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Fire on a Nuclear Submarine, 6 Hurt; Romney's Promise; Protest Planned At N.C. Church; Al Qaeda On The Move?

Aired May 24, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news -- a fire raging right now aboard a nuclear submarine at a U.S. Navy shipyard -- yes, a nuclear submarine.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, and a bold promise, Mitt Romney says if he is president, unemployment will plunge to 6 percent. Can the candidate back it up?

BANFIELD: And Tim Tebow is not -- a Florida teenager punished for pulling this graduation stunt on stage.

SAMBOLIN: Wait until you hear the whole thing. I have a mixed reaction to this one

BANFIELD: There's more to the story, than the headline, right?


BANFIELD: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. Nice to have you with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're bringing you the news from A to Z It's 5:00 a.m. here in the East.

So let's get started.

Up first, we are following breaking news out of Maine. Firefighters battling a fire on a nuclear submarine for close to 12 hours. The USS Miami was in dry dock at the Portsmouth Navy shipyard for regular maintenance when a fire broke out in the forward compartment. This was last night.

Six people suffered minor injuries. The attack sub is capable of carrying tomahawk cruise missiles and mark 48 torpedoes. But no weapons were on board at the time and the ship's reactor is not affected by the fire.

We're going to continue to follow that for you and we'll bring you developments as warranted.

BANFIELD: Also, making top news, a promise from Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has been hammering President Obama for months over the high unemployment rate. Right now it stands at 8.1 percent. Mr. Romney is now pledging if he's elected president, he'll bring that number way down.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can tell you that over a period of four years by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent or perhaps a little lower.


SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans is here with us this morning, and is Romney really going out on a ledge here with this?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: He's not really going out on a limb, and here's why. I mean, he'd have to add 155,000 jobs every month between now and what he says would be the end of his first term to get there. And it's doable. Here's why, the Congressional Budget Office is already forecasting that the unemployment rate is going to keep coming down.

The Congressional Budget Office is sort of nonpartisan advising arm to Congress that tells them what's going to happen -- what's likely to happen in the economy so they can plan. Mitt Romney says 6 percent. The CBO says 5.3 percent by the fourth quarter of 20016.

Mitt Romney telling our friends at "TIME" magazine that it's his policies that will bring it down.

Let's take a look at the trend that's already underway here and this is all so political. I'm just going to give you the numbers, right? We've already seen job creation. We've already seen the unemployment rate coming down.

During the Obama presidency, a total number of jobs lost of 4.6 million. So, you get a net jobs lost during this administration of 572,000. The president needs to add 95,000 jobs every month between here and the election to be able to say all of the jobs lost during the recession have been recovered.

BANFIELD: How many, 95,000 a month?

ROMANS: Yes, about 95,000 a month is what he's got to do.

Now, here's the other side of the talking points on that number. You still have the lowest participation rate, labor market participation rate since 1981. That means a lot of people have dropped out. A lot of people stopped looking. A lot of people feel like this economy isn't working for them.

So you've got this trend under way where we are seeing jobs created. But we still have a labor market that's not up to snuff quite frankly.

I'm going to tell you one more thing about making -- presidents and candidates making promises about the unemployment rate. I don't remember really in the Clinton and the Bush administrations people making so many claims about what the unemployment rate is going to be.

BANFIELD: Hey, by the way --

ROMANS: It's hard to be able to make a claim -- remember during the stimulus, the whole stimulus debate about what would the unemployment rate be, it's going to go above or below 8 percent. It's very difficult, it's a campaign promise, basically.

BANFIELD: And to be very clear, the CBO, when it made this prediction, back a year and a half ago, was not making this president- specific. It doesn't matter who was in office, they made this prediction.

ROMANS: Right, because the economy is starting to recover.


ROMANS: Slowly, starting to recover.

What Mitt Romney is saying is his policies will cement this. His policies are going to make sure that you get things down this 6 percent. And he gives a little bit of leeway, depending on what happens in the global environment, depending on this.

So -- but look, we're already moving in that direction.

SAMBOLIN: You know what confuses me, is the Congressional Budget Office put out this information, Mitt Romney has to know that. How can he claim what he claims? It seems odd to me.

ROMANS: Well, there's a lot of pressure on both candidates to say ha is the jobless rate going to be? Where are we going to get to? He's saying, look, we put my policies in place, we're going to get down to 6 percent.

SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans, thank you very much.

It is four minutes past the hour here.

New video and audio of George Zimmerman this morning showing the evolution of the relationship between the accused murder and the Sanford Police Department. CNN has obtained an audio recording of Zimmerman at a Sanford city hall public forum meeting from January of 2011. In the recording, Zimmerman describe as ride-along that he took with a Sanford police officer.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I also had the opportunity to take ride- alongs with the city of Sanford Police Department. And what I saw was disgusting. The officers showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps. And explained to me that he doesn't carry a long gun in his vehicle because in his words, anything that requires a long gun require as lot of paperwork and you're going to find me as far away from it. He took two lunch breaks and attended a going-away party for one of his fellow officers.


SAMBOLIN: Sanford police say they have no documentation showing the specific date that Zimmerman went on a ride-along, or if he ever did. But according to documents that he did fill out an application to ride with officers and he was approved -- this was in March of 2010.

City record shows Zimmerman requested the right-along to solidify interest in a career in law enforcement.

So, fast forward eight months later. An email sent by Zimmerman to Sanford police show a new friendly relationship with the department. In an email obtained by CNN to the then-chief of the Sanford police, Bill Lee, who resigned in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Zimmerman says, quote, "I have high hopes for and restored faith in your administration and the Sanford Police Department in its entirety." He goes on to praise the department's efforts to launch a neighborhood watch program in his community.

From the start, attorneys for Trayvon Martin's family have said that Zimmerman's relationship with the police department raises red flags for them. This new video released by the state attorney prosecuting the case shows Zimmerman, a bandage on his head, walking unescorted at the police station three days after he fatally shot Trayvon Martin. The recording raises new questions about whether Zimmerman received preferential treatment that night because he was friendly with officers in the department.

BANFIELD: Six minutes now past 5:00.

And wildfires are burning out of control this morning, winds of up to 70 miles an hour are threatening to push a fire in Nevada to new extremes later today.

The fire has destroyed two homes and consumed more than 7,000 acres. More than 500 firefighters are on the scene trying to fight this one. Just 15 percent of the wildfire is contained.

And there's another story, too. In Arizona, there's a fire scorching nearly 16,000 acres. Much of the damage has been on rural federal lands, but the town of Crown King has been evacuated as a precaution.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is declaring a state of emergency in that area.

SAMBOLIN: The Obama administration reveal secret information about the raid on Osama bin Laden to Hollywood filmmakers. New documents show the Pentagon offered access to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriters Mark Boal who are making a movie on the bin Laden raid. The access included a planner from SEAL Team 6, the super secret Special Ops division that carried out the raid.

New York Congressman Peter king accuses the White House of jeopardizing national security. Administration officials say the filmmakers never had information on the operation, that journalists didn't have.

BANFIELD: Facebook is facing a shareholder lawsuit over its IPO fiasco. The suit filed in U.S. district court in Manhattan targets the social network, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg along with several banks. It alleges that full details of the company's revenue was shared with only a select group of investors right before it went public, but not with everybody else.

Facebook says the lawsuit, however, is without merit.

SAMBOLIN: Eight minutes past the hour.

A high school football player flagged by the principal for this. Tebowing on stage during graduation. Apparently mom wasn't happy, either. Hear how she pulled a fast one on the teenager, coming up.


BANFIELD: It's 11 -- nope, it's actually 12 minutes past the hour. Your alarm probably just went off.

Let's get you up-to-date now with the top stories. Christine Romans doing the job for us this morning.


ROMANS: Good morning you two.

Breaking news right now, a fire on a nuclear sub in Maine is still burning this morning, nearly 12 hours after it started. This fire broke out in the forward compartment of the USS Miami four people suffered minor injuries. No weapons were on board at the time and the ship's reactor is not affected by the fire.

A hearing will be held in Ohio later today to decide whether accused school shooter, T.J. Lane, will be tried as an adult. The 17- year-old is charged with killing three students in the cafeteria at Chardon High School back in February. Two other students he shot survived.

A local TV news station in Kansas didn't have to go very far to get the lead story. A man stabbed two people at WIBW in Topeka yesterday after his story idea was rejected. According to the WIBW's website, the man also threw a lamp through the front -- glass front. Eight station employees held him down until police arrived.

It looks like something out of a "Diehard" movie, but this is real -- a guy driving an SUV coming up on a curve. A tractor-trailer coming other way, taking the turn too quickly, the oncoming truck tipping on its side screeching down the road and slamming head-on into the SUV.

It happened on a two-lane highway in Russia. Everyone survived. You can see the truck driver standing up and brushing himself off in the cab. You watch it every second. Wow. Amazing.

All right. Incredible pictures on the surface of the sun. NASA releasing enhanced video to show the intense activity of the star in a different light. The video was shot over 24 hours back in September of last year.

SAMBOLIN: I can never get enough of those NASA pictures, they're so remarkable.

ROMANS: Just amazing stuff.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, ladies.

SAMBOLIN: Thirteen minutes past the hour here.

People in the Upper Midwest on watch for more severe weather today. Do you have any good news for us, Mr. Marciano?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good news is that the Northeast should be OK.

SAMBOLIN: Well, thank you.

MARCIANO: But your friends in Chicago and especially to the west are going to have a little threat for seeing some severe weather. We saw it yesterday, check out of North Dakota, here's a shot of a storm that dropped a tornado that eventually crossed the border into Canada. So, we're getting into the time of year where the severe weather threat begins to migrate further north.

But I'll admit, that's just early. I mean, in May, it still should be in the Nebraska/Kansas/Oklahoma area. It's been a fairly quiet may, relatively speaking. Look at that stuff. Very little damage, obviously, and those storm chasers getting extremely close.

All right. Here's your threat right now for the next couple of hours. Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for parts of Nebraska and the rain right now heading up towards Minneapolis. We also have the fire weather threat, the winds continue to blow, low levels of humidity. Those two fires are more than two fires, the big ones in Nevada and Arizona continue to burn. And here's your threat for severe weather pushing further east. Into western parts of Wisconsin. And eventually tomorrow will get to Chicago.

The heat is building ahead of it, 92 in Memphis. It will be 87 degrees in Chicago. 73 degrees in New York City.

Quick note: Tropical storm Bud is now a hurricane with winds of 85 miles per hour will drift towards Mexico, hopefully weakening over the next few days, but the forecast than ever-changing.

Back to you guys in New York.

BANFIELD: All right. Thank you, Rob. Appreciate it.

Fifteen minutes now past 5:00 -- time for your "Early Read" this morning.

A 17-year-old boy collapses because he can't breathe and guess what happened? A school nurse stood over top of him and refused to give him his inhaler all because of a technicality. This is no joke. This is actually coming to us by WKMG Channel 6 News in Orlando.

The woman refused to give Michael Rudi his inhaler because school officials said -- are you ready? They had no record of a parent's signature on file. He can't breathe, he's on the ground, he can't breathe and they're looking for the files. So, they called home, his mother rushed to the school. Found her son suffering from a full-blown asthma attack on the floor.


MICHAEL RUDI, DENIED ASTHMA INHALER: It's like something out of a horror film. The person sits there and watches you die. She sat there, looked at me. She did nothing.


BANFIELD: It is unbelievable. The mom is also baffled that nobody called 911 as well.

SAMBOLIN: That to me is the most baffling part of the story.

BANFIELD: Shocking. You can't breathe. That's --

SAMBOLIN: An ambulance could help him.

BANFIELD: Look, give him the inhaler.

Anyway, the school says it's standing by the nurse's decision at the time. More on this as it develops.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I have -- when I transferred my kids here, my daughter has asthma and the rule and regs were so strict and they said to me, you have to have a signature on file, you have to have the medications here, they have to be up to date. It was really something. I did not mess around with it.

BANFIELD: That part I get. But when you can't breathe? You're down to minutes, so the technicality would go out the window.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, what they say, if not, we'll call an ambulance, is that what you want? Yes.

BANFIELD: And let's hope the person you call at 911 is not snoring, like yesterday's story.

SAMBOLIN: All right. A Tebowing teen getting in trouble at his graduation ceremony. This is from WBBH in Fort Myers, Florida.

Seventeen-year-old Chuck Shriner (ph), a football player, dropped to one knee on stage and Tebowed right in front of his principal. So he was then told that he wouldn't be getting a diploma. It turns out, he was the one on the receiving end of a high school prank. His mother, who was upset with his stunt, had the diploma the entire time, but didn't let him know until he cleaned up the entire high school gym after the ceremony as punishment.

BANFIELD: That's pretty harsh. He just Tebowed for heaven's sake. He was happy to graduate.

SAMBOLIN: Which is kind of a prayer in a Catholic school.

BANFIELD: Maybe things changed. Some clarion call, that's (INAUDIBLE) would shame that one.

P.S., how did she know in advance so she had his diploma the whole time?

SAMBOLIN: Maybe he was threatening to Tebow.

BANFIELD: Maybe. Maybe it leaked. Well, there you go. He got his diploma in the end. So, everybody should be happy this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It is 18 minutes past the hour.

For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog,

BANFIELD: The botched Facebook IPO still has Wall Street talking up a storm. And now we're hearing that Facebook might actually unfriend the NASDAQ itself. We'll give you that story in just a moment.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back.

It is 22 minutes past the hour.

And new this morning, the New York Stock Exchange looking to capitalize on the technical problems the NASDAQ encountered during Facebook's IPO last week. According to the "Wall Street Journal", the technical glitches at NASDAQ forced the exchange to delay Facebook's opening last week, leading some investors not knowing if their orders to buy and sell shares have been fulfilled. "The Journal" reports the New York Stock Exchange has been emailing with Facebook about possibly leaving NASDAQ and joining their exchange. Citing their use of people to help with trading, rather the computer-automated system that the NASDAQ uses.

So, not exactly the honeymoon Mark Zuckerberg envisioned after his company's celebrated IPO and his surprise marriage. Now the excitement over Facebook's debut has given way to investor fury and lawsuits alleging the company and its underwriters failed to disclose relevant information about the stock.

CNN's Mary Snow is following all of the developments for us and she is joining us.

Nothing but outrage over this one.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Outrage and worry, Zoraida, about investor confidence overall. You know, this was a stock that held promise for retail investors who wanted a slice of Facebook's fortunes. Now, at least three people felt cheated enough that they filed a lawsuit.

They're suing Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as well as the company's underwriters, the lead one being Morgan Stanley. This suit alleges that they withheld negative information about Facebook's prospects.

Samuel Rudman is an attorney for the plaintiffs.


SAMUEL RUDMAN, ROBBINS, GELLER, RUDMAN & DOWD: An individual investor or any regular institutional investor would feel like they were cheated here, because someone knew something and they didn't tell everybody. They only told a few people.


SNOW: In a statement, Facebook says they "believe the lawsuit is without merit and will defend ourselves," it says, "vigorously."

Now, Morgan Stanley declined comment on the lawsuit. What's at issue here is a "Reuters" report that came out saying a Morgan Stanley analyst told some clients before the IPO that he was reducing Facebook's revenue projections. It followed Facebook indicated in a public way, in an SEC document that it could struggle to make money in mobile devices.

Now, Morgan Stanley has rejected any suggestion it did anything improper. So the procedure it is followed for Facebook's IPO were the same for any IPO.

Now, we spoke to former SEC chairman, Arthur Levitt, who said the restrictions placed on what analysts can say may very well mean that nothing improper was done. He says it's just another rule that needs to be changed. And he says you know on top of the problems that the IPO had at the starting gate with technical glitches at the NASDAQ, the damage is more than monetary. It's eroding investor confidence.


ARTHUR LEVITT, FORMER SEC CHAIRMAN: Clearly, it's a black eye for the industry and all the participants. This was company was supposed to be a showpiece for American capitalism. Instead of that, it's become a laughingstock. That's going to pass, but it's a fact, we don't look good and something should be done about it.


SNOW: One of the changes he wants to see is be able to publish analysts' reports on the web so it's a level playing field, information would be disseminated to everyone.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't there talk about it, that information was available online to everybody, except you have to go and find that information?

SNOW: Right. This was in a prospectus, in an SEC filing, that Facebook had said it could be struggling to make money with its mobile devices. But what he's talking about is the analysts' research. And that, he says, he would like to see published on the web so that everyone, all of these investors could have seen that. And that's --

SAMBOLIN: So, that's not currently available? You cannot go online and get it yourself? Get the same information yourself if you search for it?

SNOW: Well, at issue here is some of the restrictions on analysts leading up to this IPO. And there are rules in place. He said those are the rules that need to be changed.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And a lot of the legal analysts at least with the reports I was reading, say nothing illegal was done here.

SNOW: Right. And what Arthur Levitt was saying, this may not be anything improper. This is why he wants things to be changed. But there may not be anything illegal here.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you so much for clearing up some of that for us. Although it seems that we'll be discussing this for quite some time to come.

SNOW: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ashleigh, back to you.

BANFIELD: It's 26 minutes now past 5:00 in the morning, on the East Coast.

In a North Carolina pastor says he wants gays and lesbians rounded up and kept behind an electric fence until they all die off. Now hundreds of people are outraged about this and they're vowing to take a stand. Find out just exactly what that stand is going to look like, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: A North Carolina pastor's anti-gay sermon goes viral. This morning, how opponents plan to strike back.

BANFIELD: Plus, the U.S. Senate set to take action after CNN expose as charity that is supposed to be helping America's veterans, but actually might be stealing from them instead.

SAMBOLIN: And it's raining hot dogs. Find out who is behind this very bizarre stunt. We're also going to tell you why.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD (on-camera): Good morning, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is now 30 minutes past the hour. It's 5:30 on the east coast. Let's get you started on the top news stories of the day.

Hundreds of protesters planning to demonstrate outside of a North Carolina church this Sunday after the pastor of that church called for gays and lesbians to be rounded up and isolated in an electric fence so that they can die out. I'm not kidding. In case you miss it, here's the Mother's Day sermon that stirred up so many emotions courtesy of the Reverend Charles Worley.


REV. CHARLES WORLEY, PASTOR, PROVIDENCE ROAD BAPTIST CHURCH: Build a great big large fence, 150 or 100-mile long, put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them and you know what? In a few years, they'll die out.


BANFIELD: Those comments sparked outrage right across the country, but as CNN's Gary Tuchman tells us, the pastor's flock is standing by him.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, on Wednesday night, for the second night in a row, a special prayer service was held at this North Carolina church. Hundreds of people turning out, supporting their pastor and supporting the comments he made on Mother's Day. Now, we want to talk to Pastor Charles Worley. We've been here for a couple of days trying to do that. He's refused to do so.

We've been told, as a matter of fact, that if we step foot on church property, we'll be arrested by sheriffs deputies. So, so far, he hasn't talked. We did talk with a woman who's been up to 20 services over the years, her 20 sermons from this pastor. She wasn't at either of these prayer services for two basic reasons.

One, this woman who we'll call Jane, we're protecting her identity, is not a member. She attends because a close relative is a member. But more important reason, number two, she's a lesbian. She's an open lesbian, but she has children, and her children's friends' parents don't all know she's a lesbian. Listen.


TUCHMAN: When you heard these comments he made on Mother's Day, Pastor Worley, how did you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was saddened. I was disappointed.

TUCHMAN: Were you surprised?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was not surprised.

TUCHMAN: And tell me why you weren't surprised?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been aware of his opinions and his beliefs about homosexuality.

TUCHMAN: Have you heard him utter similar comments over the years when you've attended the church?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've heard comments along those same lines in the past.

TUCHMAN: If you had a chance to talk to him now, and perhaps, you will soon, because it's a small town, would you say something to him about this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would, I would say hello. I would extend my hand, and I would say, you've been going through a tough time. This was a very difficult situation for our community. And I pray for you, for hope, healing, peace, tolerance.

TUCHMAN: Do you think that he's a good man?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would be difficult to judge his entire life ministry, character on that Sunday sermon. I believe that he probably is.

TUCHMAN: A good man?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he intends to do good. I think in Pastor Worley's mind, he is preaching love. But it's in his mind. He's preaching love.


TUCHMAN: As you can tell, Jane's feelings are complex, but she's obviously not fighting fire with fire. We can tell you one thing we've learned about the pastor from someone who attended one of these special prayer services is that the pastor is amazed at all the national attention.

We can tell you that this weekend, a large protest is scheduled by a civil rights group up to 2,000 people, they say, are expected to attend to protest this pastor -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Gary, thank you for that.

Now, there have been other sermons since the Mother's Day sermon, and the pastor has dialed back somewhat, but only in that he's dropped the word "queers." Instead, he just refers to people he disagrees with as gays and lesbians, decided that queers might not be the right word to use. Pastor Worley has refused to grant any interviews since the video of that Mother's Day sermon went viral.

SAMBOLIN: That woman in the video -- talk about tolerance and forgiveness.

BANFIELD: Unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: Good gracious.


SAMBOLIN: All right.

BANFIELD: I would extend my hand. I would say you've been going through a tough time. That's pretty incredible stuff.

SAMBOLIN: It is. All right. Thirty-five minutes past the hour here.

The Senate Finance Committee launching an investigation to a well-known charity that is supposed to be helping disabled veterans.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): It was a two-year CNN investigation of the disabled Veterans National Foundation that got the attention of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. CNN examined the charity's tax records and found very little of the millions raised by the foundation over the past three years has actually gone to help veterans.

$61 million has gone to a direct mail company that works with the foundation and many other charities, something Senator Max Baucus of Montana finds very suspicious.


SEN. MAX BAUCUS, (D) MONTANA: Frankly, I smell a rat there. I have a hunch is that the outfit that the mail order is using the veterans organization as a front for themselves so they get the contributions from good, well-meaning Americans thinking they're helping disabled vets when in fact the money is going to this other outfit (INAUDIBLE) is a fundraiser operation and that money is going to the civil vets.


SAMBOLIN: The nation's largest charity watch dog group, Charity Watch, gives the disabled Veterans National Foundation an F grade. This is since 2010. They estimate only two percent of the money raised by the charity actually goes to help to save old veterans.

BANFIELD (voice-over: Here's a growing scandal in the mayor's office in Washington, D.C., and it does not involve Marian Berry. A second former aide to Mayor Vincent Gray is facing federal charges for allegedly using underhanded tactics to get the mayor elected in 2010. Howard Brooks is charged with lying to the FBI and is expected to plead guilty in court today.

Brooks and a Second Gray campaign staffer admit that they paid off another mayoral candidate to make negative comments about then- mayor, Adrian Fenty. All of this in order to help their candidate, Mr. Gray, win the election.

SAMBOLIN: The oldest two-year college in the state of Texas has fallen on really hard economic times. Tiny Lon Morris College, a private faith-based school in Jacksonville, Texas with about 1,000 students, has furloughed nearly its entire staff, and its president has now resigned.

Students and staff were given ten days to vacate, but, a spokesman for the school is holding out hope for a fall semester.


DAVE HUBBARD, SCHOOL SPOKESMAN: It's simply a down time for the reorganization, efforts to be done, so we can begin to be fruitful and go forward in a positive manner in the fall.


SAMBOLIN: Wow. Well, summer courses at Lon Morris College have been canceled. The school has been operating in East Texas since 1854.

BANFIELD: A principal is now apologizing to students who were suspended for taking part in an end of year stunt of good, fun, senior bike ride. You heard from two of the kids and one of their moms yesterday right here on our program. They had their parents' permission to do the bike ride.

They also had a police escort. They were with the mayor. The mayor brought them doughnuts, but the principal of the school, Katherine Pennington (ph), didn't know about the bike ride, and was pretty mad about it. She spent 60 kids home because they caused a traffic jam.

But now, she says, "I made a mistake. I sincerely regret my actions. Did I overreact? In retrospect, of course, I did. I now applaud the students for their foresight in contacting the police department to insure the safety of their senior surprise." And note the word "senior surprise," not "senior stunt," because that was the big debate yesterday.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Well, that's a happy ending, right? It's always nice when an adult apologizes, right, and said, I did something wrong.

BANFIELD (on-camera): The kids were really well-spoken. They thought this was a great idea. It was supposed to be a surprise. They called the police. SAMBOLIN: Yes. All right. Thirty-eight minutes past the hour here. Guest host week on CNN's Piers Morgan tonight kicks off next Tuesday with a rare and exclusive interview. Regis Philbin filling in for Piers, talks to his close friend, David Letterman. Here's a taste for you.


REGIS PHILBIN, AMERICAN MEDIA PERSONALITY: Now, you see, over the years --


PHILBIN: -- talk show hosts have not gotten involved in politics, because they fear --

LETTERMAN: It's all different now.

PHILBIN: -- that if you know, one portion of your audience is a Republican, or Democrat, they don't like what you're saying, they're going to tune you out.

LETTERMAN: That's right.

PHILBIN: Does it bother you?

LETTERMAN: Well, you -- I know what your point is, and I've been guilty of appearing to be playing partisan politics. However, I just like to say that for the record, I am a registered independent. You go where the material takes you. Poor Bill Clinton, no president that I'm aware of got hammered harder than Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky situation.

We beat up on him. We still use him as a reference. And then, we were desperate, we thought, well, this was so easy. And then, we got George Bush, and within a matter of days, we realized, our prayers had been answered. He's just as good in terms of material.

So we, -- it may appear to people that we have a slant one way or the other. But if a guy, you know, drops his dog or a guy straps his dog to the roof of his car, or if a guy gets a shoe thrown at him, well, this is where the material is going to be.


SAMBOLIN: Now, that's interesting. You can see Regis' full interview with David Letterman Tuesday night at nine o'clock eastern right here on CNN. We're both sitting here just, you know, waiting, where's the one-liner coming in. Very serious. Very serious.

BANFIELD: I know. It's great to see those two together, though, because they have such a history, not only just the talk show history, but you know, they both went through their heart crises together and they shared those stories together. And oftentimes, they were each other's first guests after coming out of the hospital. So, this will be good. SAMBOLIN: It will be good.

BANFIELD: CNN's exclusive.

All right. So, another exclusive for you, as well. Al Qaeda on the move, and our Barbara Starr live in Jordan. Where they're really worried that instability in the neighbor to the north, Syria, could end up making its way across the border, and then guess what, spread throughout the Middle East? That is not good news. We'll tell you what's the story here, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 44 minutes past the hour. Al Qaeda is on the move. A senior Jordanian official tells CNN that there are nearly 1,500 al Qaeda members and sympathizers in Syria.

Barbara Starr has gotten extraordinary exclusive access to very sensitive areas in Jordan, including the Syrian border. She is live in Amman, Jordan now. What can you tell us about that, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you from Jordan. The winds are picking up out here as it usually does midday in the desert. But, a couple of days ago, we did get that access to the Syrian border to the north of the capital here in Amman, Jordan, and we walked through the no man's land between the two countries.

I think we have pictures to show you. It's an area where the Jordanians are trying very hard to keep access and control. They're doing a pretty good job right now. The barbed wire, the guard posts, the controls at the border as these taxis come into Jordan from Syria bringing in goods and commodities they're trying to sell.

Why are the Jordanians so concerned? They don't think Bashar al- Assad is going to attack them here, but right now, here in Amman, we're hearing from high-level officials, they believe there are at least 1,500 al Qaeda members and sympathizers and supporters inside Syria conducting those car bombs as attacks that we're seen.

That's the kind of instability in this region right now that Jordan does not want to see coming into its country -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Barbara, what are you hearing about the other al Qaeda threats, those in Yemen?

STARR: Well, you know, that's really a good question, because it's really those two al Qaeda affiliates out here that are the problem, al Qaeda in Syria and al Qaeda in Yemen. Just yesterday, we caught up here in Amman with the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano. She came here to talk about these issues of border security and control and talk to us about why it's so important.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We work with a lot of these countries on border, border-related issues, aviation, aviation-related issues. It's because we want to have as early a warning sign as possible that someone affiliated with al Qaeda or any al Qaeda-type group is traveling towards the west.


STARR: And there are right now, Zoraida, about 12,000 foreign troops here in Jordan, about half of them are U.S. troops. They have been here conducting training and exercises so that all the allied forces in this region are ready if it came to that.

And right now, what we do know is that U.S. special forces here in Jordan have been training with a very crack, very elite Jordanian forces, ready to move against Syria, concerns about the weapons of mass destruction, concerns about al Qaeda.

They hope it doesn't come to that, but that is part, indeed, of what we've seen here and what is going on in this country -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbara Starr live in Jordan for us, thank you for that.

BANFIELD: It is 47 minutes past 5:00. This just into CNN. A fire on board a nuclear submarine is finally out.


BANFIELD (voice-over): This all happening in Maine. The fire broke out yesterday evening in the forward compartment of the "USS Miami." Six people were hurt, suffered minor injuries. But, no weapons on board at the time. Good to know that.

The ship's reactor is not affected by the fire. Completely isolated from the forward compartments where the fire had its biggest effect.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Oh! Take look at this, folks. A man who was eating cereal in Indiana had his breakfast rudely interrupted, I say, when a school bus suddenly crashed into his home. The accident caused major damage to the house in the town of Carmel. The bus driver suffered minor injuries. The homeowner was shaken up. Here's the really good news, there were no children on board the bus.

BANFIELD: And if you're planning your vacation for 2020? There's only three cities that remain in the running to host the summer games in that year. The International Olympic Committee has narrowed the field. Are you ready? There they are. Your choices, Madrid, Istanbul, and Tokyo.

They're the finalists, and those cities are going to spend the next 15 months spending a whole lot of money and trying really hard to convince the IOC that they have what it takes to host the summer games. The winner will be picked in September of 2013.

SAMBOLIN: That's tough for Madrid. They don't have a lot of money. It'd be great to have the games there.

It stood taller than the Empire State Building, and it took less than ten seconds to bring down the Brent Tower in Nevada's jackass flats, part of the nuclear test site.

BANFIELD: Can you say that on TV?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I can. The tower hadn't been utilized since the 1990s, and officials say demolition was the most cost-effective solution.

BANFIELD: Nothing like a good demolition video.




SAMBOLIN (on-camera): You should have seen that. My pen went flying right into her face. I'm so sorry.

BANFIELD (on-camera): The battle of the girls on TV in the morning.

SAMBOLIN: I apologize.

BANFIELD: No worries. I'll make it -- I'll survive.


BANFIELD: OK. This would be tough to survive if you happen to be underneath that bag of hot dogs being unleashed from a helicopter in Detroit. Good thing he's just scrap (ph) below, but here's the story. Hot dogs from heaven. Where's the mustard? It was all part of a contest.

One of those wacky radio stunts to celebrate the 95th anniversary of America's Coney Island hot dog, an institution in Detroit.

SAMBOLIN: This is what I thought. Are there any doggies nearby?

BANFIELD: Look at that little puppies. Even the puppies are like, I don't know. What a night trades (ph) in there. So, here's why they're collecting them up, putting them in the garbage, not to throw them away, because it's a contest to see who can collect the most hot dogs.

$1,000 was nothing compared to the other prize that they got, a lifetime supply of Coney's. And it wasn't these in your freezer for lifetime. It was a real lifetime supply. Look at them. Going crazy. Picking up the dogs.


SAMBOLIN: Hot dogs from heaven.

All right. Look, mom, no parachute. One daredevil's bid to become a real-life Batman. That's definitely freefalling. Coming up for you.

BANFIELD: It's great song choice. I love that. If you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time, on your desktop, on your mobile phone. All you need to do is follow the directions on your screen, go to We'll be there for you.


BANFIELD: Yes. You know what that music means?


BANFIELD: It's time to take a look --

SAMBOLIN: We've got some really good video for you.


BANFIELD: Trending on the interweb, some jaws-like creature on the beaches down under. The video tells the story. Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the size of that! Whoa! Get a bite out of that!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to get that out of his mouth.



BANFIELD: All right. That is just something to behold, isn't it? A fisherman posting this video. That's a massive 18-footer. A great white, biting off the head of a blue shark that was on their fishing line. So, they catch a blue shark, and they're reeling the blue shark in and along comes the 18-footer great white, biting off the head of the blue shark.

It happened off the coast of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia a couple of months ago, but they just put the video up on YouTube. How's like to the cameraman? I wonder you're shaking. The Australian authorities are assuring the swimmers and the surfers of Bondi, that lifeguards are routinely patrolling for sharks.

SAMBOLIN: And they tell the video that -- BANFIELD: I know. I know.

SAMBOLIN: They're patrolling for sharks OK.


BANFIELD: They do say it's safe. Al though I got to say, every time I hear about a shark attack, it seems like it's either somewhere near Bondi or up the gold coast of Australia. I don't know what it is about Australian shark. Maybe that hold beautiful great barrier reef.

SAMBOLIN: I would not be swimming in the waters there. Sorry.

BANFIELD: It is so beautiful there.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure. I'm sure, but.

OK. Now, he's really Batman. A daredevil pulling off an unprecedented stunt. Oh my gosh! Jumping 2, 400 feet from a helicopter and landing safely on the ground.


SAMBOLIN: Yes. Big ouch. Did not have a parachute. The British stuntman, Gary Connery (ph), landed on top of close to 1,900 cardboard boxes. They were set up as a cushion. Technically, his flight wasn't a complete freefall as he did wear a special wing suit that's similar to those worn by other base jumpers.

Still, the first time anyone has pulled this off as far as we know. Connery has done stunt work in several Hollywood films, including "Batman Begins" and "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull."

BANFIELD: Look at him just walking out. Like nothing happened. Just walking out.

SAMBOLIN: He was also in the James Bond film, "Die Another Day."


BANFIELD: Well, it's a good thing he didn't. That's all I'm saying, because that is one dangerous past time. But, imagine landing on the boxes, too?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. How is that a cushion?

BANFIELD: I know, right? Especially if you land on the edges.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

BANFIELD: Fifty-six minutes now past 5:00 in the morning, on the east coast, a dangerous job for firefighters this morning. How would you like to be trying to put out a fire on a nuclear sub? Yes, nuclear sub. We're going to update you on this and let you know how those flames are no longer that bright orange.