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Best Olympian Ever?; Bringing Their B-Game; U.S. Women Dominate In Team Gymnastics; New Health Benefits For Women; Ted Cruz Wins Texas Primary Runoff; Gore Vidal Dies; Panetta In Israel; Bird Collides With Landing Flight; "Culture Does Matter"; Obama Back In Ohio; Crop Hopes Wilting; Golden Girls; Full Power Back On in India

Aired August 1, 2012 - 06:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Record breaker with another gold medal, some are calling Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian ever.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Drought disaster, a firsthand look live from a modern day dust bowl.

SAMBOLIN: Free for 47 million American women, more provisions from the president's health care reform law, they kick in today. Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 6 a.m. in the east.

Also coming up this morning, Mitt Romney doing a little bit of damage control, defending his controversial culture comments that enraged millions of Palestinians.

SAMBOLIN: A young woman who lifted a car off of her father saving his life. You are going to hear from her.

BERMAN: A modern day super woman to say the least.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.

BERMAN: But up first, more super woman grace and dominance, everyone still talking about the magical night for the U.S. women's gymnastics team.

They routed the Russians and everyone else on the way to the gold medal in team competition. And Michael Phelps not so bad either, cementing his legacy, he's now the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Winning his record breaking 19th medal and adding another gold to his all-time mark. Amanda Davies is live in London this morning and the numbers are pretty glaring there, Amanda. Michael Phelps, the best Olympian ever, what do you think?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, swimming wise and medal wise, certainly yes, you said it's 19 and counting because he's still got three more events to come here at the Olympics, got those two medals in the pool last night. But it's causing massive debate across the papers and on the web is the greatest Olympian of all time the one with the most medals, the most decorated or is longevity of a career or is it impasse in a single sport?

People have been tweeting about it using the hash tag, cnnolympics. Winnie the Pooh says, "The only person who can say that Michael Phelps isn't the greatest Olympian ever is the one who wins 20 medals."

Phelps himself can see that happening, but it may take quite a long time. And then iestynrl says, "The most decorated right up there with the best, but I think you can't possibly touch Jesse Owen in 1936."

Other people suggesting Steve Redgrave, the British rower, got five golds in five games in a career spanning 20 years. Other people suggesting it's Carl Lewis, harder, less events to win medals on the track.

So it's a debate I think that's set to go on, but if Michael Phelps was to win another three medals, that really is quite something.

In terms of what he said, he said he wanted to be known as the first Michael Phelps and somebody who has done something that nobody else ever has and he's certainly done that.

BERMAN: Absolutely. No question about that. Amanda, you know, scandal has not been far from these Olympics, really any Olympic games and this is one I have a hard time believing. They are saying that some badminton players threw their matches.

DAVIES: Yes, the Badminton Federation are investigating this morning because there are suggestions that four pairs in the women's round robin of the badminton were playing to lose their matches yesterday because they already qualified for the next stage of the competition and trying to govern who they play in the next round.

In essence, the allegation is that the two Chinese sides didn't want to meet in the next round. We're talking about two matches played between two Korean side and Chinese pair and Indonesia pair.

And it was something that I haven't really seen before in sports. Black cards were wielded, which is are the black cards of disqualification by the umpires saying, you know, this really isn't -- the crowd was booing, no rallies over four shots long, shots go into the nets on purpose.

The games were allowed to continue, but it's very interesting the split here between fans saying it's not in the Olympic spirit. But quite a few sports people have come out saying this is about Olympic medals and they are giving themselves the best possible chance of taking the medals. BERMAN: I think you're there to play, Amanda. You should play. But let's leave on a much happier note right now. Let's talk about the women's gymnastics team, their wire to wire dominance last night. Just look at those smiles.

DAVIES: It is fantastic, wasn't it? It was only a couple of days earlier that we had been seeing tears of pain from Jordyn Wieber after she missed out on the individual play.

So it was fantastic to see the tears of joy and utter elation because the U.S. team frankly smashed it in the final. Watching pictures of Atlanta '96 were inspiration in the run-up to it and it certainly did the job because they led from start to finish in the final.

They got off to some fantastic starts with phenomenal vaults to get them going. And Russia, their nearest rivals, really, really struggled on the floor and basically struggled under the pressure. So a five-point victory, which in gymnastics terms is absolutely huge. It is a brilliant thing for them to see.

BERMAN: Amanda Davies in London with the best seat in the house. Thanks so much for being here.

SAMBOLIN: And here is your up to date medal count, the U.S. tied with China with 23 overall medals, but trailing in gold medals 13-9, Japan in third with 13 overall. France coming in with 11 medals there.

BERMAN: What to watch for today or at least follow on Twitter, after a disappointing fifth place in the team event, the American men will compete in the men's all-around individual finals.

And the young female, Missy Franklin completes in the 100 meter freestyle preliminary round. And at 6:30 Eastern, former U.S. gymnast Bart Conner will join us.

He's a member of the last men's gymnastics team to capture the gold back in 1984. Can our men bounce back today in the individual competition?

SAMBOLIN: I hope so, can't wait to talk to him and get his perspective on that.

It's 6 minutes past the hour. All health insurance plans will have to provide eight free preventative benefits to women that is starting today. It is a requirement of the president's health care reform law, impacting an estimated 47 million American women.

The benefits includes contraceptives, breast feeding supplies, screening for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infections and domestic violence, plus routine breast and pelvic exams, pap tests and prenatal care.

BERMAN: A really interesting primary election overnight. The Texas GOP chooses a new man as it's contender for the U.S. Senate. Several two Texas newspapers reporting Ted Cruz is the winner of the Republican primary runoff against Lieutenant Governor Dave Duhurst.

It's being billed as a win for conservative grassroots underdogs. Cruz had support from high profile Republicans like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, but Duhurst was supported by the Texas Governor Rick Perry.

SAMBOLIN: Renowned author, playwright and politician Gore Vidal has died. He was a fixture on talk shows and in gossip columns. His works include the bestselling novels "Lincoln" and "Myra Brackenridge" and the Tony-nominated play "The Best Man."

Vidal twice ran for Congress, once in the '60s and again in the 80s. He lost both times. His nephew said he died at his Hollywood Hills home of complications from pneumonia. He was 86 years old.

BERMAN: One of a kind. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arriving in Jerusalem this morning for talks with Israeli leaders. Iran's nuclear program and violence in Syria expected to top the agenda. Panetta is scheduled to visit Israel's Iron Dome, a missile defense system funded largely by the U.S.

SAMBOLIN: A nasty collision between a bird and this United Airlines flight as it landed in Denver. Yesterday's crash left a gaping hole in the nose of the 737. The Smithsonian Institution will now try to identify the bird. It has a DNA database of all bird species in the entire world. We're happy to report no one on that plane was hurt.

BERMAN: Thank goodness, how about the birds?

SAMBOLIN: My goodness, come on, seriously?

BERMAN: It's agriculture and economic disaster in the plains. It is no joke, affecting so much of the country. Coming up, Christine Romans takes us to her hometown where she's been talking to farmers affected by this historic drought.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 11 minutes past the hour. We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is nice to see you, nice to see everyone.

Mitt Romney is defending his controversial culture comments that enraged millions of Palestinians. Romney is back in Boston this morning after what some people are calling a rocky three-nation tour.

He set off a firestorm in the Middle East when he told donors in Jerusalem that Israel's culture developed 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 consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty. What exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture, he writes.

SAMBOLIN: So John, would you like to be the first to know who Mitt Romney's running mate would be?

BERMAN: I would like to break that.

SAMBOLIN: Wouldn't that be cool? You're not going to break that. Apparently, there's an app for that. The Romney camp is releasing Mitt's VP. It's smartphone application that will send users a push notification once a decision has been made on a VP candidate.

BERMAN: The Obama campaign detects messages four years ago. This is kind of one-upmanship there. On the subject to President Obama, he is flying into a political firestorm in Ohio today.

It will be his third campaign stop in that battleground state in just four weeks. His first stop is Mansfield, Ohio where hundreds of jobs could be lost if proposed defense cuts shut down the 179th air lift wing of the Ohio National Guard.

The White House says it is committed to finding a way to keep the air base open.

SAMBOLIN: So lots of farmers are having problems because of the drought, right? It's the worst drought in 50 years. In Iowa, the U.S. largest producer of corn and soy beans, farmers are watching crops struggling in the fields saying they don't know what to expect when it's harvest time in just a few months.

BERMAN: CNN's Christine Romans has been walking the rows of corn and talking to farmers in the hawk eye state, which is her home state. She joins us live now from La Clair, Iowa.

Christine, you have to tell us now. Where exactly are you in La Claire?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm in a little tiny place called Argo Corners or Argo General Store, kind of got a cult following in this part of the state, farmers come in here starting, you know, like 4:30, 5:00, in the morning, have coffee and eggs and bacon and then they go back and then get out in the field.

So talk about politics here, talk about the farm bill and talk about what's happening from the drought. I want to take you -- can you hear that bacon sizzling. I want to take you with a farmer I met yesterday, really busy now. The farm fields are dry, but he is really hard at work. Watch.


JAKE DENGER, FARM OWNER: My name is Jake Denger. We've been farming -- my dad farms, you know, his entire life. My grandpa farmed his entire life. This is done.

ROMANS: If it rained?

DENGER: It wouldn't do anything.

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

DENGER: This year we have to chop more.

ROMANS: Isn't it sad that could have been a beautiful corn crop.

DENGER: I'd rather it be in there than looking at it dead in the field. That's a little more depressing to look at. At least I have an outlet for it. A green farmer, if there's nothing there, all they can really do is shred it off.


ROMANS: So he's going to feed that silage to his cattle -- for like 60 days or something, a lot of work going on that farm yesterday.

And some of those parts of the fields you guys look like October -- very dry, there's no corn. You know, there's just no corn in those bad parts of the fields.

He has some ground that was very good, low bottom near a creek, very good yields there. So, there will be a harvest. There will be a harvest here but not be anything that they wanted for sure. Nothing near the records they've had the past couple of years.

A couple of things about farmers, they had a couple of good years and most had crop insurance. So, they are better protected. It's the consumer who will feel this and that will be in higher prices next year.

BERMAN: It's amazing to see pictures of the crop being chopped up. It's going to be fed to the cows now?

ROMANS: They will be fed to the cows. Right. Yes, they chop whatever is the weakest part of their field, that guy usually chops some every year, he's chopping more, he's chopping it earlier and he's really worried about feed costs. He's already having to supplement his livestock because they are not out grazing because the pasture land is all dried up.

So, it's a complicated dance they do every year and it's going to mean higher costs for them and mean higher costs for you.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, back home in Iowa, in Le Claire -- thank you so much for joining us.

SAMBOLIN: It is 16 minutes past the hour.

Looks like pot growers are suffering the consequences of the drought that has dried up farm fields as we just saw across the Midwest. The sheriff in Butler County, Ohio, said his annual sweep of marijuana crops turned up plants that were considerably smaller than usual. A helicopter survey of suspected pot fields turned up about 60 puny pot plants in seven locations.

BERMAN: There you go. Let's get you up to date with this morning's top stories.

Making a case as the best Olympian ever. The United States winning gold in the men's 200-meter freestyle relay. It was the 19th overall medal for Michael Phelps, the team anchor, making him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.

The U.S. women's gymnastics team also capturing the heart of the country, and winning their first gold medal since 1996. Good for them.

SAMBOLIN: We need to watch them.

An emergency hearing will be conducted to decide whether USA swimming coach Rick Curl should be suspended. He is facing allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl in the late 1980s and paid her family $150,000 for their silence.

USA swimming is a governing body of the U.S. Olympic swim team.

BERMAN: Another panic in a movie theater. This one happened in South Beach in Miami. More than 100 people bolted out of a late night screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" after they saw a man wearing black gloves screaming, this is it from the back of a crowded theater.

SAMBOLIN: Look at his mug shot -- oh, my goodness.

BERMAN: Some moviegoers tackled 44-year-old David Escamillo. They tackled him down until police around. Escamillo was charged with disorderly conduct. Police say there was no evidence of any gunshots. No one was hurt during this but obviously a scary rush.


The General Services Administration's lavish spending scandal will be the focus of a House hearing today. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will get an update on the investigation into the GSA overspending and other taxpayer abuses. An investigation by our affiliate WUSA just uncovered $30 million in unreported bonuses for fiscal year 2011.

BERMAN: A milestone to report from New Orleans where the new $90 million Saint Bernard Parish Hospital is getting ready to open its doors. It replaces the Chalmette Medical Center which was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. The state of the art facility is due to open in September.

Since Katrina struck parish residents have been forced to travel across the city for emergency medical care.

SAMBOLIN: Well, he won two NBA championships and his personal life is keeping tabloids really busy for many years. Now former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman says he's getting ready to pass on life lessons. Listen to this -- it is a new children's book.

Rodman recently reunited with his father after 42 years of separation. Now the man NBA fans used to call "The Worm" is hoping the new book will bring him closer to his own children.

BERMAN: Everyone has got a children's book, right?

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh! It looks kind of cool with the bull.

BERMAN: I guess there are some important life lessons we can learn from Dennis Rodman.

SAMBOLIN: Well, you never know, maybe he has full circle now, right?

BERMAN: Who knows?

All right. We're going to move on now. It's 19 minutes past the hour.

It is a power struggle that is literally affecting more than half a billion people. Coming up, India struggles to keep the lights off after two blackouts in as many days.

And for an extended look at our top stories, head to our blog -- do it now --


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It's 23 minutes after the hour right now. I'm John Berman.

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

Well, half of India now breathing a selective sigh of relief now that full power is back on. 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, more than half a billion people had no power -- and this is all in the middle of all of that summer heat.

The blackout stopped trains on tracks and trapped miners underground. It paralyzed the subway system and it snarled traffic of much of the capital.

Mallika Kapur is in Delhi with the very latest for us.

What is the latest? Because as we understand, this is 10 percent of the world's population affected.

MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Ten percent of the world's population was affected and had a miserable Tuesday -- a Tuesday that was very stressful for about 680 million people. But we do have good news today and that is that things are slowly and surely getting back to normal.

The trains are back up and running. The traffic signals are working. So there is very little traffic on the streets. Things are moving smoothly. People have been able to get to the offices today.

So, things are generally improving.

We've also had strong words from India's new power minister -- yes, we have a new power minister who came on the job just this morning. And he's been trying to reassure the public that this will never happen again.


VEERAPPA MOILY, INDIAN POWER MINISTER: (INAUDIBLE) such things will not to occur back again. And a committee has been consulted and I'm going to be brainstorming with that committee in a day or two.

And, you know, my responsibility is to ensure that, you know, the grid should never collapse and, you know, it has to be sustained both on the short term and also long-term basis. That's the need of the power and need of the country of which we're going to ensure.


KAPUR: Frankly, India cannot afford to have another power outage. All of the problems in India's power sector, according to the planning commission of India, shave off 1.2 percent points of growth every year in India. With the Indian economy slowing down, it's now growing at the slowest pace in nearly 10 years, India really needs to update and modernize its power sector to ensure that something like this never happens again.

SAMBOLIN: And, Mallika, I just wanted to mention that at the beginning of this, we said there were miners that were trapped underground. And they were brought up to safety. There were no injure injuries there, right?

KAPUR: That's right. They were brought to safety and, like I said, things are improving all around. They have been brought up and all is well on that front, yes.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We're very happy to hear that. Mallika Kapur, live from Delhi for us -- thank you very much.

BERMAN: I can't believe that power outage for 680 million people.

SAMBOLIN: And what it's going to take to fix the infrastructure so it never happens again, right? It's 84 degrees, so it's during the hottest time as well.

BERMAN: Not good timing at all. It is 26 minutes after the hour right now.

And a proud moment for Team USA. For all of us, the women's gymnastics team rolling over the competition and grabbing the gold.

Two-time gold medalist, legend Bart Conner, joins us to break down their performance. That's coming up.


BERMAN: A golden moment in London. The U.S. women's gymnastics team triumphant for the second time ever.

SAMBOLIN: Cruel communications. A British teen arrested for a tweet he sent to one of his country's Olympians.

BERMAN: Superhuman strength. A young woman somehow lifts a car off of her father saving his life.

SAMBOLIN: I know we're talking Olympics today but that may be our favorite story of the day, right?

BERMAN: No question.

SAMBOLIN: A remarkable moment we want to share with you.

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

But let's talk Olympics, because it will forever last night, Michael Phelps is now the greatest Olympian of all time, winning his 18th and 19th gold medals in the pools during yesterday's events. Phelps still has two events to swim, 200 individual medley Thursday and 100-meter butterfly on Friday. It could increase his medal count to 21 before these games are ever.

On the ladies side, Team USA crushed the competition in the women's gymnastics final to take home the gold. They outscored second place Russia by five points. Romania by seven.

And from the first vault by Jordyn Wieber, the Americans didn't botch a single routine. All but three of their 12 scores were 15 or higher. Women taking gold for just the second time in history, the first time since Kerri Strug and the Magnificent Seven that was 1996.

Guess who's back? Bart Conner, two time Olympic gold medalist. He is with us once again from London.

Thank you so much.

I said yesterday, if anything big happens, will you come back? And here you are. A lot of big things happen. I first want to talk about women's gymnastics and, you know, from our perspective, it was just unbelievable and perfect. What did you think?

BART CONNER, FORMER U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: Zoraida, to be in that building last night was magical, to see those young ladies, the Fab Five or the Fierce Five as they want to be called, deliver on the sports biggest stage was something spectacular. I mean, we knew they could do it. But let's face it in 2004, the U.S. team had been the world champions the previous year and failed to win the gold medal. The same thing happened in 2007 to 2008.

So, under enormous pressure of expectations, these young ladies just rocked the house. There was no question that they were the gold medalist.

SAMBOLIN: I like the technical term, rocked the house. So, your wife is legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci. Is she with you?

CONNER: Of course. And you can imagine how happy we are, because the Americans got the gold, the Romanians got the bronze, so we're a very happy household right now.

SAMBOLIN: It's kind of perfect.

Now, she was the first one to score a perfect 10, right? That was in the uneven bars.

So McKayla Maroney, a lot of people are saying, you know what, she was also perfection. Why did she score at 10? How do you feel about that and your wife?

CONNER: Well, actually, they changed the scoring system after the 2004 Olympics when there was some scoring controversies. So, this new open-ended scoring system is hard for people to understand and even the experts were confused by it. When you see a winning score of a 16.1 or something like that, because you have no relativity, don't know how close that is to perfection.

But in terms of perfection, McKayla Maroney is spectacular. She's the hands down favorite to win the vault gold medal in a couple of ways. Just the way she pops off the vault table is like no other athlete on the planet.

So, the U.S. women have a chance for eight more medals and I expect that they'll get quite a haul here because they are just showing not only their technical strength but their mental strength as well.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it's nice to see that. We absolutely have no idea what that's all about. I know you have a lot of perspective on that.

I want to talk about that with Jordyn Wieber, because she was first on the rotation of the day. That was a very purposeful decision that was made. Was that a surprise decision for you?

CONNER: I'm really proud of her and I think everybody should be quite proud of her because as we know, you know, she was the world all around champion with big expectations to perhaps win an Olympic gold medal and it wasn't to be. She's actually a victim of being on a really great team.


CONNER: Because as you know, you qualify only two from each time to the all-around finals and she was third of the Americans. To see her regroup and take the leadership role was very inspiring on every level.

SAMBOLIN: I want to put up something that team USA coach said and here it is, "Others might disagree, the '96 team might disagree but this is the best team. Difficulty-wise, consistency-wise, this is USA's finest." That was John Geddert, the USA coach.

Do you agree with that statement?

CONNER: John is the coach of Jordyn Wieber and has done a fantastic job with her. It's a little difficult to compare the '96 team with this team, because back in that era, the athletes had to do compulsory exercises as well as optional exercises, and they had so many legends on the team as well.

This is true. This is the first team to win the team gold medal outside of the United States. So, that probably made it a little more difficult. It's really kind of apples and oranges, but they're both magnificent and I need to pick one over the other.

SAMBOLIN: I don't have a lot of time here, but I have to ask, looking forward today, Leyva and Orozco, what can we expect? Redemption?

CONNER: I certainly hope so. Kohei Uchimura is the reigning Olympic all-around champion from Japan. He had a disaster qualifying round. He can score three points higher. He was only ninth place.

But Leyva was first and Orozco fourth in the qualifying and I hope they get their act together because I think they've been through the pressure. They know what it's going to be like and I'd love the Americans win one all-around medal today.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, sure, we would love to see that as well. And, of course, I'm inviting you back to chat with us again.

Bart Conner --

CONNER: It'd be my pleasure.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, thank you -- two-time Olympic gold medalist, we appreciate having you. Thanks.

CONNER: Thanks, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And ahead on STARTING POINT, Dominique Dawes, member of the last women's gold medal team in 1996 will talk about the dominant performance last night and the fame that lies ahead for the girls.

BERMAN: It is coming.

All right. It is 36 minutes after the hour right.

And a U.K. teenager has been arrested for allegedly sending a mean-spirited Twitter message to Tom Daley, after finishing fourth in a diving event and failing to medal. Daley retweeted a message he received that said, quote, "You let your dad down, I hope you know that."

Daley's father died last May after a long battle with brain cancer. The teenager who sent the tweet questioned by police on suspicion of malicious communications. Officers now investigating other communications on his Twitter account.


Another gold, another record and more whispers this morning. 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 right after she totally smashed the world record in the 400 on Saturday. Ye swim faster than American male Ryan Lochte over the final 50 meters of the race.

BERMAN: A college professor is charged with setting fires this month at the southern California high school. His late son who committed suicide used to attend. Rainer Klaus Reinscheid is a professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences in U.C.-Irvine. His 14-year-old son killed himself sometime after being disciplined last March at Irvine's university high school.

Police say Reinscheid was planning on killing students and administrators at the school before taking his own life.

This is a happier story. A part-time life guard from Glen Allen, Virginia, is being credited with saving her father's life with some quick thinking and some superhuman strength. Recent college graduate Lauren Kornacki said good-bye 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: Can you imagine?

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


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


BERMAN: Sure, she just kind of threw the card.

Lauren says an adrenalin rush helped her lift the car off her father. Amazing. She credits her life guard CPR training for keeping him alive until the paramedics. Alec Kornacki suffered broken ribs and other fractures but he is expected to make a full recovery.

SAMBOLIN: An average car weighs 4,000 pounds. That is the power of love. Unbelievable, unbelievable.

All right. You know the saying, "Know your enemy." Mark Zuckerberg should know Google since he has a sibling on the inside. The story, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-two minutes after the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Glad you're here.

It is hot in a big chunk of the country right now. People in the Southern Plains are bracing for more triple digit temperatures today.

Alexandra Steele is in for Rob Marciano, who joins us now from Atlanta.

Hey, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning. You know, we're not talking 100, 101. We're talking 110, 111. Some places like Little Rock have seen only since 1879, 110 plus only four times. And we've seen so much of that.

Big picture today, here's where the swath of heat is from Kansas to Oklahoma, Memphis, even through western Tennessee down through Arkansas.

Northeast, though, 70s and 80s, pretty pleasant. We'll see late day thunderstorms potentially in the Northeast.

Look at these numbers. Oklahoma City, 112 today, 111 tomorrow, 110 Friday. So, certainly not a lot of really kind of unrelenting heat and no real break as we look toward the longer models.

Temperature is still high pressure in control in the center of the country and incredible heat. And, you guys, that heat begets the drought and it's a vicious cycle, really quite hard to get out of.

BERMAN: Hope we get out of it soon. Alexandra Steele, down in Atlanta, thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-three minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date with this morning's top stories.

For the first time since 1996, the U.S. women's gymnastics team wins gold. They were nearly flawless. Some people say they were flawless and first place from wire to wire and dominated the competition. And after the men flopped in the team final, they will go for individual gold today.

BERMAN: Author, playwright and politician Gore Vidal has died. He was a fixture on talk shows for decades. His works included the bestselling novels "Lincoln" and "Myra Breckinridge," and Tony nominated play "The Best Man" running again on Broadway right now.

Vidal twice ran for Congress, once in '60s, and again in the '80s. He lost both times. His nephew said he died in his Hollywood Hills home of complications from pneumonia.

Gore Vidal was 86.

BERMAN: Starting today, all new health insurance plans will have to provide eight free preventive benefits to women. It's a requirement of the president's health care reform law, impacting 47 million American women. The benefits include contraceptives, breast feeding supplies, screenings for gestational diabetes, sexually transmitted infection and domestic violence. Plus, routine breast and pelvic exams, pap tests and prenatal care.

A Zuckerberg working at Google? This is true. Arielle Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is now employed by the enemy after Google bought her marketing firm, Wildfire. Arielle worked at Wildfire as a junior product manager. Facebook and Google, as you know, are fierce competitors in the social networking space.


SAMBOLIN: Are all of those kids phenoms? Good gracious! All right. Soledad O'Brien is joining us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, so much to talk about this morning. Here's the question for you, are politicians ruining America?


O'BRIEN: The stand-up comedian and actor, D.L. Hughley joins us in our studio. He got a new book out. It's called "The Audacity of Dopes."


O'BRIEN: And there are some expletives in there, too. He's got some advice about the political process and for President Obama as well.

Mitt Romney now clarifying those culture remarks that he made when he was in Israel. Is he right? Does culture matter? Never to mince words. Former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, will weigh in on that with us this morning.

Plus, team USA living up to the hype from the high flying ladies of the fab five. And swimmer, Michael Phelps, is making history as the greatest Olympian ever. We're going to talk this morning to gymnast, Dominique Dawes, and swimmer, Aaron Peirsol. They'll be joining me from London.

Don't forget, you can watch us on your computer, your mobile phone while you're at work, go to We'll see you right at the top of the hour.

BERMAN: Can't wait to really cool guests.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up on EARLY START, we have some brand-new poll numbers from some key swing states. When we come back, Mitt Romney back in the trail. What's the challenge he faces now?


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Mitt Romney is back in Boston, getting ready to hit the road after a three-stop overseas trip that saw the likely Republican presidential nominee's message overshadowed at times by some gaffes. Mitt Romney will be hitting the campaign trail again with stops in Colorado, Nevada and Indiana this week and Ohio next week.

Now, pay attention to Ohio because a brand-new Quinnipiac/CBS News/"New York Times" poll has Romney trailing President Obama in some key swing states. These numbers are brand-new, and in some cases, fairly surprising. Obama leads Romney in Florida, 51-45. In Ohio, he's up 50-44. And in Pennsylvania, fairly large, 11 points, 53-42.

Joining me right now to talk about all of this is CNN contributor and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," Ryan Lizza. Thank you so much for joining us right now.


BERMAN: Those numbers are brand-new.


BERMAN: We're talking minutes old at this point. You were surprised?

LIZZA: I'm surprised a lead in Ohio is pretty significant. And, the way the electoral map shakes out, Romney can't win the race without Ohio. Obama can. Obama can win without Ohio. He has these other states like Colorado and Nevada and Virginia which he won in 2008. He can nail those down. He can actually lose some of the larger states and still win the race.

Pennsylvania, I think that has not gone Republican in many cycles. Mitt Romney thought because of the lagging economy maybe Pennsylvania can come back to the Republican column. So far, this race, the polling doesn't look good there.

Two polls -- two states that aren't -- or one state that's not on the list is Wisconsin, another Democratic state that Romney is hoping to take away. But, you know, you have to be cautious about any single poll, right?

BERMAN: Absolutely.

LIZZA: Polling trends, you know -- polling trends are what's important, but good news for Obama on this.

BERMAN: Well, you're talking about trends. In Ohio, we have seen President Obama consistently ahead in all the polls. He's headed there today for his third trip in four weeks. Why does he seem, in some cases, to be outperforming his national numbers in Ohio, which is in no way reliably Democratic?

LIZZA: You know, a couple of theories I have. One, unemployment is lower than the national average in Ohio, 7.2 percent rather than actual average which is eight percent. And maybe, just maybe, we're starting to see the impact of this flood of attack ads that the Obama campaign has been running in the swing states that have just been savaging Mitt Romney basically as a wealthy out of touch guy who laid off lots of people when he was at Bain.

Now, for the last few weeks, we've been talking about how despite the gaffes and the ads, this race just stays where it is, stuck. Maybe what we're seeing in some of these polls is that negatively defining Romney is starting to have a little bit of payoff for Obama.

Remember, Ohio is a working class voters that Obama has struggled with and Obama is making a play for them by painting Romney as out of touch. And if you look at the internals in the polls, it looks like some of the voters are starting to have that view. But, one other thing I was totally struck by in all three of these polls, the percentage of likely voters who say that they are undecided, four percent.

BERMAN: That's nothing.

LIZZA: That means everyone is locked in at this point.

BERMAN: Let me just talk about Ohio for one more minute, because the Romney team has another brand-new ad out this morning, which again, is very interesting, and it hits Obama in an area that has seen by a lot of people to be his strengths, particularly, in these working class states. We're talking about the auto bailout. Let's listen very quickly.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2009, under the Obama administration's bailout of General Motors, Ohio dealerships were forced to close.


BERMAN: You hear that, it said Ohio. Very interesting. This is a national ad, but he brings up Ohio. Clearly, the Romney team very concerned about the battle in Ohio and taking the fight to an area which, again, is seen as an Obama strength, perhaps. LIZZA: And I think it's sort of a devilish ad in the sense that it's attacking the bailouts which Romney was against saying that the bailout actually led to businesses closing. Now, you know, the Obama campaign I'm sure would respond that, well, if they hadn't done the bailout, the job losses related to the auto industry would have been much, much worse. So, they're kind of attacking Obama now from the left on the auto bailout, so it's sort of complicated argument.

But previously, in the primaries, they were attacking him from the right saying they shouldn't have bailed GM out. They should have just sort of let the, you know, the free market take its course. And -- so, that I think will be the Obama campaign's response to this.

BERMAN: A lot of interesting games this (ph) morning. Ryan Lizza, CNN contributor from "New Yorker" in D.C. Thank you so much for being with us here.

LIZZA: Thanks for having me.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much. And today's "Best Advice" comes from someone who knows success as an NBA star and a U.S. Olympian, Carmelo Anthony, coming up next.


BERMAN: All right. It is just a few minutes now before the hour.

SAMBOLIN: And we wrap it up as always with "Best Advice." And today, from NBA star, Carmelo Anthony. He is also on Team USA for the men's Olympic basketball team.


CARMELO ANTHONY, NBA STAR: The best advice I've ever received was to be who you are, never change who you are. A lot of people would say they want you to be this person or want you to be this way. You should be proud of who you are.


BERMAN: Carmelo could be proud of who he is, good player for the Knicks, good player for Team USA, although Team USA had some trouble with Tunisia yesterday and surprised a lot of people.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, you know what, I didn't watch. I was passing by and I glanced, but they did?

BERMAN: They won by 33. A lot of people thought they should win by like 50.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness!

BERMAN: I know. We should (INAUDIBLE).

SAMBOLIN: That's a tough time, really tough time. BERMAN: That is EARLY START for this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.