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Sweating Out July 4th; No Credible Terror Threats; Neighborhood Burns In Colorado Springs; Brush Fire In L.A. Suburb; "God Particle" Breakthrough; Is the Economy Improving?; Powerless in West Virginia; Fighting Fires with a Laptop; First Over-The-Counter HIV Test Approved

Aired July 4, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: We're having a lot of fun here, but it's six days and counting for more than a million people in 12 states without water. Not a fun Fourth of July for them and now we're hearing of a food crisis in one of those states.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Great white sharks spotted off Cape Cod and fear of attacks forcing a swimming ban on this busy beach holiday.

VELSHI: New this morning, a major scientific discovery. Researchers revealed they found what could be the key to figuring out how the whole universe began.

Good morning, happy Fourth of July. I'm Ali Velshi. Zoraida is off today so welcome to EARLY START.

BANFIELD: It's 6:00 on the dot. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Let's start with this Fourth of July.

It's a celebration, but this year it's a lot more about patience and actually in some cases it's a lot more about survival for Americans who facing almost a week of no power and some serious heat.

At least 20 people have died since Thursday when deadly storms slammed into the east and the Midwest. About 1.2 million people across the country are still waiting to get their power back on, which means, yes, no AC, but also not even a fan or anything to charge your phone or any of your communication devices.

This was the map that we showed you yesterday. The states where the customers didn't have any power and guess what, we just pulled the same map out again today because it hasn't change.

Hundreds of thousands of customers in West Virginia still haven't got electricity and Maryland, that's not far behind either when it comes to the customers in the dark.

The power companies for their part say they are repairing the damage transmitters and the lines faster than expected but, and this is a big but, they are estimates still say the customers could be waiting until the weekend to get the power back.

And all of this as unbearable temperatures continues to spread. Now 15 states under a heat advisory for today, leaving people wondering just how much more of this can they possibly take.

Brian Todd is in Charleston, West Virginia where the temperatures are expected I think to soar up to mid-90s, at least 95 today. So, Brian, give me a bit of a feel for how that community is coping and what they are doing to offset this crisis?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, they are trying to stay cool any way they can and you mentioned the temperatures the sun is just starting to come up here so that means the heat is going to intensify and they're going to be deal with this for at least a few days here with power outages.

Because look at the scene over here, this is a downed oak tree here in the Charleston area, came right down here, snapped down this power line. This tree snapped clean in half, this old oak tree. Took out this power line so, of course, domino effects take place with the power poles being disabled here.

The lines down. You know a scene like this for a typical power company crew is going to take at least several hours if not most of a day to clear up. They have to deal with debris all over the place and sift through places like this where you got debris branches down.

Plus down power lines that maybe underneath them, but you have to be very careful with. Then you look at all the houses around here, all of them without power right now. And you know, part of this deals with the infrastructure as well.

We talked about these transmission towers. Power company official in northern West Virginia told us that three transmission towers, those big kinds of latish metal powers that transmit power lines at long distances that you see in rural areas, three of those actually came down.

We have a picture of one of those mangled towers. Now those we're told have since been replaced by temporary towers and so a lot of those lines that were down are now back up.

But again, huge infrastructure challenges. I talked to a local resident in this general area. His name is Casey Robinson, about what people are kind of going through in just dealing with this and some of the things they take for granted that they just don't have now.


TODD: What kinds of problems have the power outages caused for your neighborhood and others here?

CASEY ROBINSON, CHARLESTON WV RESIDENT: Things you never thought of actually, other than the obvious, that is throwing away a lot of food. We're also finding out the conveniences you took so much for granted are gone. A lot of folks in the neighborhoods have been a little bit nervous about potential looting and don't have any power to run their security systems.


TODD: So not only heat, power outages, people trying to stay cool, but they have to worry about the security systems and just kind of keeping an eye on their homes.

Maybe if they've gone someplace else to try to stay cool having to come back and check on their homes, Ashleigh so, yes, another challenge for people in this area.

BANFIELD: Yes, and these people take for granted that your fridge is your fridge and when you throw it all out, those supermarkets need power too.

So there's a problem with food and then water plants and water as well. All right, Brian Todd, stick around if you will. Keep us up to date on how that changes this morning if it does.

In fact, this morning we're also asking leaders from across the region, when is the power coming back? How are we going to cope with this? This is seriousl.

First the mayor of Lewisburg, West Virginia, John Manchester will join us at 6:30 Eastern and then at 8:00 on "STARTING POINT," West Virginia's Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin will be our guest.

VELSHI: Always get an update on what's going with the weather today and in those parts of the country that are still without power it's not a lot of relief in sight, is there?

Alexandra Steele joins us now from the Weather Center. What's it looking like?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Ali. Hi, everyone. Good morning to you as you wake up on this Fourth of July, well, one thing you'll notice today around the country kind of as an aggregate, temperatures aren't nearly as hot as they've been in last seven days.

But the big differentiator today is that the dew points are so much higher. So it's very uncomfortable and it will be so uncomfortable this afternoon although temperatures are lower than they've been.

Big picture, kind of wanted to show you this where we have got some pockets of moisture. Some showers around the northeast this morning, so pretty fair this afternoon.

The southeast dry conditions although incredibly muggy, but showers popping up. So I want to show you kind of delineates some forecasts, of course, the fourth heading out at sunset around 10 of 9, 9:00 tonight, 9:30, Boston, 78 degrees, some isolated storms, New York City in the 80s. And D.C., now that's really under the assumption that storms are going to come down at that 8:00, 9:00 hour.

It's going to feel a lot hotter than 83. Into the southeast, beautiful, pretty nice conditions, hot and muggy, yes, very isolated storms, so most of the fireworks will be a go.

Minneapolis, probably one of the most uncomfortable places today, heat indexes potentially about 106, dew point, that a measure of the actual moisture in the air, 76 degrees there so incredibly uncomfortable in Minneapolis.

West coast is dry. I want to show though a few places where the heat really will be on full force, Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, so much of Missouri and also right here, kind of south of New York maybe around New Jersey.

But from Minneapolis, St. Louis and Cincinnati, temperatures or heat indices or what it will feel like today, between 105 and 110. Potential records we're still shattering them.

Kansas City, the potential is slight. St. Louis, Chicago, just a degree or two off, Nashville and Little Rock, so really, Ali, that's where kind of the balance of the heat is through the central part of the country.

But it's the humidity factor, waking up in the southeast, the upper Midwest, you're walking out the door, going it's sticky, that's the main theme of the day. What you're really notice.

VELSHI: And you said Minneapolis, 112 it's going to feel like?

STEELE: It's going to feel like temperatures today maybe 108, 111, 112 possibly. Air temperature getting up to about 98, but it's the humidity. Dew point there is 76. That's off the charts high. When those numbers get into the 60s and 70s, it gets humid so upper 70s is off the charts high.

VELSHI: That's a smart piece of information for the day. I'm going to be talking about dew point.

STEELE: New Hampshire is going to be having a nice night.

VELSHI: That's where I'm spending the night in New Hampshire. Thank you, Alexandra.

BANFIELD: It's 7 minutes now past 6:00 and even though there are no credible threats, security is going to be very tight later today at the Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, D.C. and also in New York.

Law enforcement officials have no evidence that terrorists are plotting any kind of specific attack. But according to police, one of the primary security concerns on this Independence Day is the ever present possibility of an attack by a so-called lone wolf.

VELSHI: New incredible and heart breaking video, an entire neighborhood going up in flames. Look at that, in Colorado Springs, sparks and flames jumping from one roof to the next.

Firefighters forced to make tough decisions. This one has to be just so tough, which homes to save, which homes to let burn. High winds are keeping them on their toes, the Waldo Canyon fire is now 70 percent contained. That's good news, but it's destroyed more than 350 homes. Damage has topped more than $110 million.

BANFIELD: I heard an official call that fire triage, when you're deciding, which one to let go in order to save the others. Imagine being a firefighter --

VELSHI: And making that decision that house is going to burn.

BANFIELD: And it looks like there are very few that they could actually save in this video, anyway. It's heartbreaking.

BANFIELD: And Colorado, by the way, is not the only place dealing with fire. It may look like a familiar scene, but folks, this is L.A., a small but intense fire scorching about 200 acres of grass and brush in suburban Los Angeles.

It was an area that was burning surrounded by homes, but lucky to report this morning that there was no damage reported by the homeowners. The fire was whipped up by strong winds in that area, L.A.

VELSHI: Look, this could unlock the secrets of the universe, scientists announcing just hours ago they discovered something that might be the God particle.

You've heard about this. There have been books written about it. It's the stuff of legend and science. Bill Nye, the science guy, don't turn channel.

I know, you don't want to talk about this. There he is. Bill is going to try to explain it to us. He's coming up. There he is live after this break. We're going to rock your world here on EARLY START.

BANFIELD: Especially with the music.


VELSHI: They call it the God particle. It's a subatomic particle known in the scientific community as the Higgs Boson, which could be the key to understanding how the universe was formed.

Just a few hours ago in Geneva, scientists from the European Center for Particle Physics made a stunning announcement that this tiny and I mean tiny particle, whose existence has been nothing more than a theory, could in fact be real.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We conclude by saying that we have observed a new boson with a mass of 125.3 plus or minus 0.6 GeV at 4.9 standard deviations. Thank you.


VELSHI: That pretty much settles it, right?

Live with me now is Bill Nye, the science guy, because he can actually explain to us. He is the vice president of the Planetary Society.

Bill, you can explain to us. First of all, what are we talking about? What is this Higgs Boson God particle?


VELSHI: OK. I got it, OK.

NYE: See, you probably heard of a foton, a particle of light and you detect foton when you do experiments to detect particles. All right, so at the very, very beginning of the universe, people here -- I'm in Los Angeles, people at Mt. Wilson, not far from here.

Notably Edwin Hubble noticed that all the stars, everything is moving apart. So he reasoned that everything was all together at one time and this would be the big bang.

Well, at that time it was speculated by mathematical elegant physical reasoning that everything was kind of one thing, but then after the big bang, things started to separate, things started take on different properties.

So that pure energy, like light, has no mass. The particles of light have no mass. The particles that make up you and me, protons and neutrons and electrons, they have no mass -- do you know why?


NYE: No one really is sure why. But it could very well be that there's some exchange of particles. Nowadays, we view these things as particles, and we do experiments to detect particles. Protons are made of quarks held together with gluons -- no kidding.

And so, it could be -- it's very reasonable that these other particles all exist in this ether that would be called -- named after Peter Higgs --

VELSHI: Right.

NYE: -- that is infused with little particles that give them, that help them have mass.

VELSHI: So, let's --

NYE: And this would be the Higgs boson.

VELSHI: If this exists, as we seem to be getting closer to understanding it does, what would that do? What would that mean?

NYE: It may mean we would be able to unlock limitless energy, let me just put it that way. It may be we would understand the next secret of the universe. That we would know -- we would be another step closer to knowing where we came from. We'd be another step closer to understanding the universe itself, which is ultimately quite a mystery to us.

Since it's the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the United States, I just want to remind everybody that the United States was going to build a super conductor super collider that would have been substantially more powerful, more than --

VELSHI: But we didn't. It lost its funding.

NYE: Almost three times as more powerful. It was canceled, yes, because it was decided you couldn't have an International Space Station and super connecting super collider at the same time.

So notice that these guys are pretty confident and that they use the expression five sigma, five standard deviations, is the 4.9, I guess -- it would have to be extraordinarily unlikely if what they found is not true.

As understand, if we had a more powerful super conducting super collider --


NYE: -- we would be that much closer to knowing for sure. And the discovery would have been made. It's Independence Day, I was born here. The discovery would have been made in the United States instead of elsewhere if you like to think about things.

Investment in science pays off. Investment in science is worth it. And furthermore, we are living through this extraordinarily hot summer --


NYE: -- which is almost certainly -- talk about five sigma, certainly result of human-caused climate change. Wouldn't be it good to invest in that all also? It's not a coincidence. That's all I'm saying.

VELSHI: Thank you for --

NYE: Closer to understanding the fundamental ideas of the universe. It's an exciting day.

VELSHI: It is an exciting day, Bill. Thank you for joining us, and clearing up a little bit about this Higgs boson. If nothing else, at least I'll be able to go through the day pronouncing it properly.

Bill Nye, the science guy, good to see you as always.

NYE: Yes, good to see you.

VELSHI: Ashleigh, we could -- limitless energy. Think about that. That could be --

BANFIELD: I did not need a Higgs boson to know what limitless energy was. I know Ali Velshi. That is limitless energy.

First of all, what do you say, Ali, you had me at the like the gluon.

VELSHI: Gluon, I like that.

BANFIELD: But then everything else was just wa wa wa, Charlie Brown's parents were talking for a moment there.

VELSHI: All you need to do every day, Ashleigh, is learn how to pronounce something properly and I learned that today.

BANFIELD: And then I'm good, right?


BANFIELD: I love that Bill Nye, little bow tie. Thank you, Ali.

It is 18 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast. And let's get you up to date on top stories.

Another day of sweating it out but this one is the Fourth of July holiday. And it is no better than the 3rd of July. More than a million people waking up without air conditioning and fans. And this is when they need power most because temperatures are expected to be in the mid to high 90s or even higher with stifling humidity from St. Louis to Philadelphia. At least 20 people have died since Thursday when deadly storms slammed the East and the Midwest.

A former Marine with more than 20 years service to his country is facing up to 10 years in federal prison for this, a weapon, yes, they carry their own weapons but this is an AK-47 that may have once belonged to Saddam Hussein's royal guard. Federal prosecutors are alleging that the former staff sergeant named Joel Miller smuggled that rifle back from Iraq after a 14-month tour of duty there back in 2005. He was discharged back in December.

VELSHI: A JetBlue pilot who was arrested for a world -- wild tirade during a flight in March has been found not guilty of interfering with the flight crew by reason of insanity. A Texas judge ruling yesterday that 49-year-old Clayton Osbon suffered from a severe mental illness that impaired his ability to understand his actions. He was subdued after a co-pilot locked him out of the cockpit.

BANFIELD: Sharks, 50 yards off the shore. And there is the photo to prove it. Officials in one area of Cape Cod known for its seals and you know how it goes, where there are seals, there are often sharks.

They decided to ban swimming and it's July Fourth, long weekend coming up -- well, weekend anyway coming up. And they decided to that because the great white sharks are lurking off of that coast.

Two of them were spotted last week and I think it's off the north of Chatham, Massachusetts, harbor inlet, which is not far from some popular swimming areas.

So, officials say one of those sharks was 16-foot long and 2,000 pounds. What do you think that shark was doing?

VELSHI: Looking for seals or people.

BANFIELD: That's exactly it. Hunting seals and where there are no seals -- that's what the next best thing is.

VELSHI: All right. The cup is half full this morning.

BANFIELD: Of hot dog water?

VELSHI: No, this is my coffee. There's no hot dogs here.

I'm talking about jobs, I'm talking about the economy. Auto sales are part of the reason we're going to tell you why there is some reason to be looking up today.

It's 21 minutes after the hour.


VELSHI: Minding your business this morning. U.S. markets are closed for the holiday today. That's our report.


BANFIELD: You do not get -- how many times do I have to tell you?

VELSHI: I have tried, you see, I have a show to anchor at 9:00 Eastern on CNN International. So, I'm trying -- and I know they watch this show. So, I'm trying to convince that there's no business news today, and I can go home. I go to New Hampshire.

BANFIELD: You do not get this holiday off.

VELSHI: All right. Fine, fine. We have business news for you. Markets close higher across the board yesterday. Yada, yada, yada.

The Dow, the NASDAQ, S&P 500 up, all more than half a percent, shortened trading day, Fourth of July.

BANFIELD: What's really going on Ali's head right now is hot dog, hot dog.

VELSHI: So, unfortunately, Christine Romans is not with us this morning. So, that's our report.

BANFIELD: But no --

VELSHI: Oh. Hi, Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I can't fill her shoes but I will try. I can tell Ali is so excited about this segment. But you love cars --

VELSHI: I'm in the middle of a blue dress sandwich this morning.

HARLOW: You love cars. And we're talking about cars.

VELSHI: I do love cars.

HARLOW: And really good auto sales numbers folks. They just came in, up 22 percent. This is a very good indication about how the U.S. consumer feels. In fact, we're spending more on cars than we did a year ago, about $900 more per car.

This is good news, we got the fourth bad consumer confidence report in a row in June, but auto sales are up. Honda, Toyota extraordinary well. Also, G.M., Ford and Chrysler all better than expected for June.

And I actually hit the road a few weeks ago. We went all along the Rust Belt. One of the places we stopped was in Lordstown, Ohio. They've got this massive G.M. there where they build the Chevy Cruze.

This is just the story of a turnaround for the auto industry. Take a listen to this woman I met, Sherry Gaunt.

She's one of the heads of the union there. She has been working at G.M. for a long time, just how much things have changed in the auto sector.


SHERRY GAUNT, G.M. WORKER, UAW REPRESENTATIVE: A little afraid when the economy went bust and we were -- the plant was closed. We were laid off. If the government didn't step in, we may not be working, may not have a job. Look where G.M. is at now. And that's what I like to say, it's a success story.


HARLOW: OK. So she thinks it's a success story. This is going to be big on the campaign trail, whether the bailout did work or not or whether it was worth it or not. So, that's why we took this road trip.

VELSHI: So, let's go on the record here. It worked. There are bunch of people say it didn't work, it officially worked. That's -- it's -- but --

BANFIELD: Some still to get paid back though.

VELSHI: Right. But it worked, it kept the place going and auto sales are good.

But Poppy said, there are some mixes going on here. Consumer confidence, down. Auto sales, up. Gas prices were down for three weeks which make people feel good. But now, they're coming up again.

BANFIELD: Where was that leave me, what am I just think? As Americans, are we in good shape?

HARLOW: This is also an issue of eventually your car gets too old and too expensive to fix and you have to buy at new one, and that's part of what we're seeing here.

VELSHI: It may not have anything to do with how they feel about the economy.

HARLOW: Part of what we're seeing here.

VELSHI: But we do have polls.

HARLOW: We do have some one interesting poll, economic conditions next year, how are they going to be? This just came in.

OK. We asked people in October, how they would be? Only 39 percent said the economy would be in good shape next year. Now, 60 percent are saying it will be in good shape next year. You see that it has trended a little bit. And big question, what it means for the election.

BANFIELD: Will it keep trending in the next four months?

Poppy Harlow, good work. Thank you.

So, safety officials are trying to demonstrate the dangers of fireworks. Nothing like an accident during a safety demonstration to prove your point, and then some. We'll show you.


VELSHI: The Fourth of July, but no picnic for more than a million people going on six days without power across 12 states and some are running out of food.

BANFIELD: A holiday celebration turns tragic when fireworks explode, setting a house on fire.

VELSHI: And a fireworks display of a different kind. The sun putting on a show of its own.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ali Velshi.

BANFIELD: Look at that.

VELSHI: In for Zoraida Sambolin. That's going to be cool, right?

BANFIELD: That is such a cool picture.


BANFIELD: I also think that's got to be a graphic --

VELSHI: That's a picture.

BANFIELD: Nice to have you with us, folks. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, at 31 minutes now past the hour.

Let me start with this top story. No food, no water, no electricity and that's the holiday reality for a lot of people in West Virginia. About 312,000 people still without power in that state.

And yes, it is getting a little bit better. The temperatures have goon up to a manageable, 90 degrees. But come on, 90 degrees, no electricity. That means there is no way to keep food from spoiling.


JEANNE CAMPBELL, LEWISBURG, WV RESIDENT WITHOUT POWER: We cleaned out the refrigerators and restocked them. And now, we may lose the second batch of food. And you just have to live with no water. It's an inconvenience but we're making it, you know?


BANFIELD: It is not a good story all around in that state.

And John Manchester is the mayor of Lewisburg, West Virginia. He joins me live now on the telephone.

Mr. Mayor, can you hear me?


BANFIELD: So, give me a bit of a rundown on just how bad it is right now on where you are and what -- I know it changes hour to hour. What percentage of people are without power at this point?

MANCHESTER: Oh, boy. In our town there are probably about 30 percent to 35 percent of the population without any power right now.

BANFIELD: And so, I mean, six days in, what's the game plan for dealing with people who don't have anything left in their refrigerator that is palatable and also the water plants that are going to be struggling as well based on their need for power?

MANCHESTER: Correct. Well, we've had to set up a couple of staging places for dumpsters for people to clear out their freezers and refrigerators to get rid of stuff that has gone bad.

And we have been helpful. I mean, the local stores, local Wal- Mart is open. So, there is access to that, the line is long obviously. But we also have a water and ice distribution center at our local Lowe's in conjunction with the power company and Red Cross.

BANFIELD: And I know that the water plant was struggling in terms of its reserves going down. Is there anyone in your community that truly cannot get water? Or is it just a case of where the water is limited and everyone is just getting a little?

MANCHESTER: We're on a water conservation alert right now. So obviously people need to prioritize and we can't allow people to do lawns and watering and filled swimming pools and things like that obviously. But on the far edge of the service area, we provide water to 15,000 people, that include all the people in the city and outside.

So, on the outside areas, that's where the pressure is a little lower and they are probably 5 percent of the population that does not have water right now.

BANFIELD: Well, if they have any way to use camp stoves or propane or any kind of gas or generator, I know they are being asked to boil the water to keep it safe.

In the meantime, Mayor Manchester, thanks for being with us. And good luck to you and your fellow citizens in Lewisburg. That's very troublesome, and we wish you the best, especially on this holiday.

MANCHESTER: Thank you.

BANFIELD: This morning, we're also asking a lot of top power officials and leaders, when is the power coming back on? What are you doing to speed it up? How are these people going to manage?

Charles Patton is the president of the Appalachian Power. He's going to be on "STARTING POINT" at 7:00 Eastern with Brooke Baldwin, who's sitting in for Soledad today. Then, at 8:00, the West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is also going to be our guest live to answer some questions about how that state is coping.

VELSHI: All right. A Fourth of July family celebration takes a tragic turn in New Hampshire. Seven people were hurt, including several children when a pile of fireworks exploded on the back porch of a home in Pelham. And that set the back of the house on fire. Several of the victims had to be taken to the hospital. They are expected to survive. Neighbors say the homeowner was known for his annual fireworks display.

BANFIELD: And still with this theme, they were demonstrating the dangers of fireworks -- point well taken. But a safety expert is recovering this morning after she ended up being burned -- her foot in fact because of a fireworks demonstration in suburban Chicago.

It happened when the fire chief, yes, it was the fire chief, who lit a canister and accidentally it tipped over and that shot the fireworks off into the crowd of the media and the officials who were there for the photo-op as well. One of the fireworks hit the left foot of Laura Barrows (ph), the executive director of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance.

The crowd rushed to her and gave her aid, cold water. She is expected to be fine but doesn't that tell you if the fire officials find it dangerous, you should find it dangerous, too.

VELSHI: But that was a cute picture of a little boy, whoever he is.

BANFIELD: With the little cap, right.

VELSHI: Yes. All right. Now, some intergalactic fireworks for your Fourth of July. This amazing image show a solar flare that was so powerful, it disrupted radio communications over Europe. It also sent electrically particles shooting into space that just might sweep pass Earth's magnetic field to spark auroral fireworks.

BANFIELD: Say that three times fast. Auroral fireworks -- that is the coolest picture honestly. Take a look at that. I was trying to explain sun spots to my 5 and 6 year old boys.

VELSHI: Right.

BANFIELD: Don't try.

VELSHI: But a picture is good for that.

BANFIELD: Picture is good for that. Look at that.

VELSHI: That is very cool.

BANFIELD: It's amazing that we can get that kind of clarity. Often I think that's graphic, but it isn't, it's real.


VELSHI: Did you hear what our producer said?

BANFIELD: No, I didn't.

VELSHI: He described it as being like a sun burp.

BANFIELD: A sun burp. I quite like that.

VELSHI: Thank you.

BANFIELD: I think that's been coined officially.

VELSHI: A sun burp.

BANFIELD: Predicting the unpredictable -- how a man and laptop may be more powerful than a million gallons of water when trying to fight a forest fire. Take a look at your screen and you'll know exactly what I mean.


VELSHI: Using computers and intuition to save property and lives as thousands of firefighters use axes and hoses to fight fires, scorching homes in Colorado. One man is looking at laptop trying to predict where the flames will go.

CNN's Martin Savidge has the story.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's morning at the base camp of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Close to 1,500 wildland firefighters get up and head out. As they leave, they pass a reminder of what's at stake.


SAVIDGE: Residents come to cheer and thank these men and women who daily go out and risk their lives to try to save their town.

The fire crews and hot shot teams fight the fire with shovels and hoses. While plains and helicopters drop water or fire retardant. When the fires like this one become monsters, covering thousands of acres, there are never enough people or planes.

Last Tuesday's firestorm demonstrated it can be devastating and imperfect work.

But it's the way wildfires have been fought for decades. Rick Stratton (ph) is changing that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My main piece of equipment is this laptop.

SAVIDGE: Wendell Holmes Middle School in Colorado Springs is the fire command center. School's out for the summer, so Stratton and his team have taken over Mrs. Wilson's science class, which seems only appropriate because what Stratton is doing is cutting-edge and until very recently unthinkable. He can predict where the fire will be not tomorrow, but in five days, 10 days, even 21 days.

The benefit is obvious. If you know where the fire is going, then you can strategically place your limited resources to stop it.

Eight years ago, Stratton became part of a team that worked to come up with a computer program that would predict the fire's future. He's a self-professed fire nerd.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's high-tech and it's cool, man.

SAVIDGE: Fires are propelled by three basic things, weather, fool and topography. Sounds simple, but just one look at a computer map of the winds interacting in the mountains and you can see just how complicated it gets, which is why Stratton doesn't work alone.

There's Julia Ruthford, the IMET or incident meteorologist. She studies the weather. Wind shifts kill fire crews. And predicting them is her job.

JULIA RUTHFORD, INCIDENT METEOROLOGIST: If I see anything on the radar, I'll let you guys know as well. Have a very safe day out there.

SAVIDGE (on camera): When did the fire burn through here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was about four or five days ago.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Rudy Rodriguez is also part of the team. We follow him into the fire. He sets up remote automated weather stations or RAWS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody calls it the lunar lander.

SAVIDGE: These robot weather observers constantly update conditions, even as the fire burns all around. With a few keypunches, he gets the station to talk to me.

VOICE: Air temperature: 71.5 degrees.

SAVIDGE: Then there's Ashley Whitworth (ph), a fuel technician. She takes samples of trees, bushes and grass near the fire and is reminded of the urgency when a giant helicopter hovers almost overhead and drops water on a sudden blaze nearby.

At a lab, she dries and analyzes the samples to see how quickly each will burn.

Then there's 6'5" Nate Orsburn (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole time we're walking we're taking a log.

SAVIDGE: It's his job to record and photograph where the fire's already been. And he often works alone, hiking miles from the nearest road.

Stratton himself goes into the field. He follows the fire from the ground. Then he takes me with him to look at the fire from the air.

He takes all of the information from Julia, from Rudy, from Ashley, from Nate and others and punches it into the computer. The end result is a color-coded map that tells fire commanders with varying degrees of probability where the fire is headed and when it will get there.

And it works.

RICH HARVEY, INCIDENT COMMANDER: We planned based on what this was telling us. It's going to go this way. Then we came in here. It's still pretty hot in here, but it's holding. And we're going to catch it here.

SAVIDGE: Like all firefighters here, Stratton's exhausted. When I asked what keeps him going, he suddenly forgets the data and talks in very human terms about what he saw when he fought on the line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've witnessed firsthand people coming to their destroyed home and the agony. It's probably the sickest I've ever felt in my life, hearing cries and seeing their sorrow.

SAVIDGE: For Stratton, there are no cheering crowds. But he is every bit a wildland firefighter who uses a laptop instead of a shovel.

Martin Savidge, CNN.


BANFIELD: It's now 44 minutes past the hour. Time to get you caught up on top stories.

Hot and bothered is really the story of today and it just keeps on happening. More than a million people waking up without A.C., without fans. This is a time when they need it most because temperatures are soaring again in the mid to high 90s and the humidity is making it worse, from St. Louis to Philadelphia, at least 20 people dead. All of this since Thursday when the deadly storms slammed the East and Midwest.

VELSHI: For the first time ever, this is neat, the first ever over-the-counter in-home HIV test has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Users of the OraQuick test simply swab their gums with a test pad and place it in a vile of solutions. It works the same way a pregnancy test works. One line for a negative result, two lines for a positive result. I say that like I've taken a lot of pregnancy tests.

BANFIELD: I was going to say, how do you know that?

VELSHI: A producer told me. It takes about 20 minutes, by the way, to get a reading. OraQuick should be available in stores and online by October. It will cost about $20. This is a major public health advance. Jokes aside.

BANFIELD: It is. You know what's odd about it is that it may seem simple, it may seem quick, but what if you get a positive result.

VELSHI: Right.

BANFIELD: You're by yourself --

VELSHI: Right.

BANFIELD: -- chances are.

VELSHI: Right.

BANFIELD: You know, --

VELSHI: But look at all those people who may think they have a positive result and don't go for the test.

BANFIELD: You're right. There's pros and cons.

VELSHI: It's a tough one and maybe there needs to be a good education campaign around how to use this.

BANFIELD: There was like a 1-800 number that, you know, proponents of this were suggesting that you should have a counseling number on the box--

VELSHI: Right. Call immediately if you get a positive result.

BANFIELD: Pretty fascinating, nonetheless. All right. So, guess what, Soledad O'Brien takes the day off today. Brooke Baldwin --


BANFIELD: Hello. It's nice to see you.

VELSHI: Well, this is what you call the short straw crowd.

BANFIELD: I know, right.

BALDWIN: This is a short straw crowd on the Fourth of July holiday morning.

BANFIELD: Were you watching Bill Nye?

BALDWIN: I mean, obviously, I fully understand this stuff. I don't know about you.

VELSHI: Tell us about the God particle in simple and elegant terms.

BANFIELD: You're a rocket scientist, right?



BALDWIN: You want to stick around for this mathematical elegance, 2.0 that will be happening in the next show as we're talking about -- basically, they're saying, you know, this is the holy grail of physics. Scientists believe they captured this elusive God particle that gives matter mass and holds the physical fabric of the universe together, right?

VELSHI: Like glue.

BALDWIN: Makes perfect sense.

VELSHI: We're going to speak to the lead physicist on the case about what this means for life and the universe and everything in it.

VELSHI: On TV or during the commercial break? BALDWIN: On television.

VELSHI: -- for a viewer consumption.

BALDWIN: Yes. Just like you, Velshi, pay attention. I'll be quizzing you afterwards.

BANFIELD: That what we do. That is what we do to people on TV.

VELSHI: This is a promotional thing. This is a tease for the audience that you're going to talk to a physicist. Just checking.

BANFIELD: You know what --

BALDWIN: Who are you? Who are you? I'm moving along. Also this morning --


BALDWIN: Mornings (ph) of economic disaster here. The International Monetary Fund, this is something you're talking about this morning, telling Congress you've got to act quickly or the entire U.S. economy could fall off a cliff. How to avoid the brink and another R word, recession here ahead.

Plus, I am so looking forward to this interview, protecting the Olympic Games. This is coming up a little later with the Olympics, but this, the surface, the air missiles, and London locals are -- they're frustrated. The government says they're going to, quote, "leave nothing to chance." But it's not just missiles, the other extraordinary measures being taken to keep the Olympics secure, and I (ph) jump the gun.

This is what I'm talking about. Jeneba Tarmoh, she is going to be on the show this morning. you know the story. You've seen the finish, right? She gave up -- except I don't think that's the phrase -- she's going to want to use, but she gave up her Olympic spot in the 100-meter race rather than, you know, do the runoff, meeting her training partner, Allyson Felix, at the starting line.

Why did she walk away? I have lots of questions for her. She is going to have join me on this holiday morning. So, certainly stick around for that.

Don't forget, you can keep watching CNN live on your computer, your mobile phone, when you're at work, go to Stick around for that.

BANFIELD: That is a great interview.


VELSHI: -- I'm a nerd about these things.

BALDWIN: I'm a nerd.

VELSHI: I'm just kidding.

BALDWIN: I love NASA, I love space, but the God particle.

VELSHI: I love that you --


BANFIELD: I have to say, I've got be honest, I was super excited about Bill Nye, but I had the whoo eyes.


VELSHI: What do you guys wants? The answer to the universe and its creation. It's not going to come in bullet points.


VELSHI: It's not written in, you know, physics for dummies. This is really good stuff.

BALDWIN: Hey, how's your stomach feeling after the hot dog?

VELSHI: You know, a waterish squishy hot dog is not ideal for five in the morning. I'll just tell you that.

BANFIELD: You know what, I didn't eat that hot dog, and I feel sick.


VELSHI: It is a Fourth of July tradition. I had my first hot dog this morning before 3:00 a.m., but I'm not going to do what some people are doing. They will be cramming as many wet hot dogs as possible under their -- there you go. There you go.

We are live on New York's Coney Island for today's big contest. Let me just tell you, Joey Chestnut, you're looking at there, his record is 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes with buns.

BANFIELD: God bless him there.

BALDWIN: What do you get for that? What's the prize?

VELSHI: I saw (ph) the cake.


VELSHI: Well be right back.


VELSHI: I love it. It's Fourth of July. Happy Fourth of July. It's part of -- as much as, you know, picnics and fireworks.

BANFIELD: Hot dogs. VELSHI: Hot dogs. The Nathan's famous hot dog eating contest. I won't do it because I did it last hour, and frankly, I'm not really -- my body is not loving the idea that I did, but, you don't just eat the hot dog. You dip the bun in the water. You have to eat as many buns as you eat hot dogs.

BANFIELD: Tell them really why you're not going to do it.

VELSHI: Because it's gross.

BANFIELD: Because I said don't, it's gross.

VELSHI: Because you said no.


VELSHI: You actually separate the bun --

BANFIELD: He's going to do it. He's going to -- Ali Velshi!

VELSHI: Man, that is disgusting. That is disgusting.

BANFIELD: Man, I can smell it from here.

VELSHI: I just ate one bite.


VELSHI: Joey Chestnut, who currently holds the official world -- I'm hearing somebody yell out there.


VELSHI: He holds the record, 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.


VELSHI: Sickening six straight win this year. In Super Bowl, a competitive eating.

BANFIELD: Alison Kosik has got the short straw on this this time, or actually, maybe the better straw to be out on Coney Island.

VELSHI: I bet you Alison is one of those, one of those -- she's one of those sly ones. She's like tiny. I'll bet she can down a lot of hot dogs. Hi, Alison.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I can. I can fool you, Ali. I can eat a lot more than you think. Right now, we've got some thunderstorms rolling through here. But rain or shine, the quest to find out who can gorge themselves the most on this hot dogs. This contest is going to go on.

So, the top contenders are Joey Chestnut, as you said, trying to beat or hold his title at 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Sonya Thomas also known as the Black Widow, she's a female component of this contest. She's going to try to at least beat her record as well at 41 hot dogs in ten minutes.

They came out yesterday, actually, for a weigh in, which is a tradition before this contest that's been going on now for 97 years. And here's how Joey Chestnut says he's been preparing for it.


JOEY CHESTNUT, NATHAN'S HOT DOG EATING CHAMPION, 2007-2011: I feel pretty good. I'm loose, empty. I haven't eaten solid food in about three days. And I'm going to -- I feel really good. Hopefully, it's not too hot. I'll be sweating like a madman, but as long as I find my rhythm early on --


KOSIK: And there -- you know what, there's a great technique that they use to eat these hot dogs. They don't just put mustard and relish on it and eat it. No. They break it in half. They dip it in water. Ali, as you know, it's a science more than an art, isn't it?


VELSHI: It certainly is.

BANFIELD: And it's gross. Did you hear Mayor Bloomberg yesterday --


BANFIELD: -- sorry, but Mayor Bloomberg goes out there yesterday --

VELSHI: As you saw in "The New York Post," you open it up and it has a picture of Mayor Bloomberg saying who writes this expletive, and you immediately thought this meant -- he'd been caught in an open mic saying something he shouldn't have said, but that's not true.


VELSHI: Listen to what he really said.

BANFIELD: It was hysterical.


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



BANFIELD: That's the mayor of New York, folks, in true New York spirit. That was an open mic that he knew was open.

All right. So, beauty queen, elbow grease, "Best Advice" coming up.


BANFIELD: "Starting Point" less than a minute away.

VELSHI: We wrap it up as always with the "Best Advice." This July fourth holiday, it comes from reigning Miss USA, Olivia Culpo. Take a look.


OLIVIA CULPO, MISS USA 2012: The best advice I ever received that anything is possible with the right attitude and a little bit of elbow grease. Don't be afraid for a little hard work and the right attitude. Smile.


BANFIELD: And that helps too, I think, as well. OK. So, Ali doesn't know we're about to do this, but I have to replay the video of Ali Velsh with his demonstration of how the Coney Island hot dog eating contest goes, and it's in slow mo for those who missed it. You dip in water, and this would have been at 5:45 in the morning, I believe. And, there you go.

VELSHI: That is award winning stuff, I tell you.


BANFIELD: I smell Emmy.


BANFIELD: That's EARLY START, everyone. Thanks for being with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

VELSHI: I'm hot dog champion, Ali Velshi. "STARTING POINT" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BALDWIN: We should have given the fair warning, put the winnies (ph) down, you're about to watch this yet again.


BALDWIN: Guys, thank you so much, sort of.