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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Sweating Out July 4th; Missile Launchers Protecting Summer Games; No AC, Spoiled Food In Heat Spell

Aired July 4, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: More than a million people in 12 states without power six days and counting. It's getting so bad one state along the East Coast is even running out of food and water.

ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: Wow.

Plus great white sharks spotted off Cape Cod. Fear of attack has forced a swimming ban on this busy holiday.

BANFIELD: And new this morning, a discovery for the ages. Scientists reveal they have found what could be the key to figuring out how the entire universe began.

VELSHI: That is a good subject we're going to be talking about this morning.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ali Velshi. Zoraida Sambolin is off today.

BANFIELD: Happy Fourth. Nice to have you here.

VELSHI: Great to have you here. I know you're normally here. But it's fun to be with you.

BANFIELD: I like these hours.

VELSHI: Ahead of the game, I've already eaten one hot dog this morning.

BANFIELD: I love that, Ali Velshi. Hot dogs and coleslaw potatoes for breakfast.

I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Five o'clock in the East, 5:01 now actually.

Let's get you started off this way. Yes, it is the holiday but this Fourth of July seems to be less about celebration and more about patience for a lot of Americans. And in some cases, believe it or not, even survival, because for six days now, there have been many of your fellow countrymen who have no power in this extraordinary heat wave.

At least 20 people have now died since Thursday when deadly storms slammed the East, slammed the Midwest, and about 1.2 million people are still waiting to get their power back, to get a fan on, to get the A.C. back. This is right across the country.

Here are the states without power today. Power companies say they are repairing damaged transmitters and lines, they're doing it faster than they expected they say. But their estimates still say customers could be waiting until the weekend. Still until the weekend until they can get that electricity back.

And all of this, while those unbearable temperatures just keep are searing this country. Now, 14 states -- 14 -- are under a heat advisory for today.

Brian Todd is in Charleston, West Virginia -- where the temperature is expected to be about 95, I think, Brian, today. Lack of power, this awful heat wave.

And now, West Virginians are struggling with what I think a lot of people in this country would not have realized, Brian, they are having trouble with food and water.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ashleigh.

I mean, you talk about the ripple of crises that have stemmed from these storms on Friday. You have the storms and the power outages and that just create problems down the line. And right now, today, as you mentioned, the food crisis in West Virginia.

We talked to the governor's office not too long ago. They have too main food pantries that basically give non-perishable food items to people in times of crisis. Those pantries are pretty much empty right now and they are starting a food drive this morning here in West Virginia.

Water is also a problem in many area where the water pumps are not being powered properly. The water pressure is very, very low. Sometimes water is out completely. So, National Guard troops are moving around trying to make sure people have enough water and giving them water and trying to steer them to places where they can get it.

So, that's a huge problem this morning.

I spoke with John Manchester. He is the mayor of nearby Lewisburg, West Virginia. It's a small town, but it's in a fairly big county, Greenbrier County, West Virginia. And he mayor talked about not only trying to get food but distributing it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR JOHN MANCHESTER, LEWISBURG, WEST VIRGINIA: We're trying to get a list of whoever can get out to be able to distribute it into the area. We've got all our city staff working on it. We've got our National Guard, fire department, volunteers -- we got a lot of people are pitching in, but it's a big county. And within the city it's one level, but you have people way spread out in this county. It's big county.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: So a food drive is starting in West Virginia this morning, and those logistical challenges of getting it to people in far-flung areas.

But in the meantime, we got power crews dealing with situations like this where in Charleston here, and look at this oak tree that just came down on top of this power line here. This is what officials here are going through. Power companies are trying to deal with this.

Look, this oak tree basically snapped in half in the storm and came down right on this power line. Of course, you've got this cascading effect. It takes down the power line, disables this pole up here, and there's a domino effect where this pole disables others down the line, and it's a real mess.

Power company officials are saying that, you know, in places like this, these down trees are really their obstacle -- the number one obstacle they are facing. They have to deal with the downed trees. Removing this thing is going to take hours and then you've got to deal with getting the transformers and the circuits back up, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And, of course, the water plants in this state also need power to run. So that's a shortage. They are telling everybody, I heard, that they've got to boil their water.

So at this point I can only assume there's a heap of criticism being leveled at the power companies for perhaps not being quick enough. Has there been a response about this?

TODD: Yes. We've been talking to power company officials in multiple states for the past four days. The same refrain all over the place, they are just not moving fast enough. They are saying, look, in places like this, when you are dealing with situations like this line behind me, they have to basically rebuild entire pieces of infrastructure in five to seven days that took decades to build.

So they are asking for people to be patient. They are moving as fast they can, working around the clock. A lot of these crews are working 16-hour days. So, they are just saying, look, you got to be a little bit patient with us here -- but they are moving as quickly as they can.

You can see what they are up against here, just the physical nature having to remove things like this. This scene is repeating over and over in the states.

BANFIELD: All right. Brian Todd, stay with us, if you will. I'm sure, things change by the hour. So, we'll check in with you a little bit later on.

Brian Todd reporting live in West Virginia.

And also this morning we are asking leaders from right across the region, how are you going to fix this thing? When is the power coming back for people?

First, the mayor of Lewisburg, West Virginia. You heard Brian mentioned him in his report, John Manchester, is going to join us live at 6:30 Eastern Time.

VELSHI: More now on the heat wave and when we expect some relief.

Alexandra Steele is in for Rob Marciano.

Good morning, Alexandra. Just what a horrible combination. Folks are without power and yet another hot few days forecast in some of these states.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, absolutely. Places like Minneapolis, the heat index or what it will feel like, Ali, 112 degrees there.

So, one thing you'll notice waking up on the East Coast, maybe going out to get your paper, there's a lot more moisture in the air. The dew point number, the moisture is higher than it's been. So, temperatures for some along the Eastern Seaboard may be won't be quite as hot, but the uncomfortable value will be higher than it's been.

I just want to show you, we are seeing a few rain showers moving through Boston and New York. Later this afternoon, through Washington, D.C.

But, of course, today is the Fourth of July. So, will the fireworks will a go or no, right? I mean, there are about seven state that are not going to be do fireworks because of wildfire concerns, because of the drought, including Missouri and Illinois in selected spots.

But in Boston, New York City, 86 degrees. Some isolated showers throughout the afternoon, but kind of the off chance you'll see one during fireworks time.

Eighty-six in Atlanta at 9:00. That's sunset. Memphis, 92. New Orleans, we'll some scattered rain showers.

The Upper Midwest, Minneapolis, it will be steamy at 93. Chicago, K.C. and also the Pacific Northwest, beautiful firework condition there is as well.

But we're going to talk about the heat and who will set records today. Once again an area of the country will be, Ali, well above average.

VELSHI: All right. Very well. I'm headed to New Hampshire later on. Can you give me a little bit of a forecast?

STEELE: New Hampshire is the best place to be. Northern New England and that's it.

VELSHI: Not hot, not rainy, it's going to be fantastic. Alexandra, we'll catch up with you later. Thanks so much.

BANFIELD: Seven minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast and security is set to be tight at Fourth of July events in Washington, D.C. and New York later on today.

Even the law enforcement officials have said they don't have any evidence that terrorists are plotting any kind of particular attack, but according to the police, one of the primary security concerns on this Independence Day is the ever-present possibility of an attack by a lone wolf.

VELSHI: New incredible heartbreaking video of an entire neighborhood going up in flames in Colorado Springs. Sparks and flames jumping from one roof to the next. Firefighters forced to make tough decisions about which homes to save and which homes to let burn with high winds keeping them on their toes. The Waldo Canyon fire is now 70 percent contained but it's destroyed more than 350 homes and the damage estimates are topping $110 million.

BANFIELD: This morning researchers in Geneva, Switzerland, are saying that they believe they have found the "God particle." You have probably heard that name before. It's a nickname and it's given to the subatomic particle to give every other particle in the universe its mass. You may have heard of this, the Higgs boson, which was first theorized nearly 50 years ago as the sort of missing link in the standard model of physics.

Researchers have been working extraordinarily hard. They have been smashing protons together to gather their evidence.

Yes, OK. So, you better be really awake to have understood that last story. It is tricky, I get it. Physics isn't everyone's strong suit, but don't worry about it.

And if you didn't understand, stick around because the guy who makes sense of all things science, Bill Nye the Science Guy, is going to join us on EARLY START at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. He's going to talk with Ali and they'll explain why this really is a big ole deal.

VELSHI: Yes, stay with us on this. It really is actually kind of interesting. And he will make it very accessible to you.

BANFIELD: And you're going to work this one. It's tricky.

VELSHI: Yes. I'm actually kind of into it, but it is definitely hard to explain. Please don't go anywhere. We will -- we will make this make sense to you.

BANFIELD: It's truly for the over-nerd among us.

VELSHI: That's why I got invited in.

All right. I have seen a movie like this, officials in one area of Cape Cod known for its seals have banned swimming on July 4th. Not because seals are a problem, because of great white sharks. Two sharks were spotted last week north of Chatham, Massachusetts, harbor inlet. Not too far from some popular swimming areas. Officials say one was 16 feet long and 2,000 pounds. It was hunting seals just 50 yards offshore. They like to keep them hunting seals and not people.

BANFIELD: Oh, that is not fair on a holiday weekend, telling the kids no swimming. Especially with the heat. Can you imagine?

VELSHI: Yes. But that shark, that picture will do it for me.

BANFIELD: I know. I don't need much more than that. I just need to hear the music. That's all I need.

London leaving nothing to chance when it comes to Olympic security. And guess what that means? These building may look unassuming. But there are missile launchers on the top of them, and some are just little old apartment buildings where little ole Londoners live.

How do you think they feel about that?

VELSHI: I feel really safe if I have missile launchers on top of my building.

BANFIELD: And some of them don't feel quite so happy about it. We'll explain the pros and cons on how they feel about it in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: When Summer Olympics get underway in London later this month, Britain's defense department confirms there will be missile launchers positioned at six locations around London to protect the games from terrorists. Two of those surface-to-air missile sites will be located on top of residential apartment buildings despite protests from the residents.

Nic Robertson is live in London for us this morning.

Nic, we knew this was happening. It's happened at Olympics in the past, and we knew there were going to be these high-speed missile launchers. What's the development now? We know where they are and the people -- where they're going to be -- and the people are not interested in having them atop their buildings?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the government has said that they'll fight the action in court if necessary. And the ministry of defense says that they are confident that they will win their case. So, the government is absolutely pushing ahead.

I think it surprised some of those residents two months ago when they found out about these missile launching systems. They got a leaflet through the door was the first idea they have at that these systems could be put in place. And that really put some people backs off (ph).

Some of these apartment complexes where the missile systems are going are gentrified areas so people there didn't know they would be hosting missile defense systems. These systems are designed to take down small, low-flying aircraft that got a range of about three to three-and-a-half miles. And when you look at them on the map, they are sort of ringing the Olympic site.

So, from the government's perspective, it is unfortunate, but they are not going to back down and keep the systems up there -- Ali.

VELSHI: Pretty ominous-looking. We're taking a look at some of them on our screen.

Nic, British officials are on alert for Olympic terror threat. Are there any credible threats they have come across or are they just being safe?

ROBERSTON: Being really safe. I mean, there's no specific threat. But it's absolutely known in the intelligence circles here in the U.K. that al Qaeda would love to attack the Olympics, even a failed attack would be good for them. And you have the sort of Irish terrorists. They are getting more sophisticated, the weapons systems they are using.

And we've seen in the past few weeks the government here round up two terror suspects in East London, close to where the Olympics are. They rounded up two Spanish terror suspects in the other side of London.

You have in the past 18 months, 50 to 80 full terror convicts released from jail. And the police are going to extraordinary measures right now to make sure some of those are still not on the streets. Some of them still believe to carry a security threat. We are aware in some cases some are even being taken back into prison while the Olympics are on. And there are other schemes to get them off the streets of London.

So there's a multitude of defense systems here, military but as well as on the intelligence side, Ali.

VELSHI: All right. Nic, thanks very much. We'll continue to cover this. Nic Roberts for us in London.

BANFIELD: It's now 16 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. A good time to get you up-to-date on the top stories of the day and really the top story is sweating it out on July Fourth.

More than a million people are waking up without air- conditioning this morning. And these are the temperatures we really need it most. Those temps are expected to be in the mid to high 90s and higher, stifling humidity all the way from St. Louis to Philadelphia. At least 20 people have died since Thursday. That's when the deadly storms ripped through the East and the Midwest.

VELSHI: Well, it is home alone times 19 in Kentucky. Sheriff's deputies in Warren County found 19 kids living alone for a week in hot, filthy conditions. The oldest child was 14 years old. The youngest: just 8 months old.

The sheriff is waiting to speak with the children's parents.

BANFIELD: The actor best known as the sheriff of Mayberry was laid to rest at his home in North Carolina less than five hours after he died. Andy Griffith was 86 years old when he passed away at his home yesterday morning. He was lowered into his grave at his coastal island home at the request of his family.

VELSHI: We'll miss him.

BANFIELD: Will we ever.

VELSHI: A former Marine with more than 20 years of service faces up to 10 years in prison for having an AK-47 machine gun that may have once belonged to a member of Saddam Hussein's guard. Federal prosecutors say former Staff Sergeant Joel Miller (ph) smuggled the rifle back from Iraq after a 14-month tour in 2005. He was discharged back in December.

BANFIELD: Some incredible video of a high-flying dog rescue. Look at the picture. That's a 2-year-old pit bull mix, Daisy. She was spotted on a cliff in a quarry in Oregon.

Look at this.

VELSHI: Wow.

BANFIELD: I can't believe how she got there, but it was 200 feet to the ground. So the firefighters thought they would lower a cage down and hope Daisy would just walk in. No, Daisy has no part of that. So one firefighter repelled down the ledge plucking Daisy off the cliff. She was reunited with her owners.

But, still, nobody has any idea how on Earth that puppy dog got onto that ledge and survived it if she fell. That's a heck of a long way.

VELSHI: She looks happy now.

All right. It is what time is it? It's 19 minutes after the hour. I have to look in the right place.

BANFIELD: It's a.m., by the way, not p.m.

VELSHI: Yes, the whole thing is very confusing to me.

Nineteen minutes after the hour. We are getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines.

This morning, we've got papers from Los Angeles, Hartford, Connecticut, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

From "The Los Angeles Times," the district attorney is deciding former U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson will not face charges for two automobile collisions in succession last month. Bryson resigned last month. He'd been on medical leave after the two accidents. His office claims they were caused by seizures.

BANFIELD: And then from the "Hartford Courier" in Connecticut. Campus police say that a gay student at the Central Connecticut State University has been caught doing something naughty. She claims she was being harassed because of her sexual orientation. It turns out she was making the whole thing up instead.

Police began investigating complaints by 19-year-old Alexander Pennell (ph) back in March when she insisted that someone was writing anti-gay slurs on her door -- threats, in fact. Then she said someone was leaving homophobic notes in her dorm room.

So, officers decided to set up surveillance and then they say they eventually caught the person at least putting one of notes under her door. And it was her doing it herself.

They say Pennell admitted that she was just trying to get the attention of her roommate.

VELSHI: That's a complicated way of going about things.

BANFIELD: That is, indeed. Kind of illegal, too.

VELSHI: Yes.

From "The News Observer" in Raleigh, North Carolina, where fracking has just been legalized accidentally. On Monday night, Charlotte Democrat Becky Carney thought she casts the deciding vote to override the governor's bill calling for accelerated natural gas exploration. That's what fracking is.

But she pushed the wrong button hitting the green aye button instead of the red no button on her desk. The system is built so that it doesn't let you revote, and Republicans are now blocking her efforts to reverse her mistake. That seems to be democracy a little bit broken. If she accidentally pushed the wrong button, she should be able to change that.

BANFIELD: That's just crazy.

VELSHI: Right, democracy is a little broken.

BANFIELD: (INAUDIBLE) many times to push on button -- she can push whatever button she wants to.

VELSHI: Particularly this morning, I came very early, and I got to the elevator.

BANFIELD: Where is Ashleigh, anyway?

For an expanded look at the top stories, just head to our blog at CNN.com/EarlyStart. Lots of stuff for you. Make sure you check it out.

VELSHI: We'll get them next year. That's more than a rallying cry for a losing team. It's also how a lot of Americans feel about the economy. We'll explain coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Twenty-four minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Happy Fourth.

We are minding your business this morning. The U.S. markets are, of course, closed because it's the holiday, but we can tell you this. With all that fabulous banner behind them, the markets closed higher across the board yesterday. The Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 all gaining more than half a percent during a shortened trading day.

VELSHI: Did you notice I'm wearing my Fourth of July American --

BANFIELD: I did. You know, given when we introduced Poppy on the free shot, we are both in blue. One of us is in red. One of us should have worn red.

VELSHI: Thanks for matching.

BANFIELD: I know.

VELSHI: Hello, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys.

Interesting news this morning, I want to tell you about a new CNN poll we just got in. It's a big shocker here. The question was: how are economic conditions today? Twenty-seven percent saying they are good, 73 percent saying they are poor. We all know this and feel this every day.

Interesting, though, the IMF, International Monetary Fund, just put out a new warning to the United States because of that looming fiscal cliff you have heard so much about. They're saying that the U.S. economy could slow our growth to 1 percent next year. So, not a big surprise, but not good news.

BANFIELD: So, I was watching yesterday all of the financial networks and news networks talking about this huge calamity at Barclays, the CEO -- three of the top executives out the door, but the CEO of Barclays is now going to have to answer the tough questions today.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Bob Diamond, and he's actually an American who runs Barclays. I have interviewed him a number of times. Ali, you know him as well.

He's going to appear in front of the Treasury Select Community. That's part of U.K.'s parliament.

And I want to show you what Barclays had said. That's when I was interviewing him in Davos with the World Economic Forum. Barclays has said these events should have not taken place and Barclays deeply regrets they did.

What are the events? They are part of a massive scandal of fixing Libor rates. Why does it matter to you? That's a bench rates that a lot of interest rates like your auto loan or your credit card are based on.

So, the question is, is there collusion, how many more banks were being involved. Eighteen banks are being investigated. You got Deutsch Bank, Citigroup, JPMorgan, UBS.

But take a listen to what the CEO, ex-CEO now of Barclays, have to say at a "Fortune" event in London just a few weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB DIAMOND, FORMER CEO, BARCLAYS: Being a better citizen is critically important to us in financial services today for all kinds of reasons. In order to be effective, we need to regain trust in our industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That was on June 18th. Today, he's going to face very hard questions, including I think now that he stepped down, the questions are going to be -- what other banks were involved in this? How widespread was this? And this completely brings it back to the issue of distrust from 2005 to the financial crisis in 2009.

BANFIELD: Didn't he intimate a little while ago, if I'm going down, I'm taking others with me?

HARLOW: That's going to be the question. Can he talk more now that he's not at the helm of the bank? Can he say more now?

BANFIELD: All right. Poppy Harlow, thank you. Thank you very much.

If you can believe it, there are two states, if you can believe it, that ended their year with a budget. Can you believe that?

VELSHI: I have heard it, but I couldn't name them.

BANFIELD: So, a budget surplus. Find out which states actually did this.

And also, if you're leaving the house right now, you can take us with you anytime on your desktop, mobile. Just go to CNN.com/TV. All the instructions are there.

We'll see you in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD (voice-over): It is the Fourth of July, but it is no picnic for more than a million people in America, going on six days without power across 12 states. Some people even running out of food.

VELSHI (voice-over): A customer at the counter caught on video, but a microphone at the scene captures something much more sinister. Stay with us, and you'll hear what it was. BANFIELD: And man versus beast. A 63-year-old camper takes on a mountain lion, and guess what he was armed with? His bare hands.

VELSHI: Wow!

BANFIELD: Find out how this turned out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Nice to have you with us on this July fourth's holiday. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

VELSHI: I'm Ali Velshi in for Zoraida Sambolin. It is 32 minutes after the hour. Well, six days of stifling heat, no power for more than a million people this morning down from four million people on the weekend, but these extremely hot and muggy conditions persist on this Independence Day.

West Virginia Army National Guard soldiers are now out supplying water and food to people. Health officials are warning people to toss the spoiled food that's in their refrigerator or in their freezer. Brian Todd is live in Charleston, West Virginia. Brian, what's the situation out there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ali, the fates are just being very cruel to people in this state. You mentioned some of the conditions. You know, you have the storms, the power outages, and of course, the heat that is just not let up in supposedly cool mountainous West Virginia. They're not getting a break.

It's going to be about 95 degrees here today. And yes, you would talk about the outages, roughly between a quarter and a third of customers in the state still without power. And with the stifling heat, how are people coping with it? Pretty much any way they can.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very hot. I've been sitting out on the porch since last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty bad. The heat is the main thing. We can't keep our apartment cool. I've never been without electric this long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And a lot of people aren't going to get electricity back probably until this weekend. This is one of the reasons why. You have an oak tree that snapped in half behind me, came down on this power line here. This scene is repeated throughout the state, Ali.

It takes, you know, crews hours, sometimes, days just to remove these trees, try to get these power lines and transformers back up. A monumental task, and they're working around the clock.

VELSHI: The health department is suggesting that people boil their water. I assume they're going to have to use generators or gas to do that since electricity is not available?

TODD: That's right. People who have gas-powered stoves and things like that that can use those to boil water. You got to try to get bottled water where you can, but that's not easy to get right now. So, you know, they're trying to get it out to people. National Guard troops, as you mentioned, they're getting it out to people where they can.

You know, water pressure is a key situation here because a lot of the pumps are fueled by electricity, so the pumps are down. They've got to get power back to those pumps. That's a very gradual process.

VELSHI: Yes.

TODD: So, water pressure doesn't come back. And then, the water that comes out, sometimes, is discolored. So, you've got to deal with that. It's just, you know, a cascading effect all over the place.

VELSHI: All right. Brian, thanks very much for the update. Brian Todd in West Virginia.

Well, this morning, we're asking leaders from across the region, when is the power coming back? First, we'll talk to the mayor of Lewisburg, Virgini, John Manchester. That's coming up at 6:30 a.m. eastern. Then at eight o'clock on "Starting Point," West Virginia governor, Earl Ray Tomlin will join Brooke who's sitting in for Soledad.

Well, this next story brings new meaning to the phrase "brutal awakening." A 63-year-old hiker was attacked in his sleep by a mountain lion while camping in California. The animal began biting and clawing at his head and hands. Luckily, the man was able to fight back and the animal ran off. He was even able to drive himself to the hospital. He's now at home recovering. Wow!

And brand new information this morning on that deadly mall roof collapse in Canada. Police in Ontario are now launching a criminal investigation after complaints that rescuers were too slow trying to reach people trapped in the rubble. The mission was suspended a whole day while crews waited for a heavy crane to arrive to stabilize the site.

There are also new reports that the mall was in shabby condition before the cave-in. Two people were killed. Almost two dozen others were injured when the roof caved in and plummeted two floors down into the building. That happened last month.

BANFIELD: A runner-up in Sunday's presidential election in Mexico is now demanding a recount. Leftist party leader, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, insists that that vote was plagued by irregularity. Enrique Pena Nieto is Mexico's presumed president- elect. Mexico's federal election institute begins the process that's verifying individual poll results today.

VELSHI: It doesn't matter who wins to Ashleigh because she pronounces both of their names so perfectly. BANFIELD: You should hear Zoraida.

VELSHI: I'm going to --

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: President Obama may be gaining a little momentum in his bid for re-election. He's opened to sustain lead over Mitt Romney in Gallup's daily tracking poll. Take a look at these numbers. The president is ahead of his republican challenger, 48 to 44 percent. That's six straight days of a sustained lead for the president after two months of being tied.

BANFIELD: Roger Clemons is not going to be getting back any of the money that he spent on legal fees from his first perjury trial. The judge said no. He shut down his request to get repaid. That case ended in a mistrial last year. You might remember. And then, the former pitching great was ultimately acquitted last month after the re-trial.

So, his lawyers argued that he should get money back. He should be reimbursed for all those legal fees, and he said because of abuses by the prosecutors that the judge ruled that the government's misconduct was not severe enough.

Police in Texas are releasing surveillance video and audio key to this story, the audio, of a robbery suspect. Investigators in Harris County say that he told the worker inside a grocery store that he had a gun, but watch and listen as he repeatedly orders the cashier to hand over money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here, right here. Give it to me right now. Right -- that's not enough, give it to me. Give it to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yes. That's not nice. Give it to me. That's not quick enough. Give it to me right now. If they find him, he's in big trouble. That robber left with an unknown amount of cash.

VELSHI: OK. So, in these tough economic times, two states are proving that it's possible to do business without budget deficits. I didn't guess these states, by the way. Arkansas and West Virginia announcing surpluses at the close of their budget year this week. Arkansas supporting $145 million surplus. West Virginia announcing an $87.6 million surplus.

BANFIELD: That's incredible. Some cities across this country that are going into bankruptcy.

VELSHI: Right. Yes. That's an unusual situation. I'm going to look more into that. I think that's interesting.

BANFIELD: I just sense a business story -- (CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: This is a Fourth of July tradition, folks. I wait for it every year as does Ali.

VELSHI: I do.

BANFIELD: He really does. He's already had a hot dog this morning. Scarfing down dozens and dozens of hot dogs at its side. We're going to take you live to New York's Coney Island for the big contest.

VELSHI: Look at them go!

BANFIELD: So gross. So gross.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: (SINGING) I'm proud to be an American. Now, Ali, can you sing that song?

VELSHI: I can't because I'm not an American citizen.

BANFIELD: I'm an American citizen.

VELSHI: But -- I know you are, and you're one of my fellow people at the same time.

BANFIELD: Can I tell you how proud I am when I see that shot of the Lady Liberty?

VELSHI: That is great.

BANFIELD: With the torch lit --

VELSHI: That is great.

BANFIELD: In the dawn.

VELSHI: That really -- I mean, it's very inspirational. No question. Good morning, New York.

BANFIELD: I have goosebumps.

VELSHI: It's Fourth of July. It only happens once a year. Don't waste at sleeping!

BANFIELD: God bless the USA, right? Seventy-eight degrees in New York, and we're warming up seriously today. Folks, it is the Fourth of July, so happy holiday to you. Ali and I are proud to display also our American icon, hot dogs this morning.

VELSHI: Yes. It's a tradition here. The Fourth of July hot dog ating contest.

BANFIELD: How old are these? (LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: A couple of hours. But here's the thing, I know we're going to talk about this for a second, but you know that the hot dog eating contest, you have to eat the hot dog and you have to eat the bun. Joey Chestnut is the champion. He's had 68. he's going to try to beat that, and the Black Widow's got 41.

But just so you know, because everybody is too scared to do this, you can't eat the hot dog unless you dip it in water first so it gets all squishy.

BANFIELD: Oh, you are nasty!

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: You really are going to do this at 5:42 in the morning, dip a hot dog in water?

VELSHI: I'll tell you what, this has to be the most disgusting thing I've ever done on TV.

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: (inaudible)

BANFIELD: Let me get that for you, sweetie. We're like an old married couple. OK. So, Alison Kosik drew the short straw.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: She didn't have to eat the hot dog. She had to go out and cover this thing. She's actually at Coney Island right now joining us to talk a little bit more about Nathan's famous hot dog eating contest. It's nice to see that daylight has broken where you are, but this is a big old deal. This is not just an annual event. This is a moment in Americana.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What is more American than watching people gorge themselves with all American hot dogs, Ashleigh? Come on, right? It's brashly (ph) in the passion where about to see in the next few hours. In fact, here, they are counting it down at Nathan's. The flagship (INAUDIBLE) Coney Island in Brooklyn.

We are six hours, 17 minutes, and 29 seconds away from this gorge fest. We're going to watch 15 men and 14 women pig out. The whole point of the competition is to see how many men and how many women can eat how many hot dogs in ten minutes. So, the reigning champ, you can see them here on the board. We've got Joey Chestnut. He ate 68 hot dogs at one point in ten minutes.

And Sonya Thomas, she calls herself the Black Widow, she ate 40 hot dogs in ten minutes. So, we're going to see if they can hold their crowns. Now, we did catch up with them at a traditional weigh- in yesterday. And, they're all excited about this competition. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEY CHESTNUT, NATHAN'S HOT DO EATING CHAMPION, 2007-2011: I feel pretty good. I'm loose, empty. I haven't eaten solid food in about three days. The record is 68 hot dogs in ten minutes. I'm going to break it, hopefully, and eat like a beast. I'm going to get into a vicious rhythm. Hopefully, 20 hot dogs, more than 20 hot dogs in the first two minutes and 30 hotdogs in three minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Now, this isn't just about eating, Ashleigh. This is a big deal. It's about money. The winning -- the winner gets (INAUDIBLE) we'll talk about the man and the woman who wins, they get $20,000 and they get that title. So, you know, who can eat the most hotdogs in the world. This really becomes one of these bitter rivalry situations. I don't know if you remember the name Kobayashi (ph), Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: I remember Kobayashi (ph). He always stunned me with his sleek physique.

(LAUGHTER)

KOSIK: Yes. And in that sleek physique, he was the reigning champion for six years, but then, along came Joey Chestnut. He stole that crown from Kobayashi. And since then, there really has been this kind of cat clothing (ph) going on between the two of them. Kobayashi hasn't been in this contest, actually, in two years over a contract and money dispute.

VELSHI: Wow.

KOSIK: Even a couple years ago, Kobayashi came here as a spectator, and for some reason, he rushed the stage and wound up being arrested for, you know, having a tussle with cops. You know, it really is a big business here for them. It's not just about, you know, eating hot dogs. So, you know, there's a lot -- there's a back story here that's pretty dramatic.

BANFIELD: I remember that. I can't -- it was controversy on the fourth when he rushed the stage like that. That was hilarious (ph).

KOSIK: Yes.

BANFIELD: Alison, hold one second, because the mayor, the mayor of New York City, Mayor Bloomberg, let's see if I can -- I don't know. This is going to read on TV. Ali's got the second page of "The New York Post" today.

VELSHI: Right.

BANFIELD: You can actually take your hand off because they didn't write the word.

VELSHI: Oh, I should they take them off -- BANFIELD: It's hilarious. This is the mayor standing at the podium out of Coney Island. Mayor Bloomberg actually had to make a speech.

VELSHI: Yes.

BANFIELD: And I guess one of his speech writers wrote a very corny -- you know, hokey filled with puns and buns that kind of thing.

VELSHI: And he just finally got tired of it. And he says out loud --

BANFIELD: But you got to here -- let's play this down so you can hear for yourself how the mayor decided to finally just jump out of the speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: The dogged pursuers will finally catch up to the mustard and be pronounced winner. No question it's going to be a dogfight. Just think of how many (ph) we got into one sentence. That was really impressive. Who wrote this (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: OK. I think there's a little Chris Christie in him right there.

VELSHI: Yes, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Well, what's so funny about it, when I was reading up on this, I thought it was one of those moments on an open mic that you didn't expect was an open mic.

VELSHI: Right. He knew it was on. He said it.

BANFIELD: That dude knew the mic was on.

VELSHI: He's a great talker.

BANFIELD: And how about all the New Yorkers out there saying, -- profanity in here.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: A hot dog eating contest is truly something. I'm always fascinated about why CNN always sends our slimmest correspondent.

BANFIELD: I know.

VELSHI: I mean, Alison looks like maybe she eats a hot dog a year, if that. Why am I never assign this --

BANFIELD: By the way, I know you ate the last one, so I'm going to give you mine --

VELSHI: Thank you.

BANFIELD: -- with the water.

VELSHI: Yes. The wet hot dog --

BANFIELD: That was just nasty. We have a producer, by the way, who's on maternity leave --

VELSHI: Yes.

BANFIELD: -- name Kelly Frank (ph) who watches because she's up -- because she's, you know, dealing --

VELSHI: Right. And being on maternal leave, she's not particularly repulsed by food. She's quite interested in it.

BANFIELD: Oh, no, no, no. Ali, she's calling it repulsed.

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: Oh, really?

BANFIELD: She e-mailed me and said, that was repulsive, even though I love food. That was repulsive.

VELSHI: Well, speaking of food, let's continue the theme.

BANFIELD: Yes.

VELSHI: Food and fireworks, the two best parts of the fourth of July holiday. Take a look at the new CNN/ORC poll just released this hour. Thirty-eight percent of Americans say cookouts and picnics are the most enjoyable part of the Independence Day experience. Twenty- eight percent choose fireworks.

Having a day off finished third, believe it or not. Only 1/5 of Americans. See, we're not in that group. And well ahead, however, of the five percent who said parades were the best thing about today. So, what's wrong with you people, don't you like a nice parade?

BANFIELD: I find that very interesting.

VELSHI: I was more (ph) like parade. They're inspirational, they're fun. You know?

BANFIELD: I would have thought the day off --

VELSHI: Americans want to eat. That's what it is.

BANFIELD: I guess so. Forty-eight minutes now past 5:00. If you're one of those people getting up early, getting ready for work, here are the top stories for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): Hot and bothered by the day, more than a million people waking up without AC, without fans, without power again this morning. And this is a time when they really need it most as the temperatures are expected to be in the mid high 90s and higher with stifling humidity from St. Louis all the way to Philly.

At least 20 people have now died since Thursday when those deadly storms slammed the east and the Midwest.

After a seven-year hiatus, the so-called teardrop rapist is back in the headlines. Police in Los Angeles say he tried to attack a woman in South L.A. last month, but she was luckily able to get away. It is now a count of 35. At least 35 women age 14 to 41 have been raped since 1996 by this suspect.

Police say he targets his victims when they're walking alone. He approaches them, asks for directions, then draws a weapon and sexually assaults them. Police say he has a teardrop tattoo on his face. There's a $50,000 reward being offered in this case.

VELSHI (voice-over): Katie Holmes continues to cut ties with her soon to be ex-husband, Tom Cruise. Yesterday, she fired the security team that Cruise had hired to protect her, and Cruise spent his 50th birthday flying home to California from Iceland. Holmes is in New York with their daughter, Suri.

BANFIELD: He's 50! Tom Cruise turned 50.

VELSHI: He looks the same as he looks when he was 22.

BANFIELD: Isn't that something?

And because you cannot really be one with nature without your iPhone --

VELSHI: Oh, my!

BANFIELD: Look at that. This wood-burning camp stove doubles as a charger for your gadget. I love it. It comes from a company called bio light to generate its own power converting waste heat into electricity, and it has its own USB port. This would be really great.

VELSHI: That's very neat.

BANFIELD: For all the people who are without power, you know, we keep saying they don't have AC or fans, but they can't charge their phones. For a lot of people who rely on their cell phones, they can't recharge phones right now.

VELSHI: Well, a fabulous Fourth of July celebration in Boston. Dozens of tall ships are docked in the harbor for a five-day long celebration called Harborfest. I love this. Among the most popular ships for visitors is, of course, the "USS Constitution," which played a key role in the war of 1812, which is in dispute as to who actually won that war, particularly with Canadians.

BANFIELD: Got a problem with that?

VELSHI: Just saying.

BANFIELD: Got a problem with that?

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Listen up, it's the Fourth of july.

VELSHI: It is Fourth of July.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: This is all about America today.

BANFIELD: We're two former Canadians. Not so former.

VELSHI: -- is highly disputed as to the success of that thing.

BANFIELD: All right. So, while we go to commercial break and argue that, the government has come down firm on one thing, folks.

VELSHI: Yes.

BANFIELD: There is no such thing as a mermaid.

VELSHI: Oh, come on.

BANFIELD: I kid you not. The government has made it official. No such thing as a mermaid.

VELSHI: Yes. Well, you know, the government has also made official, there's no such thing as a budget. So --

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: Whatever.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Fifty-four minutes now past 5:00, and that means it's time to take a look at what's trending on the interweb. It makes you wonder what the government is really trying to cover-up here, huh?

VELSHI: Right.

BANFIELD: This is a good one. The central government now confirming mermaids officially do not exist.

VELSHI: Just like UFOs don't.

BANFIELD: Yes. Yes. But it took NOAA to tell us. There's really no evidence that the half-human, half-fish being are a genuine living species. So, why on earth do they need to tell us this now? Apparently, the agency starts getting calls -- has been getting a lot of calls after a show aired on Animal Planet called "Mermaids: The Body Found."

It was a make-believe show designed to look like a documentary. There is no reference from NOAA about mermen. So, we are still up in the air on mermen.

VELSHI: Now, just to let you know, CNN is working hard to get an interview with Daryl Hannah (ph) in the next hour.

BANFIELD: Good one. You've been old (ph). I'm just saying.

VELSHI: Yes. (INAUDIBLE). Baby in one hand, baseball in the other. Check out this catch of a fan in Atlanta. He snagged a foul ball ripping it out of another guy's hand while he has a kid in one arm. Check that out. Daddy even got a hand from the brave's shortstop who appreciated the --

BANFIELD: Very nice. It's nicely done, although, I wonder what mom would have to say about that?

VELSHI: Yes.

BANFIELD: Or that heard (ph) aside?

VELSHI: Let's hope mom is not a CNN viewer.

BANFIELD: You know, she looks just excited.

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: Really? Nice job.

BANFIELD: Yes. Very excited.

All right. So, you're not that drunk. It is really the urinal cake talking to you. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you had a few drinks? Listen up. Face the smart choice tonight, don't drink and drive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Yes, seriously.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I don't know why they gave me this story.

VELSHI: I have no idea why they give you the story. They're looking to say, what is he talking about?

BANFIELD: Clearly, they call (INAUDIBLE), right?

VELSHI: Yes. Urinal box (ph).

BANFIELD: So, I learn new thing every day. Michigan's office of highway safety is planning to distribute 400 of these cakes to try to curb drinking and driving on July fourth. They are --

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: They are not liquid activated, they are motion censored.

VELSHI: Although liquid activated would have worked just as well.

BANFIELD: I don't know why I didn't think of that. $21 per cake.

VELSHI: So, you can --

BANFIELD: Pay on the cake.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Paid for by a federal grant.

VELSHI: Same folks who told you mermaids don't exist.

BANFIELD: And that we have a budget.

OK. So, why are some people so shocked when they found out about this? Because apparently, these things have a potty mouth.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: They're in the potty, so they do have a potty mouth. In fact, so bad we had to bleep it out. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't drive drunk. If you do and you get arrested, the next urinal you tee in will be in jail with a harry guy named Bubba standing behind asking you to pick up the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Ouch!

BANFIELD: I don't know how they got that through on a federal grant. I have no idea, but there you have it.

VELSHI: Don't be surprised. You heard it first on CNN.

No holiday, by the way, from this sweltering heat. More than a million people are still going on almost a week without a fan or air- conditioning, power. There's actually now word of a food shortage.

BANFIELD: And water problems.

VELSHI: And water problems.

BANFIELD: Yes. Yes.

VELSHI: We're going to tell you all about it coming up. You're watching EARLY START. It is three minutes till the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)