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Debby Still Doing Damage; Fire Sprints Through Colorado Springs; Debby Still Flooding Florida; Longtime Lawmakers Defy The Odds

Aired June 27, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Debbie smacking into Florida this morning, parts of the Sunshine State flooding out as that storm makes landfall.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST: Plus fighting an inferno. Tens of thousands now are evacuated as Colorado's wildfire gross more ferocious by the minute.

BANFIELD: And happening right now in London, a giant set of Olympic rings about to be lowered from Tower Bridge, all of this to mark 30 days before the games begin.

SAMBOLIN: Let the countdown begin.

BANFIELD: There's nothing like the Summer Games, right? So much fun. So looking forward to it as well.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to early, early EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

We're bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's get started for you.

Up first, Debby doing more damage and dumping more rain than some full-blown hurricanes. The deadly storm now downgraded to a tropical depression as it slashes across Florida where a state of emergency is still in place. That storm is expected to bring dangerous flooding rains to Florida for another day.

George Howell is live in Sopchoppy, Florida, near where the storm made landfall.

And, George, I was reading this morning the folks in Sopchoppy were really scared because the water came in so quickly. How are the conditions there now?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Zoraida, good morning.

We know the storm cloud have all passed here from Wakulla County. But again, these residents, they are dealing with a very difficult situation right now. Just take a look. You see this home submerged for the most part in water. And that is what you find in many of these low-lying areas. It's hit or miss at a lower lying areas, that more water that is covering many of these homes.

In some places on the roads, drivers are having to deal with still six inches to a foot of water on the road. You see police officers in place to make sure drivers are prepared for that. But just yesterday, we took a tour into a neighborhood that, imagine this, was covered in 15 feet of water. We went down a street that basically turned into a river.

And we spent time with these residents for the first time. Take a look.


CRYSTAL PESEK, SOPCHOPPY RESIDENT: Should be down here. I don't recognize anything now. That's our house there.

LARRY PESEK, SOPCHOPPY RESIDENT: We just can't believe we're looking at this. A massive amount of water.

C. PESEK: We were almost finished with the house, almost finished remodeling everything in there.


HOWELL: And that's what you find in these different areas. Some areas hit harder than others. And even today many residents in the state of Florida are still dealing with these problems. In Baker County, we saw rescues happening the other day as a result of this flooding. Also in Pasco County, we know that 2,000 people had to evacuate because of these fast-rising rivers.

And, Zoraida, that is the concern, even though we may even see the sun today, it's still a dangerous situation for many of these residents.

SAMBOLIN: It's nice it see the rescues but really tough to see, you know, the devastation and how much people have lost there.

So, Debby is now moving across the state. What can residents expect in those areas?

HOWELL: Well, we do know that, you know, obviously, they will deal with the flooding situations that we've seen in the past few days. We know that the governor declared a state of emergency. FEMA officials are on the ground, surveying the damage and helping people who were affected by this situation. But again the situation far from over even though the storm is passing through the state.

SAMBOLIN: All right. George Howell, live in Sopchoppy, Florida -- thank you very much.

BANFIELD: And for some people, the floodwaters aren't that bad actually. We've got an iReport from Ken Gilstrap from Safety Harbor, Florida. This as a couple of people decide to make the best of this. Take a look at your video.

This is the better side of the storm, folks, tubing down your street. Yes, air-tubing down your street in knee deep water. Obviously a lighter side of a situation that's been pretty tough for a lot of people, though.

SAMBOLIN: They could find a little enjoyment.

And here's a stunning photo of the rainmaker from space, folks. Take a look, Debby blanketing Florida and reaching into other parts of the Southeast. This is a NASA image and it was captured when Debby was still a tropical storm.

BANFIELD: I always love seeing those images. But at the same time, hate seeing the images because it really shows the severity of this.

Rob Marciano is standing by live in the weather center.

So, you know, as we watch this model, this slow-moving hulk of a storm, we had no idea that we were going to have even more than two feet of rain in some areas. But that's the real story. Some people are getting even more than what was a record expectation.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, this thing just crawled along. And what we've seen over history is the slow-moving tropical storms, not necessarily the hurricanes, those are the ones that dump the most amount of rain, especially along the Gulf Coast. We saw it in Texas with Alison and we saw it here with Debbie.

We certainly saw it with tropical storm Lee across parts of eastern Pennsylvania in the Northeast last year. So, that's really the kiss of death, a slow-moving tropical storm that stays near its moisture source and that's what we saw with Debby.

Finally, though, it's beginning to make its way off the coastline of the eastern peninsula of Florida. The northern parts of Florida now for the most part drive, but there's some extreme from Daytona Beach back to Tampa. Tampa also got hit very hard with this in the way of heavy rain, wind, waves and even some severe weather.

So, here's the track of Debby, that may very well, strengthen as it gets to the open Atlantic. But it's not going to be a threat to the Carolinas or the Northeast. And again, the fourth -- it's the fourth tropical storm or fourth named storm of the season. That's the earliest that we've seen that happened. So, a remarkable season already.

Here are some of the rainfall estimates. Yes, actually some of these areas and George reported on this in the past couple of days, over 20 inches of rainfall in a short period of time.

So, we're glad to see Debby go bye-bye. It's really be another half a day, guys, before we start to see things really dry and those rivers are going to be slow to recede. So, (INAUDIBLE) over the folks in Florida.

And what's also important to note, this is an area that was an extreme drought last year.

BANFIELD: We were talking about that a while ago.

SAMBOLIN: Parts of Florida were burning up.


MARCIANO: The difference from last year is definitely here.

BANFIELD: So, it would be nice if they would get a little even keel when it comes to that because neither of those weather patterns is helpful.

Rob, stand by, because we do have a lot more we want to talk to you about. We're also getting a lot of new video and details on the storm. So, we're going to have continuing coverage live throughout the program here on EARLY START. With the radar, you can see just where this storm is going and just how badly it hammered Florida and the panhandle in particular.

SAMBOLIN: Well, this is why we want Rob to stand by. A wildfire not roaring unchecked through some of Colorado's most popular tourist spots right before the holiday weekend. And it's threatening even more homes.

The fire in Colorado Springs has now spread to 6,200 acres and it's only 5 percent contained. Sixty-five-mile-per-hour winds blew it right past one containment line. Thirty-two thousand people are now on the run. And the Air Force Academy has moved residence out of housing areas there as well.

The largest of the fire in the state, the Hyde Park Fire, burning since June 9th now. It has destroyed 257 homes.

So, let's go back to meteorologist Rob Marciano.

Rob, how are these fires doing right now?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not well as can you see from those pictures.

Unbelievable stuff, the one just the west of Fort Collins, that actually looked like we were going to get some containment. We have 50 percent at one point and then they fell back with the winds over the weekend, and the one burning just west of Colorado Springs.

This is the second big fire that they've had this year. And westerly winds actually kind of pushing it closer to more populated areas with this system. Fire threats remain high across parts of the west (AUDIO BREAK) monsoons start to kick in.

But typically, the intermountain west, they normally do more harm than good as far as taking up more winds and maybe even more lightning.

The other thing with in is that we have seen record breaking high temperatures across Denver in the front range for four days in a row now. Today will probably be the fifth. Some of that health will be pushing off to the east, but the heat certainly not helping firefighting efforts there in Colorado.

The snow pack has been the biggest hurt for them. Very, very low snowpack from this past winter and that has fields already dried out. So, we're just kind of beginning this fire season unfortunately.

SAMBOLIN: OK. You mentioned a big concern, and that's the firefighters in that area as well. We'll continue to check in with you, Rob. Thanks you.

BANFIELD: Eight minutes now past 5:00 in the morning on the East Coast.

And some politics. Two veteran lawmakers thought to be on the ropes fighting for their political lives survive. Political survivors, both winning tough primaries over night. Six-term Senator Orrin Hatch won his Republican primary battle in Utah. He defeated former state senator Dan Liljenquist, who is back by the Tea Party and received an endorsement from then-GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

SAMBOLIN: And other one, New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, a member of the House for 42 years, won his Democratic primary race. Rangel was facing voters for the first time since being censured by fellow House members for ethics violations, quite a number of them. He is running for a 22nd term in Congress.

BANFIELD: Writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron has died after a battle with leukemia. She scored three Oscar nominations for screenwriting. One from the dramatic film "Silkwood," and two for here romantic comedies, "Sleepless in Seattle," and "When Harry Met Sally." And you might best remember, one of those classic scenes in "When Harry Met Sally" when Meg Ryan is, how do you put this, faking it?


MEG RYAN: Yes, yes, yes! Oh, oh, oh, oh, God. Oh.


BANFIELD: Billy Crystal putting in a statement saying this, "I am very sad to learn of Nora's passing. She was a brilliant writer and humorist. Being her Harry to Meg's Sally will always have a special place in my heart. I was very lucky to get to say her words."

Nora Ephron was just 71 years old.

SAMBOLIN: Such a loss.

Ten minutes past the hour here. And just minutes from Queen Elizabeth will shake the hand of former IRA commander Mark McGuinness. The gesture is symbolic and it's very personal. The queen's cousin was killed in an Irish republican army attack. The IRA finally ended its bitter war with Great Britain in 1998. We will have a live report on the history making handshake in our next hour.

BANFIELD: An unexpected fireworks show stopping traffic -- literally stopping traffic in Chester, West Virginia. This after police say an illegal fireworks stand caught fire in the parking lot of a bar.

Police say it was an extension cord that was strung up to run some lights out to at that illegal stand and that might have been the problem. That might have sparked this train reaction. The fireworks shot through the window of the bar, too. But luckily, nobody was hurt. And the owner is expected to be charged -- tricky but dangerous.

SAMBOLIN: In the meantime a free show, right?

And a live look at the Olympic rings being lowered from the Tower Bridge in London to commemorate the 30-day countdown, folks, until the Summer Olympics. The huge rings are 82 feet wide and stand 36 feet tall. We'll take you live to London later this hour as the city ramps up for the July 27th kickoff to the Olympics.

BANFIELD: Here's one of those head scratchers and a story that's going to have a lot of people talking. A lot of anger at a Florida check point, not for the usual thing. This little container held something very special and a TSA agent spilled what was inside -- the ashes of the person's relative. Two sides to this story. Find out what the TSA has to say about this and what the passenger says, too.


BANFIELD: Fifteen minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. We've got brand new details on the Trayvon Martin case this morning. Some newly released documents and they revealed that George Zimmerman passed a lie detector test the day after he shot and killed that young man. The video shows the officer asking Zimmerman if he feared for his life.


POLICE OFFICER: Is this the month of February?


POLICE OFFICER: Were you in fear for your life when you shot the guy?



BANFIELD: A new report is also revealing Zimmerman had, quote, "at least two opportunities," end quote, to diffuse the situation, but never identified himself as a neighborhood watch leader or explain to the teenager why he was following him.

SAMBOLIN: Fifteen minutes after the hour.

Let's get you up to date. Here's Christine Romans with this morning's top stories.

Good morning.


Debby expected to continue to flood Florida over the next 24 hours, even though it's now been downgraded to a tropical depression. Many evacuees now coming back to homes that are a total loss this morning.

They're going to day camp in D.C. the day after two of their fellow campers, 7 and 8 years old, were caught in the crossfire on their way to lunch. Police say a man opened fire on another man, shooting as many as 11 bullets when he ran towards a group of 30 children. A camp counselor was also wounded as he rushed the other children to safety. All are expected to recover.

A California couple in the process of adopting four children from Ghana have been given the all clear to leave the country this morning after they were thrown in jail, accused of child trafficking. The couple, their two biological children and four adopted siblings were stopped at the airport.

The government said it received a phone call from an anonymous tipster. The family is now allowed to leave once visas for their newly adopted children are approved.

In Alabama, a drag queen talking police on a drag race of sort. Police chased the suspect with 20 miles along the way near Birmingham, before they were finally able to push him off the road. They booked the cross-dressing driver for looting, resisting arrest and a prior DUI.

What's trending now? Apparently not Facebook. According to a recent report from analyst firm ComScore, the social networking site has seen a 4.8 percent drop in the visitors in the U.S. over the six- month period. But analysts say Facebook is growing in countries like Mexico, (INAUDIBLE), and India, each of which picked up about 2 million users from May to June.

Finally, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Snoop Dogg in a stand together at UCLA football team? Maybe.

Snoop Dogg's son was just offered a football scholarship by the Bruins. Diddy's son accepted a full athletic scholarship to play with the Bruins this fall. We'll have to wait until 2015 to see if they take the field together. Snoop Dogg's son is a sophomore.

SAMBOLIN: Apparently they're not singing sensations, huh?

ROMANS: Going to college.

BANFIELD: It happens. My mom's in real estate.

All right. It's 17 minutes now past 5:00 and we're getting an early read on some local news making national headlines this morning.

How about this one? A guy who warned a TSA employee at the Orlando airport that he was carrying his father's ashes in that jar on your screen. John Gross says no matter what, though, the agent opened the jar after it went through the x-ray inspection and spilled some of the remains on the floor and then Mr. Gross reports that the agent started laughing.

The TSA has a different version of the story, telling that its initial review conflicts with the reported story and that policy forbids agents from opening human remains.

SAMBOLIN: A former teacher in Kentucky will now have too register as a sex offender after admitting to a relationship with her 17-year-old student. Thirty-four-year-old Andrea Connors has pleaded guilty to first degree sexual abuse. She's facing a sentence of up to five years in prison.

"The Cincinnati Inquirer" points out even though the age of consent in Kentucky is 16 ,state law makes it a felony for teachers to have sex with students under the age of 18.

BANFIELD: That is interesting, because it is different state to state. And you'll see those stories play out differently.

Hey, come rain or shine or fire, a mailman going beyond beyond and rescuing two children from a burning home in Houston. He was actually filling in on someone else's route, a co-worker, and he saw smoke billowing from one of the homes, on the roof. He went, knocked on the door, two kids came to the door and he got those kids.

Apparently, the kids didn't know the house on fire. You also made sure that nobody else was inside, and if you take a look at the picture, you can see that the damage was pretty extensive. The house was destroyed by those flames.

SAMBOLIN: Very lucky.

BANFIELD: There should be an award for that guy. Perhaps it's in the mail.

SAMBOLIN: And for an expanded look at our top stories, head to our blog,

BANFIELD: Senate leaders say that they've struck a deal on student loan rates. So, listen up, coming up, is this going to save you money? Because there's 7 million American college students are waiting with baited breath on this one. I've got a hint, one more hurdle.


SAMBOLIN: Minding your business, U.S. stock futures down this morning, concerns about Europe creeping in one against.

BANFIELD: Markets did close higher across the board yesterday. Dow gaining a quarter of a percent, NASDAQ and S&P up about half a percent a piece.

Christine Romans is here now to talk about a deadline coming up for student loan interesting rate.

And there's a recent poll that's out that shows student loans are impacting the lives of about half of Americans who have student loans.

ROMANS: Look, student loans are the topic du jour because you need to go to college to get a good job, a lot of kids need to take loans to go to college.

So, you're coming out of school, you have to be a private money manager before you even get a job. Look, the student loan story of the morning is we're getting very close to this deadline on Sunday, a deadline where new student loans -- federally subsidized student loans, the rates will double to 6.8 percent. That's going to add about $1,00 to the cost of the loan. This would affect 7.4 million students.

It's really important here. If you currently have federally subsidized student loans, it would not affect you. It's 7 million new loans, right? So, your interest rates would stay at 3.4 percent. The Senate, Democrats and GOP have agreed, look, they don't want to student loan interest rate to rise. They have a deal now. The question is will the House GOP, will they be on board?

The fight is how to pay for it. It costs $6 billion, where are you going to pay for it to give money to college students? To subsidize a very low interest rate for college students, the money is going to come from someplace else? Where is it going to come from? Is it going to come from preventive care? Is it going to come from Seniors? Is it going to come so that's the fight was always been about.

SAMBOLIN: Or tax increase.

ROMANS: More tax increases. Nothing that anybody likes.

How student loan debt affects borrowers? I mean, it's clear. Forty-eight percent say it's harder to pay their bills. Harder to buy a home, .25 percent say it's harder to buy a home. Affects their career choices. Seven percent of kids say they delay marriage or having a family because of student loans.

Here's the flip side of that. If you don't have the college degree, it's even harder to buy a home, right? So, there are benefits and costs of getting that degree. You have to be very careful about how you weigh them.

Another thing about Congress and its action or inaction here that's really important. The fiscal cliff, you've heard me talk about this. It's this coming wave of tax increases and huge spending cuts that as it stands right now is going to hit if Congress doesn't do anything.

I want to tell you how that's going to affect jobs. It looks as though that will be a million job cuts over two years. I told you the Congressional Budget Office already said there would be a recession early next year in the fiscal cliff hit.

The Bipartisan Policy Center has estimated a million jobs to be cut over two years. Those are going to be good paying jobs cut from contractors, government, military contractors. They're all bracing, all bracing for this fiscal cliff because the easiest thing to cut quickly, if we have to cut half out of defense spending would be to really quickly just close down a bunch of government contracts with these big contractors. So, there's a lot of uncertainty.

SAMBOLIN: I know that you mentioned repeatedly. It's something that keeps you up at night. You think this is going to spiral down.

ROMANS: This keeps me up at night. This keeps me up at night because --

BANFIELD: I thought Europe did.


SAMBOLIN: At the end of the day, it's all connected.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Catching tax cheats is easy, really, when they turn themselves in. Details from the IRS coming up.

BANFIELD: Also, if you're leaving the house right now to worry, take us with you. Log on to and you can take us on your mobile phone, on your laptop, and when you get to work, how to get us up on your desktop.

Back after this.


BANFIELD: Incumbents rule the day and the night it turns out as both of these congressmen, Charlie Rangel and Senator Orrin Hatch survive tough primary challenges.

SAMBOLIN: Outside at last. This is a milestone for the Georgia woman trying to recover from flesh-eating bacteria.

BANFIELD: And some live pictures for you. Take a look at that. Tower Bridge in London as they lower the giant set of the Olympic rings this hour, and it's marking 30 days. The countdown is on to opening ceremony 2012.)

SAMBOLIN: And they say they are ready for it.

BANFIELD: I bet they are. Boy, oh, boy, they've had enough time to prepare for it. That's for sure. Nice to have you with us this morning. It's EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

Thirty-eight minutes past the hour here, and the storm that will not go away. Debby now downgraded to a tropical depression but still dumping a dangerous amount of rain over Florida. More than 25 inches has come down in some areas along the coast there, and the deluge is not over. People now are starting to go back, some by boats, to homes that are a total loss.


JO GRADDY, MADEIRA BEACH RESIDENT: The water was up this high on the doors. Everything inside the garage was floating. Everything -- there was a walkway in the center and everything was stacked up on the sides. The water came up high enough that is started to pond (ph) everything so it started to collapse down in on itself.


SAMBOLIN: You have to wonder if people in that area have flood insurance. Forecasters predict another four to eight inches could hit Northern Florida as Debby heads slowly towards the Atlantic.

We have new video just in to CNN. Homes entirely up in flames in Colorado Springs. Take a look. One official saying it looks like a military invasion. The fire in Colorado Springs has now spread to 6,200 acres. It is only five percent contained. Sixty-five-mile-per- hour winds blew it right past one containment line. 32,000 people are now on the run.

BANFIELD: Despite ethics violations and scandal and illness, et cetera, long time New York Democratic congressman, Charlie Rangel is a winner. He won the primary last night, the Democratic primary, and he is going to now try to earn, are you ready, his 22nd term in Congress. You do the math. That's 44 years he'd like to be serving in that role.

He survived four challengers to get on the ticket, and one of those challengers was on our program yesterday. Those challengers definitely sensing the congressman's vulnerability. Not one of them, though, able to capitalize on it.

And joining us now is CNNs political editor, Paul Steinhauser. And may I just add that in these wonderful summer months, you have come in to do this little interview on your vacation. Is that really true?


BANFIELD: You are awesome! All right. Let's start with this great story. I mean, I love these stories because it was such a nail biter for these two men, and they are so famous. I asked one of those challengers yesterday if he figured he was going to lose to the sympathy vote, people who just walk in and actually vote for the guy, they kind of feel bad, because -- you know, he's been there for almost their entire lifetime.

STEINHAUSER: Yes. And this was his (INAUDIBLE), you know? This is his first time facing voters since he got censured by the House in December 2010 after his last election victory. You know, for those ethics violations, for failing to pay taxes on some rental units and some other things. And the district has also changed a lot because of redistricting, and less African-American voters and more Latino voters.

But, four challengers, as you said, he overcame it. And Charlie Rangel most likely going back to Congress for a 22nd term. Orrin Hatch out in Utah, not as close a contest. He won by a 2-to-1 margin over his opponent. Orrin Hatch faced a Tea Party challenge from Dan Liljenquist, the former state senator there.

He had been accused of being not conservative enough, but he really kind of showed his stripes over the last years to prove that he was conservative enough for Utah, and he is not going to suffer the fate that Senator Lugar of Indiana did losing his primary contest back in Mays.

BANFIELD: I may be -- a couple of contest, but I felt like at one point, Orrin Hatch, was really on the ropes, like he was really struggling in the polls.

STEINHAUSER: It was his first primary challenge since 1976 when he first ran for the Senate. So, the fact that it even just got to a primary challenge -- yes, pretty was a challenge.

BANFIELD: OK. So, let's switch gears a little bit, still politics, but this time, politics and health care. Tomorrow, we're expecting such a big decision, you know, a historic decision, from the Supreme Court. What's come to be known on both sides of the argument as Obamacare.

And both of the main contenders for the office of president were out on the campaign stump yesterday talking about what they think they know the American people want when it comes to Obamacare. Let's listen to both the president and Mitt Romney.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people understand that we're not going to make progress by going backwards. We need to go forwards. They understand we don't need to refight this battle over healthcare. It's the right thing to do that we got three million young people who are on their parents health insurance plan that didn't have it before. It's the right thing to do to give seniors discounts on their prescription drugs. It's the right thing to do to give 30 million Americans health insurance that didn't have it before.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As you know, the Supreme Court is going to be dealing with whether or not Obamacare is constitutional. If it's not, if Obamacare is not deemed constitutional, then, the first three and a half years of this president's term would have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people.


ROMNEY: If it is deemed to stand, then I'll tell you one thing, we're going to have to have a president and I'm that one that's going to get rid of Obamacare. We're going to stop it on day one.



BANFIELD: You know, Paul, a lot of people are saying that whatever the Supreme Court decides to do tomorrow, it could actually be the mirror of what might happen in November. Is that a reach?

STEINHAUSER: Maybe a little bit of a reach. This election is still about the economy, but healthcare is an important topic, especially for Republicans. And I think what you heard from both President Obama and Mitt Romney just now is like a little appetizer, a little taste of what you'll hear on Thursday when the Supreme Court rules.

And some Democratic strategists that I speak to say that even if the Supreme Court strikes down the law or just the individual mandate, which is the key to the law, what would be a legal defeat for the president may end up being an electoral bonus, because it could kind of take the wind out of the sail of the Republicans. They've been talking about repealing Obamacare for so long.

If the Supreme Court actually strikes it down, they don't have a rallying point anymore, and it could motivate Democratic voters who would be very upset about losing healthcare. So, in the end, a defeat legally for the president may help him when it comes to his re- election.

BANFIELD: Paul Steinhauser, who is even on vacation and not at the same time. You better take an extra day for this fair, you know, trade that you gave us today. Thanks, Paul. Have a nice vacation, what's left of it.


BANFIELD: And also, John Edwards' former mistress, Rielle Hunter, stopped by "The View" yesterday and did she ever get grilled. Look at that face. Hunter openly discussing her affair with the former presidential candidate, John Edwards. She even talked about her polarizing portrayal of Elizabeth Edwards in her brand-new book.


RIELLE HUNTER, HAD AN AFFAIR WITH JOHN EDWARDS: Right now, the personas are of Elizabeth being a saint and John Edwards being a demon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry, I'll let you finish.

HUNTER: And me as home wrecker, and those aren't true personas.


BANFIELD: Well, not according to you, anyway. Hunter also revealed that she and Edwards have, big surprise, ended their relationship, about a week ago, in fact. That's kind of when the book tour started. And that watching him deny paternity of their daughter was the most devastating moment of her life.

Programming note for you, keep it right here on CNN. Rielle Hunter is going to join Piers Morgan for her first cable interview at nine o'clock eastern tonight right here on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-seven minutes past the hour. Gay pride at the Pentagon. For the first time in its history, the Pentagon marked lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender pride month in a formal ceremony. A marine captain urging his fellow gay service members to embrace the military's new openness.


CAPT. MATTHEW PHELPS, USMC: There are still relatively few of us wearing the uniform who are willing to go on record and say this is my life. I am proud of my life. And I will serve as a leader with integrity.


SAMBOLIN: That was a courageous moment. The event comes less than a year after the repeal of the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

BANFIELD: The IRS is feeling a wee bit richer this morning. That agency has raked in more than $5 billion. And get this, it's come from tax cheats and it's come to them voluntarily. All of this because of some disclosure programs that came about in 2009.

These were programs that were designed to lure tax invaders back to the government by giving them reduced penalties and then the promise of no jail time. That is incentive. But they did have to give information about their offshore bank accounts in order for that trade. SAMBOLIN: A Georgia woman taking a giant step in her recovery from a flesh-eating bacteria. Take a look. Aimee Copeland's (ph) family releasing this brand-new photo of the 24-year-old outside for the very first time since contracting the disease 49 days ago. The doctors, if you'll remember, had to amputate both hands, her left leg, and her right foot.

They have now upgraded her condition from serious to good, and she could soon leave the house -- look at the smile on her face.

Aimee's father shared her feelings in a blog post. He says, quote -- she says "I am blessed to be able to have a challenge that not many others get to have. I am blessed to have the capacity to share my experience with others and have a chance to improve the quality of someone else's life. I am blessed to be different."

That is incredible. Later on "STARTING POINT" at 7:40 Eastern, Soledad talks to Andy Copeland, Aimee's father. It's a remarkable young lady.

BANFIELD: Thirty-nine minutes now past five o'clock. Did Kenny Chesney get kicked out of a Kenny Chesney concert? That sounds weird? Take a look on your screen. If you're going based on looks, that is exactly what happened, because the country music star is on the right- hand side of your screen.

Nathan Blankenship is on the -- you know what, let's flip it around, flip it around. Look in the mirror here, folks.


BANFIELD: Nathan's on the right, Kenny is on the left. They're even wearing the same clothes except for the color of the hat. But, apparently, when security officials approached and asked Nathan for his ticket, they escorted him out of the stadium.


NATHAN BLANKENSHIP, KENNY CHESNEY LOOK-ALIKE: I thought he was just going to lead me back to my seat, but he grabs me by the arm, and we start pulling me up the (INAUDIBLE). I said because I wear the hat? I said, I've seen a million of these hats here. I think the way they handle it made it seem worse because it's like they were really escorting Kenny Chesney through the crowd.



BANFIELD: Now, Chesney's people did apologize for all of this and they refunded Nathan's ticket. They also gave him some merchandise for the forced exit. Not sure what the merchandise is, whether it's additional Kenny Chesney's look-a-like clothing.

I'm still kind of curious as to why they kicked him out in the first place? He had a ticket. Maybe he just couldn't show it. Or maybe there was too much hullabaloo going on to be able to show it. But it's no crime to impersonate a rock star or a country music star.

SAMBOLIN: Especially that well.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-one minutes past the hour. With just 30 days until the London games, special Olympic event taking place at this hour. We have a live report from London coming up. It's a beautiful live picture for you.

BANFIELD: Oh, good music choice.



SAMBOLIN: Forty-four minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. We are only 30 days away from the summer Olympics. Can you believe it? So, just moments ago, a huge pair of Olympic rings were lowered from the Tower Bridge in London to mark that 30-day countdown.

Take a look at that there. CNNs Erin McLaughlin is live in front of the Tower Bridge in London. Did you catch the moment when they were being delivered via barge?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, as Olympic organizers here say if you're going to throw the biggest party in the world, you'd better get dressed for it. And the unveiling of the Olympic rings this morning were a big part of that dressing.

Each Olympic ring is the size of a double decker bus, Zoraida, to give you a sense of the size and scope in engineering involve in dropping those rings and to suspending them from Tower Bridge. It's not the only dressing that London has planned for the games. Each of the bridges that cross the tents will all be illuminated in Olympic colors.

There's another set of giant steel Olympic rings that will float up and down the tents provided backdrop for the various Olympic events, and as you mentioned, we are 30 days out from the games and Lord Sebastian Coe who is the chairman for London 2012 this morning says that London will be ready, but they're going to need every one of those days to make it happen -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So, how are officials in London preparing for the influx of people that are coming into the city?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's expected to be some three million people on an incredibly busy Olympic theater expected to flow into London, Zoraida. It's an incredible amount of people, and one of the key questions is how will London's transportation system holds up?

And officials acknowledge that at certain times and at certain areas of the city at certain venues, that it may be problematic, that simply the supply will not meet the demand for public transportation, and they're encouraging local businesses to take necessary precautions.

That would include, perhaps, have opening up satellite offices outside of London so that their workers can avoid the city all together, also encouraging people to take vacation during the London Olympic Games. So, we'll have to see how that all plays out, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, it's tough to plan your vacation around that, though, isn't it? Erin McLaughlin live for us in London, thank you very much.

BANFIELD: It's now 47 minutes past 5:00 on the east coast. Let's get you up to date with top stories. Christine Romans has that for us. Good morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And the top story is still Debby, ladies.


ROMANS (voice-over): One of the most stubborn storms in recent memory. It's expected to continue to flood Florida over the next 24 hours even though it has been downgrades to a tropical depression. Many evacuees now coming back to homes that are a total loss.

New details this morning in a suspected hate crime shooting in a South Texas town that killed one teenager and left another fighting for her life. This happened over the weekend in Portland, just north of Corpus Christi, Texas. Both girls were shot in the head.

Police say this was not a random attack. They're processing DNA evidence. They're interviewing witnesses. Friends say these two girls were dating for about five months.

Knicks star, Amar'e Stoudemire, slapped with a $50,000 fine by the NBA for tweeting an anti-gay slur to a fan. The fan has scolded him to, quote, "make up for last season." Stoudemire responded with a direct tweet that included the slur.

He has since apologized releasing a statement saying, quote, "I'm a huge supporter of civil rights for all people. I am disappointed in myself for my statement to a fan. I should have known better. There is no excuse."

Welcome to last century. Finally, college football, at the highest level, has a playoff system. A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff that would involve all the major bowls you know and love like Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, Sugar, Fiesta two with a rotating national championship game as well.

But some critics are saying you know what, this still doesn't go far enough. So, watch the state.

Safe to say this is not how the would-be burglar drew it up. Police in Brockton, Massachusetts say when the suspect tried to break in to a rental center store (ph), he got his head wedge under the source metal door. Fifty-year-old Emanuel Fernandez (ph) was stuck there for nine hours. Still, they charge with breaking and entering and destroying property.

Now, there's an art to packing an efficient suitcase. And now, there's an app to teach you all the fundamentals. Louis Vuitton launching the art of packing to help you ditch the zit and zip. The shop full of excellent folding tops and space (ph) tutorials. You'll learn how to pack a suitcase, a rolling bag and a carry on, but I still can't afford a Louis Vuitton bag.


ROMANS: I can only afford the app.


SAMBOLIN: You can put any bag. You can put any bag. I thought it was really great. I watched it this morning, and it gave some really good tips.

BANFIELD: I was thinking a better app would be how to get to a stage in life where you can afford a Louis Vuitton.


SAMBOLIN: Any bag, ladies. Any bag. It doesn't have to be a Louis Vuitton bag. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS (on-camera): You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: In one of the more ridiculous stories of the day. The NBA's number one pick is worried about someone stealing his unibrow. Seriously?


SAMBOLIN: We'll explain this straight ahead.

BANFIELD: And another great song choice this thing you out, too, as well. By the way, if you just can't leave us, especially during the song, you can take us along in your mobile phone, your desktop at work, you can have us there. Take a laptop, too. Just go to CNN is everywhere.


SAMBOLIN: Well, it's time to take a look at what's trending on the web. And bow to the brow. Anthony Davis, a guest on "Starting Point" two days ago, known for leading Kentucky to a national title this year and for his unibrow. He's expected to be the number one pick in tomorrow night's NBA draft.

And his first order in business as a pro, he has trademarked his unibrow, folks. He now owns the right to the phrases "fear the brow" and "raise the brow." Merchants made a fortune off his very unique last year during the Wildcats NCAA (ph). Smart dude there.

BANFIELD: But not bow to the brow. Didn't trademark that one. That's why we're using it.

Hey, Oreo. You know the cookie, Oreo, is taking a stand on an issue that is not so black and white. The Kraft Foods brand generated tens of thousands of complements when it posted a Facebook picture like this. Take a look. A rainbow multi-layered version of the beloved Oreo cookie.

And it said, well, aside from June 25th pride, it also said "support love." The post has more than 207 likes from Oreo's 26 million fans, but there were critics as well, critics actually who were kind of nasty and vulgar. And we can't even tell you some of the things that the nasty vulgar critics said.

But we can tell you this, one of the supporters wrote "yum," a whole lot of U's that I can taste the rainbow, and it tastes fabulous.

SAMBOLIN: A hole in one (ph) where the hole is moving at over 120 miles per hour. Formula One racing legend, David Coulthard. I'm not sure (INAUDIBLE) you know him?

BANFIELD: Coulthard.

SAMBOLIN: Coulthard. And pro-golfer, Jake Shepard, teaming up to set a world record, you will not believe, the farthest golf shot caught in a moving car.



BANFIELD: It's good that he's wearing a helmet.


BANFIELD: Oh, my gosh! That is insane! That is insane! Holy cow! I think that was done strictly through math. It had to be through math. Here it goes again. If you have to really squint. Look at this. Again, good thing he's wearing a helmet.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow! All right. So, the ball was traveling at 178 miles per hour. It landed in the Mercedes-Benz SLS roadster 300 yards away. The stunt was verified by Guinness World Records.

BANFIELD: And I think it was sponsored by Mercedes. I don't know. I'm just saying. That's a very cool story and a very cool moment to be a part of. I wouldn't have looked up, though. Heck no.


BANFIELD: All right. Obama and Romney, it is just truly the stuff that late night is made of. Take a look.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": No. Everyone is speculating now about Mitt Romney's running mate. Who's he going to pick? That's what they're wondering. And the latest rumor today is that Mitt Romney's running mate will be a White male from Ohio. It's true. Or as Romney refers to him, a person of color.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL": The final state primary election of the season happened quietly in Utah today. It was meaningless because both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have clinched their respective party nominations, but it's still fun to go and get a sticker at the booth and do all the stuff, right? Now, the primaries are over, but the real contest begins on November 6th, which ever candidate has raised the most money will be declared president of the United States --


KIMMEL: But the Supreme Court decide it, right?

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": In Boston, President Obama was booed when he made a joke about the Red Sox. He was booed. People of Boston haven't booed like that since Romney was governor.



BANFIELD: Oh, it's just the beginning, though, folks. Gear up, because we have four more months of this.

SAMBOLIN: And as far as fireworks go, they were spectacular. Take a look. The only problem is, it's -- the story behind the amazing video coming up.