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Deadly Earthquake In Italy; Beryl Now A Tropical Depression; Crane Standoff Over; Radioactive Tuna?; Primary Day In Texas; Medal Of Freedom; Deadly Earthquake in Italy; Radiation Found in Fish Off California Coast; Stumping With Mitt

Aired May 29, 2012 - 05:58   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST (voice-over): She ruined Memorial Day for many, and she is not done yet. Beryl gaining strength again, and the Carolinas could be the storm's next target.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Mitt Romney hoping to his magic number today in Texas while he hangs out with Donald Trump in Vegas. Could the birther issue seal the funder on Romney's big day?

BANFIELD: Plus, he held police at bay for 15 hours from the top of a crane, and this morning, the tense standoff in Texas is finally over.


BANFIELD (on-camera): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, 5:58.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from "A" to "Z." 6:00 a.m. in the east. Let's get started here.

BANFIELD: And let's start with some breaking news, shall we?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BANFIELD: As I said, I want to take you to Rome where we've just been given notification that there's been another earthquake in Northern Italy. This is the same area that was affected last week. And we're told now that at least three people have been killed. You'll remember there were also deaths last week in a quake that damaged a number of buildings as well.

This one, we're told, is centered in the province of Modana (ph) near Bologna. This is video that we're bringing to you right away of some of the damage already. This is just raw video that's coming into us here. So, you can see some of the people who have obviously exited these buildings. And police officials on location as well.

If you know this area at all, the towns of Mirandola and (INAUDIBLE) were closest to this epicenter apparently where the damage took place. And we also know that some of the buildings that were damaged in last week's earthquake were also affected again by what's been happening today.

Don't have a magnitude for you yet on this one, but I can tell you it's strong enough that train services have been suspended because officials in Northern Italy are very concerned about the damage to potential tracks there.

High speed trains from Bologna to Milan and to Florence among others are just slowing down. It's all they've had to do there. No trains stuck at this point, but three aftershocks already have been recorded after this earthquake.

Rob Marciano is standing by live in the weather center. Weather is one thing he does best, but the other thing he does best is the issues behind these earthquakes.

Is this considered another aftershock if there's been that much time between last week's and today's quake, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's near the area. So you could certainly argue that, but it's almost as strong as the one that happened last week.

It is another shallow earthquake. It's near Parma, about 40 miles to the east of it and we've already since this quake, which happened really about three hours ago. Now we're starting to get the damage reports in and of course, the video in.

There have been several aftershocks in regards to this one in the four, four and a half range. So this one is fairly shallow at about six miles in depth, it's 40 miles to the northwest of Bologna, and 36 miles to the east of Parma, 43 miles to the south of Verona, Italy so obviously a very, very populated area.

Italy is one of these spots especially here where it's not like California where if you get a 5.8 or a 6.0, you know, it's going to rock some things and not do a whole lot of damage.

Here it does a little bit more on the way of damage, schools and homes not as built to the code that maybe in Japan or the west coast. That's why we're seeing the damage and unfortunately, in this case the fatalities.

We'll monitor the situation as we get more video and reports in from Northern Italy and of course, we'll give you an update on what's going on with Beryl in just a couple of minutes.

BANFIELD: All right, Rob, and also just to reiterate, three people at this point have been confirmed dead, but they're also saying, Rob, that they haven't been able to confirm the total number of dead.

So obviously this is a breaking situation where they haven't been able to get to all those buildings yet. But if you remember when we reported this nine days ago, when the last quake struck in this region there were seven people killed in that quake as well.

So we'll continue to watch, if you would do that for us as well, Rob. We'll touch base with you again as we know more details.

SAMBOLIN: Well, he needs to stand by because it's been downgraded to a tropical depression now, but Beryl is still a major rainmaker.

Remnants of the storm dumping as much as 10 inches of rain in Northern Florida and South Eastern Georgia, more than a foot in some areas. Beryl also creating dangerous surf conditions including rip currents as it slowly moves to the Carolinas.

Let's go to CNN's George Howell. He is live in Tybee Island, Georgia. What is the situation there?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are feeling the winds pick up here right along the beach and if I can show you this. You can see the sunrise here sort of. You can see the light right over it's a lot darker, that is the actual storm.

That storm is just south now of Savannah, moving into the Savannah area. The concern today obviously is flash flooding with this slow-moving storm, but again that is what we are expecting today.

Just a few days ago, it was a wind event in this area, strong winds that knocked over trees and knocked over power lines. Today, the concern is flash flooding and also here on the beach people are allowed on the beach, but they are not allowed in the water.

The concern again is the strong rip currents that we talked to life guards about yesterday. Here's what they had to say.


HOWELL: So I see the white caps out there. Is that safe for a person to get in the water?

HUNTER ROBINSON, CAPTAIN, TYBEE ISLAND OCEAN RESCUE: No, it is not. The thing is with closing the water completely, if you let somebody in go knee deep. They'll go waist deep, if you let them go waist deep they'll swim in.

HOWELL: What is the concern about rip currents out here?

ROBINSON: Basically, a rip current is a channelized body of water that pulls out to sea when there's too much water close to the shore and not enough back here. It's just basic gravity. Rip current will pull you out to sea for about anywhere from 20 to 150 yards at eight to ten miles an hour.


HOWELL: These lifeguards, they plan to come together this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern to make the decision whether the beach will be open and whether people can get back into the ocean.

But again, today, we are expecting this to be a real soaker, a lot of rain in this area, very slow moving system and there is a real concern today for flooding.

SAMBOLIN: All right, George Howell, thank you so much. Reporting live for us there. Let's go over to Rob Marciano now. He's standing by. Are you tracking the storm for us as well, Rob?

MARCIANO: Absolutely, and like George mentioned, the rains are going to be moving into that area. The eastern half of this system is still holding up together very, very well especially in the form of rainfall.

It's still a tropical depression. It got winds of about 30 miles an hour. Now it's just started to drift to the north. The center of it is right about there. So just to the east of Tallahassee and up towards Valdosta, Georgia there.

And the rain shield you see spreading off toward the east and north to Savannah. So they're about to get hit with some heavy rain here. This is an area that certainly could use some rain although the bulk of the severe drought is to the north and west.

But places like Jacksonville and to the south and west towards Gainesville, they needed the rain desperately yesterday. We saw a tremendous amount, not a lot of devastating flooding with this even though they got six plus inches of rain in some spots because the ground is so dry and the rivers have been so low.

They had some spotty flooding and there's even a couple of isolated counties that have some flash flooding happening this morning with the rain that continues to fall. But it's taken time for the soil to get a little more moist.

All right, with the track in the system, it will be on the move towards the northeast as we go through the next day and a half, and that will spread the rainfall not just across Savannah, but up to Charleston, Myrtle Beach, getting through Wilmington, and to the outer banks.

And almost all the way up to Delmarva, but we have flash flood watches posted for all the coastal counties, anywhere from three to six inches of rainfall with this system as it slowly moves off to the east.

You may remember last year's hurricane season, Irene and Lee was just a tropical storm causing devastating flooding across the northeast. We're not looking at devastating flooding, but certainly enough to cause some issues at least to fill up the reservoirs.

Here's your forecast track from the system. Actually it will gain strength as it gets off of the outer banks. But by then, it should be too much of a problem.

It will get kicked out by this front, which by the way, Ashleigh, will bring a threat for severe weather across the central plains and up to the northeast dealing with that hot, steamy air, you guys have enduring for the past couple of days.

BANFIELD: So that's the air. Now talk about the water and why there is a shark concern?

MARCIANO: Brevard County actually closed the beaches not only because of rip currents yesterday, but because with the big surf and the waves from the storm, actually pushing bait fish for sharks closer to shore.

So they had a rash of shark sightings and because of that they got little bit nervous. Surfers were reporting bumping into sharks as they were surfing in so Brevard County beaches were actually shut down because of sharks.

But they think were being pulled closer to shore with the storm. Just one more danger with tropical systems.

BANFIELD: Are you a surfer, Rob?

MARCIANO: I have done it, but it's not pretty especially with sharks around.

BANFIELD: But you're not one of those guys who chase these storms because the waves are good like our producer, Steven?

MARCIANO: No, I would drown for sure.

BANFIELD: All right, so that's a note to our little producer there that there are shark concerns as well as rip currents. All right, keep an eye on that for us if you will and we'll touch base with you a little later. Rob, thank you.

MARCIANO: All right, sounds good.

BANFIELD: So new this morning as well, a 15-hour police standoff has come to an end after the suspect that was keeping them at bay ended up falling a 150 feet from a construction crane and died. A robbery suspect climbed the crane on the campus of SMU, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

Police say that he claimed to have a weapon. He refused to leave the crane's cab, highlighted in the middle of your screen. Local CNN affiliates say the suspect eventually got sick because that crane is not air conditioned.

Police say he was hanging to the side of the crane when he finally fell off. University officials say the campus will be open today.

SAMBOLIN: Radioactive tuna found in U.S. waters. Scientists say small amounts of radioactive Cesium from the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been detected in 15 Pacific blue fin tuna caught last August off the California coast 6,000 miles from Japan. The blue fin tuna commonly migrate from Japan across the Pacific and they were born about a year ago. And though higher than normal, researchers say the amount of Cesium found in the fish is not dangerous for human consumption.

We're going to talk to one of the researchers who actually tested the fish coming up shortly to find out if it's safe for you.

BANFIELD: Voters in the lone star state expected to help Mitt Romney cross the finish line and clinch that GOP nomination that he's been chasing for months now.

It's primary day today in Texas and there are 155 delegates at stake. Here is the math. Romney's already won 1,066 delegates, but he needs another 78 to hit that magic mark of 1,144. That is the number needed to ensure the Republican Party nomination for president.

SAMBOLIN: Trail blazers, war heroes and music legends highlighting the list of people who will receive the presidential Medal of Freedom today.

President Obama presenting the nation's highest civilian honor to 13 people today, including the first woman to serve as Secretary of State, Madelyn Albright and also former Senator John Glenn.

The third American in space and the first to orbit the earth, novel winning novelist Toni Morrison as well, and Bob Dylan, a man who had been called the poet of our times who just finished his 35th album.

BANFIELD: It's now 9 minutes past 6:00 on the east coast. We're keeping an eye on Northern Italy where a deadly quake has already claimed at least three people's lives. Look at the damage so far. Don't forget these buildings have already been shaken by another deadly quake. We're going to go live to Rome in just a moment.


SAMBOLIN: We are following breaking news, shaken again, the second deadly earthquake to strike Northern Italy in the past nine days. Officials now saying at least eight people have been killed.

Barbie Nadeau joins us on the phone from Rome. What can you tell us, Barbie?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's right. The number has already -- we have unconfirmed deaths at 10 right now. This magnitude 5.9 earthquake happened about 9:00 in the morning local time here in Italy.

When people were going to work, people were at work, factories collapsed, causing most of the victims at this point. You have people still living in tent camps after the May 20th earthquake. There's a sense of panic and fear in this area as people were just thinking about going back to kind of a normal life.

So you've got sort of this double whammy here, and the people are really afraid, and they've had about 40 aftershocks in the last two hours since this big earthquake took place.

The epicenter is different from the one that's happened on May 20 so it's going to be obviously some investigation into what's happening, a new fault line, what the geologists are looking at now, supposed to have caused a new fracture that they're going to have watch. This is a new seismic area is basically what they're talking about right now.

SAMBOLIN: So that death toll you said stands at 10 right now and potentially rising?

NADEAU: That's right. There are unconfirmed reports on the Italian wire services that there are 10 victims, and a number of people who are still missing, and these are mostly people who were working in the factories. This is the industrial heartland of Italy.

This is where many of the "made in Italy" products are made, luxury car parts are made, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, a lot of the products come from here, ceramic tile, things like that. People were in the factories working and many factories that didn't collapse last week were heavily damaged, and so they were vulnerable to collapse.

People in one of the buildings that collapsed this morning, they were under construction basically trying to pull it up after last week's damage. Because it happened at 9:00 in the morning you had people at work, people not in their beds. The first earthquake happened at 4:00 a.m. So there were more people in their homes in that instance, an entirely different dynamic.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbie Nadeau reporting live for us from Italy, thank you very much for that.

We'll follow this story and the latest developments for you. In the meantime over to Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right. Thank you, Zoraida. Sixteen minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast.

He was the first boy to ever appear on a milk carton as a missing child, and now, New York city police are combing trash records or at least hoping to, to perhaps try to solve a 1979 disappearance and crime of the murder of Etan Patz.

Pedro Hernandez last week confessed to killing that little boy, saying that he choked the 6-year-old and threw his body away in a trash bag. Now, could trash logs actually help police determine whether to search New York City landfills in order to try to find the boy's remains, this long after the fact?

Joining me is retired Nassau County police officer Lou Palumbo.

Lou, when I first heard this story the first thing that came to mind was there are so many different landfills and so much trash in the last 33 years. Is this at all possible?

LOU PALUMBO, RETIRED POLICE OFFICER: I think it's highly problematic but I do want to say this first -- the Sanitation Department has predetermined locations after they do pickups so there is a way for them to account for where they may have discarded trash, picked up in a certain zone, for example, in New York City. The real problem we have here is we're talking about hundreds of millions of tons of garbage over a 33-year period, and the hope or expectation that the Sanitation Department is going to be able to give them some type of a focal point that they can then go in and randomly pick through the garbage because technology is not going to support them on this.

BANFIELD: OK. Well, just for an example, the three major landfills in New York, Fresh Kills, Fountain Avenue and Gansevoort.

I've got an image up here of Fresh Kills. This is a satellite image. And so, in the center of your screen right here, this is Fresh Kills. If you need to know the size, let's see row in on the next picture which should give scope what the project would be like.

As we zero in, those little white dots I hope you can make it out, if you can't, see if we can zero in, these teeny, white dots all over the place, those are cars. And although it's a little hard to determine scope and depth, the mounds are about 90 to 220 feet high. So we're not just talking about flat space, we're talking about enormous amounts of surface area to get through.

And just as an example, in the five boroughs every day today in New York City, we produce 12,000 tons of trash, multiply that by 365 days, multiply that by 33 years.

Records or not, could they actually get to a point where they could put a grid over top of these particular areas and do -- I think we have one handy, could they do a grid search and search a grid and check them off and say, we've thoroughly gotten through all of the trashes and be able to move throughout the all different landfill?

PALUMBO: Here is the operative word you just used. It's called thoroughly.

And in my opinion, I don't think they thoroughly can because of the volume of garbage that's been discarded there.

There's one thing I also want to say, Ashleigh, that people are not mindful of. This could turn to a case that happened at the beach, we went looking for one prostitute and found 10. Be careful what you wish for here because we're going in looking for Etan Patz and I have a really strange suspicion that other bodies have been discarded in this landfill, the same way they were at the beach. We're going to find bodies we're not looking for here.

So, it could be problematic in that capacity but I think overall this makes looking for a needle in a hay stack like an easy undertaking.

BANFIELD: That's exactly the notion I had that this is a needle in a haystack. We're talking about a 6-year-old boy if this allegation of this confession is true, this child was put in a garbage bag, put inside a box and may have been hauled away by a private contractor. Do we know where the private contractors would have taken trash? Are there any records of that?

PALUMBO: I think they all have records. In other words, I don't think they randomly pick up garbage in the city or any community and just arbitrarily dump it. I think there has to be a plane of distribution of the garbage in the sense.

So, I'm confident there are records that exist. I don't know if they go back 33 years, if there's been a need by anybody who is a contractor of the city sanitation to maintain these records, but I will tell you that they do know where they're dumping things. The problem they have here is not just the volume of garbage but the decomposed state of this body.

I don't think there's anything to find. I don't even think with the most advanced technology or most highly trained and sophisticated cadaver dogs are they going to reap any fruition from this. And you really have to look at the amount of resources we're pouring into this thing and start the question why.

BANFIELD: We should also note that when they closed this thing in 2001, they actually capped two of the major four mounds with something that's thick and impermeable so there's a whole other issue there as well, just trying to get through there to find that child.

Listen, they've done cases before without a body, so maybe that's not the most necessary part of this crime. But, Lou, it's good for you to come in. Thanks so much.

PALUMBO: My pleasure.

BANFIELD: Appreciate it, Lou Palumbo.


SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much.

Well, we've seen the signs. Could the housing market finally be turning the corner? We get the latest number today. Christine Romans with the most affordable place to buy a house right now. That's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: We are minding your business this morning.

The most affordable places to buy a home in the United States.


SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans here with the latest.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, you know, we've been talking about the housing market and home affordability, the best in some 40 years, you have home prices up 10 percent in April and home sales up as well and you've got realtors who are saying with the spring selling season doing better. They've been saying this for five years but this time they're actually right.

And so, I want to take a look at a CNN Money gallery out this morning about the most affordable places to buy a home in this country right now. This is based on median income, home prices and mortgage rates in these 10 cities.

Indianapolis -- health care, pharmaceutical, retail industries doing better, home prices are down a lot. Indi is a place that's affordable to buy a home.

Dayton, Ohio, is number two.

Lakeland, Florida, this is on Interstate Highway between Tampa and Orlando, a lot of people passing through. But if you decide to stay, home affordability is good.

Modesto, California, this is really the poster child for ground zero -- using two different metaphors completely -- of the housing bubble in California. So, Modesto is doing better. You need a working member of the family. If you do, you could do very well in home prices in Modesto, but they're 17 percent unemployment. So, that's one of the reasons why it's more affordable because the economy has been really hit.

Grand Rapids is number five. Also on this list, Buffalo, Ogden, Utah, Syracuse, New York, Akron, Ohio, and Cincinnati. Those are rounding out the top 10. I'll tweet this and put it on my Facebook page, if you want to look everybody. But those are the most affordable place.

Of course, the most important thing is a job. And you can't afford a house if you don't have a job. So, the one thing I've been saying about the housing recovery, this mending in the housing market that we've been seeing, it all depends on the job market doing better and consistently doing better.

You've heard me say people are starting to move again for retirement, to move for a new job, to go to a different part of the country. For whatever reason, people are moving again and that's really, really important. We need the jobs market to really get healthy so we can sustain it.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Christine Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Radioactive tuna caught off the U.S. coast after a 6,000-mile migration from Japan. So, the big question, is it safe to eat? We're going to ask the man who made the discovery, coming up next.


BANFIELD: Breaking news this morning: a deadly earthquake strikes Italy again. It is the latest in two series of earthquakes. We've got the details ahead.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, danger rains from the sky. Debris thought to be from a passenger jet falls onto parked cars in front of stunned witnesses.

BANFIELD: Plus more evidence that radiation from Japan's Fukushima disaster could be traced all the way to the waters off the shores of the United States.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Nice to have you with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

It is 31 minutes past the hour.

BANFIELD: I want to get you more on our breaking news this morning in Italy. And this centered in northern Italy, you can see the town of Mirandola, which is now epicenter to yet a second deadly quake to hit the region in nine days. This morning's quake apparently claiming the lives of eight people but officials say that number is expected to only grow higher as they continue to search out these buildings.

The pictures on the screen are fresh in to CNN this morning. A number of stunned onlookers wondering how this could happen. In just over a week, two deadly earthquakes. The one nine days ago claiming the lives of seven people.

If you know this area, it's in the province of Modena. It's near Bologna. Apparently, the towns of Mirandola and Cabeza (ph) were the closest to the epicenter in this latest quake. Trains have been suspended for a number of areas and the high speed trains that most people know between Bologna, and Milan and Florence those have slowed down because of concern of what might be damage on the tracks.

There have been three aftershocks so far that we can account for since the quake happened this morning. It is the heart of the country's manufacturing industry as well, so there could be some economic implications as well.

We'll continue to watch this and find out any further details and bring them to you right away -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Ashleigh.

Scientists are reporting nuclear radiation in bluefin tuna. It is off the coast of California as well. Only low levels, they say. But they also say it's definitely the result of Japan's tsunami damaged Fukushima power plant.

Professor Nicholas Fisher is one of the researchers who reported the findings. He's a professor at the school of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. He joins us this morning.

Thank you so much. We appreciate your time.


SAMBOLIN: I told you that I was doing a lot of studying up on this because it really fascinates me -- the level that you found.


SAMBOLIN: You are saying it is ten times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years.


SAMBOLIN: And this is called cesium, right?

FISHER: Cesium.

SAMBOLIN: What is it, and is it dangerous?

FISHER: Well, at high concentrations, it can be dangerous like almost any other substance. We found two radio isotopes of cesium, cesium 134 and cesium 137. These are radioactive waste products from the nuclear fuel cycle. They were released into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan.

And it appears they were accumulated by diverse marine organisms, including bluefin tuna, which spawn in waters in the western Pacific including around Japan and they actually swim all the way across the Pacific Ocean, they make it to waters off California and Mexico.

We caught 15 bluefin tuna off San Diego in August 2011, and dissected them and analyzed their muscle tissue for cesium, radioactive cesium, knowing that these isotopes were released from Fukushima and we were quite surprised to find the bluefin carried both of these radio isotopes, cesium 134 and cesium 137, to waters off California.

SAMBOLIN: Surprised. But are you concerned?

FISHER: From a public health perspective, not particularly. I say that because at least for these particular fish that we analyzed, the radioactivity was only about 3 percent above the natural radiation background.

Lot of people are not aware that the oceans have always been radioactive with naturally occurring radionuclides, most prominently potassium 40, been on the earth since earth was form, way before people set foot on the planet.

SAMBOLIN: As you're a lay person, and you hear 10 times the amount that was in the fish prior to this, then it's cause for concern.

And here's another thing I read that concerned me. It said Pacific bluefin tuna can grow up to 10 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. What surprised scientists, was that bigger fish can metabolize and shed radioactive substances quicker, yet this one did not.

So, I wonder if there are smaller fish trailing that migratory pattern, could we be concerned about that? And are there fish that travel that migratory pattern?

FISHER: I don't think the small fish travel all the way across the Pacific Ocean. The bluefin are remarkable tuna and they swim basically the entire width of the Pacific. Yes, there's ten times higher levels than prior to the accident, but let's put that into perspective with regard to the natural radiation background again.

I mention that because it's only the two radioactive cesium isotopes were only 3 percent of the natural radiation background. So, we're only increasing the radioactivity by 3 percent above the background level, at least in the tuna caught of San Diego.

But when they left Japan, we calculate that they had maybe 50 percent or 45 percent to 50 percent of the natural radiation background -- still low, still below safety levels, but nevertheless higher when they were in waters off Japan.

SAMBOLIN: I know this fish is expensive, very popular for a lot of people. I hear it's quite yummy as well.


SAMBOLIN: The bottom line here is would you eat it and would you recommend that Americans eat this fish?

FISHER: Well, I would -- I personally would not hesitate to eat the tuna that were caught of California, but I don't make recommendations for other people. Lot of people are very anxious about radioactivity.

SAMBOLIN: Understandably so.

FISHER: Understandably, absolutely, but it's important to recognize that a lot of the foods we eat are radioactive.

SAMBOLIN: I think that's a valid point, Professor. Thank you so much for joining thus morning, clearing up a little bit of this.

Professor Nicholas Fisher at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University -- thanks for your time this morning.

FISHER: My pleasure.

SAMBOLIN: Ashleigh?

FISHER: All right. It's 37 minutes past 6:00.

Have you ever seen Senator John McCain when he comes face-to- face with a heckler in the crowd? Oh, yeah, see how he takes care of one with just a single word, that's coming up.

First we want to check your travel weather with our weather specialist, there's a new title, weather specialist -- Rob Marciano.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I like it. Good morning again, Ashleigh.

Couple of areas of concern, one, by Tropical Storm Beryl, which is actually a tropical depression, from Savannah to Orlando, Gainesville and Tampa, that's where you're going to see some rainfall today. Some of it heavy at times and might see minor flooding.

Also, severe weather potentially across Ohio and through Indiana, and back through Upstate New York. This is going to be the problem spot later on, strong front pushing against some steamy air which you've been enduring the past couple of days. So, there's a threat for severe weather. And cooler and dryer air behind it, 84 degrees, less humid in Chicago, 89 degrees and kind of steamy in New York.

You're up to date weather-wise. EARLY START is coming right back.


BANFIELD: Forty-one minutes now past the hour. Let's get you up to date with the top stories of the day.

And Christine Romans has been working that for us.

ROMANS: Good morning. Good morning.

You know, it's been downgraded to a tropical depression but Beryl is still a super soaker. It's expected to bring more rain to parts of Georgia, along with dangerous surf conditions after swamping the Florida/Georgia border with up to 10 inches of rain. More rain to come folks.

Just in to CNN, police in Italy arrested a sergeant in the U.S. military on pedophilia charges. We're told the sergeant is from a U.S. military base in camp Darby near the Tuscan City of Pisa. We'll bring you more details as they become available.

A wildfire in the Michigan's upper peninsula has now burned more than 22,000 acres since last week, destroyed 94 structures, including 34 homes. Despite recent rain, the fire is going strong because of dry conditions, high temperature, wind, a lack of roads up there. Thankfully, the fire is now about half way contained.

Debris apparently from an Air Canada jet falling from the sky in Toronto when one of the engines fails after takeoff. Small pieces of the Boeing 777 struck cars on the ground. Witnesses were stunned and luckily no people were injured. The Air Canada jet bound for Tokyo made an emergency landing back at the Toronto airport. The airline says it's investigating the incident.

War hero Senator John McCain was not having it on Memorial Day. He fired back at a heckler during a speech alongside Mitt Romney in San Diego yesterday. Look.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: A relative of --

HECKLER: (INAUDIBLE) what about the USS Liberty --





ROMANS: McCain was speaking to an audience of about 5,000 veterans. Mitt Romney seemed to get a little chuckle out of that as well.

Usually you hear someone say, oh, you know, this is what we fight for the First Amendment, but, you know, there you go.

SAMBOLIN: One word.

BANFIELD: I hope it wasn't, you know? I hope it wasn't a veteran who he was calling.

ROMANS: I don't know. I'm not sure who the person was, but clearly it was one voice in a sea of 5,000 people who were booing him for his heckling.


BANFIELD: Thanks, Christine.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-three minutes past the hour.

Soledad O'Brien joins with us a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": So much ahead, so much ahead this morning. We're going to take a closer look at this plot to assassinate American diplomats, is being linked by some to Iran. This morning, the questions are whether, you know, who ordered the hits and exactly what actions to take in the wake of finding this information.

Also, Governor Mitt Romney set to officially clinch the Republican nomination today. His campaign is gearing up with a showdown with President Obama. His press secretary will join us to preview the governor's fall strategy. In a nutshell is talking jobs, jocks, jobs, jobs, jobs.

And trying to track the curse. You heard about these five guys and their goat. Well, they're going to join us. The goat's name is Wrigley. He'll join us, too. They've walked 1,300 miles from Arizona to Chicago. They're trying to lift the nearly 70-year-old World Series curse that was put on the Chicago Cubs. We'll see if they are able to make it successful.

SAMBOLIN: Many have failed to do that.

O'BRIEN: I know. That and much more coming up at "Starting Point" we start right at the top of the hour. I got you, girl.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 48 minutes now past the hour.

Mitt Romney says he's looking forward to clinching the GOP nomination in tonight's Texas primary. He's not going to be there, though. He won't be present to enjoy the big win. Romney is hitting two battleground states instead, Colorado and Nevada.

The highlight, a Las Vegas fund raiser with Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, Trump, who may be testing his spot in the Romney campaign by keeping that Obama birther question alive.

Of course, the birther question being the veracity of the president's United States' birth certificate. CNN's political editor, Paul Steinhauser, is live in Washington. And this just in, I think Trump is now investigating the Greek philosophers and astronomers' assessment that the world is round as well, Paul.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: That's breaking news. There you go.

BANFIELD: Breaking news. Breaking news. The reason I jest is because most people, including Mitt Romney, have decided that this is foolish.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, and this is the trouble for Mitt Romney and his presidential bid, what are we talking about right now, Ashleigh? We're not talking about Trump officially clinching. We're not even talking about Trump's, you know, stance on the issues. His theme this week that the president is bad for -- Romney is saying the president is bad for the economy.

He's bad. He's hurting job creators. What we are talking about is Donald Trump and his continued bringing up of the birther issue. Remember, he brought it up last year when he was flirting with his own bid for the presidential nomination on the Republican side, then you could see from the video here, this was back in February, Trump officially endorsed Romney. Now, he continues to talk about the birther issue, and Mitt Romney's asked about this. Here's what he said on the campaign plane last night. Take a listen, Ashleigh.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't agree with all the people that support me. I guess, they don't agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more. And I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.


STEINHAUSER: While he, in the past, has said yes, I believe that the president was born in the United States and this should not be a campaign issue, he didn't say it in the plane ride last night, and I'm sure he's going to be asked about it again repeatedly.

This is a distraction. You never as a surrogate want to overshadow the top guy, and that's what Donald Trump is doing. He invites controversy, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, it's been met with something, at least, this morning. The Obama campaign is answering to this.

STEINHAUSER: Yes. They sure put out a new video just in the last half hour, and it says -- it looks back to 2008 when John McCain was the Republican nominee and says listen, he pushed back against this stuff, how come President Obama isn't? Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have read about him. He's an Arab.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: No, ma'am. No ma'am. He's a decent family man citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESS TYCOON: Why doesn't he show his birth certificate? He doesn't have a birth certificate. Now, he may have one, but there's something on that birth certificate, maybe religion, maybe it says he's a Muslim.


STEINHAUSER: The Obama campaign capitalizing here on this birther controversy, Ashleigh, until, you know, Romney says something clear again that the president has been born in the United States, as he has in the past, this is going to continue for a little bit.

BANFIELD: Maybe Donald Trump will take a big trip somewhere to see if he falls off the edge of the Earth. The dead silence. Met with dead silence.

STEINHAUSER: I'm going to leave it at that.


BANFIELD: Thank you very much, Paul Steinhauser. Nice to see you.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-one minutes past the hour.

Here's something every globe hopper wants to know. What is the best way to protect your wallet when traveling? It may be to think like a thief. Author and travel safety expert, Bob Arnot (ph), inside the mind of a pick pocket in today's "Road Warriors."


BOB ARNOT, TRAVEL SAFETY EXPERT: Pick-pocketing is about distraction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You took my purse.


ARNOT: Most people, if they pay attention aren't going to be a victim. The way this was done is that I came, I spoke to you for ten seconds. I put my finger here, lift it up, hid it behind, and walk away. Reduce the options for the thief. Carry your money in your tightest pocket. People are always saying, if you put it in your hip pocket, of course, they can steal it.

The opposite is true. In the front pocket, it's extremely quick, just a little a brash grabbing it and move away. The hip pocket at least has a button. Lay it down sideways, it's going to catch on the corner. You can't get it out. You can also go out and buy on the internet all kinds of little travel pouches of different sizes, shove them down simply like this.

Of course, there's a loop and through the loop goes your belt. Simply apply common sense when you get squeezed and pushed and shoved, and if someone starts to talk to you, just say to yourself, is this the beginning of a con or a scam?


BANFIELD: Great information. Coming up after the break, we're going to go live to Rob Marciano. He got some updated information on the breaking news out of Northern Italy where yet another earthquake has claimed lives. More in a moment.


BANFIELD: We want to get you live right away to Rob Marciano who is tracking the details in that deadly quake in Northern Italy -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're starting to get a scope for just how many people have felt this thing as far south and east as San Marino up towards Venice, into the foothills of Dolomites near the Switzerland border, and all the way back to Italian Riviera (ph). Well over a million people felt this, but the strongest shaking in this yellow area, about 60,000 people in the area that really likely saw some damage.

By the way, the quake that happened just over a week ago in Campo Santo, about four miles from this morning's epicenter which happened about four and a half, five hours ago, 5.8. So, this is technically an aftershock but nearly as strong as the quake that rocked this part of Italy just over a week ago.

So, there you go. We've also already had at least two aftershocks in regards to this one, Ashleigh, of about 4.7, so very tumultuous area and the damage video continues to come in with at least eight fatalities at the moment. And we'll continue to update the story throughout the morning.

BANFIELD: OK. Rob Marciano, thanks very much for that.

MARCIANO: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: So, "Starting Point" is less than a minute away. We wrap up as always with best advice. Here's Christine with that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And this one is from our very good friend and guiding light, I would say, of politics at CNN, Wolf Blitzer, listen.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I got a lot of great advice from my father, but among other things, he always used to say you know what? You may be smart, but remember, two heads are better than one. Listen to what other folks are saying. They may be a little bit smarter than you.


ROMANS: That's a good advice when you're talking about politics, isn't it? And journalism and everything. Two heads are better than one.


BANFIELD: I personally think three heads are better than one in the morning. All right. Everybody, thank you so much for being with us. That's EARLY START, the news from "A" to "Z." I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN" starts right now.