Trevor Bayne. He became the household name as a rookie in 2011, when he became the youngest driver to win in Daytona. But he has seen some ups and towns since then.

Well, Trevor Bayne joins me now from the track.

It is good to have you. Big weekend for you.

But first let's talk about that 2011 win. What does that feel like?

TREVOR BAYNE, WON THE 2011 DAYTONA 500: It's pretty incredible, man. I was standing right here with the car right behind me, confetti flying over me. That was the craziest thing I've ever experienced in my life. I was 20 years old then. So, hopefully, I've got more to experience, but by far, the wildest one I've ever been part of.

BLACKWELL: But when you win it at 20, your rookie year, the amount of pressure has ton unimaginable. Tell us what you felt after that big win and since then?

BAYNE: Well, we're actually running part time that season. There wasn't a whole lot of pressure as far as the championship was concerned. But we wanted to go get wins, run top five and be strong. I didn't know what was going to happen after that 500, if we were going to going to sponsorship to run all the time.

But there's been a lot of ups and downs. I've heard you say that a second ago. But it's been a roller coaster ride. I've tried to stay off the ride as much as I can, stay in the middle, stay calm and stay prepared. But this season, I've got an opportunity to run full time in the nationwide series for the championship with Roush Fenway Racing.

So, I'm excited about that to go run for the championship the first time in the last couple of years and we're going to be running part time in the cup series as well and try to go get some wins over there.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the 500. We've been talking and hearing a lot about Danica Patrick -- this Danica mania.

Do the drivers, do you feel like everybody else is getting lost in this hype?

BAYNE: Well, I don't know. It's --

BLACKWELL: That's a tough one to answer, I know. I know.

BAYNE: What's that? I couldn't hear you there.

BLACKWELL: It's a tough one to answer, I know.

BAYNE: Yes. No, I think she deserves the hype. I couldn't exactly hear your question. I heard something about Danica and the media mania. So, I can go from there.

But she deserves a little bit of the hype. She set the pole. Her team has been strong all week. But there's a lot of talk about her. I mean, it can be good for the sport. It can be overwhelming a little bit.

But like I said, she's a girl, female doing well in our sport. So I think she's deserved it, but she also has to race on Sunday and we'll see what she's got then.

BLACKWELL: You're all suited up, back on the track in a few hours. How do you -- other than talking to us, how do you prepare?

BAYNE: You know, on race day, it's really about hydration and just hanging out with your team, talking about strategy, seeing -- what you're going to do.

Here at Daytona not a whole lot of strategy comes into it from the pit box. The whole field kind of pits together, because the way the draft works, you can't pit by yourself because you'll lose the draft, and go lap down. So, it's kind of like looking down pit road, seeing what's going on, who's going to pit, when they're going to do it, and you just polling with them.

But as far as preparation for me, on race day you're kind of, to the point where if you haven't prepared by then, you're in trouble. So, we try to do our preparation before we get to the track and before qualifying. And, obviously, we have a little bit of practice today to get the car dialed in and hopefully get ready for that 500.

BLACKWELL: Can you -- for people who have never been there -- I worked in Florida for years and saw the 500 for myself. For people who have never been to a race, the 500, explain the energy there.

BAYNE: And the 500 is a special race. There's nothing really like it. When you look in the grandstands at this place, how big the race track is, the history that's happened here. Everybody is so hyped up and amped up because we've been sitting around for too much. We've been waiting on race season to start up and now it's time for us to fire our engines for the first time and roll off and get the race season started. It's a special place and I think everybody should experience it at least once.

BLACKWELL: At least once. Trevor Bayne, you've got a full-time ride in the nationwide series, good luck this weekend. Good luck in the series.

BAYNE: Hey, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Sure.

Now to baseball. The pros are warming up in Florida and Arizona right now. But the college players seem to be in mid-season form.

Check this out. Sacramento state versus U.C. Riverside. A shove, a punch, and then the bench is clear. Look at this melee. This was the home opener for Sacramento State.

And get this -- the two teams play a doubleheader today. So, we'll see what happens there. Twice the opportunities to turn it up again.

All right. Now, I want you to watch this shot. Pay attention to this. It's from Los Angeles Clippers game. Sinks it. A fan out of the stands nails it from half court.

The shot won him a car and a hug from one of the Clippers dancers. I'm sure he's happy about the car, but she's nice.

The mysterious death of a Canadian tourist just left police searching for answers. But the young woman's sad demise is just the latest misfortune in the hotel's sordid past. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: You have to see this. A cheerleader does a flip while grabbing a basketball and she sinks it from half court. Watch this.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

BLACKWELL: The first time I saw this, I thought someone had to do that like digitally. There's got to be some editing here. No, that cheerleader is Ashlee Arnau. She's at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

She told the "New York Daily News" she learned how to do that while playing soccer, played for 12 years. She said she was invited to perform with the Harlem Globetrotters this week and she deserves that. Wow!

A little boy in New Hampshire didn't like wearing his hearing aid because he said super heroes don't wear them. So Marvel Comics based a new superhero on 5-year-old Anthony Smith after his mom wrote to them. His name is Blue Ear. His special power is hearing faraway calls for help.

Marvel won't be making a full comic series, but hopes Blue Ear will inspire other hearing-impaired kids. I know that means a lot to him and his family.

Believe it or not, there are people inside those tents. Listen to that, the wind and the rains. Hardcore Milwaukee Brewers fans are camping out to get opening day tickets that go on sale this morning. The Brewers nicknamed it the "Arctic Tailgate." Some fans said they are sleeping wrapped in three sleeping bags, but others have heaters inside their tents. Some said they've been waiting in line in that weather since Wednesday.

It's great to have you with us this morning. There's a lot coming up on CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It starts right now.