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NCAA Slaps Penn State with $60 Million Fine; Inside James Holmes' Apartment; Romney's Big Test; Fighting In Syria Worsens; Worldwide Stock Prices Continue To Decline

Aired July 24, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Rigged to explode. CNN with exclusive details of the arsenal of home-made bombs found inside the Aurora shooting suspect's apartment.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Penn State slammed. The penalty for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal expected to slam the once- proud football program for years to come.

SAMBOLIN: High-speed sacrifice. A police officer risks his own life, putting his cruiser in the path of a wrong-way driver.

BERMAN: Oh, man.

SAMBOLIN: Oh boy. That's true commitment there.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 5:00 a.m. now in the East.

Also this morning, Zoraida, the economy taking the back seat for a moment to foreign policy when it comes to the presidential campaign.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We're going to talk about Mitt Romney's trip overseas and President Obama's brand-new ad.

Plus, we're getting an idea of what the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics will actually look like.

BERMAN: Fantastic.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to live to London for all of the details. I'm really looking forward to that.

BERMAN: But first, we have exclusive new details about the apartment of James Holmes, the suspected Colorado shooter.

A law enforcement official has described to CNN video taken from inside the apartment.

He said it was set up like something from Iraq or Afghanistan. Holmes' living room scattered with about 30 improvised grenades rigged to a control box in the kitchen and gas containers filled with 10 gallons of gas, allegedly for the purpose of adding more fuel to the fire in an explosion.

CNN's Jim Spellman is in Aurora, Colorado, right outside the theater where the shooting happened.

Jim, the description of this apartment of this video is extraordinary and terrifying. What else do you know about it?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Just trying to picture 30 of these home-made grenades essentially filled with black powder and these containers of gasoline around to amplify the thermal effect, fire after these things went off. All set to a series of trip wires. One set to go off when the first person who goes in opens the door.

It took them almost two days to come up with a strategy to eliminate them. Ultimately, they used water to disrupt the control box. These things were so volatile, they had to carry each one out in a bucket of sand into a dump truck, take them out into the country and explode them. It made a huge fireball, even out in the middle of the field. You can imagine what it would have done if it would have gone off in the suspect's apartment -- John.

BERMAN: Jim, one thing that everyone is talking about in the demeanor of James Holmes in the courtroom. It's on front page of every newspaper today. His face there, you can see his red hair, you can see his big eyes. You were inside the court, Jim. What did it seem like to you?

SPELLMAN: You know, we didn't know what to expect. The first question on everybody's mind was: would his hair be red? Because we had heard that from law enforcement sources. But all the witnesses who were in the theater say he was wearing a helmet and mask. So that was the first thing, you know, getting that confirmation that he has that red hair after describing himself as the Joker.

But I was really shocked by his demeanor. I mean, I've seen some people in court that have this kind of swagger, you know? They're sort of almost glad to be the center of it. This guy just looked dazed, he looked weak. He looked small to me.

And after initially scanning the crowd when he walked in, the rest of the time he more or less just looked straight ahead.

Meantime back in the seats of the courtroom. Family members just could not take their eyes off him. I saw parents of people who had died just staring at him the whole time. And you could tell it was a very emotional time for them. And they're there in the courtroom where they can't show any kind of emotional all. They have to be quiet -- very typical for this family to get to look at him.

And you just know that they're asking the question that all of us are asking -- why? And you also know they're possibly never going to get a satisfactory answer to that.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Spellman in Aurora -- it was in fact a strange, eerie scene yesterday. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we're going to stay with this theme right now.

It is three minutes past the hour. The world got its first look at James Holmes yesterday. And as he just mentioned, so did his alleged victims.

And for those victims, the first sight of Holmes evoked a lot of anger, not because of his accused of doing, but because of his demeanor in court.


CORBIN DATES, MASSACRE SURVIVOR: He has no right to come into court looking like he has a sad face. It's not right. The look that he has right now is not something that's going to be believable by anyone.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You think it's masked?

DATES: Yes. He had this thought out very well.

LAH: Do you think the hair and his face, this is all part of this act?

DATES: It's an act.

JORDAN GHAWI, BROTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: This guy is nothing, he's a coward and a genius. He knows what he's doing. He's playing the system.

I don't believe for a second that he's sitting there, his wide eyes and pretending to be incoherent. He knows what he's doing.


SAMBOLIN: There are a lot of people who believe that. Holmes will be back in court on Monday. That's when prosecutors are expected to formally file charges against him.

BERMAN: Now the family of James Holmes in San Diego is standing by him. Yesterday, their attorney, Lisa Damiani, told reporters they're doing as well as they can under the circumstances, getting a lot of support from their church. But when it comes to details about their son, they're not ready to speak.


LISA DAMIANI, HOLMES FAMILY ATTORNEY: The family wants to reiterate that their hearts go out to the victims and their families. The Holmes family would like to maintain their privacy. So, at this time we will not be discussing James or his relationship to the family.


BERMAN: Damiani said everyone at Holmes family is concerned about the possibility of their son facing the death penalty.

And coming up at 5:30 this morning, we'll be speaking with former FBI special agent Steve Moore for more insight into the suspect's rigged apartment and his demeanor in court.

SAMBOLIN: Five minutes past the hour here.

Penn State's football future hanging in the balance this morning after the NCAA slapped the program with devastating penalties for turning a blind eye to Jerry Sandusky's abuse of young boys. Sixty million dollars in fines, this is over five years. A postseason ban from bowl games for four years, a reduced number of scholarships for four seasons.

And the team has been stripped of all wins going back to 1998. So, that drops Joe Paterno from first in all-time wins to eighth now.

Susan Candiotti is live from State College.

And, Susan, you spoke with Penn State's president and athletic director. How are they reacting?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly this morning, Penn State is knows that it faces what could be a crippling situation for years to come. These NCAA sanctions were not negotiable. And certainly Penn State is not saying that it deserved what it got. However, the president tells me, the school will survive.


RODNEY ERICKSON, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: We certainly had an unprecedented situation here. We had an unprecedented set of sanctions. Penn State is a very resilient university. And I'm always struck by the sense of resolve that people have here when confronted with a situation like this.


CANDIOTTI: And, of course, they do know that they'll need a lot of resolve to try to rebuild its football program. The athletic program as well, because how do you attract players, good players here when they know that there won't be scholarships, there won't be any postseason games and there will be a terrific loss of revenues to this university for years to come.

It will be a challenge -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You know what? John Berman is going to be talking to an ex-pro football player who is going to speak specifically about that. A lot of people are saying that the sanctions were really hard against Penn State.

What are you hearing?

CANDIOTTI: Well, of course, as we've been saying, it's going to be very tough for them to try to overcome this. And the NCAA said the thing about what happened here, is that schools around the country will have to learn a lesson, face what happened here and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Here's the head of the NCAA.


MARK EMMERT, NCAA PRESIDENT: Our goal is not to be just punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people.


CANDIOTTI: And along with the $60 million in fines, remember, what still lies ahead for this university. All those expected civil lawsuits that they're also going to have to pay out to all the victims in this case. The child abuse victims, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: You are absolutely right so we'll be hearing much more.

Susan Candiotti, live for us, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. Moving on now.

Growing concern in Israel and the U.S. this morning about chemical weapons coming into play in Syria. Fierce fighting between rebel forces and government troops continuing overnight in the city of Aleppo. The Assad regime desperately clinging to power.

This is the development that's getting everyone's attention. A spokesman for Syria's government foreign ministry publicly threatening to deploy chemical weapons against any foreign intervention. Senator John McCain says he's taking that threat seriously.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There is a danger of chemical weapons that presently under Bashar al Assad's control, from flowing to Hezbollah, presenting a grave threat to the security of Israel.


BERMAN: President Obama warns the Assad regime it would be a tragic mistake to use chemical weapons and Syria will be held accountable.

SAMBOLIN: Well, remembering a true pioneer.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't this just an incredible story? We just heard this overnight.

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. A lot of people didn't even know she was sick. That is the same cancer that claimed the lives of Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze.

Sally Ride made history on June 18, 1983, blasting into orbit onboard the Challenger space shuttle. After leaving NASA, she founded an organization that encouraged young women to pursue careers in science.

President Obama called her a national hero, and a powerful role model.

Sally Ride was just 61 years old. She is survived by her parents of 27 years. And her partner, Tam -- her partner of 27 years.

Yesterday when they did release this, they talked about everybody who had survived her -- her nieces, her nephews and her partner, of course.

BERMAN: And that was the first word that many people in this country had that Sally Ride was gay.


BERMAN: Sally Ride, you know, I always thought growing up that astronauts are incredibly cool. Sally Ride, one of the coolest.

SAMBOLIN: Don't you remember?

BERMAN: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: I remember that moment in time. Just very sad, because nobody, it seemed nobody knew she was sick, either.

BERMAN: They didn't, she kept it secret. A very private woman.

Politics now, Mitt Romney preparing for a big speech on foreign policy, when he addresses a VFW convention in Reno today. President Obama got his turn yesterday, touting his record on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

After Romney lays out his foreign policy vision today, he's going to travel to England, Israel and Poland. The White House is challenging him to offer Americans clear policy ideas during this trip.

SAMBOLIN: Well, she disobeyed a direct order from a judge. For that, a Kentucky teenager has drawn praise now from around the world, folks. Find out what she did, coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is now 15 minutes past the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy you're with us.

And we're getting an early read on your local news that's making national headlines.

This one is a doozy. A legal reprieve for a 17-year-old sexual assault victim who faced jail time. She faced jail time for revealing the names of her attackers. This comes to us from the Louisville "Courier-Journal."

This is 17-year-old Savannah Dietrich. She is a victim of sexual assault, and the girl had given her written permission to talk to a newspaper. So, she actually tweeted out the names of her attackers, but that was defiance of a court order because she was not allowed to do that.

The attorneys for the two boys have now filed a motion or had filed a motion to hold her in contempt of court. They have now lifted that. They say that this law is designed really to protect the victim. So they say they were shocked that she decided to go ahead and tweet the names of the victims.

She said I needed to talk about this and I need to get my story out there. At the end of the day I've got a lot of support and that's helped her get through this.

BERMAN: She's got a huge amount of support. There was a huge outcry online. Some 70,000 signatures on supporting her, saying, don't hold her in contempt of court. So, maybe she'd get what she wanted.


BERMAN: Here in New York City, maybe less serious issue -- soda. Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his war against soda.

SAMBOLIN: This is very serious to some people.

BERMAN: Some people it is, if you love soda for instance. He wants to ban sodas of more than 16 ounces from places like movie theaters and the like. Today, there's a public hearing on this subject for this big sugary drink.

So, if you love your soda, get to that hearing, I would say immediately. This decision will be made by a board that is all appointed by Michael Bloomberg. So barring some unforeseen event, this thing is going to happen here.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people are really angry, because they're saying I can decide whatever it is I want to drink. You can't tell me what to do. So that's really -- I'm just dying to see how this all plays out.

BERMAN: You can still have your big drink, your big sugary drink in the comfort of your own home.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, you can.

All right. For an expanded look at al of our top stories, head to our blog,

BERMAN: All right. You have to check this out -- Maine police releasing a video that looks like it was ripped from one of these action movies.

A state trooper chasing down an elderly driver -- check this out -- it looks like a video game.

SAMBOLIN: Did you say an elderly driver?

BERMAN: Chasing down an elderly driver, going down the wrong way on the interstate. The trooper got the call during a traffic stop. And instead of chasing the car the wrong way down the highway, the officer floored it to the next exit to get ahead of the guy. He went exit ramp and bumped him. I think you're seeing that right there.

He bumped him with his own car at about 50 miles an hour.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow.

BERMAN: The trooper said he made the decision because if he had kept going and chasing the wrong way, people would have died.

SAMBOLIN: Wow, he risked his own life for that. But he's OK?


SAMBOLIN: All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date.

Here's Christine Roman's with this morning's top stories.

Good morning.


Exclusive new details this morning about the rigged explosives discovered in the apartment of suspected movie theater gunman, James Holmes. A law enforcement official describing video taken from inside that apartment. He says it was set up like something you would find in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The suspect's living room littered with 30 improvised grenades, rigged to a control box in the kitchen. And there were glass containers filled with 10 gallons of gasoline to enhance the, quote, "thermal effect of an explosion".

The violence is escalating in Iraq. At least a dozen attacks in the form of car bombs and roadside explosives, killing at least 282 people and wounding 180 more across the country yesterday.

This was one of the bloodiest days in Iraq since the departure of U.S. troops in December. The country is facing a political crisis with Shiite, Sunnis and Kurdish political blocs all at odds.

A civilian shipyard worker now charged with setting a fire that sent a Navy nuclear submarine up in flames while it was in dry dock in Maine. That fire you recall back in may did $400 million in damage to the USS Miami.

Naval investigators say 24-year-old Casey James Fury has confessed. He told them he did it, he started the fire because he was having an anxiety attack. And he wanted to get off work early.


ROMANS: Four hundred million dollars nuclear. Wow.

Airport security will soon be a breeze for airline flight attendants. They're being added to the TSA's Known Crew Member program. This is already used by pilots.

The program is designed to speed up screening for low-risk travelers. And the TSA plans to expand the program now to include flight attendants at 31 airports across the country by the end of the year.

BERMAN: They're going to like this. They didn't like waiting at all.

ROMANS: Yes. And, you know, a lot of people who have been waiting with all their bags open don't like it when 15 flight attendants come right in front of them, too.


BERMAN: This person right here doesn't like it. All right.

SAMBOLIN: I want one of those. But I'm worried about going to the screening process. It's very invasive I hear.

ROMANS: I hear you have a pretty clean record. So I wouldn't be too worried.


SAMBOLIN: I'm not hiding anything for the record. But you know, then they know everything about you and it's actually on somebody's record. So I don't know about that.

Anyway, there's nothing to hide. Thank you, Christine, thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks for the news, Christine.

But don't go far because coming up, Christine is going to be back with news about our credit rating. Could the U.S. credit rating be cut --


BERMAN: -- again this summer?


BERMAN: Minding your business this morning.

And if you had trouble sleeping last night, maybe it was the European debt crisis, because this pushing all the markets lower. U.S. stock futures, European and Asian markets all down so far.

SAMBOLIN: I know Christine has a hard time sleeping. She's here. It was right around this time last year that markets started to go haywire.

ROMANS: I know. It was the August 5th last year that the U.S. was downgraded -- its credit rating was downgraded. And what have we done to fix it?

Nothing. Really, nothing. In fact, we've only made it worse.

Sorry. Little editorializing there.

But, look, it's been a year, I want to show you the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you can see that the summer feels an awful lot like last summer. Last summer, we took a little dive into August and September and spent the year climbing back up.

And now -- now, we have this feeling again of unease in the markets. We've got Europe, that's a big problem. We've got the fiscal cliff that is staring us in the face, that's another big problem. We have another debt ceiling drama probably to play out by the end of the year, that's another big problem.

And there's a lot of concern in the markets really that you know, this Congress hasn't seen a deadline that it could handle in a meaningful way, ever. So there's a lot of concerns that we don't think that Congress is going to be able to handle these things well and that's all -- all more reasons for people to be nervous about stocks.

BERMAN: And a lot of people are watching this LIBOR scandal, the rate-setting issue right now. And an investigation going on and people want to know what's going to happen.

ROMANS: That's right. And so, this is another way that the very foundation, the great foundation of the financial system has been shaken.

Hundreds of trillions of dollar of financial transactions are based on this LIBOR, this London Interbank Offered Rate which banks set overnight.

Now, big investigation into banks actually manipulating that number during the financial crisis to make money, and to make themselves look better in the heat of the financial crisis. "Reuters" reporting earlier this week that there will be arrests, that this is -- there's a fuller picture prosecutors, prosecutors have a fuller picture of this.

We know there are a lot of emails that show traders actually talking about, talking about this. And we know there's a lot of public desire for someone to go to jail. So big, big criminal investigations in this.

And so we'll be looking for it. I mean, I would say that any day or week now -- in the days and weeks ahead, we'll be seeing more about the LIBOR scandal.

BERMAN: And that will be big news when it happens.

ROMANS: That will be big news because there have not been very many prosecutions, have there, of financial misdeeds during a period of huge financial misdeeds in the financial system, almost coming to its knees. So, people want some justice.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of "I'm sorry" but no consequences, right?

ROMANS: "I'm sorry" doesn't replenish your 401(k).

SAMBOLIN: It doesn't. Thank you very much, Christine.

Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Dozens of IEDs ready to explode, not in Iraq or Afghanistan. This was a Colorado apartment building. Exclusive details, we have about what bomb experts found in the Aurora shooting suspect's home. That's coming up.

And if you're leaving the house, you can watch us any time on your mobile phone, on your desktop. Just go to



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Living room death trap. CNN with exclusive details of what was found inside the Aurora shooting suspect's apartment.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Deadly propaganda. Taliban video of what is believed to be a bombing attack that took two American lives.

BERMAN: Foreign policy focus. Mitt Romney heads overseas today, but not before making a big address in the race for the White House.


BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Glad you're here. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty minutes past the hour here. Our top story, the Colorado shooting suspect in court, and new details about the booby trap that he left behind. Everyone remarking on his odd facial expressions as James Holmes had his first day in front of the judge. At the same time, CNN has new details this morning from inside that apartment.

Aurora police discovered over 30 improvised explosive devices rigged to a control box and surrounded by glass containers of gasoline, which investigators say were meant to enhance the effects of the blast. The mess of wires, we're told, looked like spaghetti and was compared to something that you would see in Iraq or Afghanistan, not here at home.

The explosives have been dismantled and sent to the FBI lab for further analysis, but the law enforcement official who viewed video from inside that apartment tells CNN that the set-up was rigged right and would have likely been burned down or would have burned down most of the building had it gone off.

And with me now is Steve Moore, a former FBI special agent and author of the book "Special Agent Man." Thank you so much for joining us this morning. You are also an expert on Iraq and Afghanistan. And so, I want to start with that that list that we have of what they found inside of the apartment. How complicated is it to rig that together into a bomb?

STEVE MOORE, AUTHOR, "SPECIAL AGENT MAN": Well, it's extremely complicated. My experience is mainly in Pakistan and Indonesia, but it's when you get into that kind of complicated device, you're really having to know what you're doing. You really have to put a lot of thought into it. You don't just come up with this kind of thing.

SAMBOLIN: So, we have a quote here from that law enforcement official that says that that flame would have consumed the entire third floor of the apartment complex. By the time, a fire truck would have arrived, they would have arrived into a building that would have been completely consumed in flames. Do you agree with that based on what you read?

MOORE: From what I -- I mean, I would have to take their word for the amount of accelerant and the amount of explosives they had in there, but it seems like a very conservative estimate, really. I mean, much more than that, and it would take the entire building down.

The gasoline was meant both as an accelerant and as a dramatic effect, really. I mean, that's what movie-makers use in their explosives is raw gasoline.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about -- a lot of folks are saying his demeanor yesterday in court, and you know, perhaps, that there would be an insanity plea here. When you look at what he was capable of doing and over the period of time that he planned this, how do you feel about that and what you saw in the courtroom yesterday and his disposition?

MOORE: What I saw in the courtroom yesterday was really interesting, because for the last 60 days from what we've heard, he's been very methodical, careful, in control, and he's been buying weapons, training on weapons, coming up with a plan, an intricate plan, building an intricate explosive device.

And then, he comes into court, and all of a sudden, is catatonic. I don't believe it. The night before this guy was completely in control of everything he was doing and following an intricate plan, and yet, he comes in here with, with us trying to, wanting us to believe that all of a sudden, he's catatonic.

I don't buy it, and I don't think a jury is going to buy it. Sixty days speak a lot louder than 60 seconds in that courtroom.

SAMBOLIN: What we don't know is whether or not he was on any medication during that time. I do -- I want to show you some footage of Holmes from six years ago at a science camp. I think we have -- do we have a little bit of sound on this as well? Let's listen in.


JAMES HOLMES, ACCUSED THEATER SHOOTER: Well, I'm James. I've been working with the temporal illusion. It's an illusion that allows you to change the past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His goals are to become a researcher and to make scientific discoveries. He can start.

HOLMES: Gamers might feel like they have a superpower, and I might let them have more fun. So --


SAMBOLIN: So, in that video, he looks like a pretty average, pretty normal guy. Very different from what we saw in court. Do you think it's possible -- again, we do not know if he was on any medication before he appeared in court yesterday.

So, do you think that it's possible that you know, perhaps, he snapped and still was able to create what he created in that apartment and to do what he did inside that movie theater?

MOORE: Well, if you allow for a "snap," he -- that would have had to have happened before he started shooting people. I mean, think about it, the snap didn't happen after he shot the people or it has nothing to do with a shooting. He methodically decided on how to kill a great many people.

And then, the day after he's caught, boom, all of a sudden he's catatonic. And they wouldn't bring him into court if he was on some type of drug, because frankly, then he can't make decisions in court and everything he says and everything he agrees to is now subject to, to retraction. So, they will not bring him into court if he's medicated.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Steve Moore, FBI, former FBI special agent and author of "Special Agent Man," thank you for joining us this morning.

MOORE: Thank you.

BERMAN: And we want to give you an update on the wounded right now, some of the wounded in the Aurora massacre. As of last night, 15 shooting victims remain hospitalized, five are in critical condition. One listed as serious, and the rest right now, thank goodness are in good or fair condition.

SAMBOLIN: And from Aurora to Capitol Hill, the Senate led by majority leader, Harry Reid, observing a moment of silence yesterday for the Colorado shooting victims.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: May we pause to mourn the dead but also honor how they lived. We pledge our support to the people of Aurora, Colorado, both as they grieve and as they begin to heal from this terrible tragedy.


SAMBOLIN: Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, read the names of the 12 people who died in the Colorado movie theater massacre and asked for prayers for those who were injured as they continue their recovery.

BERMAN: The massacre in aurora is fueling the debate over gun control this morning. New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, continuing his push for tighter laws while Governor Mitt Romney and New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, insist existing laws can get the job done.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I think that we've got enough gun laws now, and it's time for us to aggressively enforce the gun laws that we have.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don't believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (D) NEW YORK MAYOR: Someday, there will be a shooting which you would think would trigger in the American psyche this, I'm not going to take it any more. I don't know what it is. We obviously haven't gotten there yet. But we just, this cannot continue.


BERMAN: By the way, Mitt Romney's position seems to have shifted over the years. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed a ban on assault weapons. Here's President Obama, he's been laying low on the issue of gun control, too. During his visit to Aurora over the weekend, he didn't bring up the subject, and gun control advocates are expressing their disappointment with him.

SAMBOLIN: And you know, we just got an article this morning that there's a 40 percent increase in people applying for licenses for guns in Colorado. So, a lot of people who are scared, right, and they want to try to protect themselves. The debate will continue.

BERMAN: Sure will.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. The United States donating $150 million. That is to help poor nations stop the spread of AIDS. The announcement coming at an international AIDS conference in Washington. The money to be used to get life-saving drugs to struggling countries hardest hit by the disease.

Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who you listening to there, says the goal is an AIDS-free generation where no babies are born with the infection.

BERMAN: It is a big week in politics. Mitt Romney on the world stage today. Coming up, the candidate makes his big foreign policy speech before heading overseas, and we're going to have a preview.


SAMBOLIN: Do you like the music? Wake up.

BERMAN: It's like Tuesday techno.


SAMBOLIN: Well, good morning to you, Washington, D.C. It is 75 degrees right now, a little partly -- look how beautiful. All lit up. That's a little cloudy now, later, 96. And thunderstorms are headed your way. Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-three minutes past the hour. We are very happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I am John Berman, and we're talking about politics. Washington, by the way, loves techno music.


BERMAN: Mitt Romney is preparing for a big step in his candidacy. The former Massachusetts governor heads overseas today, visiting the UK, Israel, and Poland. But before he goes, he's giving a very important policy speech to the VFW Convention in Reno. Voters will get their first real chance to size up this presidential candidate's foreign policy chops here in the U.S. and then on the world stage.

Our CNN political expert, Peter Hamby, joins us live from Washington this morning. And Peter, as of now, at least foreign policy seems to be listed as a strength for the president, an advantage for the White House here.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. You know, as sagging as the president's poll numbers are generally speaking, we had a CNN poll recently that showed the president leading Mitt Romney, 53-41, when asked who would better handle foreign policy. You know, he's gotten a lot of applauds for how he's handled national security and foreign policy, this president.

And he used that as an opportunity at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention speech in Reno yesterday. It didn't take long for the sort of detente from negative campaigning to break. The cans (ph) went right back and forth with each other, but Obama sort of pre- butting Romney's overseas trip and firing back at Romney without mentioning him by name for criticizing the president's timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

President Obama said, quote, "When you're commander-in-chief, you owe the troops a plan, you owe the country a plan." He accused Romney of sort of rooting for America's decline by going around the world saying -- or excuse me -- by going around the campaign trail and saying, you know, that the president sort of ruining the economy and making this country a worse place.

Romney has a chance to rebut that today. It will be his sort of big foreign policy national security speech here in this country before going overseas for this three-country tour that we're all going to be following very closely, John.

BERMAN: The president didn't mention Mitt Romney on stage yesterday, but he is mentioning him by name in what I think is one of the most remarkable ads, so far, of this campaign. The president stares right to camera here, you have to take a look at this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the next four months, you have a choice to make. Not just between two political parties or even two people. It's a choice between two very different plans for our country. Governor Romney's plan would cut taxes for the folks at the very top, roll back regulations on big banks, and he says that if we do, our economy will grow and everyone will benefit.

But you know what? We tried that top-down approach. It's what caused the mess in the first place. Sometimes, politics can seem very small. But the choice you face, it couldn't be bigger.


BERMAN: In the political business, we call this is a straight- to-camera ad. And Peter, a few things about this ad that I found unusual. One, we have this straight-to-camera testimonial ad, and it's July. And the second thing is, you have the sitting president of the United States mentioning his candidate by name in this ad in July. I thought it was really unusual.

HAMBY: Yes. It is unusual, John. I mean, this is sort of reminiscent of what you would think a closing argument ad would be at the end of a campaign. You know, the sort of minute-long straight-to- camera testimonial. But what you see here is, you know, the campaign realizing that the president is probably their best asset.

You know, a lot of campaigns don't have candidates who voters like and trust. And polls show that voters like and trust Barack Obama, even though they might not think he's doing a good job on the economy, they think he's a nice guy.

So, they're putting him in front of voters while the Olympics are on TV to remind people -- OK, this is a guy we think we can trust and we think he's taking the country in the right direction. But again, July really early for an ad like this. Again, you usually see this kind of things in October and November.

BERMAN: You know, it's also the kind of message he's delivering on the stump everyday, but maybe they don't think it's getting through, so they have to pay for that message. All right. Peter Hamby in Washington, thanks so much for being here.

HAMBY: Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. Here is Christine Romans with this morning's top stories. Good morning again.



ROMANS (voice-over): Exclusive new details this morning about that rigged explosives, the rigged explosive discovered in the apartment of suspected movie theater gunman, James Holmes. A law enforcement official describing video taken from inside that apartment. He says it was set up like something you'd find in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The suspect's living room littered with 30 improvised grenades rigged to a control box in the kitchen. And then, there were glass containers filled with ten gallons of gasoline all to enhance the thermal effect of an explosion.

And take a look at this.


ROMANS: That is shocking Taliban propaganda video posted online taking us behind the scenes of a suicide attack on a U.S. base back in June. That blast was so powerful it damaged homes two miles away and flattened a dining hall. Now, CNN cannot verify any info in the video.

The Taliban, though, claims 20 coalition troops were in that attack. Officials said two Americans were killed in that particular blast.

Opening statements could be heard next week in the murder trial of Drew Peterson. Jury selection started yesterday. The former Illinois police officer is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio (ph), who was found dead in a bathtub in 2004. He became a suspect in her murder after his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, disappeared. Stacy's body has never been found.

More than 50 people were sent to the hospital after food poisoning outbreak at a homeless shelter Sunday night. Many were found vomiting violently on the side of the street after eating a turkey dinner made from meat donated to the Denver rescue mission.

The "Denver Post" reports up to 350 people ate at that homeless shelter that night. Crews are searching downtown Denver for more people who may have become ill.

And living on the edge. A new study says 38 percent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. That is up from a decade ago. Less than a third of those surveyed said they felt comfortable financially and only about one-third think they can afford to retire by age 65.


ROMANS (on-camera): You guys, we still feel the effects of that huge financial crisis, and so many, so many American families can not make the money last as long as the month.

SAMBOLIN: Does that number surprise you, Christine?

ROMANS: You know, I always try to flip those upside-down and say two-thirds say that they'll be able to retire by 65. And so that -- to me says I'm surprised that two-thirds think that they really can retire by 65.

BERMAN: Glass half full or two-thirds of the way full in this case.


ROMANS: Yes. There you go.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

Fifty minutes past the hour. The entire world will be watching when the 2012 games kick off next week in London.

BERMAN: I will.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't it exciting? Look at this. We have a live picture of the Olympic stadium. We have a live report on what you can expect. That is headed your way next.

And listen to this, if you're leaving the house right now, do not fret. You can watch us any time on your mobile phone.


SAMBOLIN: And in case you don't know what that looks like, John Berman is holding one up for you. You can also use your desktop to view us, just go to Do you have a stuff (ph) on that? You're taking us with you?

BERMAN: I don't have all (ph) the instructions.



BERMAN: Music.

SAMBOLIN: Ooh. We're lacking the music here. The Olympic torch will take a ride on the tube today as the flame makes its way to the opening ceremonies in London on Friday already. Excitement is building despite fears that traffic and weather will dampen the mood there. Details of the $42 million show are leaking out.

Jim Boulden is live at CNN's Olympic site in London. I hear they had a rehearsal. You were there. Can you share some of the details that are leaking?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they don't want anyone to tell what happened last night. They had 60,000 people in the stadium overnight, last night, to have the practice of the opening ceremony, and there's a hash tag. It says, #savethesurprise.

They just don't want things to leak, but I can tell you, there are going to be (INAUDIBLE) in the opening ceremony. There's going to be nurses from the National Health Service, and then, of course, there's going to be things about James Bond. We know the queen is involved somehow. The big question, of course, is the torch. Who is going actually to light the cauldron?

We don't know that one yet. That still hasn't leaked out, but there's expected to be fireworks up and down this area when the opening ceremonies kick off on Friday. And as you said, the torch is going on the underground, on the tube. Now, it's not actually going to go under underground. It's going to be on the part of the district line through Cue Gardens and into Richmond.

So, it's the part that's actually above ground, but it will the first time the torch is going to be seen going on the underground. The hope for organizers is to get people in London very excited about all this, and they really think getting the torch to go around London will get people getting ready for Friday night.

And I can tell you, you can see here, the weather is absolutely gorgeous. The rain is gone for now. And I think that's really can help people's mood as we get ready for the opening ceremony.

SAMBOLIN: Jim, it looks like there's a ton of excitement there. So, more to come. Jim Boulden live in London for us, thank you very much.

BERMAN: Nurses, farm, animals and the queen. That's a party!


BERMAN: That is a party.

SAMBOLIN: I was going to ask you about the (INAUDIBLE). How do you think that that's going to fit in there? Kind of odd there. Can't wait to see.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up right after the break, we will have the day's top stories, including the news everyone talking about, the many faces of Aurora shooting suspect, James Holmes. You'll hear from family members of victims who say they're angry about this whole spectacle. You're watching EARLY START.



SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Rigged to explode. CNN with exclusive details of the arsenal of home-made bombs found inside the Aurora shooting suspect's apartment.

BERMAN (voice-over): The fight for Syria. New fears about chemical weapons as the Assad regime struggles for control.

SAMBOLIN: River rescue. Take a look at this. The rush to save people from a wedding party after a bridge washes out.

BERMAN: A wedding?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. One guy was trapped in his car. We've got all of the details for you.