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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Romney Criticized for Remarks on London Olympics; Olympic Games Set to Begin; Report Finds Nepotism in Justice Department; Killer Storm Outbreak; Syrian Lawmaker Defects; Bloody Battle For Control Of Aleppo; Cuba To U.S.: "The Table Is Set"; Chick-Fil-A Protest; New Obama Ad: "I Believe"; Olympic Athletes "Rise Above"; Baltimore's Appeal To Immigrants

Aired July 27, 2012 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: STARTING POINT begins right now.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, the threat of dangerous storms this morning across almost a third of the country. At least two people are dead after one storm plowed through the Midwest and northeast yesterday. Take a look at the lightning show over New York City. The fire department is trying to determine whether a lightning strike caused aid fire that injured 40 firefighters and a dozen people in Brooklyn.

And police say one man was killed by falling debris when lightning struck a church steeple. Reports of two unconfirmed tornado touchdowns a mess of downed trees and power lines left in the aftermath. More than 200 homes and businesses without power From Ohio to New York this morning, and airlines are playing catch up after 900 flights were canceled.

Another severe storm watch in effect today. Let's get the very latest from meteorologist Rob Marciano live in Olympic Park in Atlanta. Rough night for us up here.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: It was. Not just for New York City, it was a massive storm system, Christine. Yesterday morning at this time we said the atmosphere was primed to explode and Mother Nature certainly took the cue yesterday afternoon. Take a look at the radar from yesterday, I mean this damaging line of storms stretched from Hartford all the way back through the Ohio valley in through northern Texas, 1,700 miles of damaging storms over 300 wind reports that caused damage and one report of a tornado up there in Elmira, New York.

So we don't expect to see that sort of action today but some folks will. Leftover storms from last night across the Delmarva and mid-Atlantic and today that's where the main threat will be for severe storms. Also across the Ohio River valley, you'll seal a threat of severe storms. Basically we've knocked down the heat that's been building for weeks Christine. Although we'll see storms today, they shouldn't be as widespread or damaging as they were yesterday thankfully. Christine?

ROMANS: Rob Marciano, thanks, Rob. To politics now where Mitt Romney is doing some damage control this morning. The GOP presidential candidate stepping on toes his first two days in London, questioning the city's passion for the Olympics and calling security for the games disconcerting. U.K. newspaper headlines ranging from "Mitt the twit" in "The Sun" to "Who invited party popper Mitt Romney?" in the "Daily Mail." And in "The Guardian," "Romney's diplomatic gaffe, Mitt falls at the first hurdle." The headlines in the United States, more of the same tone rather than the slam dunk trip he was hoping for.

Joining me now former Republican senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. He serves as foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign. Good morning.

FORMER SEN. NORM COLEMAN, (R) MINNESOTA: Good morning, Christine.

ROMANS: When candidate Obama went to Berlin on his big international trip he was treated as a rock star. Fast forward today to candidate Romney, getting a different reception, headlines like "Mitt the twit," not a really good reception at all. Team Romney must be disappointed by the performance the first day out.

COLEMAN: The measure of Mitt's visit to the Olympics is not going to be about the headlines in British to Brit British headlines or crowds.

Piers Morgan last night asked a question that really goes to the heart of where this is valuable to Romney and the American people, and that's when he asked about his experience at the Olympics and what relevance that has to running a country. And the governor's response was pretty clear. It was about the ability he had to bring a team together to turn things around. And look at the contrast between Romney and Obama. What team has he brought together? Has it been the economy? Stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapon? Has it been resetting Russia? You've got a guy -- to the American people, not for British tabloids and crowds in Europe, but the American people, will they reflect upon what Mitt Romney did in the Olympics and somebody to turn this around --

ROMANS: And clearly that is the message that the Romney campaign would like to continue to push because that is a weakness for the president, the economy. At the same time, your candidate also has to be a statesman on the global stage it seems like David Cameron and Boris Johnson were pretty critical of your candidate yesterday.

COLEMAN: The mayor is kind of a character and everyone will say that. But the bottom line, it's not about British tabloids --

ROMANS: Hold --

COLEMAN: It's about American people and the American people looking for leadership and Mitt Romney being at the Olympics is a reminder of the kind of leadership they need.

ROMANS: You're talking about the tabloids but the prime minister of America's most important ally, please listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We're holding an Olympic games in one of the busiest, most bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciated the insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and opposition here as well as the head of MI6 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear there's a guy called Mitt Romney, who wants to know whether we're ready. He wants to know whether we're ready. Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So you hear the three pieces of sound that everyone is talking about and you heard the candidate himself talking about meeting with the head of MI6. He criticized this White House for intelligence leaks and at the same time there are those talking about --

COLEMAN: Christine, please, do not even attempt to put on the same level leaks about specific information about American tactics and what we did and how we did it with a conversation about meeting someone with an organization that everybody knows exists. It's not on the same parallel whatsoever.

The bottom line is the Brits got fired up, and, god bless them, they should. I have British heritage and the governor did. I don't think he knew he was more British than Piers until Piers told him last night. Britain is a strong ally. This governor is about strengthening America's relationship with allies not undercutting them and clearly has been the problem with this president.

The governor will be in Poland. They had the rug pulled out from them on the missile defense. And so I think this trip is a good thing. He's not going to talk about foreign policy when he's across the pond. But I think Americans will reflect upon leadership and relationships with allies and reflect upon whether America has gotten stronger in the world or not and clearly Iran moves forward, the Russian reset is a failure, and this economy is still in big trouble.

ROMANS: How does he flip the script here? The British press, the British prime minister, how does he flip the script and show that statesmanship on the world stage?

COLEMAN: I don't think there's any script that has to be flipped. The focus will be on the athletes and great feeling there will be in Britain, which they should have, tremendous feeling. Mitt Romney understanding that -- I think the glow and warmth from the athletes and opening ceremonies and everything, will put whatever happened in terms of headlines and British tabloids, put that aside. As the governor moves to Israel, clearly there's no -- Obama's ratings in Israel are in single digits. The presence there will show America has to be a stronger, better friend to Israel.

ROMANS: President Obama has not been there as a president but has been as a candidate. I want to talk about Governor Romney has talked about in terms of success. Piers asked him about this battle against successor perceived battle against success in America. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are people trying to attack success and trying to attack our success. That's not going to be successful. When you attack success, you have less of it, and that's what we've seen in our economy over the last few years. Dividing America on who has money and who doesn't, that is not the American way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Does he recognize the wealth divide, the wealth gap in America? Is he dismissing that or the fact the middle class has been struggling?

COLEMAN: Not at all. Even asking the question, does that undermine the importance of this? You didn't show his -- the governor reflecting a comment that Marco Rubio made when he was growing up a poor kid in Miami and look at the big mansions, his parents wouldn't say take that away. They would say, maybe we can achieve that someday. That's what America -- America offers that opportunity and we should offer it for each and every kid regardless of where they come from. We should offer that to every kid, and that's what Romney is about. Success is a good thing.

I believe this president has torn that down. Class warfare battle is a losing battle with the American public. You don't dismiss somebody because you've made it. If anything, you've giving them to opportunity to say this is what makes America great, every kid to be that great. Let's no tear this country apart. It shouldn't be 99 percent against one percent. It should be 100 percent American.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see, Norm Coleman, talk to you soon again I hope. Thanks.

Coming up in about 30 minutes our own Piers Morgan will join us from London with more on his interview with Mitt and Ann Romney in case you missed it.

For the rest of today's top stories, let's get straight to Zoraida Sambolin. Good morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you.

Attorneys for one of Jerry Sandusky's victims have released two voicemail recordings they say the predator left on their client's answering machine. CNN has not independently verified the authenticity of the recordings, however the attorneys claiming the calls were made less than two months before the former Penn State assistant coach was arrested in 2011 on child sex abuse charges. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just calling to see I don't know whether you had any interest in going to the Penn State game this Saturday. . If you could get back to me and let me know, I'd appreciate it. And when you get this message, give me a call. And I'll hope to talk to you later. Thanks. I love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Attorneys for victim number two say they intend to file a civil suit against Penn State. A spokesman for the university would not comment on the voicemails but did say the school is taking the case very seriously.

People in Colorado are slowly beginning to piece their lives together one week after the Aurora massacre. Reverend Jesse Jackson was comforting mourners and calls last week's tragedy an act of domestic terrorism and says we need a ban on assault weapons. Yesterday crowds packed the New Hope Baptist Church to remember 23- year-old Micayla Medek, one of 12 killed in the shooting rampage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see so much sadness, so much grieving. It is evident we are all hurting because Micayla's physical presence is no longer with us. She has filled our hearts with nothing but love. Although we cannot see her, she resides within each of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Police have taken down the crime scene tape at the apartment complex where suspect James Holmes lived and the residents are finally being allowed to move back in.

Police in Maryland say this may be the guy who bound and kidnapped the mother of hall of fame Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. Take a look, police say an armed gunman showed up at Violet Ripken's Maryland home then forced her into her car and took off. The 74-year- old woman was found in the back seat of her own car with her hands tied but she was not harmed.

Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted in Michael Jackson's death, says he wants Katherine Jackson to visit him in jail. Through his lawyers, he offered up that invitation to miss Jackson to quote, "answer any questions she might have." Murray said he would be happy to meet with the mother of who he calls a "very dear departed friend."

And Twitter apologizing to users for worldwide outage that left the site inaccessible for nearly an hour yesterday morning. Users joked they couldn't complain on Twitter that Twitter was down. David Smith writing, when twitter goes down, you would think I would get more done. Turns out you keep checking it to see if it's back up again, which is what I was doing, Christine.

ROMANS: I got so much done, I couldn't believe so much I got done. I'm taking a Twitter break today, it was great. We can tweet about it later, thanks.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, all in the family, justice officials using their clout to get kids jobs. It's our get real this morning.

Flame on, a Beatle, James Bond, so much buzz around the big opening ceremonies in London, the official start of the Olympic games. We're live in the host city next.

It's viewer request music Friday, it is free off of Larry Blackwell's playlist. STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Let's the games begin. The stadium is ready and the athletes are ready, and in a few hours the 2012 summer games will officially begin. The royal family greeted the torch on its way to the stadium for opening ceremonies. A billion people around the world are expected to watch. We have coverage all over London. Dan Rivers covering security concerns. But let's start with Zain Verjee covering the pomp and circumstances and a lot of hype this morning.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Christine, so much hype. It is finally here, the suits are going to come off and the Lycra is going to come on. Behind me is the Olympic stadium where the opening ceremonies are going to take place, 60,000 spectators will be in there, 10,000 athletes, and we're also hearing numbers as far as 4 billion people tuning in to watch this incredible epic spectacle that's been planned around the world.

Let me give you an idea of some of the things we're hearing. The whole theme is going to be based around Shakespeare's play called "The Tempest," it is going to be kind of fantastical. We are hearing of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, a showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, and Daniel Craig, the rumor is going off to meet the queen to dispatch him on a special mission to open the Olympic Games, we think a man with parachute down.

Paul McCartney is going to be here, "Rocket Man" will be sung too and apparently Christine, a few men with jets will be flying through the stadium as that song plays, a lot of hype as to what it's going to be like. Very cool, you have to tune in and London has something like 5.3 million visitors just for the Olympic Games. All of the complaining and ticket fiascos and transport moaning, everything is being put aside because the focus is the games today and the athletes.

ROMANS: Is the focus the games or on British pop culture. I'm not sure.

(LAUGHTER)

VERJEE: That too, yes.

ROMANS: All right, Zain, thanks. You have a front row seat. To Dan, where there's still some concerns over security, Dan.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, a huge security operation. They've got twice the number of troops deployed as Britain has deployed in Afghanistan. There's talk of this being the biggest east time organization since the world war. We're giving you a slightly different perspective. This is white hall, you might see big pen down in the distance.

Actually although there are a lot of police and soldiers on the street. So far it's going very smoothly. The traffic is moving, the transport is moving. You can see down there soldiers filling in for the private security guards who were unable to make it. Some of the major roads are shut. On this bus we can get through a lot of roads that are shut to normal motorists. But so far the message is they are hoping and feel they've gone everything to make sure this is a safe and secure games.

ROMANS: All right, Dan rivers, thanks so much, Dan.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, relatives for hire. That's right, did employees at the justice department give each other's kids high level jobs and lie about it? That's in our get real. Our STARTING POINT, team heading in to talk about that, Roland martin, Will Cain --

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No Roland Martin.

ROMANS: He's always 10 minutes late. Here's the Ramones. Good morning, guys.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A few quick headlines for you. Online attacks against the U.S. are on rise and the man in charge of cyber defense says we are unprepared to stop them. General Keith Alexander says on a scale of one to 10 for cyber-attack preparedness, the U.S. gets a three.

A major crackdown on the synthetic drug industry. Federal law enforcement agencies arrested 90 people across 30 states yesterday. They seized nearly 5 million packs of fake pot, about 167,000 packages of bath salt, and $36 million in cash.

One of two New Jersey state troopers facing disciplinary action for escorting exotic cars on a high speed caravan to Atlantic City has resigned. The caravan was spotted in March at speeds topping 100 miles an hour. The sergeant first class stepping down after a 26 year career.

ROMANS: Zoraida, thank you.

Our team this morning, the STARTING POINT team for Friday, Ron Brownstein, editorial director of the "National Journal," and Roland Martin, host of "Washington Watch," and Will Cain, columnist from TheBlaze.com.

We're going to get real, because it's all in the family in the halls of justice. A new report from the inspector general of the Justice Department says eight officials at the department of justice violated nepotism rules and tried to get children and other relatives jobs. In at least one case the inspector general found two senior officials colluded with each other. It's the third report in the past eight years that's found officials broke rules like this. A spokesman says the attorney general made it clear that breaking ethics rules like this won't be tolerated. The inspector general said it was egregious.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": It is but it is the way the world works in many ways. There's a lot of ways in which class reproduces itself and one of which is the network of contacts available to young people. I did a study talking about even the requirement for unpaid internships has an enormous class bias because young people from low are incomes can't afford to spend the summer working for free.

ROMANS: My parents said you cannot have an unpaid internship.

ROLAND MARTIN, "WASHINGTON WATCH": At the end it is call the hookup, whether in government or business, it's in hook-up. How many times at the family reunion or whatever can you -- hook my student up.

ROMANS: Bright young people around here.

CAIN: They are right, it's not shocking by any measure, we know this exists but it's particularly unseemly when it's done in the public sphere because it's done with our tax dollars and even more unseemly it was done to the justice department, the place we suppose that justice -- this is the tool of enacting justice.

BROWNSTEIN: The bigger question is education is supposed to be a ladder of social mobility. The way it works now, reinforcing the existing structure rather than --

ROMANS: You think they should or shouldn't be allowed?

MARTIN: You should be allowed to do it. Whether it's public or private sector, this is the reality of business. Every single one of us can tell a story of somebody coming to us trying to stay, can you get my church member, get my friend, get my family member a job where you work.

CAIN: The difference this it sounds like Politbureau stuff.

ROMANS: There's a widespread common practice of hiring friends and relatives of employees for paid summer clerkships and internships keeping it all in the family.

MARTIN: That's the reality of business in America, unfortunately.

ROMANS: I guess justice department, business, everywhere else, journalism.

MARTIN: Yes. ROMANS: The Chick-Fil-A clash turning into a national brawl after the fast food chain's president spoke out against gay marriage. Speaking of political fights --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: The attacks that come by people trying to knock down my business career or my Olympic experience or our success, those attacks are not going to be successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Mitt Romney defending his business success and personal wealth. Piers Morgan, live from London with more on his interview with Mitt and Ann Romney. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Let's get right to Zoraida Sambolin. Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Threats of even more storms this morning after a deadly string moved through the northeast and the Midwest. Take a look at the lightning show over New York this was last night.

At least two people were killed. There are reports that two tornadoes touched down in Elmira, New York, but none confirmed yet. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost power. More than 900 flights were canceled.

Another high profile defection from Syria, parliament member, Iklhas Badawi has left the country for Turkey. Badahi was just elected to parliament this year. He represented the city of Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

Meantime, the battle for control of that city is growing bloodier by the day. Rebel forces were taking heavy fire from helicopter gunships, this was overnight.

Cuba reaching out to the United States to begin talks. President Raul Castro declaring the table is set. He said that if America wants to discuss democracy, freedom of speech or human rights on the island nation, Cuba is ready.

Even though he calls those issues quote, "invented." The United States maintains a five decades old trade embargo against Cuba.

Protesters disrupting a Chick-Fil-A grand opening, this is Laguna Hills, California. Demonstrators are angry with the chain's president for saying that he opposes same-sex marriage.

A group of Chick-Fil-A fans had been camping out for a chance to win free meals for a year, but the protest forced the company to send those campers home.

Coming up at 8:15, we'll hear from Chicago alderman, Joe Moreno. He is protesting the opening of a new Chick-Fil-A in his ward.

ROMANS: Yes. And the Chicago mayor said that the Chicago values are not Chick-Fil-A values. We'll talk more about that.

Yes, absolutely and Boston as well. All right, thanks, Zoraida. President Obama's re-election campaign is out with a new ad this morning that will air during the opening ceremonies tonight. It's called believe. It's all about the middle class. Let's look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're a nation of workers and doers and dreamers. We work hard for what we get. All we ask for is our hard work pays off.

I believe that the way you grow the economy is from the middle out. I believe in fighting for the middle class because if they are prospering all of us will prosper. That's the idea of America and that's why America --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: This "Washington Post" survey said 95% of Americans consider themselves middle class. You know, technically, economically speaking you can't all be in the middle.

The White House chief economist said recently maybe $25,000 to $75,000 a year is technically middle class. We know that the median income is $49,000 a year. We're still like debating what is middle class in this country, but politically it's a no-brainer, you want the middle class.

CAIN: Visualize what you just said because they perceive themselves to be in the middle class.

MARTIN: People making a quarter million dollars a year say they are middle class. No, you are not.

ROMANS: The president says he's only going to raise taxes up to $250,000 a year.

BROWNSTEIN: It's like everyone is above average. The reality is the class basis of American politics is different than it used to be.

Democrats used to be based in the lower middle class into the middle. Republicans were the party of the top. If you look over the last 20 years and certainly the last few elections we're seeing Democrats run better among whites with a college education.

And if Barack Obama survives this election, it is much more likely to be the white upper middle class than the blue collar whites who save him. He's looking at the lowest number for any Democrat since Mondale for the white working class. ROMANS: But even these differentiations of what part of the middle class you're in don't really exist anymore because easy credit and home prices going up made everybody feel like they were middle class. I think there was a middle class mirage for a long time.

MARTIN: People living in delusional land.

ROMANS: We're still appealing. They are still appealing to the middle class that maybe isn't so middle class.

MARTIN: Again, it doesn't exist. So since they lump everyone in together, when you throw that phrase out that's what it is. That's why you never hear them talk about the poor or the impoverished because somehow that must be making somebody making $5,000 a year.

And so this is the catch old phrase and everybody from Capitol Hill to the White House, they all throw it altogether. Let's say we're a middle class country.

ROMANS: Middle class is values, not necessarily a number. People consider them middle class because it's a value system.

MARTIN: When we say values, it means a whole different thing. If you hear values that sometimes talks about family, things along those lines.

BROWNSTEIN: She's talking about is if you work hard and play by the rules you should get head as Bill Clinton formulated.

MARTIN: The public opinion on this is very consistent. Americans do not resent success. They do not have antagonism for the wealthy, but they don't necessarily define that as opposing progressive taxation.

I mean, like the idea that having a higher tax rate on people at the top is a form of class warfare is not the way most Americans believe.

Most Americans believe it is perfectly reasonable for people who work hard and succeed to do well and also acceptable to charge a higher tax rate.

CAIN: The concept of the middle class and how it's going to play on this election will be fascinating. I know Ron is in deep in the polls.

What's interesting is the poll that says most middle class voters suggest Barack Obama is going to be more friendly to the middle class. However, Mitt Romney will be better for the economy.

BROWNSTEIN: That is consistently true.

MARTIN: We can call him president Obama, I'm saying, Michelle can call him Barack --

ROMANS: Did I just --

MARTIN: No, I'm just saying.

CAIN: I don't think I did. Run the tape back.

ROMANS: All right, I'm doing the whole issue of my show on the middle class. What is the middle class and sort of defining the challenges and why everybody suddenly wants to get behind the middle class? What is it exactly?

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, what exactly does it take to be an Olympic athlete? We're asking basketball superstars, Maya Moore, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

Soledad does the best job in the world. Here's Florence and the Machine "Dog Days are Over." You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: I think it's Gotye. It's like Scandinavian or Norwegian or something.

MARTIN: I think so. He's mostly an artist, dabbling in music.

ROMANS: This is from Ashlee Sara's playlist. "Someone I Used To Know" is name of the song.

All right, the Olympic opening ceremonies get underway today in London to celebrate, Nike affiliate Jordan brand launched a campaign called rise above. The video has showcased people's achievements and their ability to rise above obstacles.

Three superstar athletes are supporting that campaign. Soledad had the chance to talk to them recently. Carmelo Anthony, forward for the New York Knicks, Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers point guard, and Maya Moore, forward for the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx.

They revealed how they were able to rise above their tough circumstances in their childhood to become the superstars they are today on the way to their way to the Olympics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "STARTING POINT": Let's talk a little bit about where you're from. You grew up in Red Hook.

CARMELO ANTHONY, NBA PLAYER, NEW YORK KNICKS: I grew up in Red Hook, Brooklyn, moved to Baltimore when I was 7, 8.

O'BRIEN: I read that you grew up -- your street was called Murder Avenue.

ANTHONY: It was called Murder Avenue. It was Murdough Avenue, but they nicknamed it Murder Avenue.

O'BRIEN: And I assume because it was the crime was bad.

ANTHONY: Yes, I mean, at that time Baltimore was the number one for killing city in America. So to overcome that and rise above that and sit here and talk to you and try to describe that atmosphere to you, I'll be here all day.

O'BRIEN: I want to talk to you a little bit about what I think a lot of people talk about, which is your grandfather who's been described as your best friend. You were about to reach the pinnacle of your career when he died in the commission of a crime.

And I was surprised how it didn't make you turn angry and bitter. That surprised me a lot. I think most people that would -- never get over that and become hardened people and you haven't done that. Why not?

CHRIS PAUL, NBA PLAYER, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: I was.

O'BRIEN: You were a mad person?

PAUL: No, question about it. I was young, you know, I just committed to go to Wake Forest, signed my letter of intent, probably the happiest day of my life. Spent the night with my grandfather and the next night found out he had been murdered.

I was bitter. I talked to my mom about when you're a kid you make rational decision. I don't know if I can hope anymore, my grand dad is at every game. And I questioned myself and I also was a kid that played basketball as a freshman and sophomore in high school.

Always listening to people tell me I was too small to do this, from Louisville, nobody made it out of here. On top of losing my grandfather, I felt like everything wasn't worth it.

I felt I need to take care of my family like my grand dad did, somehow, some way found a way to fight through and who would have thought I would be a gold medallist and have the opportunity to do it again.

O'BRIEN: Maya, I know you have talked about being a role model and things you want to teach people. What do you want to teach people by your example?

MAYA MOORE, WNBA PLAYER, MINNESOTA LYNX: That being an example is important. I remember when I was a kid watching in 1997 and watching Cynthia Cooper in the Houston Comets and the WNBA. And all of those women who were out there doing their thing, hoping, beautiful, smart --

PAUL: Raising the roof.

MOORE: Raising the roof. You see them on TV just owning it and living their dream. And I think deep down it gave me the assurance I needed to say it's cool.

It's OK that I like basketball. It's OK that I'm a female athlete. It's OK to want to go play outside as opposed to something else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: So cool. All right, next on STARTING POINT, immigrants welcome several cities like Baltimore that have fallen on hard times are rolling out the welcome mat courting immigrants to reverse their population laws.

But critics say they are intentionally trying to attract people in the country illegally. We're going to be talking to Baltimore's mayor live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: STARTING POINT, a couple of quick headlines. A former Olympian is reportedly among three people killed in a small plane crash. This is in Sedona, Arizona.

The plane burst into flames after veering off the runway during takeoff yesterday. It was registered to Pat Porter, a two-time Olympian and eight-time U.S. cross country track champion. No word yet on what caused that crash.

And the former Indiana University basketball player who was choked in 1997 by Coach Bobby Knight has died at the age of 36. Neal Reed collapsed in his California home yesterday and died of cardiac arrest. He is survived by his wife and his two children. Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: All right, thank you. Thanks, Zoraida. Really? Certainly our hearts are with his family this morning.

All right, let's talk about immigration, shall we? Joe Arpaio, Arizona's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, fighting of a legal challenge to his controversial tactics this week.

He is facing a class action lawsuit from a group of Latinos who say they were racially profiled by his department. But there's a growing new trend kind of I guess the anti-Arpaio.

Cities are trying to attract immigrants and grow immigrant populations by relaxing local regulations, immigration regulations. In Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlins Blake recently signed an executive order barring people from asking people about their immigration status.

It also requires federal immigration authorities to tell anyone that they arrest that they are not agents of the city, making that crystal clear. Mayor Rawlins Blake hopes that the order will help bring 10,000 new families to Baltimore over the next decade.

She's with us this morning. Good morning, nice to see you.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), BALTIMORE: Good morning. It's good to be here.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about population in Baltimore. The population peaked in 1950 and has been shrinking ever since. We're going to show you just how dramatic this has been overall for your city.

How big of a problem is this? When you look at population, in 1950, of almost 1 million, now down to maybe 600,000, why is this such a big issue for you?

BLAKE: Don't shave off our 20 -- it's 620. It's around 620. Don't shave off our 620.

ROMANS: I won't. I'll give you that.

BLAKE: Thank you very much. It is very important. If a city is not growing, it's a city that is dying. Baltimore has a proud history. And it's my goal to make sure that the future of the city is even brighter and we have to do that by growing our city.

ROMANS: And you think you want to attract 10,000 families by saying -- you are specifically targeting Latinos. You are saying come to us, come here, come to Baltimore. Why this group?

BLAKE: It's important. That's the group that we have had dramatic increase in population over the last 10 years. So it makes sense to continue to work with that community. When Latinos come to Baltimore, they succeed.

Many have started businesses. Their children are doing well in our public school system and it's part of our larger strategy. When you talk about immigrants, they want the same thing for their families as people who are born in our country.

They want a safer city. They want strong schools, public schools and they want good neighborhoods. And we've been making progress in all of those areas.

ROMANS: Mayor, your plan does have critics, and specifically because you don't differentiate between people who are in the country legally and illegally.

The Maryland state delegate, Patrick McDonough, this is what he said. He said for the mayor to want to increase the population of Baltimore City in principle is an admirable thing.

But by going after people who don't have a lawful presence, and all the accompanying cultural and criminal issues associated with that policy, you are counterproductive. You're going to discourage people who live in the city from continuing to be there. What do you say to that criticism?

BLAKE: I think it's misguided. I think to assume that people who may be undocumented have some kind of criminal past. I think it's wrong. It's certainly prejudiced. Baltimore is open.

It's welcoming. We have a history in our country of being built on immigrants and it's a history that I hope to return to in Baltimore. You know, luckily, the delegate doesn't have any authority in Baltimore City because we don't share the same views. ROMANS: So you are fine with your proposal giving breathing space to people who are in the country illegally? You want families legal or illegal to come to your town?

BLAKE: It's more than breathing space. People need to know that when they come here, if they are a victim, you know, god forbids, of a crime or a witness or they need a service that they don't have to be fearful.

Too many cities across our country are basically putting up a do not enter sign for people who are not born in this country. And that's not the way it is in Baltimore. And you'll see it will be a trend.

There are other cities that are doing the same thing Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, cities that are on the move, cities with bright futures.

ROMANS: Of course, jobs. You have to have a job. This is the reason why people move because they have to have a job. Clearly, you want people to come there to start businesses, but also you have to be able to get companies to create jobs in your town. That's really the most important thing, isn't it?

BLAKE: It certainly is important. Job creation has been a focus of my administration. And one thing the data shows us is that when you have an increased immigrant population, you also have those immigrants starting businesses, sometimes hiring.

You know, people that are born in this country. There are a lot of opportunities. I think it's one of those things where some people choose to look at it as a negative or as detracting from our community. Baltimore is a very diverse city. It has a rich history. And we're going to bring all of those people together to make sure that it's a place that people can grow.

ROMANS: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake from Baltimore. Thanks for joining us this morning. Have a nice weekend.

BLAKE: You too. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, breaking news on the state of our economy. We are awaiting the new GDP numbers for the second quarter. It could be a big market mover. We're going to have those numbers in about 30 minutes, maybe a big political mover too.

Plus, Mitt Romney's international brouhaha, how the Republican presidential candidate offended the British public on the eve of the Olympics. We'll be right back.

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