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Israel Blames Iran For Bulgaria Blast; Video Of Suicide Bombing Suspect; Ferry Sinks Off Coast Of Zanzibar; George Zimmerman Talks About Shooting; Attempted Abduction Caught On Tape; Drought Could Bring Sticker Shock; Syria Under Siege; Bulgaria Suicide Bomber Identified; Drought Threatens Food, Fuel Prices; Israel Blames Iran for Bulgaria Blast; Voter Registration On Facebook

Aired July 19, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (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.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (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.


SAMBOLIN: Elise Labott is live from Jerusalem. Elise, what can you tell us about this latest video?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Well, Zoraida, it's just the latest video, obviously Israeli and Bulgarian officials and also on the FBI as you mentioned, this suicide bomber allegedly had a fake I.D. from the State of Michigan.

The U.S. FBI all looking through this video right now for clues as to who might be responsible. The wounded, about 34 of the wounded Israeli tourists are on their way back on an Israeli military plane to Israel right now.

A few remain in Bulgaria for treatment. The Israelis are saying all signs point to Iran as being responsible for this attack. Let's listen to what the Israeli Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor told Christian Amanpour just hours after the blast.


DAN MERIDOR, ISRAELI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND INTELLIGENCE MINISTER: We have good indications and we'll investigate further that Iran is behind that story.


LABOTT: Zoraida, if you remember, there have been several thwarted Israeli attacks on Israeli targets that the Israelis say were against -- were perpetrated by Iran in Cyprus, in Kenya, India and earlier in February three Iranians were arrested in Bangkok and the Thai authorities say they had explosives meant for Israeli diplomats.

So Israel says Iran is always on attack against Israel. The Bulgarians and the Israelis will be at the U.N. Security Council looking for condemnation of this attack, Zoraida. Certainly, the tensions are heightening between these countries, between these two sworn enemies.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely. Elise Labott live in Jerusalem for us. Thank you. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have more breaking news this morning from Zanzibar in Tanzania where more than 30 people have drowned and 100 more feared dead after a ferry with nearly 300 people on board sank.

About 150 were rescued, but officials say there is not much hope for the passengers still missing. There were 31 children on board. There were tourists on board too, but it's not clear if any at this point were American.

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

SAMBOLIN: George Zimmerman in his own words, the man who shot Trayvon Martin sat down for his first real in-depth interview last night. At one point, Zimmerman turned directly to the camera and apologized. Here is a bit of that from Fox News.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I do want to tell everyone, my wife, my family, my parents, my grandmother, the martins, the City of Sanford and America that I am sorry that this happened. I hate to think that because of this incident, because of my actions, it is polarized and divided America and I am truly sorry.


SAMBOLIN: So joining me now criminal defense attorney, Midwin Charles and feel free to chime in if you'd like, John. Thanks for being with us this morning. We really appreciate it. So what do you make of this interview and the timing of it.

MIDWIN CHARLES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think the timing of it is interesting. One of the only things that I can think of why he would want to do an interview like this is to raise funds.

I simply cannot think of any reason why a criminal defendant who was out on a bail would put himself in just a cross hair because as you know just like on television like they say everything you say can be used against you.

All prosecutors need to do literally is press play to point out all the inconsistencies that George Zimmerman has given with respect to his account of what happened on February 26th.

SAMBOLIN: And what inconsistencies did you find?

CHARLES: Well, there are several. He was asked by Sean Hannity whether or not he followed Trayvon Martin as he said on that 911 call and he said, well, no, I didn't follow him. I was kind of going in the direction of where he was going.

And one of the problems with that is you are now starting to see George Zimmerman give several different accounts of what occurred. He gave a video re-enactment. He gave this particular interview, and there is the 911 call.

So all prosecutors have to do is show each one of those and show the inconsistencies. The only reason why this is so huge is because this is a huge credibility case.

This isn't a who done it? This is a why did it occur? The only people that can tell us what happened that day are George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, and as we know Trayvon Martin is dead. So credibility is everything.

BERMAN: What about his demeanor during this interview? What might a jury think if they look at these tapes?

CHARLES: I don't know. I mean, I think one of the things the jury is going to be looking to see is can I trust this guy? I mean, how many times is he going to give a different account of what occurred?

That is one of the one thing that I think a jury is going to focus on because they have to believe him. Especially if the stand your ground is to apply, they're going to have to believe his account of what occurred unequivocally.

SAMBOLIN: Hannity asked him about regret. I want you to listen to what he said and how he kind of backtracked on it and give me your take on it.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS "HANNITY": 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 that it was all God's plan and for me to second guess or judge it.

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

ZIMMERMAN: No, sir. 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 to 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, and that I stand by.

I would not have done anything differently. 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.


SAMBOLIN: Any red flags there for you?

CHARLES: Yes. Just maybe one little one. I think what makes that statement I think disheartening and very difficult to stomach is that at the one hand he says he is sorry. He said he was sorry during this interview.

He also said he was sorry during his first bail hearing when he took the stand, but how is it that on the one hand you're sorry, but on the other you do not regret the interaction.

You do not regret a carrying the gun and then to say that it is God's plan for a 17-year-old to be killed who was unarmed, I think it is incredibly disturbing.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Midwin Charles, criminal defense attorney, thanks for weighing in this morning. We appreciate it.

CHARLES: You're welcome. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, we have a developing story right now out of Philadelphia where police are searching for a predator this morning. You have to take a look at this disturbing video.

It is of a 10-year-old girl narrowly escaping an attempted abduction. This surveillance footage from Tuesday afternoon shows a man in a white car following a young girl as she walks down the street with her 2-year-old brother.

The suspect sneaks up on the child and attempts to snatch her. But her brother screams, may have scared the attacker off because he suddenly leaves the scene in his car.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. He joins Soledad O'Brien live at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT."

SAMBOLIN: We're so happy that ended the way it did.

Crops are wilting and the ground baking and farmers, they are praying for rain. Most of the U.S. is now under a devastating drought that is showing no signs of letting up either.

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. This is a live picture from a cattle farm in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Obama administration is now asking Congress for drought relief help and to pass a $500 billion farm bill and sadly it is costing you.

The heat pushes grain prices near or passed records yesterday and there is fear that food and fuel costs could also sky rocket. Meteorologist Rob Marciano has a live report for us from the cattle farm. It is coming up this hour on CNN.

BERMAN: With these three top deputies now dead at the hands of rebels, U.S. intelligence believe Syria's Bashar Al-Assad is facing a daunting decision. Will it be fight or flight? We go live to the Pentagon next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 12 minutes past the hour. I am Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. In a tipping point, it may be near in Syria. Rebel forces ramping up their attack on Damascus overnight. They are vowing to liberate the capital city one day after a bomber took out President Assad's top general and his defense minister.

They got very close to the heart of the regime. Twenty four hours after the attack, we still haven't seen or heard from the embattled Syrian leader.

Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon this morning. U.S. officials have to be watching this so closely, Barbara. What are you hearing from your sources and what is the U.S. most concerned about?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, certainly concern about the chemical weapons in Syria, concern about the regime, possibly imploding and chaos ensuing in Syria.

But when we asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta his views about the rise in violence, he was very interesting. We didn't get the usual answer we're pursuing diplomatic options to force Assad out. We got a very different Leon Panetta.


STARR: Can you tell the world what you're doing so the world feels more reassured that you have an ability to do something about this about the fighting in Damascus?

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control. For that reason it is extremely important that the international community working with other countries that have concerns in that area have to bring maximum pressure on Assad to do what's right to step down and to allow for that peaceful transition.


STARR: Rapidly spinning out of control, John, when a U.S. secretary of defense uses those words, the world certainly listens. The administration is pushing the line right now that the Assad regime is at a decision point, fight or flight.

They have to make that decision point and certainly they must understand that this is a potential tipping point. Whether the Assad regime sees it the same way Washington does certainly remains to be seen -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon developments in Damascus minute by minute. We'll be watching it closely. Retired Syrian Brigadier General Akil Hashem, he trained the defense minister who was killed in yesterday's Damascus attack. He will join Soledad O'Brien live in the 8:00 hour of "STARTING POINT."

SAMBOLIN: It's 14 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. Here is Christine Romans with this morning's top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again. New developments this morning in the aftermath of that deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria. Eight people were killed yesterday. More than 30 others were injured on a bus carrying Israeli tourists. Just a short time ago an Israeli air force aircraft picked up the injured civilians, taking them to hospitals across Israel. And Bulgarian officials are releasing security camera footage of the suspected bomber.

There he is appearing on tape for nearly an hour before the attack. They say they have the bomber's fingerprints, recovered what the FBI is calling a fake ID. That fake ID is from the state of Michigan.

George Zimmerman speaking out for the first time since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. He tells FOX News' Sean Hannity that he wishes he could have done something differently on the night he killed the Florida teen. He claims Martin attacked him and told him, quote, "You're going to die tonight". Zimmerman insisting he is not a murderer or a racist and that the events that night were, quote, "God's plan."

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 Islamic center building in Murfreesboro by today. It reverses a county court ruling that halted construction back in May.

The mosque has been the subject of a two-year fight now with opponents.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins tonight at sun down.

New developments in the Secret Service prostitution scandal during President Obama's trip to Cartagena, Columbia, back in April. No criminal charges for seven U.S. Army soldiers and two marines for spending time with prostitutes while on duty. They will receive non- judicial punishment for their misconduct. That can range from confinement to quarters to forfeiting pay or losing rank -- Zoraida and John.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

It's 16 minutes past the hour.

Justice Antonin Scalia saying he hasn't had a falling out with Chief Justice John Roberts. That's 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 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: That was a terrific interview, by the way. It's really interesting.

It was the Clinton campaign in 1992 that famously coined the term "It's the economy, stupid." The 2012 race for the White House is no different. Coming up, what potential voters think of the job President Obama is doing with our economy.

And for an expanded look at all of our top stories, you can head to our blog


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-one minutes past the hour.

We are minding your business this morning. Wall Street rallied yesterday with the Dow climbing more than 100 points. This as new home construction jumped in June to a nearly four-year high.

ROMANS: That is good.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that was good.

Housing is showing signs of a turn around.

BERMAN: That sounds nice.

Let's bring in Christine Romans for more on the economy.

Despite bright spots all is not well, right?

ROMANS: Well, it's interesting. You look at the housing market, for example, and signs I would call it stability, not necessarily recovery, but at least stability in the housing market. We have a Beige Book report from the Fed yesterday that showed that there actually, there's economic growth in all of the 12 Fed districts but you look at the polling for the president, and people just aren't feeling this yet.

A new "New York Times"/CBS poll really fascinating, showing that 39 percent approve of the president's handling of the economy, 55 percent disapprove and 6 percent -- I don't know who those people are -- they just don't know.

BERMAN: It's slipping, by the way, from the last time they polled.

ROMANS: It is. And it's slipping.

And the trajectory of this is what's so important, because you have the summer stuck in the mud as Ben Bernanke, the fed chief, called it in the labor market. That's so critical for both candidates because how you feel about your job is probably the most important thing going into this election, and we've got this summer swoon in the jobs market.

So really interesting stuff. You know, in 2009 on "The Today Show" the president even then was sort of foreshadowing this moment right now when people are trying to figure out how they feel. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're starting to make some progress, but there is still going to be pain out there. If I don't have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one- term proposition.


ROMANS: Now, that's -- you know, he knew it then. He knew it then that people had to start feeling better.

What we didn't know in February of 2009 was how much worse it was than we thought, right? There were mistakes, all kinds of policy mistakes made. We didn't realize Congress was going to be such a contentious place to be. I mean, you couldn't see in the crystal ball in February 2009.

I think he looks much younger in that.

BERMAN: Absolutely. You see how the economy has weighed on him over the years.

ROMANS: It's shocking. What I think is interesting is how much this whole Bain, Mitt Romney, tax the rich, something evil about how much money he has and how that hasn't really in these polls, at least. It looks like it is an attack that hasn't really worked.

BERMAN: We're going to be talking about that. There's some really interesting underlying number that is telling an interesting story.

ROMANS: I think that they had to go after his business record but it sounds to me like people at least at this point --

SAMBOLIN: They're frustrated.

ROMANS: They're more frustrated about their current job situation than about the business record or the taxes of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney has chosen not to release all of these tax records but doesn't seem to be hurting him too much.

SAMBOLIN: Not at all actually when you talk about those polls later, because people are really -- they're frustrated and they're saying, you know what? I don't care how much money he makes, I don't care about Bain, I care about is jobs.

BERMAN: However, Romney not doing well with issues that matter to the middle class. So there is some evidence that the direct immediate target of some of these ads may be working.

ROAMNS: And remember, there's still the president and Mitt Romney are still neck and neck in many of these polls. Did a FOX poll, the CBS -- "New York Times"/CBS poll shows them within the margin of error right there, neck and neck. So, it's going to be an interesting three months.

Now, the one thing you need to know about your money today, I told you about capital one and the $150 million fine settlement is paying with the government about selling you things you didn't need to protect your credit, you shouldn't pay anybody to protect your own credit. When you have a credit card, it's their job to make sure that credit card is being used properly. You should not be paying for credit monitoring, only in the most extreme circumstances. You are just throwing your money away.

SAMBOLIN: There you go. She is very passionate about this.

ROMANS: I don't like it when you have to pay for our own money. It drives me nuts that we have to pay to protect our own money. That shouldn't be. Shouldn't be.

BERMAN: I am with you. Whatever you said. That sounds awesome.

We're talking about the new poll numbers, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama. What's happening in the key battleground states? We have brand new numbers, that's coming right up.

If you want to follow us all the time on your desktop or mobile phone, just go to

SAMBOLIN: Probably the mobile talk, right?


SAMBOLIN: Breaking news. It is a desperate search for survivors after a packed ferry capsizes at sea.

BERMAN: Down on the farm where the drought is taking a huge toll on dairy farmers trying to fight off agricultural disaster.

SAMBOLIN: Saved from the sewer. Take a look. Rescuers pull a young boy out in the nick of time.

BERMAN: Oh, my!

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. Lord, have mercy.

Welcome back to EARLY START. We are very happy that you're joining us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

It is 29 minutes past the hour right now.

And this morning, more than 60 percent of the U.S. is crushed under heavy drought and is showing no signs of letting up. Officials say around 1,300 counties, that's a third, a third of the counties in the entire U.S. have been labeled disaster areas.

The Obama administration is now asking Congress for drought relief and to help pass a $500 billion farm bill. Right now, crucial farm crops are withering away, suffocating under the blistering heat, threatening to drive up food prices, fuel prices for the entire nation.

CNN's Rob Marciano is live from Minneapolis, the heart of the drought with dairy farmers and you can see firsthand how bad this is.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, check it out, John. What do you think of my milking skills, come on.

BERMAN: You really are seeing it firsthand. When I said firsthand, exactly. That's your hand. Nicely done.

SAMBOLIN: Where is the milk?

MARCIANO: Let me tell you something, the drought is decreasing production. They don't like the heat. The feed quality is down as well.

BERMAN: I think the FCC is calling, by the way. I'm not sure this is allowed.

MARCIANO: Yes, that was not clean.

The first thing they do when they bring these cows in is clean up those things and take these things and they slap them in there and it is all mechanical and they pump out about 20, 30 pounds, really.

SAMBOLIN: Technical.

MARCIANO: Twenty or 30 pounds of milk per sitting. They've got about 30 in here right now. What's up? They'll be in and out -- 500 of these get milked three times a day. All right?

Like I said, the heat doesn't do well, decreases production as does the quality of the feed. So spin around and check out how this happens. Look how quickly he hooks up these mechanical milkers to the udders and in the end, boom. All of this stuff is very scientific. You have the tag in there, how much the rate at which they're actually milking.

So what I was just doing there in a bucket, old school stuff, not the way they do things anymore.

So, every little change in the temperature, every little change in how much rain these folks get impacts the amount of production these cows are pushing out. So, I learn quite a bit.

Dairy country Upstate New York -- dairy country Upstate New York, Vermont, those areas, they've had heat, too.

Quick check on the record highs that you guys had yesterday. Amazing stuff across the Northeast, up and over 100 again and you had the storms come through, and a little cold front. That cool front will hopefully come through here today and bring us a little rain and that will help at least ease some of the stress. But it's not going to ease the drought, that's for sure.

And these folks, these guys they all hang out inside all the time. They've got pretty nice digs. We showed you those, last hour, John and Zoraida. So, you know, aside from getting one of these mechanical milkers hooked up to you three times a day, it's pretty good living to be a dairy cow. They like a little bit cooler.

BERMAN: Rob having a lot of fun in the farm in Indiana right now.

The important thing is the drought hitting everyone, every part of the farming industry.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We were laughing at his milking skills. But at the end of the day, the production is down there. It is nice to see how that operates. We typically don't get to do that.

Thirty-three minutes past the hour here. We have breaking news from Zanzibar, Tanzania. More than 30 people have drowned, over 100 more feared dead after a ferry with nearly 300 people on board sank. About 150 people were rescued including that little boy right there.

But officials say there is not much hope for the passengers who are still missing. There were 31 children on board. There were tourists on board but it is not clear if any of them were American. I was reading that two Europeans were among those dead.

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

BERMAN: An FBI dive team expected on a site today in Evansdale, Iowa, where the search for two missing girls drags on. Ten-year-old Lyric Cook and her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins disappeared almost a week ago now. Authorities are draining a nearby lake where the girl's bicycles were found and where search dogs picked up their scent.

SAMBOLIN: Mitt Romney explaining why he doesn't feel the need to release more of his tax returns even though members of his own party are urging him to release more. Romney campaigning in Ohio yesterday, continuing to attack the president's economic record while telling a local affiliate in Toledo, releasing more of his tax returns would only play into the enemy's hands.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are reasons people don't put out years and years and years of material is that today's world is one in where the Democratic Party and the opposition has all of these people to comb through and try to find anything they can to distract from the issues people care about, oftentimes in a dishonest way.


SAMBOLIN: Romney says he still hasn't made a final decision on a running mate but he assured supporters his choice will be a true conservative.

BERMAN: WikiLeaks is finding a way to take in credit card donations again. The whistle-blowing Web site had been cut off for about 18 months by the credit card industry boycott. But now the group has an arrangement with an organization called the Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality, FDNN. If you haven't heard of them yet, now you have.

They agreed to accept credit card donations on behalf of WikiLeaks while processing through the French payment card system. WikiLeaks says Visa and MasterCard are obligated to allow those payments to go through.

SAMBOLIN: A report by European regulators blasts the scandal- ridden Vatican bank. It says the bank has a long way to go to comply with international standards for independent oversight and financial transparency. The Holy See received a negative rating in nearly half of the regulators key criteria including combating the financing of terrorism.

BERMAN: We have incredible video out of Columbia. You gasped when you saw this the first time.

Search parties looking for a 3-year-old boy missing for a day, they pull open this man hole cover and look what they find, a 3-year- old boy in the sewer. They sent a stick down to grab so he wouldn't be swept away and a man had to go in and grab him and he was rushed to a hospital.

Thankfully, thankfully, he is said to be doing okay.

SAMBOLIN: Did you see how (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: He looked scared, too.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh. I wonder how they found him, if they heard him.

Oh, 36 minutes past the hour. We're following breaking news out of the Middle East.

Also this morning. Video just out, take a look at this. The man believed to not one who set off a deadly suicide attack on Israeli tourists. We're going to go live to Jerusalem for an update. That's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Breaking news this morning on that deadly explosion in Bulgaria. On a bus carrying Israeli tourists right outside of the airport, we have brand new surveillance video just released.

Look at that -- the guy highlighted there, he is a suspected suicide bomber. They say he is responsible for this attack. This video was captured an hour before the blast.

Eight people were killed and more than 30 others were injured yesterday.

Officials say the suspected bomber was traveling with a fake ID from the state of Michigan. They have not identified him yet.

Elise Labott is live from Jerusalem.

Elise, what is the latest?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, the latest, Zoraida, is that the wounded Israeli tourists, most of them are on an Israeli army flight back home. Some of the more seriously wounded, a couple of them are staying in Bulgaria for treatment.

And they're going through -- the Israelis, the Bulgarians and you mentioned that suicide bomber had a U.S. fake ID. The FBI is involved, all combing through this video. Forensic investigators going through the scene and looking for the type of explosives, how it was identified, which will help them piece together clues as to who was involved.

But as for Israelis, they say all signs point to Iran.

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


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


LABOTT: And, Zoraida, in addition to those indications, there are also Israeli officials are talking about a pattern of Iran targeting Israeli targets. And you had earlier this year three Iranians arrested in Bangkok.

Authorities say they had explosives meant to target diplomats and you have Israelis thwarted attempts in Cyprus, in Kenya, in India. So, obviously, Israel feels it's under attack and it's going to hunt down whoever was responsible and who planned the attack.

In the meanwhile, both the Bulgarians and Israelis expected to go to the U.N. Security Council, looking for condemnation of the attack.

We'll see if they talk about Iran being involved Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: No, absolutely. And I was reading some really graphic details of the blast and there were body parts all over the place and they were hoping to be able to take those back to Israel as well in order to give them a proper Jewish burial.

Do you know if that was able to happen?

LABOTT: Well, the eyewitness of the attack were just harrowing of people saying these body parts, of seeing dead people lying underneath them. Clearly, you know, you have to balance the need for the proper Jewish burial within 48 hours. You also have the Sabbath coming up tomorrow night. So, that might be a little difficult.

But they have to balance that with the need for forensic investigations. But clearly they want to treat them with respect and get those burials done as soon as possible, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely. Elise Labott, live in Jerusalem, thank you so much.

BERMAN: All right. It is now 43 minutes past the hour.

We want to get you up to date on the other top stories happening right now.

George Zimmerman, he says he's not a racist and not a murderer. Zimmerman gave his first interview since he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, telling Sean Hannity he is sorry for what happened.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I am sorry that they buried their child. I can't imagine what it must feel like and I pray for them daily.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Would you like to talk to them at some point?

ZIMMERMAN: I am certainly open to it.

BERMAN: Zimmerman also filling in some of the details, his side of the story. He said he was brutally attacked and he feared for his life.

More than 60 percent of the U.S. is now under a devastating drought showing no signs of letting up and it is costing you. The heat pushed grain prices near or past records yesterday, and there is fear that food -- things like dairy, meat prices and even the price of pizza could skyrocket.

SAMBOLIN: One day after a bomber killed his top general, his defense minister and his brother-in-law, there is no sign of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Rebel forces are continuing their assault on Damascus. They're vowing to liberate the capital.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council votes later this morning on a new Syria resolution that threatens non-military sanctions against President Bashar al Assad's government if he doesn't withdraw troops and heavy weapon from populated areas, he's been given 10 days. Russia is expected to once again block that measure.

BERMAN: Don't look to farmers for help at the pump this summer. A new study by MIT finds that ethanol does not lower gas prices. This contradicts earlier studies which researchers claim used flawed correlations and left out important variables.

The corn-based fuel now makes up about 10 percent of all gasoline. That is up from about 3 percent in 2003.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Facebook and the state of Washington teaming up. State officials announcing the launch of a Facebook app that will allow state and residents to register to vote. The application is expected to go live sometime next week making Washington the first state to allow voter registration via the social networking site.


BERMAN (on-camera): All right. Politics, back to politics now. A brand new attack video from the Romney campaign, be the first to see it. Romney using the president's own words against him coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, Washington, D.C. Let's see. Eighty-one degrees right now. A little bit later, 93 degrees, some scattered storms. Everybody is hoping for rain. You're getting a little bit of that this morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty- nine minutes past the hour. We're very happy that you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. We just saw Washington right now. Everyone in Washington, of course, talking about the presidential race, and just a few minutes ago, we got a brand new video attack on President Obama from the Romney campaign. We'll show you that in a second.

This comes fresh on the heels of another brand new poll overnight that is fascinating showing this race in really a dead heat. Mitt Romney at 47 percent, the president at 46 percent, that's according to the new "New York Times"/CBS poll.

And just minutes ago, as I said, a new video from the Romney team that uses the president's own words against him featuring a speech he made arguing that wealthy entrepreneurs need help from the government to become successful.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, (ph) they're so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.

Let me tell you something, if you got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.


BERMAN: We're going to hear more about this today from the Romney campaign, I am told. What we've been hearing from the Obama campaign the last few days about Mitt Romney, his connections to Bain, and his tax records. The question we've all been asking, though, is will these attacks show up in the polls?

Now, we have some answers. Paul Steinhauser joins me from the Washington bureau. Now, Paul, these polls are fascinating.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They really are, you know, John. You showed the overall horse race there. That was from CBS/"New York Times" and Fox News also out with a poll last night that showed a slight, slight advantage for the president. Gallup's new numbers basically dead even.

So, the overall horse race number, John, have not changed much since April when we started this general election campaign. But, you know, when you dig deeper in the polls, that's when it really gets interesting.

The economy, take a look at this from the CBS/"New York Times" poll, of course, the economy, the top issue for all Americans when it comes to the vote for president, who would do a better job on the economy? This poll indicates Mitt Romney, and most other surveys also indicate the Romney has an edge on that question.

What about the Bain question? You were talking about Bain Capital and the attacks, the frontal assault from the Obama campaign against Mitt Romney of the private equity firm he founded. Take a look at this. Is that attack working on Americans? Six in 10 according to this poll said, no, Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital makes no difference to their vote.

That's the number that the Romney campaign likes. But look below there, that's the number that the Obama campaign likes. They say among people who say it does make a difference more say it's less likely to vote for Romney than vote for him. So, it's interesting when you break down these numbers what you find, John.

BERMAN: What are the things the Obama team has been telling me for the last few weeks is that these ads, these attacks are having a bigger impact in the swing states. We have a brand new poll out this morning again from one of the swingiest of swing states, let's say, which shows that might not be the case, Virginia poll (ph).

STEINHAUSER: Exactly, because those were national numbers. But those ads are not playing all across the country. They're playing in this week, especially in Virginia, John. And yes, brand new numbers from Quinnipiac University. Take a look at this. The president had a single digit lead back there in June in Virginia.

That seems to have disappeared in this brand new Quinnipiac survey of registered voters in Virginia. It is now deadlocked at 44 percent in Virginia. And John, you know and I know the battle for the White House is a battle for the states and the electoral votes.

BERMAN: One thing that's interesting, I will say, is that Romney team, Romney insiders have been telling me they've been surprised they're not doing better in Virginia. They may be pleased to see these numbers this morning. Thanks, Paul Steinhauser from the Washington Bureau.

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-two minutes past the hour. Up next, today's "Best Advice" comes from one of the actors in the 1970s comedy sitcom, "Good Times."

BERMAN: All right.

SAMBOLIN: It's hilarious. Stay with us.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-six minutes past the hour. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien on deck for you.

BERMAN: But before that, we wrap it up as always with "Best Advice." We have some great advice today, and here's Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And the advice today comes from actor, Jimmie Walker. He played J.J. Evans in the 1970 sitcom, "Good Times." Take a look.


JIMMIE WALKER, ACTOR, "GOOD TIMES": Be nice to the people on the way up because you're going to meet the same people on the way down.


ROMANS: Yes. Be nice to the people on way up, you're going to meet the same people on the way down. And maybe you'll meet them on the way up again if you're an optimist.

BERMAN: I will call that advice Dyn-o-Mite.


BERMAN: That's how I thought (ph) that advice.

ROMANS: There you go. I call it political advice, because everyone knows in the political circle that really works.

SAMBOLIN: I was asking him if he was willing to do the Dyn-o- Mite.

BERMAN: And my answer was absolutely not, and way absolutely not on TV.


BERMAN: So, if it didn't happen in break. it ain't happening now.


SAMBOLIN: I was trying.

ROMANS: He was a really cool guy when he came through. But again, we do the "Best Advice" every morning, so you can take it or leave it on your way to work. And sometimes, people like to take it. Sometimes, we like to leave it. I like that one.

BERMAN: A lot of people have been giving the Romney campaign advice the last few weeks as they were really weathering those blistering attacks of Team Obama about Bain and taxes. We have these fresh new poll numbers out this morning from CBS and the "New York Times," which show that maybe they're not having an effect.

Mitt Romney holding his own, dead heat with the president right now. The economy appears to be a much bigger issue for people than Mitt Romney's record.

ROMANS: Or what would those poll numbers look like without those attacks.

BERMAN: That's the one thing we don't know, and that's really interesting. And I am sure the Obama team will say we softened Romney up now. We softened him up over the summer. We helped define him so that after Labor Day, after the conventions when these stands (ph) get kicked off, he's really down here where we can get him and not up here where he may have been unreachable.

ROMANS: I think all of this is going to be absorbed by people as they go to the polls. You know, do you vote on how you feel that day in November or how you feel today or how you felt three years ago?

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure that there are a lot of polls out there that would tell us how people actually do vote when they go in, right? They take into account everything that they're listening to in all of those ads or perhaps do they say, hey, you know what, the most important thing to me and we keep on saying it and hearing, right, is the economy and jobs and do they have --

BERMAN: I think it all matters -- it is about impressions, and I think these are all about building these impressions. Certainly, the economy, I think, will leave the biggest impression.

SAMBOLIN: I think Romney right now is sounding more passionate than he ever has before.

BERMAN: Really?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I do.

BERMAN: His supporters say the same thing, only the last few days, but they do say the same thing.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. All right. That's it for us on EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, George Zimmerman in his first television interview.


GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, ACCUSED OF KILLING TRAYVON MARTIN: I feel that it was all God's plan and for me to second guess it or judge it --


O'BRIEN: There he is describing the night he killed Trayvon Martin. We'll tell you why he says he would do nothing differently.

Is the Syrian regime on the verge of collapse? Fresh fighting this morning in Damascus, a day after a bombing killed at least three of President Assad's inner circle.

And chilling video. Take a look at this. A 10-year-old girl, right there, who just narrowly escapes a horrifying abduction. The man is trying to grab her and almost gets her and her little sister starts screaming. We'll tell you what's happening with that.

And a packed show ahead. Trayvon Martin's parents will join us, Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, will be my guests, along with their attorney. Former Syrian general, Akil Hashem, is our guest. Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, and New York Jets head coach, Rex Ryan. Plus, the producer of the new "Batman" movie, Michael Uslan.

It's Thursday, July 19th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.