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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

"Beating on America" Bus Tour; A Tax or a Penalty?; Obama Bus Tour Set To Begin; Moral Obligation To Help Veterans

Aired July 5, 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: President Obama hits the road with the swing states on his mind. So, where is he going and who is footing the bill?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Also this morning, out of power and now out of food. Folks in West Virginia facing a dire food shortage.

BANFIELD: Fired for doing his job. A lifeguard terminated after jumping in the water and saving a life.

Good morning, everybody. That's a bit perplexing. You're going to get the answer to that one in a moment.

Look at this -- I'm Ashleigh Banfield. This is Brooke Baldwin.

BALDWIN: It's so nice to be here. Nice to sit next to you.

BANFIELD: This is the news from A to B.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: I love it, A to B.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Zoraida gets day off. It is bright and early.

BANFIELD: It's good that you're doing this. We do appreciate it, Brooke.

Five a.m. in the East. Let's start with this one, shall we?

BALDWIN: What?

BANFIELD: Kind of fun -- hitting the road today.

Up first, the Obama bus tour ready to roll this morning and heading for the Rust Belt. The White House branding the president's two-day bus trip "Betting on America" tour, kicks off with four campaign stops in Ohio today, and then it's on to Pennsylvania for an appearance in the Steel City tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar is live in Washington.

I like that beginning, Ohio, because in the campaign we like to say Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. But really, the message is kind of universal for President Obama. He wants to hit the economy hard, doesn't he?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he'll be talking about the economy and, Ashleigh, he's trying to draw a contrast. He'll be emphasizing specifically on this trip the auto bailout. That plays very big, specifically in Ohio, because this is a place that is number one in the country when talking about auto suppliers. He'll also be emphasizing the stimulus.

The idea here is this "Betting on America" tour, it's him sort of saying that he made some bets and they paid off, and then he's going to be drawing this contrast, like I mentioned. Mitt Romney, he'll basically be painting him as he has, from President Obama's point of view -- a calculating kind of Wall Street guy who put profit ahead of creating jobs.

So what does that mean? Yes, more Bain Capital attacks. You can expect we'll be seeing that from President Obama on this tour.

BANFIELD: So, we've been hearing about this, sort of kicking off "he's the king of outsourcing" line. But is that such a clever thing to do at this point, particularly when the president is pretty vulnerable on the economy front?

KEILAR: Yes, and also because some Democrats have obviously parted ways with him very visibly last month, Bill Clinton, very big among them. The reason the campaign and President Obama are, if you will, doubling down or even tripling down in a way on this, is because they feel like it's sinking in and there are some polls that are kind of showing that.

When you look at some polls recently -- and let's look specifically at a Quinnipiac poll that was done and the results from the states that President Obama is going to. When you look at Ohio, he's doing pretty well there -- 47 percent to 38 percent over Romney, well above that margin of error. And in Pennsylvania, among likely voters and their choice for president, 45 percent over 39 percent for Romney. And this is something that happened before that Supreme Court ruling last week.

So, the thought here is that some of these arguments may be sinking in and the campaign is going to continue with them.

BANFIELD: Brianna Keilar, getting up nice and early for us this morning -- thank you.

BALDWIN: So here's a question this morning: when is a tax not exactly a tax? Mitt Romney and his senior advisor having a bit of trouble getting on the same page when it comes to the president's health care law.

I want you to listen to the top Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom -- earlier this week. He was describing his candidate's opinion of the Supreme Court ruling that the individual mandate is a tax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, SENIOR ROMNEY ADVISOR: The governor believes that what we nut place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: OK. As we said, that was earlier this week. According to Romney's top aide, the presumptive GOP nominee believes the individual mandate in the president's health care law is a penalty. That was Monday.

Fast forward to yesterday. Witness the candidate changing gears a bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Supreme Court is the final word, right? Isn't it the highest court in the land? They said it was a tax, didn't they? So it's a tax, of course. That's what they say it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, the individual mandate is a tax. That is Romney's position, the new position. And he's using it to his advantage now, blasting the president for breaking a promise to raise taxes -- not to raise taxes on the middle class, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, it kind of felt like 1776 for a lot of Americans, the hottest and stickiest night out there without any relief.

BALDWIN: Still is.

BANFIELD: I know. Can you imagine? This is a serious bummer. I mean, look at the map -- about 700,000 people still with no power across 12 states and the nation's capital this morning -- count them -- six days after the powerful series of storms went blowing through, fueled by extreme heat, zapping the trees, knocking down power lines.

This is what Washington's massive power outage looks like from space. It's kind of obvious, isn't it? I know, amazing before-and- after images taken by a NASA satellite for us. Extensive power outages in Washington and Baltimore -- visible, clearly, in these images. Looks like stars if you squint and you realize you're looking the other way.

In West Virginia, the heat and the power outages have led to a food crisis, too. People having to toss out everything from their freezers and stores also.

Also, look at the shelves.

BALDWIN: Empty. Empty.

BANFIELD: Yes, everything was spoiling. They had to toss everything out. Very much of a concern. Food banks also struggling.

Red Cross expecting to provide 25,000 meals today to people. And now we have the bad news to report that 22 people have now died as a result of the storms and the dangerous heat as well.

BALDWIN: So, Rob Marciano, we've seen you in Colorado following the fires there. I know, at least -- what is it this morning, 90 percent contained? The biggest fire -- some good news, some good news as we start our day after the holiday.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and a little bit of moisture heading to that direction as well. But the moisture and the heat remain in the same spots, Brooke. We start off like we've been doing for two weeks now with a slew of record highs.

I'll just give you a handful, St. Louis, 105 yesterday. Evansville, 103. Madison, 102. Milwaukee, 102. Chicago also broke the 100-degree mark.

So it was a toasty 4th of July, no doubt about that. It continues today. Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, you're all under extreme heat warnings. Philadelphia as well and parts of the mid-Atlantic under heat advisories. It's going to feel obviously like 110, in some cases 115 degrees.

You are starting off in a hurry. It's currently 86 degrees right now in St. Louis, 82 degrees in Chicago. So we're getting a head start, 79 degrees in Louisville. It certainly is feeling very soupy out there in spots. Of course, with the power outages, still almost 700,000 of them. This is a dire, dire situation.

Some severe storms will break out across the northern tier of this thing, but here comes the moisture, some thunderstorms potentially across the firestorm. Don't want them to drop too much rain, because the landscape out there is pretty scarred, but they'll certainly take whatever moisture we get. One-o-one is what's expected today in Memphis, the actual high temperature expected to be 101 again in Chicago and 91 degrees expected in New York City.

So, even though the Big Apple to Boston not under a heat advisory, it's certainly going to be toasty. And really, we don't see much relief until we get through the weekend, Brooke -- 98 degrees on Sunday in D.C. and maybe finally getting below 90 by the time Monday rolls around. So we're still in the thick of this.

BALDWIN: Walking in my hotel room this morning, man, it's just like this wall of soupy heat.

MARCIANO: It hits you.

BALDWIN: It definitely hits you, Rob. Thank you so much.

MARCIANO: All right.

BANFIELD: It's seven minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast.

And George Zimmerman could find out a little later on today whether he's going to be allowed out of jail. This as he awaits his trial. A judge in Sanford, Florida, may rule today on whether the neighborhood watch volunteer is going to be allowed to post bond. He is, of course, facing second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Mexico has begun recounting ballots in its disputed presidential election. Early polls indicated Enrique Pena Nieto received the most votes. But Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has refused to concede, accusing his opponent's party of corruption. This recount is expected to be finished by Sunday.

BANFIELD: We've got some hopeful housing news for you this morning. The foreclosure rate is falling. That's great. In fact, fewer mortgages were delinquent in the first quarter this year than at any time in the last four years.

According to the Treasury Department's office of the comptroller of the currency, the number of new foreclosures down 8 percent from this time last year. And the seriously delinquent mortgages, they're down 6.4 percent from a year ago.

BALDWIN: Listen to this one. A s Florida lifeguard fired for helping rescue a drowning man this week.

BANFIELD: That's crazy.

BALDWIN: It's nuts. Twenty-one-year-old Tomas Lopez rushed from his lifeboat post Monday afternoon, realized the swimmer was in the water struggling outside -- this happened outside this lifeguard's zone in an unprotected part of the beach. After dashing to his rescue, helping out, he got fired for leaving his post.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMAS LOEZ, FIRED LIFEGUARD: I'm not going to put my job over helping someone again. I'm going to do what I felt was right and I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Two other lifeguards at this Hallandale Beach have to quit to protest Lopez's firing. Lopez is going to join "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" tonight, 7:00 Eastern, here on CNN.

BANFIELD: And you know, nothing says happy 4th of July better than a huge fireworks display.

The land of the free, home of the brave. Thousands of people lining up on Manhattan's west side to watch the annual Macy's 4th of July spectacular. Or they lined up in front of their television sets. It was great and Regis was hosting.

Forty thousand fireworks lighting up the skies over the Hudson River. Just a thing of beauty, ain't it?

BALDWIN: So, I'm calling it. It's 5:10 in the morning on the East Coast and this is thus far my favorite story of the morning.

This is -- we can call this a fireworks fail. Maybe not so if you were watching this. This entire 4th of July fireworks show -- boom, exploding all at once. Check it out.

BANFIELD: Whoa.

BALDWIN: Beginning, the middle, and the end. This was San Diego, the big bay boom. And kind of went bust.

Here's the deal. All the fireworks were supposed to be this whole 17-minute show -- whoops -- they all went off at the same time, five minutes before the show was supposed to start. Can you imagine sitting there with your kids, and all of a sudden like what's going on? And all of a sudden it's over. Twenty minutes later, thousands of people told sorry, show's over. Get home.

Event producers are investigating the glitch. So, 17 minutes of fireworks all going off in under 60 seconds.

BANFIELD: Holy cow.

BALDWIN: I think it's kind of cool. I mean --

BANFIELD: It's hilarious because nobody got hurt. Thank God.

BALDWIN: Nobody go hurt. Thank goodness.

BANFIELD: But what a show.

BALDWIN: Less than 60 seconds.

BANFIELD: Nothing like going out for a little finale.

BALDWIN: I love it.

BANFIELD: All right. So, it's Mylanta this morning. The people who took part of the Nathan's hot dog eating contest. Joey Chestnut retaining the mustard belt.

Who writes this stuff?

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: He won his sixth straight title downing -- are you ready -- 68 hot dogs, the wiener and the bun and all. And he did it in 10 minutes. So, he ties his world record.

But here's maybe the bigger story. The black widow, Sonya Thomas, won the women's contest but broke her own record with 45 dogs and buns. She's like 100 pounds.

BALDWIN: She's itty bitty.

BANFIELD: It's crazy. It defies logic, doesn't it?

In a competing contest -- did you know there was a competing contest?

BALDWIN: No.

BANFIELD: Well, here you go. It was the first ever Crif hot dog classic just a couple miles away. Kind of you know?

This is Takeru Kobayashi, who's in a contract dispute with the Nathan's people. So, he just said I'm going to start my own contest. He scarfed 68 1/2 hot dogs. So you could say he kind of won.

BALDWIN: Look at him. He's like look at all those hot dogs in my belly.

BANFIELD: How could his belly still be like a wash board after all that?

BALDWIN: Because he didn't eat for like a week before probably.

BANFIELD: Apparently, you know, his 68 1/2 not being recognized by the powers that be. So he just has to Crif it out across the street.

BALDWIN: Scandal in the hot dog world.

BANFIELD: But 68 for Joey Chestnut; 68 1/2 for Kobayashi. So --

BALDWIN: I'm wondering how Ali Velshi is feeling after yesterday morning and you guys -- him scarfing down the hot dogs.

BANFIELD: That's nasty.

BALDWIN: No, thank you. No, thank you.

Hey, to the catch of the day here -- this mako shark took six fishermen to haul in. I love it. Cue the music. So big it actually broke the scale.

BANFIELD: Unreal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Sixteen minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Let's get you up to date on the top stories of the day.

President Obama is beginning a two-day "Betting on America" bus tour today. He's going to make four campaign stops in Ohio and then he's off to Pittsburgh. The president is going to make the case that his economic plan is the best one for the middle class of America.

BALDWIN: Meantime, Mitt Romney deciding once and for all that that individual mandate in the president's health care overall is, in fact, a tax, agreeing with the Supreme Court and contradicting his top aide who earlier in the week said that Romney believes the mandate is specifically a penalty and not a tax. Now that he is officially calling it a tax, Romney is hammering the president for raising taxes on the middle class.

BANFIELD: Seven hundred thousand people are waking up without power again, six days in a row now. They're throwing out their spoiled food from their freezers and some people in West Virginia have gone for days without food and really low water supplies after freak storms tore through the region last week. The Red Cross is planning to provide 25,000 meals to people in that state today.

BALDWIN: A profoundly man-made disaster, that is the quote and the officially conclusion from the Japanese parliamentary apparently investigating the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan. The report says the tsunami-induced disaster, quote, "could and should have been foreseen and prevented", end quote, and its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.

BANFIELD: A gruesome discovery in a park in Montreal, Canada, this week. The severed head of a missing student found on Sunday and identified by police as Jun Lin who was killed and dismembered in may with a video of the murder and depraved acts afterwards being posted online. Investigators say the suspect, this man, Luca Magnotta, mailed Lin's body parts to Canadian politicians and to two schools.

BALDWIN: Fourth of July kicked off with a bit of a bang, Different kind. Check this out. University of Alabama, roll tide, the dormitory building was imploded early Wednesday morning and strategically explosives brought the 43-year-old structure down in a matter of seconds. The tower was demolished to make way for a brand- new residence hall.

It is 18 minutes past the hour here on this Thursday morning. We are getting an early read on your local news that's making headlines, national headlines.

So, this morning, we have reports from New York City, Los Angeles, and Long Island. So, in "The New York Post," an eight-year- old girl feared dead after a boat carrying nearly 30 people capsized in Long Island sound last night.

Coast Guard officials say 25 people were rescued right around midnight. Witnesses say none of the passengers was wearing life vests.

BANFIELD: In the "Los Angeles Times" -- wow, what a big one. So big, too heavy for the scale. Fishermen off the coast of Marina del Rey of California report reeling in a massive mako shark.

Take a peek. Wow. That is big. It topped 750 pounds because that's where the scales stopped. The general manager of the dock says he actually thinks it probably weighed somewhere around 900.

It took six men to drag that monster mako on to the dock.

I feel bad about those stories. I hate seeing that.

BALDWIN: I'm kind of with you. That was a bit of a group effort.

"Wall Street Journal" -- are you ready for the mini iPad?

BANFIELD: Yes, I am.

BALDWIN: I'm afraid I'm going to lose this thing.

BANFIELD: I love the iPad.

BALDWIN: I don't have a good track record with my iPhones.

Apple lovers wide-eyed this morning over a report that says Apple is preparing to unveil a mini tablet by November, so it's going to be smaller than your iPad, but larger than the iPhone, right around eight inches. "The Journal" reports component suppliers in Asia have been ordered by apple to gear up for mass production.

BANFIELD: I like it. I have to say, I like it. The iPhone is too small, the iPad is a pain in the butt, hauling it around.

BALDIWN: And you like it just right.

BANFIELD: Just right. Goldilocks.

Twenty minutes past 5:00 a.m. You are funny.

BALDWIN: Thanks, man. I don't have a filter.

BANFIELD: You can take a look at all the expanded top stories at CNN.com/EarlyStart.

BALDWIN: So, should you rent? Should you buy? Poppy Harlow, she's going to join us next with some new information on the housing market.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It's 23 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast.

You're minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures trading flat this morning. Closed yesterday for the holiday.

BALDWIN: The focus on Europe this morning. Everyone's watching and waiting for the big interest rates decision from the central bank in the U.K. and from the European central bank.

And Poppy Harlow is in for Christine this morning.

And we have some news. Good morning.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I thought this was really interesting. So, these numbers just came out this week.

If you look at rent in big cities across the country, they rose an average of almost 5.5 percent over the last 12 months, and prices on homes for sale only rose 0.3 percent. So rents are way higher. You're looking at where they've risen the most.

Mine just went up. We're trying to negotiate.

San Francisco up about 15 percent. Oakland up 11 percent. Denver, 10 percent. Miami 10.5 percent. Boston, a little bit over 10 percent.

So, what's interesting about these cities is these are cities where seven out of 10 of the cities with the highest rent increase also had a high percentage of homes in foreclosure. So what we're seeing is people that have lost their home from foreclosure have to rent. They don't have the credit. They go to personal bankruptcy. They can't buy again. That's happening.

At the same time, a lot of people have told me they don't want that weight of having a home, because they don't know if prices are going to go up and down. Why? Because it all depends on jobs and the economy. We'll know more about that tomorrow with the jobs report. If the jobs situation doesn't get markedly better, the housing market will not turn around.

Other things -- if you are thinking about buying a home, take a look at the three big reasons why now is just a superb time, if you can afford it. Very low home prices. Down about 25 percent overall from the peak in 2007.

Again, rents are up. The mortgage rates are low.

Quick look at the mortgage rates here. If you have stellar credit, these are the rates you can get. A 30-year fixed, 3.66, unbelievable record low. Fifteen-year fixed, 2.94.

But I should note -- I went home to my fiancee and I said we've got to buy. He said not everyone can get those rates. So what's advertised isn't necessarily what you can get. You also have to think about the association cost, the taxes, all that.

So there are a lot of questions. I thought it was unbelievable the rents are up 5.5 percent.

BALDWIN: I love that you're negotiating with your landlord.

HARLOW: He hasn't written us back yet. Please e-mail us back.

BALDWIN: Those stellar rates, of course, for Cadillac clients, but aren't they pretty good for the clients --

HARLOW: Relatively speaking. It wasn't long ago that average rate wasn't 12 percent. So yes, they are very good overall, but it's just harder to get them.

People have to think, do I want this home? How long do I want it for? Because we've learned a huge lesson that you're not necessarily going to make money on it and you might lose money.

BANFIELD: Can't wait for tomorrow.

HARLOW: Big jobs report coming up.

BALDWIN: Poppy, thank you.

HARLOW: Sure.

BALDWIN: President Obama, he is hitting the road, taking his campaign out and about, rolling out his bus to sway voters in the battleground state of Ohio.

BANFIELD: That's a slick-looking bus.

BALDWIN: What did we call it? I'll have to ask Brianna.

BANFIELD: Looks like a black bullet. Looks like something out of "Mission: Impossible." There you go.

BALDWIN: There you go.

BANFIELD: If you're leaving the house right now and you have your own special bus, whatever it is, this is how you take us with you.

BALDWIN: Your bus.

BANFIELD: I wish. You just go to CNN.com/TV, and all the instructions to get us on your mobile phone, your laptop, et cetera, et cetera.

Back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Campaign on wheels. President Obama rolling out his bus and trying to woo voters in crucial swing states.

BALDWIN: Also Mitt Romney and his senior advisor not on the same page. Is it a campaign pickup or sign of, perhaps, bigger problem?

BANFIELD: And how would you like to work here? A floating cruise ship just 12 miles off the California Coast. Full and set up to dodge immigration laws. Wow! Now, there's a twist to the cruising industry.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. Nice to have you with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Look who's here!

BALDWIN: Hello! I'm Brooke Baldwin. Good to be with you bright and early. Zoraida has the day-off. It is half past the hour here, and let's begin with topping off the tank. Picking the tires, President Obama ready to hit the road on a two-day betting on America bus tour for America's rough spell (ph) four cities in Ohio and Pittsburgh, P.A. Those are the two stops Tuesdays (ph) where the president leads in the polls. And his message really seems to resonate. Brianna Keilar is live for us in Washington, and (INAUDIBLE) Brianna Keilar joined quite the contrast between, you know, president being toward middle class. Mitt Romney kind of Wall Street businessman.

KEILAR: Yes, it's all about contrast here. And this bus tour is being billed, Brooke, as the betting on America bus tour. The point the president is trying to make is that he emphasizes things like the stimulus and really also the auto bailout because Ohio, for instance, big auto supplier.

The biggest state as far as auto suppliers go. So, a big deal there. He's trying to say, look, he made some risky propositions and they paid off. And then, he's trying to contrast himself to Mitt Romney. He'll be painting Mitt Romney nothing really new here as this kind of Wall Street guy who put profits ahead of jobs.

So, yes, more Bain Capital attacks, because when you look at some of the pool numbers, it looks like those may be sinking in, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And all the while, as he is headed out to Ohio and Pennsylvania, you have -- Tim Pawlenty and the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal heading to the same states, right, sort of shadow surrogates here to the president's bus tour.

KEILAR: Yes. And also, they may very well being, right, to be the vice presidential candidate as well, or they're rumored to be among the group. Yes. Welcome to the world of bracketing as it's called. And we're going to be seeing a lot of this. We saw some of this last month with the Obama campaign when Romney went on a similar bus tour.

This is bracketing. You don't want someone to take your entire message or really get only their message out there. So, they will be following along, making some stops and really trying to steal some of the spotlight. That's really what it's all about.

BALDWIN: Bracketing. Got it.

KEILAR: Bracketing.

BALDWIN: Brianna, thank you so much.

BANFIELD: Learn something new every day.

BALDWIN: There we go.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Thirty-three minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast. So, this is a story I bring you almost every day, it seems. Hot, thirsty, hungry, powerless. About 700,000 people still without power, if you can believe it, across a dozen states and the nation's capital this morning. It's six days now since those powerful storms ripped through, fueled by extreme heat, zapping the trees, knocking down the power lines.

And in West Virginia, it's really bad. A food crisis there. People having to empty their freezers, stores having to do the same thing, tossing out tons, virtually tons of spoiled food. Now, the Red Cross is expecting to have to provide 25,000 meals just today. The death toll has now climbed to 22 people who have died from the storms and from the dangerous heat.

So, brutal heat and a blanket of humidity still a major worry across the plains and the east, in fact. There are heat advisories in place for 23 states as well as D.C. The daytime temperatures once again expected to climb well up into the 90s and the lower 100s. All this this afternoon while the heat index values range from 100 to 110 degrees.

Progress is being made in the most destructive wildfire, however, in Colorado's history. The Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs now nearly 90 percent contained. Yesterday, I think we're around 70, 80, now, we're at 90. The fire has scorched more than 18,000 acres.

It's destroyed more than 350 homes, but the firefighting season far from over with as many as 45 large fires still burning right across the country.

BALDWIN: And the cruise ship industry says it has learned a lot about safety in the months since the Costa Concordia disaster. Thirty-two people died when this ship hit rocks, capsized off the coast of Italy. That was back in January. Remember this?

The International Maritime Organization Safety Committee has issued new voluntary guidelines, so these recommendations include the introduction of onboard stability computers, new free fall lifeboats, and establishing appropriate staffing levels for ships.

BANFIELD: Six months it's been like that. They said it would take three to get that ship out of there. Six months later, it's still there. Incredible.

Three American families are trying to raise money for veterans groups by calling on affluent families whose children are not in the military to help those who do serve. Couples donated more than $1 million themselves and are trying to raise $30 million for the cause. They say Americans have a moral obligation to help those who give so much for our country.

BALDWIN: CNN uncovering a legal tax dodge for real estate developers in Kansas. State law allows them to designate weed fields as farmland so they can pay dramatically lower taxes. So in one case, CNNs Lizzie O'Leary found a field of weeds in the middle of a housing development that's been designated agricultural with an annual property tax of 38 cents a year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: This land that we're on would be taxed, what, $500, $600?

PAUL WELCOME, JOHNSON COUNTRY, KS APPRAISER: If it didn't have agriculture use, that would be right. So, the developer would be paying $500 for this lot every year that it's not developed that will be paying that tax.

O'LEARY: And right now, they're probably paying a dollar?

WELCOME: They're paying about a dollar.

O'LEARY: Because this is on it.

WELCOME: This is there. And this is there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Right now, in Johnson County, Kansas, government jobs are being slashed, and school budgets are being cut. Local county commissioner says if the loopholes were closed, that might not be happening. I'm having a tough time.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Did you say field of weed?

BALDWIN: I did. I said field of weeds.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: Woods, Banfield. Keep it clean.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: Pitch meeting on the lido deck.

BANFIELD: OK. It's true.

There's a new company called Blue Seed. It's planning to anchor a cruise ship 12 nautical miles from Silicon Valley in international waters and convert it into --

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: -- a metropolis with floating offices. This is kind of an interesting idea, so that foreign workers can launch their companies without work visas. The company is saying that U.S. immigration laws are stifling on shore and the big ideas can't seem to get off the ground. So, it will not look a thing like your office, unless, you work for Google or any of those other Silicon Valley fabulous offices.

This office is going to have pools and massage areas, gyms, rock climbing walls, indoor soccer fields, and no homeland security officers to haul you out of there. Really get the creative juices flowing on one of these.

BALDWIN: Would you want to do that?

BANFIELD: I suggest CNN move offshore --

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: To the lido deck.

BALDWIN: Campaign cross-out. Mitt Romney and his campaign offering different messages when it comes to healthcare. What the mishap tells us about his campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Good morning, Washington, D.C. Good morning, First Family. It is 80 degrees if you're just waking up in D.C. And it's heading up, are you ready for this, to 100 degrees in the nation's capital. So, while the picture looks pretty, I don't think it's going to be that nice today, I've got to say, in D.C. Get the AC fired up. Hopefully, you have the power.

Fourth of July wasn't just fireworks and barbecues for our presidential candidates. Oh no, they weren't taking the day off necessarily. Yesterday, President Obama hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House. It was also his daughter, Malia's, 14th birthday. Happy birthday, Malia.

BALDWIN: Oh, happy birthday.

BANFIELD: In the meantime, presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, marching in a parade -- wait, wait, wait, wait, we've got to look at the pictures of President Obama. This is one of my favorite things, by the way, Brooke. You know I'm a naturalized citizen?

BALDWIN: No.

BANFIELD: And I was sworn in. And so, whenever I see these pictures of swearing in ceremonies --

BALDWIN: Goosebumps?

BANFIELD: Yes. I cried. I literally -- you have no idea. If you were born here, you don't know how special it is.

BALDWIN: There's Mitt Romney.

BANFIELD: And every year, you get to watch these fabulous celebrations, and you know, you're one of the peeps now, one of the people who can celebrate this fantastic country that's given me a wonderful opportunity. This is (INAUDIBLE) New Hampshire yesterday.

So, he brings his whole family in toast (ph) like three of them all together at his house, having a great time, and going on the parade route with his wife Ann, and also with potential VP candidate, Senator Kelly Ayotte. Romney seemed to change his view on the camp on the actual parade route. Though, this is a great moment.

He was changing his view on healthcare. You know how he called it a penalty before, but his chief advisor said it was -- excuse me. His chief advisor said it was a penalty. And then, all of a sudden, Romney came out on the parade route, to our Dana Bash literally trying to get the sound byte --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Yes. I know she was rocking it. It's a tax. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt, the Supreme Court is the final word, right? Isn't it the highest court in the land?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a tax, of course.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: There you go. You have it. Heard it here first. It is not wrong, by the way. The Supreme Court chief Justice Roberts did say this. "A tax on going without health insurance. So, it's in the language. CNN's political editor, Paul Steinhauser, live in Washington, D.C.

So, this -- I mean, it was a bit of surprise certainly to get this on the holiday, but there was this discrepancy between what the rest of the Republican Party was saying and what Mitt Romney was saying, whether this was a tax or a penalty. It might be (INAUDIBLE) to some, but those words have a lot of meaning to others.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: And they do. And that's why this is such a big deal. It was a big deal, Ashleigh, earlier in the week. You mentioned when that Romney advisor said that no, the candidate doesn't consider this a tax, he considers this a penalty.

So, when Mitt Romney said what he said to our own Dana Bash and to CBS in an interview as well yesterday, it created way, because what it does is it finally gets Mitt Romney on the same page with most of the other Republicans in Congress and other Republicans running for office who have been slamming the president over the individual mandate since the ruling by the Supreme Court last Thursday saying listen, when the president was pushing for his healthcare measure, he didn't call it a tax, and now, they're saying he's kind of reneging on that.

Also, what does it do, it puts Mitt Romney basically on the same page with most Republican voters. Take a look at our poll. This is CNN/ORC. We conducted it after the Supreme Court ruling. And in this question, we asked do you consider the individual mandate a tax? Look at that.

Eighty-three percent of Republicans say yes. And six out of ten independents feel the same way. So, it now kind of gets Mitt Romney on the same page and able to attack the president over this.

BANFIELD: OK. It gives him that ammunition, but doesn't it also give ammunition to the Democrats who say, well, hold on a second then, if you're calling this a tax, didn't you have a mandate in Massachusetts as well that had a penalty if you didn't buy the health insurance, hence, aren't you also raising taxes in your state?

STEINHAUSER: Aha! Very good point.

BANFIELD: You know what again, I can figure things out.

(LAUGHTER)

STEINHAUSER: And listen, Romney came under attack for this in the primaries. Remember, a lot of his opponents, especially Rick Santorum said listen, we can't have Romney as our nominee because of what he did in Massachusetts with that individual mandate. Here's how Romney explains the difference between what he did and the federal law. Listen to this from his interview with CBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: States have what's known as police power and states can implement penalties and mandates and so forth under their constitutions, which is what Massachusetts did. But the federal government does not have those powers, and therefore, for the Supreme Court to reach the conclusion it did that the law was constitutional, they had to find it was a tax and they did, and therefore, Obamacare is a tax. Like it or not, it's a tax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: It didn't take long for the Obama campaign to react. Take a look at this tweet from David Axelrod, the senior advisor to the president on his campaign. If he were in the White House talking about Romney, parsley would be the official vegetable, twister national pastime. Point, counterpoint, I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: OK. However, it is a bit arcane for the voters out there, and they were many of them not necessarily watching news yesterday. Do you think this is going to blow over, because it is kind of thick and chewy and people are still talking about jobs, economy, work?

STEINHAUSER: Jobs and economy, still the number one issue. Healthcare important, but this is an election about jobs and the economy still.

BANFIELD: All right. Paul Steinhauser, will you stick around for the next hour, too?

STEINHAUSER: You got it.

BANFIELD: Nice to see you. BALDWIN: Forty-six minutes past the hour here. And let's get you up to date.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN (voice-over): President Obama hopping on a bus and heading to the rust belt today. His two-day betting on America bus tour takes him to four Ohio cities and to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The president is ahead in the polls in both of those states. Plans to do a lot of talking, speaking of the economy about his economic plans being the best for middle class Americans.

BANFIELD (voice-over): About 700,000 people are waking up without power yet again this morning, and they're throwing out the spoiled food from their freezers and the stores are doing so, too. Look at these shelves. Empty. How would you like that as your corner store?

A lot of people in West Virginia have been going days without food, and the water supply is short as well after freak storms tore through the region last week. The Red Cross is planning to provide 25,000 meals to people in that state today.

BALDWIN: Could be decision day today for George Zimmerman. A judge in Stanford, Florida may rule today on whether the neighborhood watch volunteer will be allowed to post bond to get out of jail. Zimmerman is facing second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin.

BANFIELD: The final report on the crash of Air France flight 447 is expected to show that a combination of instrument failure and pilot error caused that crash that killed 228 passengers and crew. The airbus 8330 (ph) jet went down during turbulent weather back in 2009. It was en route to Rio de Janeiro. It took investigators two years to find the voice and flight data recorder deep in the Atlantic Ocean.

BALDWIN: Lawyers for a jailed Roman Catholic Church official in Philadelphia will argue for his release at a hearing today. Monsignor William Lynn has been behind bars ever since his June 22nd conviction for felony child endangerment.

Keep in mind, he is the first U.S. church official ever charged for handling of abuse complaints. The 61-year-old Lynn faces up to seven years in prison when he's sentenced next month.

BANFIELD: Mexico's Federal Election Institute about to recount more than half of the ballot boxes from last weekend's presidential election. The political parties will supervise, they'll review, and they'll watch over that recount, but the first official results from Sunday's vote show that Enrique Pena Nieto won the presidency.

But his challenger, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is refusing to concede saying that he's got evidence of dirty tricks being carried out at the polling stations

BALDWIN: One of the most wanted underworld figures in Mexico has been arrested in L.A. Take a look. The 27-year-old Nunez La Bonita (ph) is believed to be a top operative in the La Familia drug cartel working out of the United States.

BANFIELD: She looks like a kid.

BALDWIN: La Bonita is a beautiful woman. Officials from the U.S. immigration service say they had confirmed her identity using her fingerprint. Mexico put a $375,000 reward on her accused of cocaine, marijuana trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion.

BANFIELD: La Bonita. How about that?

Katie Holmes denying reports this morning that she filed for an emergency custody and child hearing. Her lawyer spoke to People.com yesterday. She announced last week that she's divorcing Tom Cruise. She did so by filing for divorce. The actress has asked now for sole custody, sole legal custody of their six-year-old daughter, Suri. Cruise has yet to file any legal papers officially.

BALDWIN: Let's call him the Sultan of Scarf. Joey chestnut retaining the mustard yellow belt, winning his sixth Nathan's famous eating hot dog contest on July 4th, tying his own record 68 hotdogs and buns in ten minutes.

BANFIELD: Ooh. Ick.

A homeless veteran to the rescue after a heated argument between two men on the streets of Seattle. Police say that one of the men pulled out a gun, shot the other one, hitting his femoral artery, and then that's when Staff Sergeant Royal stepped in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just glad I was there to be able to stop the bleeding, put a tourniquet around his leg. I think that probably saved his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Royal served in the army for ten years and fought in the first gulf war, too.

BALDWIN: To London we go. Pandas taking over, 108 of them, to be exact.

BANFIELD: What?

BALDWIN: Let me finish. This is all part of Panda Awareness Week.

BANFIELD: Of course it is.

BALDWIN: Of course. Some dance in the (INAUDIBLE) square. Others, you know, took the tube around town. Here are the real ones. A 108 people wore the suits, representing the 108 pandas at the Giant Panda Research Center in China. Aw. Researchers say their ultimate goal is to help the pandas return to their natural habitat and to increase the number of giant pandas living in the wild.

BANFIELD: So adorable.

BALDWIN: I know.

BANFIELD: Actress, Naomi Watts, looking pretty fabulous in her new role. When you see the picture, can you guess? Can you guess who she is portraying? Look closely. Look very closely.

BALDWIN: If you are leaving the house, as Ashleigh dances, if only you could see this, we want you to keep watching this on your desktop, on your mobile device, just go to CNN.com/TV. Get a shot of this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It is now 55 minutes past 5:00 on the east coast. Time to take a look at what's trending on the interwebs. He's being called the coolest cop ever. Are you ready for this one? A bunch of guys were jamming in the Canadian wilderness, and they're thinking that their fun is about to come to an abrupt end because a cop arrives, approaches them. They think oh, jeez. Instead, the cop just wants to jam.

BALDWIN: He just want to jam, man.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Just got to be heard. First, he shreds a guitar solo, and then he moved on to the drums.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought we were in trouble, thought we did something wrong. But, apparently, we didn't do anything wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Well, that he saw (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: I love it. Cop rock.

BANFIELD: I love it.

BALDWIN: Hope he has some winter clothes. Rapper in Miami native, Pit Bull, may soon be getting a free trip to Alaska.

BANFIELD: Nice.

BALDWIN: Why you asked? Pit Bull, he's taking part in this promotional deal with Wal-Mart in which he agreed to go to the store that received the most likes on its Facebook page. And right now, the leading candidate is the store in Kodiak, Alaska. This is all thanks to this internet campaign by a newspaper writer and the #exilepitbull.

The Kodiak store currently has more than 60,000 likes. That is more than ten times the population of the town.

BANFIELD: Na-ah.

BALDWIN: Ten times the population.

BANFIELD: So, somebody's out there with a like finger.

BALDWIN: Click, click, click, click.

BANFIELD: Yes. That's pretty funny. Well, good luck. Was that a big Kodiak bear in the background or what?

BALDWIN: I don't know.

BANFIELD: All right. So, before the break, we showed the picture of Naomi Watts.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: Did you guess?

BALDWIN: No.

BANFIELD: I kind of felt the same way. I don't think it was like really clear.

BALDWIN: Not yet.

BANFIELD: But guess who she's portraying in her new film. It is bam, bam, bam, Princess Diana.

BALDWIN: Princess Diana?

BANFIELD: You got it. You got it.

BALDWIN: Wow.

BANFIELD: Apparently, the film generating almost as much interest as her life, too. The movie studio released this. It's the first photo of her in costume as Diana. Watts is playing Princess Di in an upcoming bio pick that's going to cover the final two years that led up to that tragic car crash. She's saying she's very excited, very honored to be playing the role of a truly remarkable woman.

BALDWIN: Fourth of July celebration fail, if you want to look at it that way.

BANFIELD: I don't know. This looks pretty awesome.

BALDWIN: This was kind of my favorite story of the morning, maybe not. If you were in San Diego, expecting 17 minutes of fireworks when it really only took 17 seconds. We'll explain on the other side of the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)