Return to Transcripts main page


Ferry Sinks Off Coast of Zanzibar; Drought Threatens Food, Fuel Prices; Obama's Plan For "Master Teachers"; Many Dead After Ferry In Tanzania Sunk; Mosque Opens In Tennessee; Yacht Race Around The World; High-Ranking Syrian Officials Killed In Suicide Blast

Aired July 19, 2012 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: disaster at sea. Dozens are missing after a ferry packed with passengers capsizes near a tourist hot spot.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Farms in crisis. We are live from the drought zone in Indiana, where they are hoping that Congress will do something to help them and help them in a hurry.

BERMAN: The hunt for a predator. Take a look at this. Surveillance video captures a man trying to abduct a 10-year-old from the street. There is a manhunt going on this morning in Philadelphia for that suspect as we speak.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 5:00 a.m. here in the East.

Also this morning, George Zimmerman in his first on-camera interview since the Trayvon Martin shooting. He was asked if he has any regrets. You'll want to hear what he has to say.

BERMAN: Plus, is there tension in the U.S. Supreme Court after that health care ruling? You're going to hear what Justice Antonin Scalia said about any possible bad blood. That's in that CNN exclusive, coming right up.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: Up first this morning, breaking news from Zanzibar, Tanzania, where more than 30 people have drowned, over 100 more are feared dead, after a ferry with nearly 300 people on board sank. About 150 people were rescued. But officials say there's not much hope for the passengers who are still missing.

There were also 31 children on board. You are looking there at pictures of a little boy being saved. There were tourists on board as well. But it's not clear if any of them were Americans.

Rough weather and fierce waves are hampering rescue efforts and may be to blame for that tragedy.

BERMAN: This morning more than 60 percent of the U.S. is now dealing with extreme drought conditions that are showing no signs of letting up. Officials say close to 1,300 counties, that's a third of the counties in the entire United States, have now been labeled disaster areas.

The Obama administration is asking Congress for drought relief help and to help pass a $500 billion farm bill. Right now, crops are withering away under the heat, threatening to drive up prices on food, fuel, the entire nation. Soybean prices have already surpassed record highs and corn prices are coming next.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says increased consumer costs could come later this year and even next year. He also said, by the way, he's getting on his knees every day, saying an extra prayer.

CNN's Rob Marciano is live in Indianapolis, at the heart of the drought right now, standing, I believe, with some cattle.

This isn't just about crops, Rob, is it?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No, it's not. This is a ripple effect that in all the factors that you spoke of, it goes well beyond, you know, the Corn Belt and farmers that may just be having a bad year. It goes down the line in a big trickle effect.

And one of them is livestock and the food that we eat, and the milk that we drink, because these animals need that grain, need that corn to survive. So today, we're just south of Indianapolis, if you know anything about the Indianapolis 500, what do they drink at the end of the race? They chug milk. This is dairy country, baby. This is a dairy farm.

We've got hundreds of dairy cattle. There's a beauty there, number 336.

I'll tell you what? Let me bring in the boss here, Merrill Kelsey (ph). This is a fifth generation dairy farmer.

This farm has been in your family for years. How many cattle do you have here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're milking about 500.

MARCIANO: Five hundred. What's the number one effect this drought has had on you so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our prices have stayed about level. Our cost have increases, feed costs have increased about 25 percent 30 percent. The main thing we're worried about is how we'll get through the next year. We'll take a lot more acres to feed and hopefully have enough feed to get through to this time next year.

MARCIANO: The way you explain it to me, he's got fields all over the place here. About 60 percent of what you grow, you feed these guys. You supplement the rest. And that part of the supplementation, that's already gone up 30 percent so far.

So, you are already feeling the pinch. How long before what you're feeling gets passed along to the consumers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's hard to say. Usually there's not a lot of correlation between what we get and what they charge in the stores. It will be quicker than what everybody thought. I think by sometime late fall, you're going to see some increase in prices. Going to have to be.

MARCIANO: Have you seen anything like this in your years of farming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had some ups and downs in milk prices and dry weather before, this is the most -- I've been here 42 years doing this as an adult. And it's probably the worst that I've seen overall. We just were fortunate last night to get about a half inch of rain. Kind of too late.

MARCIANO: Too little to late. Thank you, Merrill. Thank you for the hospitality.

They've been milking the cows all night long. They'll do it throughout the day today. But it's the feed they need that's going to be depleted here in the coming year, guys.

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Rob Marciano in the middle of it all right now, near Indianapolis, with the cattle farmer right there, dairy farmer -- of course, affecting grocery prices and at the gas station.

To find out more about all this, tune in to "STARTING POINT" at 7:00 when Soledad O'Brien will be talking live with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.

And new this morning: George Zimmerman speaking out in his first on-camera interview. Zimmerman who is facing murder charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin sat down with Sean Hannity of FOX News.

First, he tells Hannity he has no regrets about that night but then he backtracks.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Do you regret getting out of the car to follow Trayvon that night?


HANNITY: Do you regret that you had a gun that night?


HANNITY: Do you feel you wouldn't be here for this interview if you didn't have that gun?


HANNITY: You feel you would not be here?

ZIMMERMAN: I feel it was all God's plan. And for me to second- guess it or judge it --

HANNITY: Is there anything you might do differently in retrospect now that time has passed a little bit?


I would like to readdress your question when you asked if I would have done anything differently. When you asked that, I thought you were referring if I would not have talked to the police, if I would have maybe gotten an attorney, if I wouldn't have taken the CVSA. That I stand by. I would not have done anything differently.

But I do wish that there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn't have put me in the position where I had to take his life.


BERMAN: It is so interesting. We were talking about it before, when he had time to think about it, he changed his response to that question.

Now, Trayvon Martin's father said we must worship a different God because there's no way my God would have wanted George Zimmerman to kill my son.

We're going to have reaction from both of Trayvon Martin's parents. They're talking to Soledad on "STARTING POINT" this morning at 8:00 Eastern.

SAMBOLIN: We're also going to talk to a prosecutor about the timing of this interview and how it will effect his trial, ultimately.

BERMAN: Interesting.

SAMBOLIN: Stay tuned for that.

So, according to a senior U.S. official, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is faced with two choices this morning: fight or flight. There's no sign of Assad one day after a bomber killed his defense minister and a top general. Rebel forces continuing their assault on Damascus overnight. They're vowing to liberate the capital. Hundreds of citizens are said to be fleeing the city right now.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, King Abdullah of neighboring Jordan warns it will not be easy to overthrow the Syrian regime.


KING ABDULLAH, JORDAN: Damascus has shown its resilience. So I think maybe we need to keep this in perspective. Though this is a blow, I'm sure the regime will continue to show fortitude, at least in the near future.


SAMBOLIN: King Abdullah also telling CNN that he's concerned about a growing al Qaeda presence in Syria. And with the country growing more unstable he worries Syria's chemical weapons stockpile could fall into terrorist hands.

BERMAN: We have a developing story out of Philadelphia this morning, where police are searching for a predator. You have to look at this video. It is disturbing. You don't see stuff like this usually -- video of a 10-year-old girl narrowly escaping an attempted abduction. There you see it.

The surveillance footage from Tuesday afternoon shows a man in a white car following a young girl as she walked down the street with her 2-year-old brother. The suspect sneaks up on the child and attempts to snatch her. Her brother's screams may have scared the attacker off because suddenly he leaves the scene in his car.

We're going to have Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. He is offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. The mayor will join Soledad O'Brien live at 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

SAMBOLIN: I hope they could find him.

And no hard feelings, Justice Antonin Scalia saying he hasn't had a falling out with Chief Justice John Roberts over the Supreme Court's landmark 5-4 decision that validated much of President Obama's health care law. Roberts was the swing vote that kept the individual mandate in place as a tax, not a penalty.

Scalia telling Piers Morgan there is no bad blood between the two conservatives.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": You and Justice Roberts have had a bit of a parting of the ways. You've gone from being best buddies to warring enemies.


MORGAN: I think I read it in some of the papers. Credible sources.

SCALIA: You should not believe what you read about the court in the newspapers, because the information has either been made up or given to the newspapers by somebody who was violating a confidence, which means that person is not reliable.


SAMBOLIN: The chief justice joined the court's four liberal members in upholding the health care overhaul law.

Justice Scalia and three others signed a strong dissent.

BERMAN: And we have big news this morning overseas. Israel and Iran, new dangerous combustible tension after a deadly suicide attack on dozens of Israel tourists. We are live in Jerusalem with the Middle East bracing for Israeli's response. That's coming up.


BERMAN: All right. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. So glad to have you with us. It is 14 minutes past the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

So, we're getting brand new information this morning on that deadly attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists right outside the airport. Eight people were killed yesterday. More than 30 others were injured.

And just a short time ago, an Israeli air force aircraft picked up the injured civilians, taking them to hospitals across Israel. Bulgarian officials say they have identified the suicide bomber accused of what they're now calling a terrorist attack.

Bulgaria's interior minister says they have the bomber's fingerprints and a fake ID from the state of Michigan.


TZVETAN TZVETANOV, INTERIOR MINISTER & VICE PM (through translator): At the moment, our colleagues at the spot are telling us this person had a driver's license from the U.S. state of Michigan. The FBI colleagues who have arrived at this spot checked whether this driver's license is valid in the U.S., and whether there is such a person associated with it. It has been determined that the driver's license is fake. So the identity of the person behind this terrorist act is not currently known.


SAMBOLIN: Meantime, Israeli officials are blaming the blast on Iran.

Elise Labott is live from Jerusalem. And we do understand that Israel is blaming Iran but there's no concrete proof of that and no group has claimed responsibility. Is that right?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: That's right, Zoraida. But what Israeli officials are saying is this is a pattern of Iranian attacks or planned attacks against Israeli targets. They say in recent months they thwarted attacks on Israeli targets in Georgia, in Cyprus, in Kenya.

And if you remember early in February, three Iranians were arrested in Bangkok for using explosives that they say were meant for Israeli diplomats.

Let's take a listen to what the Israeli intelligence minister, Dan Meridor, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour right after the blast.


DAN MERIDOR, ISRAELI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND INTELLIGENCE MINISTER: They're after us, after Israelis, wherever they can find them. And we have good indications and will, of course, investigate further that Iran is behind that story.


LABOTT: So, Zoraida, they say that this is part of a pattern and that they're not only going to find who executed the attack and who was responsible but who planned it.

And so, you know, this really escalates this ongoing war between the two countries. Iran has said that Israel has targeted its nuclear scientists, assassinated them. So really, clearly, escalating the situation between them -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Elise Labott, live in Jerusalem for us, thank you very much.

BERMAN: It is now 16 minutes past the hour.

We get a look at what's going on with the other news today, Christine Romans is here with the headlines.

Hey, Christine.


The big story here, the drought. Crops wilting, the ground baking, farmers are praying for rain. More than 60 percent of the U.S. is now under a devastating drought that is showing no signs of letting up, and it's costing you. The heat pushed grain prices near or past record highs yesterday. There's fear that food and fuel costs could rise from here.

An FBI dive team is expected to join the search today for two missing girls in Evansdale, Iowa. The two cousins, 10-year-old Lyric Cook, 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins, they disappeared last Friday. Their bicycles were found at a lake about a mile away from their grandmother's house.

Right now, officials are draining that lake. They expect to have it done by tomorrow. Search dogs picked up the girls scent earlier this week, but one of the girl's mothers says, she thinks the girls may have been abducted.

Don't try this at home or on the subway. Look what happens when a woman in a motorized scooter takes the up escalator at a Boston subway station. The scooter flips over. She tumbles out. That's a really frightening, scary -- we are told this woman is OK. You can see the bystander trying to help her and also takes a tumble.

SAMBOLIN: Why would she attempt that?

ROMANS: You know, you're not supposed to. No strollers. No scooters.

The Boston transportation authority released this video for a reason. They want commuters to see the consequences of ignoring the rules.


ROMANS: You know what that says to me? It says to me she probably tried it before and it worked. She went there with great confidence.

SAMBOLIN: Not a good idea.


Don't look at farmers for help at the pump this summer. A new MIT study found ethanol is not lowering gas prices. This latest study contradicts previous studies that claim that reports were flawed because the statistical models omitted some important variables rather. The corn-based fuel now makes up 10 percent of all gasoline which is up from 3 percent in 2003.

And, of course, this drought a lot of the corn crop goes to make ethanol so that feeds into the drought story as well.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 18 minutes past the hour.

We're getting an "Early Read" on your local news making national headlines.

Chick-fil-A, the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" says they are offering up a side of intolerance with their famous chicken sandwiches.

BERMAN: Good chicken sandwiches, by the way.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I don't know if you're going to feel that way after you hear about this story.

So, the company's president opposes gay marriage. His name is Dan Cathy. But he says he supports families but that does not include Adam and Steve apparently. So, gay rights groups say Chick-fil-A donated nearly $2 million to Christian groups that oppose homosexuality. This happened since 2010 they're saying.

So, the president says, quote here, "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."

BERMAN: You know, it's a restaurant chain that always worn its values on its sleeve. It's closed on Sunday famously for instance. And, you know, hasn't been shy about its religious views.

SAMBOLIN: But a lot of people are saying this may work in the South, but as you branch out, perhaps, you're going to have a problem with this and a lot of controversy.

BERMAN: All right. A big sting to tell you about in Miami. Undercover FBI agents in Florida have recovered what's believed to be a $3 million painting by Henri Matisse. It was stolen 10 years ago from Venezuela. The title of this painting is "Odalisque in Red Pants." Red pants and apparently not much else.

They found this. It was a sting apparently in Miami. The couple was trying to sell the painting for about $700,000, which is a deal.

SAMBOLIN: You're kidding.

BERMAN: It's a bargain. It's a bargain. Arrests were made.

Venezuela says they want this painting back. The painting is very nice. I can understand why.

SAMBOLIN: I bet they do. I always wonder how they steal these.

BERMAN: How do you sell a Matisse? It's hard.

SAMBOLIN: All right. For an expanded look at our top stories, head to our blog,

BERMAN: And coming up, a major credit card company accused of tricking customers into buying its products. Find out if you have been fooled, too -- coming up.


BERMAN: All right. Welcome back, everyone.

Minding your business this morning. Wednesday was a winning day on Wall Street. The NASDAQ led the way with a gain of more than 1 percent. That index got a boost after Intel said P.C. sales rose last quarter.

SAMBOLIN: Want some good news?

BERMAN: More good news.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Capital One customers will be getting refunds. The company is hit with millions of dollars in fines for pressuring and for misleading customers.

Christine has all the details.

ROMANS: Good morning. What's in your wallet? Is it a Capital One credit card?

Because the Consumer Financial Protection Board in its first- ever action as our new money police big fine for this company, Capital One. This is what they said they did. They used deceptive marketing to sell these credit monitoring, unnecessary credit monitoring, payment protection services.

People would call up and try to get rid of them when they found out they were costly and not doing anything for them. And they had a whole like sales team that would pressure you into keeping the unnecessary things. They led some to believe these add-on products would improve your credit score. So, if you have a very low credit limit, or a low credit score, Capital One, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Board would convince you that you need this, this could help you. And really, they were just padding their own wallet.

So, $150 million is what consumers are going to get. It's going to go automatically back on to your account if you're still a Capital One customer. You don't have to do anything.

Meantime, another important story for your money this morning., You know, for a long time now, you've been able to order from Amazon and not pay sales tax but more and more states are starting to add the sales tax.

Right now, you can see which states already do. Six states currently charge the tax. Get ready to pay more in these eight states, the blue states there. No political reference to blue states, just blue and yellow here.

Eight states where the sales tax is coming. So, there you go. You're going to start paying tax.

BERMAN: The states want that, and the brick and mortar stores want that, too, by the way.

ROMANS: Yes, you know, they had some deals with states before, though, if you're creating jobs here, we'll give you a bit of a leeway of paying a sales tax. They're building more and more big warehouses. Amazon is, because it's a popular site.

But now, they're going to have to start to pay.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

ROMANS: There you go.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: Two things, important things, Amazon and Capital One.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks a lot.

It is 26 minutes past the hour.

Help can't come a moment too soon for farmers -- helpless to watch their crops wither and dry in the hot summer sun. Rob Marciano, boots on the ground in the disaster zone. That's coming up.

And if you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop, perhaps on your mobile phone. Just go to



SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Breaking news, a desperate search for survivors after a packed ferry capsizes at sea.

BERMAN (voice-over): A two-year battle over a Tennessee mosque comes to a head with a controversial ruling from a federal judge.

SAMBOLIN: And we are live from the drought zone, this time, talking to dairy farmers about how the disaster hits home for them, and eventually, folks, for you as well.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman. It is now 30 minutes past the hour.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BERMAN: And we have breaking news from Tanzania where rescuers are searching choppy waters for survivors after a ferry sank of the island of Zanzibar. At least 25 people were killed, dozens are missing. Officials say there were 290 people on board, including 31 children.

There were tourists on board, but it's not clear right now if any of them were American. Rough weather and fierce waves are hampering rescue efforts and maybe to blame for this tragedy.

SAMBOLIN: It's tough to look at those pictures, John.

Thirty-one minutes past the hour. And this morning, more than 60 percent of the United States is now suffering from heavy drought conditions that are showing no signs of letting up. Crucial farm crops are withering away suffocating under the blistering heat. It's threatening to drive up prices on food and fuel for the entire nation.

Rob Marciano is live in Indianapolis. He is at the heart of the drought. And we were watching you earlier, Rob, with the farmers in that area. I think the gentleman said he that had been in the farming business for close to five decades now. Is there any relief in store for them at all?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, they'll get a little bit of rain later today and tonight, but, you know, from everybody that I've talked to, you know, and where the corn is right now, it may be a little bit to little too late. But they'll certainly take any sort of rainfall they can get.

So, the corn, obviously, the farmers are struggling with that, but that corn goes to feed, you know, heads of cattle, pigs, dairy cows, which is where we are right now. This is a big farm. It's a sixth generation farm now. Five hundred dairy cattle.

Here's some of them. Just kind of hanging out. They get milk three times a day, and when conditions are good, and that means good feed, and more importantly, good weather. And when it's hot like it has been, they don't produce as much milk. So, that's one of the reasons that supply is going to be low, as well.

So, hopefully, later on today, we'll get in there and show you how they milk them. It's kind of a loud process. By the way, yes. Watch your step. This little gizmo kind of scrapes the cow patties into a more desirable location.

SAMBOLIN: Are you wearing boots, Rob?

MARCIANO: Well, they're not knee-highs, but they're certainly, you know, cover enough. Hey, guys, I know in New York you, guys, have been struggling with the heat as well. Record high temperatures there, let's touch on that. Yesterday at LaGuardia, Newark, and across the northeast, we had temperatures that were near if not over 100 degrees.

Then, the storms came through and cooled you off. Here's where that front is today. And that front will come through places like Wisconsin, Indianapolis, and that's where we think we'll squeeze out a little bit of moisture as well. Last night, they actually got about a quarter inch of rain. That's the first significant rainfall they've had in weeks here.

And that finally breaks the 46-day pseudo dry streak they had where they only had a tenth of an inch of rain. They had a little last night. Well, hopefully, get a little bit more today. So, a little relief in sight, but it looks like the long-term prospects are that the heat will rebuild as we go through the next couple of weeks. That's the latest from here. Hoping to get an ice cold glass of fresh milk at some point, but right now, the cows are busy.

SAMBOLIN: Straight from the cow?

MARCIANO: I don't know about that.


MARCIANO: We'll let the cream rise to the top first, OK?

(LAUGHTER) SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob Marciano live for us. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. It's 34 minutes past the hour. A federal judge clearing the way for a controversial Tennessee mosque to open in time for the start of Ramadan. The judge issued a temporary restraining order instructing officials to conduct a final inspection of the new mosque building in Murfreesboro by today.

This reverses a county court ruling that halted the construction back in May. The mosque has been the subject of a two-year fight with opponents. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins tonight at sundown.

SAMBOLIN: WikiLeaks finding a way to take in credit card donations again. So, what the blowing website has been cut off for 18 months by a credit card industry boycott, but now, the group has an arrangement with an organization called the fund for the defense of net neutrality. FDNN.

BERMAN: It's a catchy name, right?


SAMBOLIN: FDNN agreeing to accept credit card donations on behalf of WikiLeaks while processing them through the French payment card system, Card Blue (ph). WikiLeaks says Visa and MasterCard are contractually obligated to allow those payments to go through.

BERMAN: House Speaker John Boehner raising the bar, perhaps, his response to President Obama. He launched into a bit of a heated response yesterday when asked about the need for Mitt Romney to release more tax returns. The speaker calling that issue a side show orchestrated by Democrats to distract voters from the president's economic record.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: I think the president's attack on the private sector in America is exactly what's wrong with this administration. He doesn't give a damn about middle class Americans who are out there looking for work. What he's trying to do is distract the American people in order to win his own re-election.


BERMAN: Boehner went on to say the American people are asking where the jobs are, not where Mitt Romney's tax returns are.

SAMBOLIN: And Ann Romney is reacting to a DNC video that features footage of her dancing show horse. The DNC used the horse in a mocking way to attack Mitt Romney for dancing around releasing his tax returns. Ann Romney who trains with show horses as part of her therapy for multiple sclerosis took offense to that in an interview with Robyn Roberts of ABC News.


ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: And there's this guy right here that has the answers for fixing the economy, and all these attacks are going to be -- they're going to try everything. They're going to throw spaghetti on the wall.


SAMBOLIN: The DNC said the ad was misinterpreted, and they will not be using Ann Romney's horses again.

BERMAN: All right. So imagine this, imagine trying to sail around the world, the entire world all by yourself for three months. It's not easy, but I met a man who tried to do it, and he tried to do this, too. Amazing pictures of him standing on a keel. We're going to have an exclusive interview with the coolest sailor I've ever met.


BERMAN: That's coming up.


BERMAN: There she is, the Statue of Liberty in New York. It is now 77 degrees. This is going to get to be 85 degrees later on. You know, it is awfully nice to see the Statue of Liberty from the air, but equally stunning from the water. I just got to do that with one of the most daring, and I might say dashing sailors around.

His name is Alex Thomson. Thomson is getting ready to sail in the Vendee Globe. It's grueling yacht race. Imagine trying to sail all the way around the world without stopping three months all alone facing the elements, loneliness, even possible death. Seriously.

Somehow, Alex does it all with a smile. And before he kicked everyone else off his boat, I got to speak to him exclusively on the Hugo Boss racing yacht in the Hudson River.


BERMAN (voice-over): It takes an unusual sort of person to stand all alone on the teetering keel of a giant yacht racing through the open seas. But then, Alex Thomson is admittedly an unusual sort of guy.

ALEX THOMSON, SAILOR: I'm a single-handed around the world sailor.

BERMAN: What does that mean?

THOMSON: That means that I take a boat like this and I start races which start somewhere in Europe, generally in France, come out of France, hang a left down the bottom, left to Africa, around Antarctica, left at America and back to France again. No stopping.

When you put it in perspective, it's something like 3,000 people who have now climbed Mt. Everest. More than 500 people have been in outer space. But less than 100 people have sailed single-handed nonstop around the world.

BERMAN: The keel walking, a YouTube sensation is just a hobby for Alex. The 38-year-old Brit is gearing up for the Vendee Globe, the premiere solo round the world yacht race which takes place every four years. It's his third try. The first two, he didn't finish.

THOMSON: I think you have to be a certain type of person. You know, when you're out there on your own and the sudden notion where I'm going to spend five weeks in probably wind chill factors of minus 20, out on my own. There's no one to help you. Your brain is telling you you're going to die.

You got to be out of control that emotion. You're going to be able to sleep, you're going to be able to eat, you're going to be able to do your jobs, and sail the boat, and that takes mental strength or some mental instability.

BERMAN: Part of it is glamorous. His majestic 60-foot $4 million racing yacht sponsored by Hugo Boss. Part of it, not so much. Three months alone with no amenities.

THOMSON: You asked about the toilet.

BERMAN: I did.

THOMSON: It's down here. Here she is.

BERMAN: Oh, there she is, huh?

THOMSON: There she is. Yes. Right next to the toilet is the galley.

BERMAN: Kitchen.

THOMSON: Kitchen. Yes. That's a bag of food. That's (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Yes. It looks just like it does in a restaurant.

THOMSON: Yes. This is the chart table. Then for sleeping. There she goes.

BERMAN: As for sleep, no more than 20 minutes at a time. Let's hear the alarm. Oh, Man. When that thing goes off, you get up. There's just too much work. He had me help out.

THOMSON: OK, guys. Let's go.

BERMAN: what's the fun part of this?

THOMSON: There's no fun part in this.

BERMAN: But if it is work, it's work Alex loves. Honestly, when you're cutting through the water with the sails in the air, what's not to love?

THOMSON: I traveled all around the world. I've seen some of the best places, and that's the way to travel, by water. That's where you get to see it all.


BERMAN (on-camera): Just insanely cool. Insanely cool. The Vendee Globe this around the world race starts in November. Only every four years. Only about 50 percent of the people who start the race finish. Alex says fewer than 100 people have made it around the world all by themselves alone.

SAMBOLIN: And he's all alone for three months.

BERMAN: All alone for three months. He says it's not the physical stuff that's hard, it's the mental challenge. He sees a psychologist, a sports psychologist, to help some deal with the loneliest and the pressure to get through this all.

SAMBOLIN: Now, I asked you earlier if he has any human contact at all. So, does he Skype or something?

BERMAN: He's got a really sweet computer system there, so he can Skype, he can talk on the phone to people, but he's got so much to do. He gets his position like every hour where he is in the world and where he is in the race. And so, he's constantly working. But he can get on the internet. He can Skype. He can talk to his family when he needs to.

SAMBOLIN: Very cool. What a great opportunity.

BERMAN: So cool.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-five minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date now. Here is Christine Romans with this morning's top stories.



ROMANS (voice-over): Fear of sticker shock with more than 60 percent of the country in a terrible drought right now. The heat pushed grain prices near or past record highs yesterday. The Obama administration is now asking Congress for drought relief help and to pass a $500 billion farm bill.

Still no sign of Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, this morning. Yesterday, a bomber killed three members of his inner circle, including his top general and his defense minister. Rebel forces are continuing their assault on Damascus overnight, vowing to liberate the capital.

This as the U.N. prepares to vote in just over four hours on a resolution calling for non-military sanctions against the Assad regime.

It's called "Operation Black Stones," and it busted three people buying several assault rivals from Mexico's infamous Zetas drug cartel. Juan Carillo-Gallegos, Jorge Garcia, and Mary Siller all confessed to working for that dangerous cartel and intending to bring the weapons across the border.

Siller is a U.S. citizen. The two men are Mexican nationals. All three are facing federal charges for transfer or possession of a machine gun and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The Obama administration unveiling a billion dollar education plan to boost student performance in Science and Math. It calls for recruiting elite educators for a master's teachers program and paying them $20,000 a year stipends to mentor fellow teachers around the country. This is an effort to close the achievement gap between American students and their global peers.

And a team of archeologists may have unearthed the remains of Lisa Gherardini. This is the woman believed to be the model for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. The discovery coming this week at a great site inside a medieval convent in Florence, Italy.

Scientists hope to use the latest technology to reconstruct the face of the skeletal remains and compare it with Da Vinci's legendary portrait to see if it's a match. I mean, still, think that woman, Mona Lisa, still captivating science, art, and the public even now.

BERMAN (voice-over): Can you see a smile just from a skeleton?

ROMANS: I don't know. We'll have to see what the scientists find out.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): From the bone structure, right?

BERMAN: Interesting.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Thank you so much, Christine.

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

SAMBOLIN: That is interesting, right? The things that they still find amaze me.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour. It's dental hygiene with a hip-hop flavor.

BERMAN (on-camera): This is awesome.


SAMBOLIN: Coming up, the brand new video that your kids and your dentist will absolutely love. You're not going to want to miss this. If you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop or your mobile phone. You like the beat? Just go to


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It is now ten minutes before the hour. I'm John Berman along with Zoraida Sambolin, taking a look at what is trending right now on the interwebs. And one of them, massive treasure, treasure found. Treasure hunters pulled up a record haul. I'm talking a lot of silver, 48 tons of silver treasure.

They found it three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic. It comes from a ship (INAUDIBLE) which was a British shot down by the Germans in 1941 or sunk by the Germans, I should say, in 1941. The expedition has founded from the Odyssey Marine Exploration Company. Here's the thing, they get to keep 80 percent.

Finder's keepers. I don't know how much it's worth, 48 tons of silver, but I go with a lot. A wicked lot.

SAMBOLIN: And they just happened upon it or --

BERMAN: No, they were looking for it.

SAMBOLIN: Very cool. All right. This is one of those really bizarre stories that came this morning. I said, what? Cumberland farms stores in New England are begging the public to keep their hands off the Hoff. This is David Hasselhoff.

BERMAN: Yes, it is.

SAMBOLIN: It's a big, giant-sized cutout. There's 550 life-size David Hasselhoff cut out ads. They've been ripped off from outside the convenience stores. This is all happening in recent weeks. He's, they say, flashing a dreamy smile and showing off the chest hair with the refreshing iced coffee in his hand. Why do people want this? Why are they reaping them off?

BERMAN: You know, we're creative from New England, you know? You see David Hasselhoff picture, you want to take it with you. Maybe their big Michael Knight fans or "Baywatch" fans. I know you are.

SAMBOLIN: I am a "Knight Rider" fan, but I would not want that in my home.


SAMBOLIN: Sorry. But anyway, there you have it.

BERMAN: All right. There is our favorite video of the week, maybe of the month. Brush your teeth. That's what all the cool kids are doing. Take a look at this.




BERMAN: Oral health 2012.


BERMAN: It's called "Teach Me How To Brushy." Of course, it's ripping off "Teach me How To Dougie," that famous video from Cali Swag District. This video put out, I believe, by the Oregon Dental Association who has the best sense of humor of any dental association on planet earth, because this thing is hilarious. It will get kids across the planet to brush regularly.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to tweet this out to you, because yes, the kids, can you imagine? Just put their thumb (ph) while they brush.

BERMAN: Absolutely.


All right. That super-sized ice melt in Greenland we told you about yesterday, well, David Letterman is keeping his eye on it.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": A 46-mile long chunk of an iceberg floating free now has broken off of Greenland. Yes. It's out there. Floated off. Also coincidentally today, pretty big chunk of ice broke off of Katherine Heigl.


LETTERMAN: What does that even -- but this Greenland iceberg is the size of Manhattan. And it is traveling at a speed of a quarter of a mile per hour. Greenland is about 2,000 some miles away from here. It's headed our way. So, at a quarter of a mile an hour, it should be here next year around Labor Day.


LETTERMAN: Run for your lives, everybody! Run!


BERMAN: All right. Thank you, David Letterman for that.


BERMAN: And coming up at the top of the hour, we're going to take a look at this morning's top stories. Some big ones. Israel vowing a firm response after a deadly terrorist attack on tourists. We have new information and new video ahead. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Breaking news. Video just in to CNN showing the man thought to be the suicide bomber who detonated a deadly attack against Israeli tourists.

BERMAN (voice-over): Also breaking this hour, a disaster at sea. Dozens missing after a ferry packed with passengers capsizes near a tourist hot spot.

SAMBOLIN: The hunt for a predator. Take a look at this. Surveillance video captures a man trying to abduct a 10-year-old from the street. We have all the details on that.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. We're very happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman. It is 6:00 in the east. We have a lot going on this morning.

Also, George Zimmerman in his first on-camera interview since the Trayvon Martin shooting. He was asked if he had any regrets. And you're going to want to hear what he has to say.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, is there tension on the U.S. Supreme Court after the healthcare ruling. Hear what Justice Antonin Scalia says about any possible bad blood. It is a CNN exclusive, and it is coming right your way.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SAMBOLIN: But we begin with breaking news this morning on that deadly explosion in Bulgaria on a bus carrying Israeli tourists right outside the airport. Brand new surveillance video released. Officials tell us this man right here highlighted is the suspected suicide bomber they say is responsible for that attack.

Eight people were killed and more than 30 others were injured yesterday. Officials say the suspected bomber was traveling with a fake I.D. from the state of Michigan.


TZEVETAN TZVETANOV, INTERIOR MINUSTER & VICE PM (through translator): At the moment, our colleagues at the spot are telling us this person had a driver's license from the U.S. state of Michigan. The FBI colleagues who have arrived at this spot checked whether this driver's license is valid in the U.S. and whether there is such a person associated with it.

It has been determined the driver's license is fake, so the identity of the person behind this terrorist act is not currently known.