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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Sweet Redemption; Scare in the Air; Golden Girls; More Gold, More Whispers

Aired August 1, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sweet redemption. Gymnastics star Jordyn Wieber Olympic heartbreak into gold for Team USA.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Scare in the air. A United Airlines flight diverted to another airport all because of a camera.

BERMAN: And saved from the rushing water. A baby trapped in a flood swamped car. Wait until you see this.

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

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

Also coming up, Mitt Romney defending his controversial culture comments that enraged millions of Palestinians.

BERMAN: Plus, a young woman who pulls a car off of her father saving his life. It's like a scene out of Superman. You have to see this.

SAMBOLIN: That is pretty incredible.

But up first, the golden girls. Of course, everyone is still talking about the magical night for the U.S. women's gymnastics team. They routed the Russians and everyone else on their way to the gold medal in the team competition. Take a look, folks.

Michael Phelps cementing his legacy. He is now the most decorated Olympian of all time. Winning his record, breaking 19th medal, and adding another gold just for fun to his all-time mark.

Amanda Davies is live in London.

And, Amanda, the debate is raging this morning. Also here, Mr. John Berman and I have been debating this. Is Michael Phelps the best Olympian ever?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

I'll tell you, there's no debate about the fact it was stars and stripes all the way here at the Olympics last night. But it's a really difficult question to answer that. It is the topic of conversation across breakfast tables this morning.

In terms of swimming and in terms of medals won, then yes, Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time after he reached that 19-mark last night with a victory in the 200 -- silver in the 200 fly, I should say, and the gold in the relay.

But it depends how you measure greatness, doesn't it? Is it number of medals or is it longevity of Olympic career, or is it the impact that you have on your individual sport? Loads of people have been tweeting me about it using the #CNNOlympics.

WinnieDaPooj has said, "The only person who can say that @MichaelPhelps isn't the greatest Olympian ever is the one who wins 20 medals." I think we might be waiting some time for that.

And @uestynrl says, "the most decorated, right up there with the best."

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

DAVIES: "But I think you can't possibly touch Jesse Owen in 1936."

Other people suggesting Carl Lewis because it's harder to win track and field medals. A lot of Brits, of course, backing Steve Redgrave who won five golds in five games -- a career spanning 20 years.

I suppose the thing with Michael Phelps is he's still got three events he's competing in here. So we could be up to 21 medals by the end of the games. I mean, it's probably quite hard to argue, isn't it?

SAMBOLIN: Well, yes, superstar by anybody's measure. But we were talking about impact, right, for the Olympics. So a lot of names in there.

I know we like to look forward. But we want to talk about the U.S. women's gymnastics.

DAVIES: Yes. It was incredible, where the men failed, the women more than made up for it. There were some incredible scenes at O2 Arena last night. The Fab Five, as they're being called, said they've been watching videos of Atlanta '96 for the inspiration.

Boy, it certainly paid off, didn't it? They led from start to finish. They were set on their way by three phenomenal vaults. Russia, their nearest challengers, just really crumbled under the pressure, particularly on the floor.

And so, the USA ran a massive five point winners, which in the gymnastics is a humongous amount. Redemption, as you said, for Jordyn Wieber after her disappointment in the individual all around.

SAMBOLIN: So nice to see, Amanda.

DAVIES: Yes. Where there were tears of sadness a couple of days ago is where we see those tears of joy, wasn't it?

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely. I can't let you go without talking about the badminton players being investigated for throwing games yesterday?

DAVIES: Yes. Who knew? We all know about red cards and yellow cards in sport. Who knew there was such a thing as black cards? It's like the black card of doom that was handed out at the badminton when the umpire came out to disqualify these teams. He did then renege on that and the matches went on.

But, basically, what happened in the badminton is that 14 already qualified from the group stages into the next round. They're being investigated for allegedly trying to lose matches so that they could govern who they play in the knockout stage.

It's two teams from South Korea, a Chinese team and an Indonesian team. In the matches there were no rallies longer than four shots which really is quite incredible. The people were booing as shots were going into the net, going long.

Basically it's being investigated. It doesn't really affect anybody other than themselves as teams. But it's really not in the spirit of Olympic -- fair play and playing to win, is it?

SAMBOLIN: No, it is not. So much to talk about

Amanda Davies live in London for us -- we'll check in with you. Thank you.

BERMAN: Not at all in the Olympic spirit, I think it's safe to say.

SAMBOLIN: No.

BERMAN: We're going to take a look at the overall medal count. U.S. is tied with China, 23 medals overall. Trailing in gold medals 13-9. Japan is third with 13 medals overall. France coming on strong now with 11 medals.

SAMBOLIN: And what to watch for today. After a disappointing fifth place in the team event, the American men will compete in the gymnastic men's individual all around. And the young phenom Missy Franklin competes in the 100-meter freestyle preliminary rounds.

BERMAN: We'll be talking about all this 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time with John Roethlisberger, a three-time Olympic gymnast. He's going to join us. More about the women going gold again after 16 years.

SAMBOLIN: I'm looking forward to you talking to him again.

BERMAN: He's great.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. He's wonderful.

All right. Congressional Republicans releasing a blistering report on the failed gun running operation known as Fast and Furious. It slams the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, concluding, "From the outset, the case was marred by missteps, poor judgments, and an inherently reckless strategy." That strategy led to Fast and Furious guns turning up at crime scenes in Mexico and here in the United States.

In the most notable case, it's led to the killing of U.S. border agent Brian Terry. This was 2010.

And according to the report, agent Terry's death came at the end of a long chain of mistakes starting at gun shops. Quoting from the report now, "The gun dealers were reassured that ATF was closely monitoring the transactions and interdicting the weapons. That was false."

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah telling our Anderson Cooper he is stunned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: They put this ridiculous plan together, something that was fundamentally flawed from the beginning. I mean, just look at it on the surface. We knowingly gave the drug cartels nearly 2,000 weapons, mostly AK-47s. There didn't seem to be an adult in the room that said, do we really do that? Maybe this is a bad idea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Democrats are blasting the GOP report. They're calling it a political witch hunt.

BERMAN: Gore Vidal has died. The author, playwright, politician, a ubiquitous man of letters. He was a fixture on talk shows. His works included the best-selling novels, "Lincoln" and "Myra Breckinridge" and a Tony nominated play, "The Best Man", which is playing again on Broadway now.

Vidal twice ran for Congress, once in the '60s, again in the '80s. He lost both times.

His nephew says he died in his Hollywood Hills home from complications from pneumonia.

Gore Vidal was 86.

SAMBOLIN: A United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Geneva, Switzerland, has to be diverted to Boston after flight attendants found a camera in the seat pocket. The thing is they couldn't find the owner. No one claimed the camera. Investigators had to inspect the camera and the plane.

BERMAN: Starting today, all new health insurance plans will have to provide eight free preventive health benefits to women. It's a requirement of the president's health care reform law affecting an estimated 47 million American women.

The benefits include contraceptives -- that was controversial, remember -- breast-feeding supplies, screenings for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence. Plus, routine breast and pelvic exams, pap tests and prenatal care.

SAMBOLIN: Quite a list there.

First responders carry a baby to safety from raging floods in Phoenix. Take a look at this. Kind of hard to see. They rescued a total of nine people who were trapped inside their vehicles in water four feet deep. The area was hit with severe storms last night.

BERMAN: Look at those waters going.

All right. It is a power struggle literally affecting more than half a billion people.

SAMBOLIN: Unreal.

BERMAN: Half a billion, it's a tenth of the Earth, after two blackouts in as many days in India. The question is: can they keep the lights on?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Glad to have you with us.

And full power is back in India, which is good news for the people there. Half of the country is now breathing a collective sigh of relief after three of the country's interconnected power grids were strained to the point of collapse yesterday. It led to the largest electrical blackout in India's history.

The numbers are staggering. More than half a billion people had no power in the summer heat. The blackout stopped trains on tracks. It trapped miners underground. It paralyzed subways and snarled traffic in much of the capital.

We're going to be on this story all morning. But it was a big, big blackout. Right now the power is back on in India, thankfully.

But there's a lot of concern about whether the power grid there can sustain all the need for that growing country.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. They say they have to fix the infrastructure. That's a pretty expensive proposition. I had no idea it was 10 percent of the population. That's outrageous, right? When you think of that big number -- oh, my goodness. We'll see.

We're going to check in with a reporter there in a little bit to see how the situation is going.

It is 13 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date with this morning's top stories.

Making the case for best Olympian ever. You want to chime in, Mr. Berman?

BERMAN: Yes. He's the best Olympian ever.

SAMBOLIN: The United States winning gold in the men's 200-meter freestyle relay. What do you think? It was the 19th overall medal for Michael Phelps, the team anchor, making him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history. That is true.

The U.S. women's gymnastic team also capturing the heart of the country, winning their first gold medal since 1996.

BERMAN: In terms of number count, absolutely the greatest ever. In terms of impact, maybe Jesse Owens, maybe miracle on ice hockey team from 1980.

All right. Unless Congress steps in, the U.S. Postal Service will be in default today. It owes the federal government $5.5 billion to prepare health care benefits for future retirees. The Postal Service acknowledging it doesn't have the money to pay this bill or a $5.6 billion payment that's due in September.

The Senate passed a bill back in April to help the Postal Service, but the House hasn't acted on it yet.

SAMBOLIN: A Florida man who spent 24 years in prison for a rape he did not commit is back behind bars this morning. He's charged with attempted murder. Fifty-one-year-old Alan Crotzer is accused of opening fire on a car while driving on the Appalachia parkway in Tallahassee. In 2006, Crotzer was freed from prison after DNA evidence proved that he was wrongly convicted in a 1981 rape and robbery case. He was given more than $1 million in compensation by the state of Florida.

BERMAN: Police in New Orleans are looking for Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. following an incident early Tuesday morning on Bourbon Street. Gooding faces arrest on misdemeanor battery charges. Police say the actor allegedly became irate with fellow patrons at the old Addison Palace when they asked to take pictures with him. The bartender claims Gooding pushed her twice as she asked him to calm down.

SAMBOLIN: Former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has declared today Chick-Fil-A appreciation day. He is asking supporter of Chick-Fil-A's stance against same-sex marriage to show up and grab a bite of Chick-Fil-A. So far more than half a million people have signed up on Facebook.

Same-sex couples are planning their own demonstration. A kiss- in at Chick-Fil-As across the country on Friday.

BERMAN: It is now 16 minutes past the hour.

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

And it has been a difficult summer for Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. He has those awful shootings in aurora. He's dealing with forest fires there. And now, we get the news he's separating from his wife of 12 years, Helen Thorpe. The two of them say they're parting amicably. They will remain friends.

The letter they wrote is really, really astounding. They made a point of saying they're not breaking up because of an affair. They also made a point of saying which I find interesting, they ask people please continue to invite us to the same social functions. It won't be awkward for us.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BERMAN: It's interesting, right?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, a good way to handle it.

BERMAN: People are talking about Hickenlooper as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2016. So, you know, it'll be interesting to see how this affects that.

SAMBOLIN: That is a very interesting way of dealing with it in such a public way, right? At such a private moment.

All right. The University of California-Davis police lieutenant who pepper sprayed campus protesters, remember that, last fall, is no longer employed by the school. This comes to us from the "San Francisco Chronicle".

Lieutenant John Pike was vilified last year after being caught on tape as you're seeing there dousing demonstrators with pepper stray. The students were protesting at the time rising tuition. The school will only confirm that Pike's employment there ended yesterday. They will not say if he was fired.

Since last November's incident, Pike has received more than 17,000 angry or threatening e-mails, 10,000 text messages -- no, it's not good -- and hundreds of letters. Police also say he's been forced to live in various locations for his own safety.

I found this interesting. This is according to a database of state worker salaries. He earned $110,243 in 2010. Quite a lucrative job lost.

BERMAN: Interesting epilogue to that story.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.

BERMAN: All right. For an expanded look at all our top stories, you can head to your blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart.

SAMBOLIN: Eighteen minutes past the hour. The worst drought in decades has farmers helplessly watching their crops wilt in the summer heat.

Our Christine Romans with a firsthand look from her home state of Iowa. She has a live report, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: It is the worst drought in 50 years. In Iowa, the country's largest producer of corn and soybeans, farmers are watching crops struggling in the field, saying they don't know what to expect when it's harvest time in a few months.

CNN's Christine Romans has been walking the rows of corn, talking to the farmers in the Hawkeye State. She joins us now live from Le Claire, Iowa.

And, Christine, where exactly are you in La Claire?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I am right in front of a place called Argo Corners. It's an old general store that is now a breakfast place for farmers. I'm telling you, this is an institution. It's got a cult following in my hometown.

So, when the farmers start rolling in here, this is where you get the unvarnished conversation about crops, politics and farm economics. This is what I'm real excited to do this morning at Argo Corners in Le Claire.

I mean, here's the issue. Huge variability in these fields for corn. This is a pretty decent looking ear of corn. We also found this and this. This is not something you can harvest.

This is what we're seeing in these fields. Huge variability.

But, you know, farmers, you guys, aren't just waiting. They're not just sitting idle. They are working very hard right now. We spent some time yesterday with a farmer who, quite frankly, is looking at a really bad patch of some of his acres and decided to chop it up to feed the animals.

Look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE DENGER, FARM OWNER: My name's Jake Denger. We've been farming -- my dad farmed his entire life. My grandpa farmed his entire life.

It's done.

ROMANS: This is done.

If it rained, this will not help you.

DENGER: If it rained right now it wouldn't do any good.

ROMANS: You've sort of surrendered. You're chopping this up to feed the cows.

DENGER: We chop some every year. This year we have to chop more.

ROMANS: Is it kind of a little bit sad that could have been a beautiful corn crop?

DENGER: I'd rather have it in there than looking at it all dead every day in the field. That's a little more depressing to look at when it's out there dead.

The silage, at least I have an outlet for it.

A grain farmer, you know, if there's nothing there all they can really do is just shred it all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So he's watching parts of his field so dry. Looks like October in parts of his fields. He's just chopping it up and he's going to -- that's called making it silage. He's going to feed it to his cattle.

Overall here, a lot of farmers, they have patches of land, you guys, that are OK. You know, they can see that they're going to get a decent yield out of those acres. Others have patches of sandy areas or just really dry spots that are just going to be a total bust.

So, we won't -- again, I keep telling you, we won't know for sure until they can tally and get in their combines and tally it in the fall.

SAMBOLIN: We're happy to hear that they're being resourceful. What about crop insurance? Because we are concerned about the livelihood there.

ROMANS: Right. Every person we talked to has crop insurance. If you're involved in any of these government programs you have to have crop insurance. After 1988 when billions and billions of dollars of losses because of the big crop failure in 1988, they have crop insurance. They have varying degrees of crop insurance, quite frankly.

Right now, what they're doing is a lot of farmers are trying to figure out, does it make sense to pay another $25 an acre to spray the beans for spider mites when maybe you're not going to be able to get much out of that acreage. So, every single decision they make every day is such a cost benefit analysis. Yes, they have insurance. No, that's not going to protect some of them 100 percent. But it will protect some.

And a lot of -- most, quite frankly -- a lot of these farms are telling me, look. This is what we do. We take big risks. We're looking to next year. They're already talking about how much snow we're going to get in the winter to make sure they're replenishing some of the sub soil for next year.

I mean, they're already looking ahead to next year, quite frankly, to make sure this doesn't happen again. It's a very complicated and calculating business, being a farmer. I tell you.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, no doubt. We're glad you're there bringing us these stories. We appreciate it, Christine.

BERMAN: Those pictures of the little corn, such a stark image. A stark view of what's really going on out there.

The drought that's been plaguing farmers across the Midwest this summer, it is taking its toll on pot growers as well. A sheriff in Butler County, Ohio, says his department's annual sweep of marijuana crops turned up plants that were considerably smaller than usual. Everyone's getting hurt with this drought.

A helicopter survey of suspected pot fields turned up about 80 puny pot plants in seven locations.

SAMBOLIN: I don't mean to laugh at that. Good gracious.

All right. A proud moment for Team USA. The women's gymnastics team rolling over the competition, grabbing the gold. Three-time Olympic gymnast John Roethlisberger joins us to break down their performance coming up.

And if you are leaving the house now watch us any time on your desktop or mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): A golden moment in London. The U.S. women's gymnastics team triumphant for only the second time ever.

BERMAN (voice-over): Mitt Romney in print today. He's authored an op-ed defending his culture comment that made millions of Palestinians so angry.

SAMBOLIN: Super human strength. A young woman somehow lifts a car off her father, saving his life. You're going to hear from her.

BERMAN: You know something about super human strength?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I do?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman. It is 30 minutes past the hour right now. We are talking about the Olympics, and it was textbook, the textbook definition of domination. Team USA crushing the competition in women's gymnastics final last night outscoring second place Russia by five points.

From the very first vault by Jordyn Wieber to a stellar floor routine by Aly Raisman, capping off the USA solid performance, each girl did exactly what they came to do. The Americans didn't botch a single routine in all but three of their 12 scores were 15 or higher. The women's amazing performance on Tuesday helped add to the USA'S total medal count. And the women took the gold for just the second time in history.

It was the first time since Kerri Strug in the so-called magnificent seven of Atlanta back in the 1996 games in Atlanta. I am joined again by three-time Olympic gymnast, John Roethlisberger. He joins us from London. John, I'm so glad you agreed to come back today. And John, watching those women last night, that was something.

JOHN ROETHLISBERGER, FMR. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: John, it was -- it was domination like I've never seen in an Olympic team competition. It kind of reminded me of the big brother fighting with the little brother. You know, when he holds his head like that and the little brother's swinging and swinging, and finally, he just lets him go and he falls on his face.

I mean, the American women from start to finish. You know, halfway through, it was a little tight, on the balance beam. It was an opportunity for Russia to get back in it. The U.S. was not having any of it. They just put the pedal down, and they were gone.

BERMAN: Not a single weakness. It was a really interesting decision going into last night for the U.S. team, and the national team coordinator, Marta Karolyi, said they chose to put Jordyn Wieber first. Of course, you remember, she was the one who didn't qualify in the individual competition, but they put her first.

She said this. "We had a lineup meeting and had a discussion back and forth over who was best here and who was best there. We all felt like with her character, she would come through and put her disappointment behind her and do this for the team. If we doubted that, we would not put her in the lineup."

They didn't give her any chance to have nerves, John. They just stuck her right out there and put her first in the rotation.

ROETHLISBERGER: You know, there was a lot of talk about how Jordyn would do coming into the team finals. And, I never thought for a second she wasn't going to come out and do what she had to do to help team USA win the gold medal. And, you know what? They're so good on vault they could put any one of those girls up there on vault, and they're going to have a huge score.

And I think having a veteran like that, someone who's been under pressure, somebody who knows what it's like to be out on the world stage, being a world champion, I think it was a good call.

BERMAN: You know, it was so great to see their smiles, but underneath those smiles, you know they're cold, you know, competitors. Just icy steel. Let's talk about to some people who have to show some of that icy steel today, John. We're talking about the men's Olympians, Danell Leyva and John Orozco.

They're competing in individual men's all around just after their disappointment in the team competition. What do they need to do today?

ROETHLISBERGER: Well, the United States men, Danell and John, they've got their own version of redemption they have to do today. And they've had some trouble on the pommel horse in the team finals. They look great in team prelim, Danell Leyva in particular, you know, looked very good.

He looked like he could contend for the Olympic gold medal. And here's a couple of things to watch for. Obviously, the pommel horse, when those guys go back to pommel horse tonight, can they get it back together? Can they hit? And Danell Leyva in particular, if he is close at about the four event mark, after about four events, if he's close within striking distance, watch out, because he has got two great events, the parallel bars and high bar.

But there's a guy from Japan. His name is Kohei Uchimura, and he has been dominant, arguably in some people's opinion, the greatest gymnast ever in the history of the sport. He's won three world championships in a row. But he's come here to the Olympics in London, and he has looked less than stellar.

He almost cost the Japanese team the silver medal when he messed up his horse routine in the team finals. And he has just not been himself. He has had a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes in the podium training all the way through the team finals. And everybody are kind of scratching their head going, is this guy going to give away that Olympic gold medal?

And if he does, if he gives up an opportunity, watch out for John and Danell and some of the other teams. The Russians have a couple strong competitors. Fabian Hambuechen from Germany. Somebody else will be right there, and it could be a miracle win for possibly one of the Americans tonight.

BERMAN: There's a lot to watch tonight. John, quickly, before we let you go, we're having a debate here over who is the greatest Olympian ever. Has Michael Phelps earned the right to be called the greatest Olympian ever?

ROETHLISBERGER: You know, everybody measures people by Olympic medals. I'll be the first one to tell you, and you so thankfully brought up the fact that I missed pommel horse in the 1996 Olympics and we did not win an Olympic medal, and I appreciate you doing that. I'm surprise there's not B roll of that today.

(LAUGHTER)

ROETHLISBERGER: But people are always measured by Olympic medals, and that's always the bar, and that's fine. As an athlete, you know what? I measured myself by that a lot of ways, and that's what I always wanted. He's won the most Olympic medals. He is the best Olympian in the history of the Olympic games. I don't know how you can argue with that. It's unreal. It's unreal what he's done. To think he's got, what, 15 gold medals at this point? My gosh. I mean --

BERMAN: It's very impressive.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: And John, you win the gold medal for not holding a grudge.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding.

BERMAN: So, thanks for coming back today. You're terrific. Such interesting insight.

ROETHLISBERGER: Love you guys. Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll talk to you soon.

ROETHLISBERGER: Is it settled now that you got it from an Olympian?

BERMAN: Look, he wins no matter what.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: By definition he wins.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. All right. Thirty-five minutes past the hour. Another gold, another record, and more whispers this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Chinese teenager, Ye Shiwen, strongly denying that she is on banned performance enhancing drugs after breaking another Olympic record on her way to a gold medal in the 200- meter individual medley. Doping allegations started after she totally smashed the world record in the 400 individual medley on Saturday. Ye swam faster than American male, Ryan Lochte, over the final 50 meters of that race.

BERMAN (voice-over): Mitt Romney is defending his controversial culture comments that enraged millions of Palestinians. Romney is back in Boston this morning after what some people called a rocky three nation tour. He set off a firestorm in the Middle East when he told donors in Jerusalem that Israel's culture helped it become more economically successful than the Palestinians.

The presumptive GOP nominee wrote an op-ed piece in the "National Review" entitled "Culture Does Matter." In it he says, "Economic freedom is the only force that is consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty. What exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture," he asked.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAMBOLIN (on-camera): All right. We should be playing the song "hot, hot, hot." People in the southern plains are bracing for more triple digit temperatures today. Alexandra Steele in for Rob Marciano. Is this ever going to let up?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It doesn't certainly look like it. That ridge of high pressure is in place, looking at the long-term trend through the next few weeks. Certainly, the heat remains. So, we'll talk about the heat, but also, in addition to the heat, we've got drought and we've got flooding, believe it or not, from Arizona to Alabama.

Take a look at what it looked like in Birmingham yesterday. You could see the depth of this flooding. Three inches of rain in one hour. To give you a little perspective, the average rain for the month in Birmingham is four inches. So, just an inundation. Flash flooding, we certainly saw not only in Alabama but even in Arizona.

All right. So, with flooding concerns, also the heat. Look at these numbers, a 111 yesterday in Tulsa, Wichita Falls, 110. Monday, Little Rock had 111 degrees. It was actually only the fourth time since 1879 that they've ever gone above 110. So, this is dangerous heat and certainly unprecedented. Not only in its scope, but just how high these numbers are.

Here's where the extreme heat will be. Heat indices 110 to 115. Once again, south central plains, that's where the heat will be on. From Memphis all the way, you can see, to Kansas City and down toward Texas. Highs today the big picture, the northeast, 79, 80 degrees. Kind of pretty pleasant. Some afternoon thunderstorms, perhaps. Ninety-six in Atlanta.

Certainly pales in comparison to what we're going to see. Look, 113 in Oklahoma City, 114 in Wichita, Wichita as well, 111. So, the heat is on, no question about it. And really no relief, guys. That's the problem with this. And of course, when the heat's there, the soil stays dry, and it's kind of just a circle of heat and drought.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Alexandra Steele, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. It is now 38 minutes past the hour, and this is amazing.

SAMBOLIN: It is.

BERMAN: A recent college graduate from Glen Allen, Virginia, is being credited with saving her father's life with some quick thinking and super human strength. Part-time lifeguard, Lauren Kornacki said goodbye to her dad, Alec, when she was leaving the house on Saturday, but when he didn't respond, she saw his legs sticking out from underneath his car.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.

BERMAN: He'd been working on the car when the jack slipped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUREN KORNACKI, RESCUED FATHER FROM UNDERNEATH CAR: Lifted up right here and just kind of -- just kind of threw it, like, shoved my body into it as hard as I could. And then I came back and dragged him out and started CPR.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: She just kind of threw the car. Lauren says an adrenaline rush helped her lift the car off of her father. She credits her lifeguard CPR training with keeping him alive until paramedics arrived. Alec Kornacki suffered broken ribs and other fractures.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness!

BERMAN: But he's expected to make a full recovery. You know that scene from the original Superman movie where little super boy lifts the car off of his dad?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: That's what this is like.

SAMBOLIN: Well, oftentimes, you hear those stories, right? When a mom does something superhuman like that because their kid is stuck underneath something. It's incredible, but it happens.

BERMAN: It's amazing.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh!

All right. Thirty-nine minutes past the hour here. It's a sky high apartment in the city, and the same can be said for the price tag. Find out what's so special about this place, coming up.

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SAMBOLIN: Top of the morning to you, New York City. It is now 73 degrees and start counting your blessings, because it's only going to be 82 degrees. A little bit of thunderstorms, but in some parts of the nation, 110 degrees today. So, we're staying in New York. And we're going to talk about the Olympians.

They swim, they soar, and they speed into the record books with iconic pictures capturing the world's best performances, forever heroes with faces that absolutely inspire. "Time" magazine sent Martin Schoeller to get the pictures we don't often see, the athletes in their home element. The images appear in this week's new issue on newsstands now and on three special covers that are commemorating the games.

And joining me right now, we have Martin Schoeller. Thank you so much for joining us. You know, I have a picture of "Time" magazine here and one of the covers. We got a preview of this last week. Just simply amazing. You really enjoy photographing athletes. Why is that?

MARTIN SCHOELLER, SHOT TIME'S BREAST-FEEDING COVER: Well, athletes, they have amazing bodies for the most part. They're doing something interesting that you can tap into. You can photograph them doing what they do best. And, also, they don't think about photography.

They're not as posed as many other famous people that so much about their looks and their appearances. Athletes are much more about, you know, numbers and beating records and just about their athleticism.

SAMBOLIN: We're showing some of the pictures here. You shot gymnast, Gabby Douglas, swimmer, Ryan Lochte, and hurdler, Lolo Jones. And that picture of Lolo Jones I thought was really -- it's very reflective, very different. Why capture her like that?

SCHOELLER: Jumping over her dog?

SAMBOLIN: No, actually this one here.

SCHOELLER: Well, you know, what impressed me about these athletes is the dedication to their work, to their sport, the amount of hours they put into it, and oftentimes, the athletes train before the sun comes up and then take a break and then train again at night. So they have, like, two training sessions a day.

And it often is very lonely. You know, you get up by yourself. And, I wanted to capture this, like, getting up by yourself in the morning to get ready to train. You know, and everybody's still sleeping. That was my goal with that picture.

SAMBOLIN: And you had this great access to them. Did you have a favorite moment, or perhaps, even a favorite athlete?

SCHOELLER: Well, you know, it was great to meet Gabby Douglas, living with a host family away from her family at such a young age to move away from your own family to train with the coach of her choice and to live with a family she's never met before and to have four little sisters, basically, living with her and to see them interact was very inspiring --

SAMBOLIN: This is my favorite photograph. I hate to interrupt you, but this is just simply amazing.

SCHOELLER: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: How do you go about deciding that's how you're going to photograph her?

(LAUGHTER)

SCHOELLER: Well, I saw the kitchen. I saw these four little other girls running around that are all very athletic as well. And then, you know, athletes never stop being an athlete. So, they're always thinking about their bodies, always like doing something stretching or, you know, preparing themselves.

So, I liked the idea of taking the sport home and showing that, you know, that it's become such a big part of their everyday life.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to depart a minute from the Olympics here. And I think we have another photograph that you shot for the cover of "Time" magazine. We don't have it. Let's talk about it, though, since I've already mentioned it, because everybody has seen it, I think, and it's the woman breastfeeding her child.

And -- oh, so we do have the picture, the photograph there. So, you know, when we look at the pictures of you -- the ones that you take of the Olympians, we're all, you know, in awe, right? This one caused a lot of controversy. How did you feel about that? And going in, did you know it was going to cause that level of controversy?

SCHOELLER: Well, as a photographer, you try to take a picture that has a big impact and that makes people question, you know, makes people question what their preconceived notions about something that they already know. So, it was my idea to put the boy on the little stool. It was actually my son's stool that I brought to the photo shoot.

And you know, it was my goal to make people wonder and everybody can come to their on conclusions. I'm not there to judge. I'm just there to try to take an impactful picture.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And I have to mention before you go, the two of the three people you photographed are already competing, both winning gold medals. So, you must have that magic touch. Do you think we're going to get a third gold medal now?

(LAUGHTER)

SCHOELLER: It wasn't my choice. It was the magazine's dilemma to pick the right people which is, you know, incredible. You have to put an issue together about the Olympics and then you have to pick these athletes before they're actually qualified for the Olympics. And then you have to, you know, wonder how they do in the Olympics and they did a great job. "Time" magazine has picked the right people.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I don't know. I think, perhaps, you may have the golden touch. And who knows? Lolo may be winning a gold medal. We appreciate your time this morning. Your images are absolutely breathtaking. So, thank you for that. Thank you for sharing them.

SCHOELLER: Thank you. Thanks for having me here.

SAMBOLIN: Martin, thank you. All right. John, back to you.

BERMAN: Such terrific pictures. All right. It is 48 minutes past the hour right now, and let's get you up to date with this morning's top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN (voice-over): For the first time since 1996, the U.S. women's gymnastics team wins gold. They were nearly flawless. In first place from wire to wire. They dominated the entire competition. And after the men flopped in the team final, they will go for the individual gold today.

It was embarrassing, and the International Olympic Committee is being ordered not to let it happen again. Rows of empty seats in sold out arenas and thousands of fans desperate to sit in. These are awful pictures. It seems too many corporations bought up the seats and failed to use a lot of them. Not very nice.

The British Olympic Association says tickets need to be distributed better. The same thing happened four years ago in Beijing. You know, spectators there had to be bust (ph) in to fill the empty spaces.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Rebel fighters in Syria report they've taken control of two critical government police stations in the country's largest city. The Syrian troops continue shelling Central Aleppo from the ground and from the air. Syrian forces have been using those police stations as military bases. We're told at least 40 police officers died in violence overnight.

BERMAN: A former navy MP is accused of trying to smuggle more than four pounds of methamphetamine out of the U.S. by packaging it up to look like snickers bars. Thirty-four-year-old Rogelio Mauricio Harris (ph) was arrested last Friday by federal agents at L.A.X. Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Japan.

Customs agents say they found 45 individually wrapped candy bars that turned out to be meth.

SAMBOLIN: Wow!

That deluxe apartment in the sky can now be yours for a cool $100 million. It is believed to be the most expensive apartment in the United States with the highest outdoor space in any city residence. It's located where else? Of course, New York City. The 8,000 square foot wrap around penthouse is described as a one of a kind gem.

BERMAN: I wonder about its closet space, you know? Does it have nice closets? Because that's what I look for.

SAMBOLIN: With 8,000 square feet? Got plenty of closet space. Why don't you go see it?

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(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN (on-camera): A little bit out of my price range.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Yes.

BERMAN: Roughly $100 million out of my price range or so. (LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, listen to this. Say goodbye to the rapper known as Snoop Dogg. Really? He's taking a page out of P. Diddy's playbook. More on that and his musical makeover, coming up.

And if you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time. Do not fret, we will be on your desktop, on your mobile phone, just go to CNN.com/TV.

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BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It is five minutes before the hour. I'm John Berman along with the smiling Zoraida Sambolin. I can't even say your name. That's why you're smiling.

SAMBOLIN: That's because I threw you off a little bit, right?

BERMAN: We're taking a look at what's trending on the interweb this morning.

SAMBOLIN: So, I just said, before we started, so do you believe in aliens? Because some people think that this is what's going on. These are massive mysterious crop circles that appeared. I say it looks like Mickey Mouse. Doesn't it look like Mickey Mouse? We don't have an aerial view, but I think it does.

The farmer jokingly said we had an aliens attack, I guess. It's likely just a prank. This happens every year, right? Someone else's farm every year. Somebody in our staff thinks that they do it themselves so they can get the publicity.

BERMAN: You know, I like to say -- I like to say the truth is out there. In honor of the " X Files."

SAMBOLIN: Crop circles.

BERMAN: You have to take a look at this. The somewhat patriotic mani/pedis of the Olympics. You can look at these fingernails that are in the pool.

SAMBOLIN: These are guys?

BERMAN: No, no -- no, these are the ladies. Look at these different fingernails being worn by different swimmers in the Olympics. You have Britain, you have USA, the red, white and blue. You know, I saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta yesterday talking about the different uniforms that people wear for the Olympics and how they help them get faster.

I'm not sure that there's anything with the fingernails that actually help you swim faster, but --

SAMBOLIN: They look cool.

BERMAN: They look cool. SAMBOLIN: Yes. We have a photographer in the house. He'll tell us, would that be something that you would photograph, right, as part of the Olympics? Kind of cool.

All right. The artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg. Apparently, he's decided to change some things. He's announcing that he's burying the Dogg. He will now focus on making reggae music under the name Snoop Lion. Snoop Lion is saying the rap just isn't a challenge anymore, and he wants to feel like a kid again.

He's releasing a reggae project called "Reincarnated." And his debut single "La La La" is already out on iTunes. He said that they referred to him now as Uncle Snoop in rap, right? And he says when you're an uncle, it's time to find something new. I want to feel like a kid again. So, we're going to be listening to some reggae music. We'll see.

BERMAN: His song is "Da, Da, Da." Thank you, Z Lion (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: One of this morning's top stories are coming up at the top of the hour, including a scandal at the Olympic. Olympians accused of trying to throw their matches. Can you believe it? You're watching EARLY START.

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