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Chilling Discovery; Romney's Quest for Gold in London; Suspect Mailed Package To Campus; Jackson Family Drama

Aired July 26, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Chilling discovery. A package mailed by Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes to his college before the shooting.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Firearms front and center. A lot of people are waiting for this. President Obama speaks out on gun control in the wake of the Aurora tragedy.

SAMBOLIN: And across the pond. Mitt Romney meeting Tony Blair and other leaders in London where a newspaper threatens to overshadow his visit.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. We're very happy that you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

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

Also coming up today, a doping scandal on the eve of the Summer Olympics. That's not what you want to see just before the games start.


BERMAN: We're going to have full coverage from London, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: A bizarre one I never heard about either. The name.


SAMBOLIN: Very odd. Very odd.

Plus, a day of reckoning for Facebook. We look ahead to the first earnings report as a public company later today with our Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I can't wait for that. Interesting.

But, up first, the latest on the aftermath and investigation in Aurora, Colorado. Law enforcement sources say the shooting suspect James Holmes mailed a package to the University of Colorado campus in Aurora which was received on Monday and forced the evacuation of a building. It was Holmes himself who told police where to find it.

CBS News says the package was addressed to a psychologist and contained a letter talking about shooting people, along with scribbling showing the gunman shooting victims. We're going to have a full report from Aurora in a few minutes.

SAMBOLIN: And six days after the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, gun control is a very hot topic on the campaign trail. He waited five days to enter the fray. But President Obama is now front and center on the debate, telling the National Urban League in New Orleans yesterday some weapons sales need to be restricted.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, like most Americans, believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bare arms. But I also believe a lot of gun owners would believe that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals.


SAMBOLIN: Mitt Romney does not see it the same way. He's in London for a seven-day foreign tour. And he believes tighter gun control laws would do little to stop a massacre like the one in Aurora.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws. A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact it was against the law did not prevent it from happening.


BERMAN: Let's remember, Mitt Romney did sign an assault weapons ban when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Right now, Romney is in London fund-raising and meeting with British leaders. But the trip hit bumps early on because of this quote in a British newspaper from an unnamed campaign adviser. It says, quote, "We're part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage and he, Romney, feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."

Now, some see that comment as having some racial overtones. It is getting strong reactions from both campaigns.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live on the ground in London right now.

And, Jim, probably not the quote that Mitt Romney wanted to see when he got on the ground in London.


I mean he had just touched down in London yesterday when this controversy was greeting him. And the "London Daily Telegraph" newspaper, that quote you just mentioned from an unnamed Romney adviser according to the newspaper, although the rest of the news media could not confirm, John. So, it was interesting to see the Obama campaign seize on these comments.

A statement coming from Vice President Biden about all of this. And just to read that to you, Vice President Biden putting out a statement through the Obama campaign yesterday afternoon saying, "Not surprisingly this is just another feeble attempt by the Romney campaign to score political points at the expense of this critical partnership. This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign."

Now, the Romney campaign did put out a statement sharply rebuking the vice president basically. But then Mitt Romney sat down in an interview NBC's Brian Williams. He was asked about it. The former Massachusetts governor was a bit more guarded, did not go after Vice President Biden, only said he disagreed with the comments. Here's what he had to say.


ROMNEY: I'm not sure who this person is. I can tell that you we have a very special relationship between the United States and Great Britain. It goes back to our very beginnings, cultural and historical. But I also believe the president understands that. So I don't agree with whoever that adviser might be.


ACOSTA: Now to get to some of the day's other events, we should note that Mitt Romney just wrapped up a meeting with former Prime Minister Tony Blair. They had a brief discussion, we're told by our pool report, John, about the Olympics. Mitt Romney said to Tony Blair that he wants to take in a swimming event. They also talked about Mrs. Romney's dressage horse that will be competing in an event here during the Olympic Games here. Mitt Romney won't be checking in that event. He's going to be moving on to Israel and Poland, as part of this overseas.

And I should mention where we are right now, we're out in front of 10 Downing Street, the residence of the prime minister here, David Cameron. Mitt Romney would be meeting with the prime minister later today.

We understand, John, the Olympic torch, that's right, the Olympics are going on in the midst of all this the Olympic torch will be coming down 10 Downing Street today. We would try to get out of the way when that happens.

BERMAN: Take a picture when it swings by there.

Jim, you mentioned, they were talking about the dressage horse which has been in the news quite a bit, and swimming. These are not topics of great world importance. What will Mitt Romney try to discuss and not discuss as he meets with the British leaders today?

ACOSTA: Well, you know, it's going to be interesting to hear what he has to say. He was asked a question earlier this morning when he was meeting with Tony Blair and he did not respond to the question he was asked -- you know, what message do you want to send to the United States.

But, really, a lot of this trip, John and Zoraida, is about how Mitt Romney deals with the foreign leaders. He's trying to project an image of what a future president Romney would look like. Obviously, Mitt Romney talks on the campaign trail quite a bit about the partnership between the United States and England and what he says repeatedly out on the campaign trail is that a strong and secure America is the best defense, the best keeper of peace around world. And that is something I expect he'll be talking about with the prime minister and other British leaders as he continues this trip, John.

BERMAN: All right, Jim Acosta in London, let us know when that torch comes by. Thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BERMAN: In just a few hours, CNN's Piers Morgan will be sitting down with Mitt and Ann Romney in London. Piers has been tweeting all about it the last few hours. And you can see the entire interview tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: I'm really looking forward that.

So, let's stay in London. Nine athletes including a former Olympic bronze medalist have been banned from competition after testing positive for doping offenses. The International Association of Athletics Federation confirmed six of the athletes were caught using a sophisticated new method of doping. It is known as the biological passport method.

The suspended athletes are from Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Russia. Seven of the nine athletes have admitted their offenses and the four year bans were immediately cut in half. It's no the clear if any of the athletes were competing in the 2012 Olympics, however.

And right now the Olympic torch is scheduled to arrive at millennium bridge as it works its way to the site of tomorrow's opening ceremonies.

You're excited about this, aren't you?

BERMAN: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, later today, the Olympic flame will get a royal welcome at Buckingham palace. Princes William and Harry and the duchess of Cambridge planning to be on hand when it passes through Downing Street ton ahead.

BERMAN: Along with CNN's Jim Acosta.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, who's going to snap a picture for us.

BERMAN: So, all the important people are there, royalty and Jim Acosta.

Some serious news here having to deal with sports, the mother of baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. resting comfortably this morning after being kidnapped -- yes, kidnapped.

SAMBOLIN: Bizarre story.

BERMAN: Absolutely. An armed gunman showed up at Violent Ripken's Maryland home early Tuesday morning and forced her into a car and took off. She was found yesterday morning in the backseat of her car with her hands tied. But luckily, police say she was not harmed. Police say her abductor appears to have used her credit cards but they have no evidence as of now of any attempted ransom demands.

SAMBOLIN: You know what's really bizarre is that area was completely covered by police, right? She ended up back in that neighborhood in the back of her car. So, people are wondering, how did that happen with so much police presence?

BERMAN: I'm just glad she's OK.

SAMBOLIN: No, so am I. But really bizarre details there.

Eight minutes past the hour here.

Michael Jackson's mother is speaking out for the first time about reports that she had been kidnapped. Katherine Jackson telling ABC's "Nightline" she is just fine. She is speaking from Tucson, Arizona. She also said she is devastated that she has lost custody of Michael's three children.

A missing person's report was filed last week after Michael's children said that they had not heard from her.

So coming up later this hour, we'll hear Katherine Jackson in her own words and we'll speak with criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson -- no relation to the Jackson family -- this latest round of Jackson family drama and why the judge made that decision to give temporary custody of their children to their uncle.

BERMAN: I'm so glad that you're doing more on this because it's really confusing. I wonder what is going to happen to the kids and how can they be there filming the things with the confrontations with Janet? It's just so strange.

SAMBOLIN: It's really bizarre. We're really going to focus a lot on the law and why the judge made this decision and perhaps what's going to happen next, as well.

BERMAN: Good, I can't wait.

Meanwhile, here in the Northeast, we're bracing for severe weather later today.

Rob, everyone has been talking about it here this morning. What can we expect?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, you know, considering it's late July, this is a strong piece of energy that is rolling across the northern tier states. And all the heat and humidity that is built up is going to be nudged north and east. So, you got a couple things happening. Basically, a lot of action will be popping on the radar scope later on this afternoon.

We're already seeing a little of that along the frontal boundary, a lot of severe weather across parts of Michigan, western New York as well. Buffalo reporting some severe weather. But right now, the big show is going to be I think later on this afternoon and this evening.

Here's your danger zone from Columbus, Ohio through Cincinnati back through State College, New York City, up the Hudson to Albany, mostly large hail and damaging wind. There could be a few isolated tornadoes with this. And before that happens, again, the heat and humidity continues to build up, heat advisory south of that front. That will add more fuel to the fire.

So, just keep an eye on the sky and certainly keep it tuned here to CNN. We'll keep you posted -- guys.

BERMAN: All right. Hail and winds coming our way -- Rob Marciano, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Still ahead, no one saw the movie theater massacre coming. But maybe someone could have. A package sent by suspect James Holmes to a former college professor before the Colorado shooting. We're live in Aurora next.

You're watching EARLY START.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 14 minutes past the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Happy you're with us this morning.

There is a major new development in the Colorado shootings this morning. A package from the alleged shooter found in the mail room of the University of Colorado. It arrived days after the shooting and hinted at the massacre.

Ed Lavandera joins live on the phone in Aurora.

And, Ed, we're saying it arrived after but it had to be sent before the shootings. What can you tell us about the package?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): We learned yesterday that package was found on Monday. We knew about it. Authorities here on the ground had been rather cryptic about what is going on with the situation at the hospital.

We know when they had discovered the package. It forced evacuation of some of the buildings on campus temporarily. After it was discovered, it didn't have any hazardous materials in it. Officials wouldn't speak about it.

We learned yesterday that the package, indeed, was sent by James Holmes in days before the shooting on Friday and it was addressed to a psychology professor on campus. Inside the box there were messages -- James Holmes writing about wanting to kill people. It had cryptic drawings of a gunman shooting his victims. That is some of the odd contents of that package according to CBS news.

SAMBOLIN: We still don't have all the complete details of it as I understand it. You know, I want to focus on the victims, Ed.

We hear that a lot of them are uninsured and facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs. We hear that some of the bills are actually being wiped out.

Can you tell us what is happening?

LAVANDERA: We were working on a story that many of the victims families and friends were actually going online making public pleas to essentially ask for donation to help. There's been a great deal of effort in many groups popping up. There's a state group sponsored through the governor's office that raised $2 million, and various other organizations doing similar things.

A lot of these people don't have insurance and the bills are mounting after days and days of emergency room care. But yesterday, three of the hospitals that had taken patients and much of the medical bills costs will be waived. I'm not sure how long that will go for, how much of the time and how much of the expense will be taken. So we're trying to clarify that.

But at least three of the hospitals saying that much of the expense in the initial medical care costs will be waived about it hospital and paid for through donations and various charity programs that hospitals have in place.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't that spectacular? The generosity of complete strangers and everybody banding together when people really need it and don't need to be worrying about hospital bills.

Ed Lavandera, thank you for that report. We appreciate it live from Aurora this morning.

BERMAN: It is now 17 minutes past the hour.

There's a lot going on this morning. Let's get you up-to-date. Here is Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning you two. A lot going on. You're right.

President Obama weighing in on the gun control debate, making perhaps some of the strongest comments yet as president on this issue. Five days after the massacre in Aurora, Colorado, the president telling the National Urban League in New Orleans he backs the Second Amendment but not when it comes to assault weapons.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation. But hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage. But I also believe that a lot of gun owners agree that AK- 47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands criminals.


ROMANS: The president emphasizing the need for more background checks to stop mentally imbalanced people from obtaining guns. He is blaming Congress for the lack of progress made in reducing gun violence.

New video emerged believed to show two young girls two weeks after they went missing. The sheriff believes the 10-year-old Lyric Cook and her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins are seen on this grainy surveillance tape riding their bikes. That's the last time they were seen.

The bikes were later found near a lake. Investigators drained that lake. They explored it and they think the girls are still alive.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. Wouldn't that be great?

ROMANS: Federal investigators are looking for a pair of police shooting last weekend that sparked four days of violent protests in Anaheim, California. The FBI has agreed to investigate the fatal shootings of two suspected gang members by Anaheim police officers. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait says he's asked the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles to investigate the shootings as well.

So, drama still continues in Anaheim over that police involved shooting.

BERMAN: They're looking to reduce the tension in Anaheim for sure. Thanks, Christi9ne.

We're getting a look at your early reads this morning, what's going on in your local papers.

And, of course, in Chicago and in Boston, they're talking about chicken, Chick-fil-A. This story has been going on for a while now. It has to do with the ownership of Chick-fil-A. The family has come out for years against gay marriage. They donated to anti-gay marriage causes.

But now, the city of Chicago and more specifically an alderman there, Proco Joe Moreno, says he's going to do whatever he can to keep Chick-fil-A out of Chicago. Chick-fil-A is looking to open a second store there.

And he says, quote, "Because of this man's ignorance," he's talking about the ownership of Chick-fil-A, "I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward." There are people in Chicago who say they should come here and get any business we can.

The mayor of Boston Tom Menino also saying he doesn't want Chick-fil-A in Boston. There's no Chick-fil-A in Boston right now. The mayor says he doesn't want that restaurant near the Freedom Trail.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, so consequences to those actions there. Yesterday was also front page news in the "Sun Times" later in the day. So, a lot of folks talking about that one.

All right. So, Baltimore is rolling out the welcome wagon for immigrants. This is a really interesting story. I was talking about immigration and how it happens in Arizona, right? SB-1070, this is the complete opposite of that.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake has told Latinos in particular that she is counting on them to help Baltimore gain 10,000 families within a decade. Apparently they're having problems. They lost a large number of their population. The census is showing that.

So, she is saying, you know this is the largest concentration we can grow here and we can grow rapidly. So, she signed an order in March prohibiting police and social agencies from asking anyone their immigration status. She says that is just the first step.

BERMAN: That's the opposite. It's like don't show me your papers.

SAMBOLIN: No, absolutely. And she said, our objective here is to make everyone feel welcome. We want them to come. We want them to tell their families they're welcome here. There was a town in Illinois, Aurora, that really cracked down on immigration and they lost so many businesses.

And so, this is quite the opposite. And apparently, it's happening across the country. They have yet to track actually the growth. But that's coming.


BERMAN: For an expanded look at all our top stories, head to our blog,

SAMBOLIN: Facebook is back in the spotlight on Wall Street today. We're just hours away from its earnings reports as a public company. Curious? Christine Romans with a preview, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-five minutes past the hour. Welcome back.

We are minding your business this morning. Let's check in on the markets first. U.S. stock futures trading lower overnight. European markets down just a bit.

BERMAN: It is time for earnings reports. Everyone waiting on Facebook.

But before we get to Facebook, a lot of companies are saying that the down turn in Europe is affecting their business.

Christine Romans is here to talk about that.

ROMANS: We're watching all these earnings reports, even from Ford to even Apple and others and seeing where Europe is figuring into the numbers. You know, Deutsche bank says abou8t 17 percent of profit and revenue of S&P 500 companies comes from greater Europe.

So we're watching very closely to see what the impact is there overall. We're watching Facebook. That company will have the first big quarterly earnings report after the bell this afternoon. A lot of things we're watching on Facebook.

Of course, if you own Facebook, you know the stock is down 23 percent since its IPO. Three things to watch for, courtesy of "Fortune," is Mark Zuckerberg going to join the earnings call? A lot of people wondering what he has to say about that.

What are they doing about advertising and really making sure that they can monetize, as they say, advertising and their mobile strategies? Monetizing mobile and advertising via mobile and also the Facebook mobile app. I mean, how are they doing there?

There's also reports that Facebook wants to develop a "want" button much like a "like" button. And maybe this will be something that would move toward helping it figure out how to make more money via advertising.

So, on your news feed or on stream it says, hey, I want this. I don't know. It's interesting concept. So, we'll be watching that.

Facebook has not been commenting on those reports. We'll hear for the first time from Facebook later today.

Also want to tell you about food prices. USDA has a big report out on food prices yesterday saying that beef and veal is expected to rise, 4 or 5 percent, no question because of the drought -- 4 percent or 5 percent maybe next year.

It could go down in the interim a little bit. Simply because the high cost of grain, you're going to see people slaughtering animals. So there could be more available beef products.

But other things, the down the aisle stuff, look for the other food prices to climb next year, ketchup, barbecue sauce, ramen noodles, Twinkies, cup cakes, processed foods and the like, you're going to see 4 percent to 5 percent price increases in this according to USDA next year because of the drought.

And, you know, we won't even know the full magnitude of the drought. We won't until we get in there and pull that corn, pull those beans out of fields. So far, it doesn't look so great.

BERMAN: Get ready for that. Not too good.


BERMAN: All right, Christine, thanks very much.

It is 27 minutes past the hour.

And a military judge laying down the law for an accused killer -- shave that beard or we'll shave it for you. We'll have that story coming up.



BERMAN (voice-over): Found in the University of Colorado's mail room, a package apparently sent by the Aurora shooting suspect before the massacre.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Right now in London, Mitt Romney meeting with Tony Blair and other leaders while trying to distance himself from a newspaper quote.

BERMAN: The ride is over. Check this out. A break in the case of this brazen biker who recorded himself doing over 180 miles an hour on the highway.

SAMBOLIN: The consequences I love, so you're going to want to stay tuned for that.


BERMAN: Watch it. You're going to want to see it.


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

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty-one minutes past the hour here. A major new development in the Aurora shooting massacre that has everyone asking what if? What if it was discovered earlier? Law enforcement sources say the shooting suspect, James Holmes, mailed a package to the University of Colorado Denver campus in Aurora.

And it was discovered Monday, four days after the shooting, but of course, it was mailed before. CBS News says it contained scribbling of the gunman shooting victims.

BERMAN (on-camera): Mitt Romney is on the quest for his own type of gold in London this morning. He's hope to raise more campaign cash in his first stop on his three country international tour. But, when he got there, there's a little bit of a glitch. A quote in a British newspaper from an unnamed campaign adviser.

It says, quote, "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon Heritage, and he," he's talking about Mitt Romney, "feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have". That is what the quote says. It's causing a lot of problems (ph). Jim Acosta is live in London this morning.

And Jim, what's the Romney campaign and Mitt Romney, himself, what are they saying about this this morning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you can say that the two campaigns are fighting like Napoleon and the British, even though this Mitt Romney overseas trip has only begun. You're right.

When he landed here on the ground in London yesterday, this controversy over that quote in the "London Daily telegraphy" was already sort of making the rounds over here in the UK and overseas back home. Basically, you read the quote just a few moments ago. You heard what that unnamed adviser supposedly said.

However, I mean, we should say that there really is no way to confirm whether or not that adviser actually said that or whether this was an even adviser to the Romney campaign. The Romney campaign has said flatly this did not come from one of its advisers, but despite all of that, the Vice President Joe Biden put out a statement through the Obama campaign.

I'll read just a portion of it. It says, "Not surprisingly, this is just another feeble attempt" Biden says about that quote in that London paper by the Romney campaign to score political points at the expense of this critical partnership. This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign. For his part, Mitt Romney was asked about all of this in an interview with NBCs Brian Williams last night. Here's what he had to say.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not sure who this person is, but I can tell that you that we have a very special relationship between the United States and Great Britain. It goes back to our very beginnings, cultural and historical. But I also believe that the president understands that. So, I don't agree with whoever that adviser might be.


ACOSTA: Now, there are some other things going on with this trip. Obviously, the Olympics are coming up this weekend. The Romney campaign definitely wants the American public to see Mitt Romney in the context of these games. After all, he was a big part of saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

And, they want the American voters to hear that as often as possible. And so, we'll be hearing about that from the Romney campaign over the next several days. Now, speaking of the Olympics, earlier this morning, he met with the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. They talked about the upcoming Olympics. Romney said that he hopes to see a swimming event.

Obviously, Ann Romney, her dressage horse is competing in these games. And so, he talked about that with the former prime minister as well. Now, speaking of prime ministers, he'll be meeting with the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, at Ten Downing Street later today. And John, I know you're going to love this part, the Olympic torch, you may know this, is coming through here later on this afternoon. And we're going to get a picture of it for you and send it your way.

BERMAN: We are counting on you for that, Jim. We are counting on you for that.

ACOSTA: Right. Absolutely.

BERMAN: And I should say also that CNNs Piers Morgan is going to be sitting down with Mitt and Ann Romney in London later today. Piers has been talking about it on Twitter, and you can see the entire interview tonight at nine o'clock eastern right here on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-five minutes past the hour. The U.S. Senate spending an entire day passing a tax cut plan that has virtually no chance of becoming law. A Democratic proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle income Americans passing 51 to 48, while a Republican measure that would extend the cuts for all Americans, including the wealthy went down to defeat.

GOP leaders and the House already on record saying they won't even bring the Democrats' plan to a vote.

BERMAN: That's a full day in Washington, huh? Nice guys.

All right. Shave your beard or we'll shave it for you. That order coming from the military judge overseeing the trial of Major Nadal Hassan. Hassan is accused of killing 13 people at Ft. Hood army base in Texas in 2009. Because he's still drawing a military paycheck, his beard puts him in violation of army regulations.

Hassan, who is Muslim, has refused to shave now for more than a month. He's been fined $1,000 for contempt, and he's told he must shave his beard before the trial begins.

SAMBOLIN: So, this was a daring as it was dumb (ph). Canadian police arresting a motorcyclist who recorded himself driving at speeds of up to 186 miles an hour weaving through traffic. This is a Vancouver highway. The YouTube video has been viewed nearly a million times now.

It's a 25-year-old Randy Scott (ph). He is charged with dangerous driving. He was released on bail with the condition, he doesn't drive anything, a car, a bike, or even a scooter.

BERMAN: Nothing. He don't even look at a car. Look at a car, you're back in jail.

SAMBOLIN: Who does that? Why do you that? And then you record it.

BERMAN: He's going very, very fast. Apparently, the guy likes speed.

Speaking of speed, just his own two hands, guts, and now, the glory. Extreme yachtsman, my favorite sailor, Alex Thompson (ph), is set to arrive in Cornwall in England around noon today. He will set a record for the fastest solo sail across the Atlantic. Now, just a few days ago, I was onboard the Hugo Boss Racing Yacht with Alex in the Hudson River.

He left from the Ambrose Lighthouse off the coast of New York on July 17th, and the record to beat is 10 days, 55 minutes, and 19 seconds. I would just like to say that every sailor that I have met in the last few weeks is about to break a major record. I am good luck for sailors --


SAMBOLIN: Let's hope so.

BERMAN: If you want to break the record, invite me on your yacht.


BERMAN: I'm good luck for yachters.

SAMBOLIN: I'll come, too. I'll come, too. I don't know if I'll bring luck, but wow, that was exciting.

Thirty-seven minutes past the hour. From racing yacht to a tiny boat. No wider than your hips. Coming up, we have a first-hand look at the Olympic sport of sprint kayak. Meet an athlete who's up against more than just a competition.


SAMBOLIN: Look where we are this morning. We are live in London for you. Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-one minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I am John Berman. Of course, the Olympics is just around the corner now. This week, we're taking a look at some of the sports and athletes you may not know much about now, but we're making it our mission to make them household names.

SAMBOLIN: Well, today we meet a two-time Olympian in sprint kayak representing the United States in London. Carrie Johnson put our Rob Marciano to the test, letting him take a dry run in her kayak. That's really -- in her kayak, you got to use that?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And let me tell you something, it wasn't dry for long, OK?

(LAUGHTER) MARCIANO: As you'll see, I wasn't very gifted as an Olympic rower for sure. Well, Carrie Johnson is. She's been to two Olympic Games. It's a solitary sport. Very under (INAUDIBLE). She's got a volunteer coach, full time fireman, only comes to help throughout a couple of days a week, is a very lonely existence. But not only does she have that challenge that she faces, she's got her opponents, the water, and one more thing. Take a look.


MARCIANO (voice-over): Carrie Johnson starts graduate school this fall to become a veterinarian. But before she hits the books, she's hitting the water. Sprint kayaking in her third and final Olympics, she'll race in both the 200 and the 500 meter sprints. Johnson has yet to earn a medal, but she's determined to finish strongly.

CARRIE JOHNSON, U.S. WOMEN'S SPRINT KAYAK: Every athlete is lining up on that start line, you know, with the goal and the dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. But I think if you can paddle away and say I did absolutely everything that I could do, then you have to be satisfied with that.

MARCIANO: Johnson won gold in 2011 Pan-Am games, but her success hasn't come without struggle. She has Crohn's disease, an incurable intestinal ailment that also causes fatigue.

JOHNSON: When I have the harder days, I have a real appreciation for just being able to train.

MARCIANO: While it kept her out of the water for a little while, Johnson views her disease as extra motivation, pushing her through nearly six hours of training a day.

(on-camera) What's going through your mind technically? You know, how long do you want that paddle in there and how strong is the stroke? And how are you balancing? There's got to be a lot of things to think about.

JOHNSON: Using your legs is actually a really important part of paddling which people don't realize. That really starts the rotation that brings, you know, the boat forward.

MARCIANO: And all of this while not falling in?


MARCIANO: Because the boat that you're on is pretty skinny.

JOHNSON: It is the widest part is just pretty much wide enough to get your hips in. So, it's very unstable if you're not used to it.

MARCIANO: And if you're just some reporter getting in there, what are the odds of me staying afloat?

JOHNSON: We've never had anybody get into the boat for the first time and stay up, even the Olympic rowers.

MARCIANO: So, I'm going in?

JOHNSON: You're going in.


JOHNSON: Grab the cockpit and step in with one foot. Step behind and sit down. Grab the paddle right around where the grips are.

MARCIANO: Yes? There's no way.


MARCIANO: No way I'm staying up! How in the world do you balance on this thing? Oh my --

JOHNSON: Don't hit your head on the dock.

MARCIANO: Yes, OK. No way! You're right.


MARCIANO: One second.


MARCIANO: That's impossible. An Olympian I am not, clearly.


MARCIANO: That's for sure. That's the most unstable I've ever felt in my life. It was like sitting on a tight rope, and she makes it look so easy. She goes so fast, about five meters per second. A 200-meter race, she does in about 40 seconds. So, an amazing athlete. No doubt about it.

SAMBOLIN: Was that a record for falling in? Do you know?

MARCIANO: It may have been. She wasn't impressed with my balance, that's for sure.

BERMAN: Two seconds. That's unbelievable.

MARCIANO: It was crazy. As soon as I got even close to it, as soon as I put one step in that kayak, I knew it wasn't going to take long, but, they stay afloat and they go super fast. I think August 7th, so late (ph) in the Olympic, is when she's going to compete. Good luck to her.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, that's good. We'd love to watch her. I do.

BERMAN: And we're still impressed by you, Rob.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. BERMAN: You should know that.

MARCIANO: Well, then, you're easily impressed.


SAMBOLIN: Thanks for the stories. We appreciate them.

MARCIANO: All right. See you, guys.

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



ROMANS (voice-over): New developments this morning in the Aurora shooting massacre. Police say the suspect mailed a package to his university on Monday. That, according to CBS News. It has drawings of a gunman shooting people, and he wrote about a rampage.

President Obama weighing in on the gun control debate telling the National Urban League in New Orleans he supports the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but not when it comes to assault weapons like AK-47s. The president says those belong in the hands of soldiers, not criminals.

The bloody battle for control of Syria's largest city intensifying overnight. Rebel forces getting reinforcement says government troops continue to pound Aleppo from the air and on the ground. There are reports of heavy fighting in Homs and Damascus, too. Neighboring Turkey is closed its border crossings to commercial traffic (ph) from Syria but says it will remain open for refugees.

Heat and drought, recipe for wildfires. One burning in Arkansas is forced the entire to evacuate. Authorities say the fires not only threatening homes but a fireworks warehouse that's right in its path. A much larger fire is burning in (INAUDIBLE) areas in both Oklahoma and Nebraska, you two.


ROMANS (on-camera): It has been a hot and very tinder box in the summer, hasn't it?

BERMAN: It sure has, Christine. Thanks very much.

It is 47 minutes past the hour right now. And, she's back. Coming up, Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, re-emerges, and she has plenty to say about losing custody of her grandchildren.

And if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time on your desktop or mobile phone, just go to


SAMBOLIN: New this morning, Michael Jackson's mother is speaking out for the first time after losing custody of her three grandchildren. Katherine Jackson told ABC's "Nightline" she is devastated after a judge granted temporary custody to 34-year-old T.J. Jackson. That's Tito's son. Jackson also slammed the controversy surrounding her reported disappearance.


KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S MOTHER: The rumor going around about me that I've been kidnapped and held against my will, I'm here today to let everybody know that I'm fine, and I'm here with my children and my children would never do a thing like that, hold me against my will. It's very stupid for people to think that.


SAMBOLIN: You may recall last week, Katherine Jackson's nephew filed a missing person's report after Michael's children said they hadn't heard from her. So, joining me now is defense attorney, Joey Jackson. No relation to the Jackson family.


SAMBOLIN: So, Katherine Jackson says that she is fine. We heard her say that, but her own attorney told a judge this yesterday. I want to put it up so everybody can see it. The judge says, "We have reason to believe that Mrs. Jackson has been held against her will." Katherine Jackson, that was her attorney, Sandra Ribera, said.

"The judge then suspended custody to Mrs. Jackson saying he believed that she may be prevented from acting as a guardian because of the act of third parties". So, what I want to know is what would prompt a judge, what evidence to take custody away from her?

JACKSON: Family squabbles, how difficult they can be. What happens is is that you need to insure that the children are safe. That they're secure and that they're provided for. And if there's any indication, otherwise, a judge is going to become concerned.

And when you have allegations that a person is missing, they're in another state, they're not being responsive, they're not taking phone calls from people who their parenting, they're upbringing, and they're guiding, a judge gets very concerned about that and would, on a temporary basis, seek, perhaps, to remove children until the judge is satisfied that Katherine Jackson is fine.

That she's OK, and that's she confident, able, and responsible enough to, of course, engage in her duties which is to provide for those children.

SAMBOLIN: So, how do you decide, though, that she is incompetent? She was saying in her interview yesterday that she was in constant communication and that so was her assistant. And that they had talked. And that she was actually concerned, because some decisions were made in her absence that, you know, the staff had been fired. The cook had been fired.

JACKSON: Exactly. You know interestingly enough, the facts always get in the way, right? I mean, any hearing before a judge, you want to know what the true facts are. Was she in communication or was she not? Was she held against her will or did she take a mental health break? Exactly what happened?

And of course, a judge is going to err on the side of safety, because you want to make sure at all times that a guardian is there who can provide for the upbringing of the children and that they're safe and they're secure.

And if there's any indication otherwise, a judge is going to step in. So, a judge will evaluate all the facts concerning her either disappearance or voluntary leave and see whether or not there was, you know, firm foundation for that. Is she OK? And if a judge is satisfied after speaking with her and having a hearing that everything is OK and nothing is amiss, Miss Katherine Jackson will be back in the ball game again.

SAMBOLIN: So, a lot of people are wondering as they're watching all of these developments unfold. What really is at stake here? What's really happening? So, let's talk a little bit about the will --

JACKSON: The will!

SAMBOLIN: -- because the bill was contested by some of the Jackson siblings. So, tell me about that and where that stands right now?

JACKSON: All right. Well, what happens in a will is there's real issues on the part of the family as to whether initially the will is even authentic. There's some indication, and of course, they wrote a letter, they being the siblings of Michael Jackson, the late Michael Jackson. And they signed on to a letter saying, listen, you know what?

He despised you, Michael Jackson did. And as a result of that, you know, why would he even put you in charge of anything or leave anything to you in a will?

SAMBOLIN: And his father. His father was also --

JACKSON: The father was -- yes, the father was left out of the will also. So, there's a real concern by the Jackson brothers as to whether or not they should be in charge or whether the will is even valid, because there's an indication from them that, of course, Michael Jackson was not -- was in a different location when the will was signed.

So, he couldn't have signed it. So, there's a challenge based upon that. But there's another issue as to whether they even have standing, that is the ability to challenge the will, because under California law, standing means you have the capability to even voice a concern about it, but you have to be a beneficiary under the will to do that.

They were not. You have to be an heir, they're not. You have to be a receiver of property, they're not. And of course if a will is challenged and held invalid, you have to benefit in some way.

SAMBOLIN: And one last question, we're running a little over here. But, if Mrs. Jackson goes back to the children, will they -- will she regain custody of them?

JACKSON: I have -- I mean, there's every reason to believe that she would. And all she would have to do is to satisfy the judge's concern is that she's responsible enough, she's able enough. This was a little hiccup. It was all a misunderstanding. And I'm here to take care of these children. She does that, she's fine, and life is good again.

SAMBOLIN: All right. In her age and the fact that, perhaps, she had a stroke won't weigh in?

JACKSON: The 80s are the new 70s. The 70s are the new 60s. She's a young woman. She's fine.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Joey Jackson, thank you so much for joining us.

JACKSON: It's a pleasure, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: We really appreciate it. Thank you. All right. John, back to you.

BERMAN: I guess, every family is complicated, but this one, whoo!

All right. This morning's top stories coming up after a quick break, including a major development in the Aurora massacre. A package from the shooting suspect. You're watching EARLY START.



BERMAN (voice-over): Shocking discovery. A package mailed by Aurora shooting suspect, James Holmes, to his college before the massacre.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Speaking out. President Obama has something to say about gun control in the wake of the Aurora tragedy.

BERMAN: And one campaign, two countries. Mitt Romney meeting Tony Blair and other leaders in Britain while unleashing a brand new campaign video here in the U.S.