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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Warning Signs Missed?; Three Planes Nearly Collide At Reagan Natl.; New Storm May Wash Out Vacations Spots; American Gymnast Wins All-Around Medal

Aired August 2, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, the FAA investigating a close call between three packed passenger jets at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New developments out of Aurora, Colorado. A report says the accused shooter's psychiatrist raised a red flag weeks before the massacre.

SAMBOLIN: And trouble in paradise. Take a look at this. Storm watches for vacation hot spots in the Atlantic as a tropical depression moves in. There's way too much activity.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's about 5:00 in the East right now.

Also coming up, huge crowds at Chick-Fil-A's all over the country as thousands of people . They weigh in about the national debate about gay marriage and free speech.

SAMBOLIN: Some people just wanted a sandwich.

Plus, another thrilling finish leads to gold for Team USA swimming.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: And breaking overnight, a frighteningly close call in the skies. The FAA is saying three commuter jets came within seconds of a mid-air collision at Reagan National Airport.

We're talking like 12 seconds after confused air traffic controllers dealing with bad weather launched two flights at another plane that was coming in for another landing. The two closest planes were less than 1.5 miles apart and they were closing in at 400 miles an hour. All three planes, they were operated by U.S. Airways. They had a combined 192 people on board.

Listen to how it unfolded on the radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TOWER: 3329, stand by. Hold on -- we're trying to figure this out. Stand by.

PILOT: OK, we really don't have the fuel for this.

TOWER: We'll get back to you as soon as I can.

PILOT: We've got to get off the ground here pretty quick.

TOWER: Everybody stand by, we've got a couple of opposite direction arrivals, so it's going to be a little bit of a delay in your departures.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: If you listen to that, obviously, a lot of concern. One of the pilots saying they didn't have enough fuel to circle.

Disaster was avoided. The airline says all the flights did make it safely in the end to their destinations.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

All right. Red flags might have been missed in the Aurora movie theater massacre. Unanswered questions this morning about communication between Dr. Lynn Fenton, there's the picture of her there, the University of Colorado psychiatrist who was seeing shooter James Holmes as a patient and the school itself.

According to CNN affiliate KMGH, Holmes failed an oral exam at the school on June 7th, then went out and bought an AR-15 assault rifle. It was about this time that Dr. Fenton made an urgent call to the university and it appears there was no further action.

KMGH reporter John Ferrugia picks up the time line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN FERRUGIA, KMGH INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Something that he said to his psychiatrist caused her to contact the University of Colorado threat assessment team. Now, that threat assessment team was formed in part with her help and she's on that team. So she's a member, she helped form the team.

She contacted several of her colleagues on that team. We don't know what she told them. We don't know what triggered her to call them.

On the 10th of June, he dropped out of school. They then thought, the team thought -- we're told by our sources -- the team thought they had no jurisdiction, they had no control over them so there was nothing they could do. We have been told no one contacted the Aurora Police Department with any of these concerns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So moving forward from that time line, about six weeks later, 12 people were gunned down at the Aurora cineplex. A lot of people now asking what Dr. Lynn Fenton and her university colleagues knew and whether they were legally obligated to call police with their concerns.

In the next hour of EARLY START, we'll explore that very question with noted criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson.

BERMAN: Sources tell CNN President Obama has signed a covert order authorizing U.S. support for Syria's opposition forces. This secret directive allows clandestine action by the CIA and other agencies. It is not clear what type of support has been authorized or when the order was signed.

CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend told our Anderson Cooper, she believes the U.S. needs to move with more urgency in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRAN FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: The longer we wait to act, the more radicalized the Syrian population becomes. They've been tortured. They've been abused by their own leader. They will turn to whoever can provide them weapons, food. If that's Al Qaeda, that's who they'll turn to if they're on the ground.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The State Department said yesterday it had set aside $25 million for non-lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels with another $64 million in humanitarian assistance going to the Syrian people.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to have a live report from Turkey on that coming up shortly.

Four minutes past the hour.

Extreme weather threatens to ruin a lot of tropical vacation plans. Rob Marciano is tracking the storm's path.

It looks really active there.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Finally, it's been about a month. We got off to a gang buster start of the season. Went through four named storms and we had a month break. Now, we're into August and things are going to start ramping up.

This is tropical depression number five. It is about 500 miles east of the Windward Islands. Here's South America. So, pretty far to the south. Not necessarily good news meaning that it's got some time before it recur if at all over the next few days.

Here's what the forecast track is with the National Hurricane Center. Obviously, it doesn't look all that impressive on the satellite picture. But the convection of the thunderstorms around the center getting a little bit more better organized.

And as it gets into the Caribbean, you notice it gets into tropical storm status. When this circle closes, that's when we denote a hurricane. We don't have that for hurricane strength at least in the first five days. We got some obstacles in the forms of dry air and winds pushing against it.

But the track continues it on a west, northwesterly position into the central Caribbean. This is a scary proposition, when you get that southern trajectory potentially getting into the Gulf of Mexico in a week's time. That has everybody nervous. The folks who live across Yucatan Peninsula or Central America, they're definitely nervous as well.

It's going to create some rough weather for the islands. Here are some of our computer models, several of them actually, and they take this thing with the exception of one renegade takes one into the Caribbean. That's the preferred track for the month of August. So, we'll be watching tropical depression number five very carefully.

Ernesto will be its name, once it gets its winds up another five miles an hour.

SAMBOLIN: All righty. Thank you very much, Rob.

MARCIANO: You got it.

BERMAN: In Washington, more time and more money being based on Capitol Hill. The Republican controlled House passed a measure yesterday that extends the Bush tax cuts at all income levels. They get it after voting down a bill that was passed in the Democratic controlled Senate last week which extended the tax cuts for everyone but not at incomes above $250,000.

The two sides are at an impasse and they're not expected to revisit the issue until after the November election. So, another day well spent on Capitol Hill.

SAMBOLIN: This was widely predicted.

Seven minutes past the hour.

People across the country flocking to Chick-Fil-A. Did you see the crowds? They had little to do with the chicken biscuits. Fans coming out yesterday for Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, something started by former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, to show support for the chain and a CEO who's made a very public stance against same-sex marriage.

Many bringing their kids, some waited an hour in line. More than 700,000 supporters have liked the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day on its Facebook page.

BERMAN: A lot of Republican candidates and a lot of Republican figures, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, all taking their pictures to Chick-Fil-A trying to show their support. So, it is very political and increasingly so.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.

BERMAN: All right. Team USA continues to rule the pool at the London Games and, boy, tonight we have a giant showdown between two teammates. We're going to go live to London, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: You get goose bumps because of the music.

BERMAN: I love our Olympic music.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It's about 11 minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Glad to have you with us.

American swimmers continued their pool dominance last night. It was a thrilling finish for American Nathan Adrian who took home gold in a dramatic 100-meter freestyle final, squeaking by with a .01 second, better finish that the Australian runner up.

CNN's Amanda Davies is live in London.

And, Amanda, another successful day in the pool for USA, and not necessarily the names that we were expecting that are stealing the headlines now.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it wasn't, Zoraida. It was my first time in the Aquatic Center. So, I was lucky enough to be there last night. It really was the most fantastic atmosphere. All the buildup, we've been talking about Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, haven't we?

But it was Nathan Adrian who stepped up early on in the 100 meters freestyle and really gave the favorite James Magnussen a real lesson, a whole one hundredth of a second he beat him. He said afterwards he was very grateful for his big hands for that victory.

And in terms of the women, we've all been talking about Missy Franklin. But in terms of the relay, it was Allison Schmitt who stepped up and put on the most sensational anchor legs for team USA coming from behind against Australia to take gold.

And then, of course, we can't not mention Rebecca Soni who set a new world record time in the 200 meter breast stroke. That was just a heap. Of course, she had a score to settle having lost out in the 100 meters breast stroke earlier on.

SAMBOLIN: We want to talk about Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps because these guys are super competitors. They are going head to head in a duel today in a 200 individual medley. What can we expect? I wanted to know what lanes they're in.

And I don't know if we know this or not, but their coach says that he doesn't like them to be next to each other because all they do is look and see how they can get ahead and they pace themselves against each other.

DAVIES: Yes, well, bad news for him. They are next to each other in lanes three and four. It's a really busy night for Ryan Lochte because before that he's got the 200 backstroke which he'll be looking to defend his title. Less than an hour later, it is that big match-up against Michael Phelps. Of course, they have met before in this London Olympic meeting. It was Lochte who got the better in the 400. It was Lochte who came out winner last night when they lined up in the semi-final against each other.

Michael Phelps though is looking to be, you know, that Holy Grail of a third straight Olympic gold in the same event and this, he knows, will be his last meeting against his teammate before he retires, his last games. So, he'll definitely be looking to prove a point.

SAMBOLIN: That's going to be so exciting to watch. I don't want to let you go without talking about Danell Leyva. He rallied from 17th place to capture the all around bronze. I know he's celebrating. He was celebrating with his dad, quite a moment.

DAVIES: It was quite a moment, particularly after what had gone before with all the disappointment from the team competition. He had fallen off the pommel. It looked for a period that was going to be his undoing in the individual competition as well. He had a wobble on his dismount. He was down in 17th. He put in a great performance on the high bar to scrape through into that bronze medal position.

And as you said, it's a really great story for the young gymnast, born to Cuban parents who defected. He's got this lucky blue towel we've heard about. It had its own Twitter account. He's grown up being a massive Spider-man fan but he's now got his sights set on being Superman going forward to Rio in 2016. So, yes, really great story that one as well.

SAMBOLIN: Indeed. Amanda Davies, thank you so much.

BERMAN: All right. This is your up-to-date medal count. China has taken a one medal lead over the U.S., 30-29 overall. China has five more golds than Team USA. Who's counting? I guess we are. Japan is in third place with 17 medals overall.

SAMBOLIN: You bet we are.

So, what to watch for today? U.S. women's gymnastics looks to add more gold in the all around final. And as we mentioned, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps go head to head in the 200 meter individual medley.

BERMAN: And coming up at 5:30 Eastern Time, we'll be talking about gymnastics and more with our favorite three-time Olympic gymnast John Roethlisberger. He's coming back for an encore performance.

SAMBOLIN: You're going to want to stay tuned for that. I wonder what he has in store for you.

All right. Sixteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date.

Christine Romans is back with us with this morning's top stories.

Welcome back.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you. Nice to see you.

Let's get to the news this morning, guys.

New questions this morning in the Aurora movie theater massacre. Did the University of Colorado ignore warning signs? According to CNN affiliate KMGH, the psychiatrist who was seeing suspect James Holmes was so alarmed about something he said in early June she called the school's threat assessment team to warn them. Holmes dropped out a few days later. It appears there was no further action taken and police were never called.

An Arizona law banning abortions 20 weeks into pregnancy has been blocked. It was set to take effect today but an appeal by the ACLU was upheld yesterday by the ninth circuit court. The ban calls for physician to have their licenses revoked and face jail time if they violate its terms with exceptions for life-threatening situations and medical emergencies for the mother.

A safety recall alert. Toyota announcing that it's recalling close to 800,000 Rav4s to fix a suspension problem that could cause a crash. They're model years from 2006 to 2011. The recall also includes 18,000 Lexus H250s from 2010.

Toyota says there have been nine crashes with three minor injuries due to the problem so far.

And an odd sight in Brockton, Massachusetts, about yes, 25 miles south of Boston. That's a 30 foot R.V. inside a swimming pool.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.

ROMANS: Local station is reporting the driver of the R.V. may have lost control yesterday because of a medical emergency. He was pulled out of the pool, is in the hospital in stable condition.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow.

ROMANS: It is not every day you see a huge R.V. in a swimming pool.

BERMAN: That is an odd sight. I would agree with that, Christine. Definitely odd.

SAMBOLIN: I'm glad he's OK.

ROMANS: Stable condition.

BERMAN: It is now 17 minutes past the hour right now. We're getting a look, an early read on your local papers across the country making national headlines.

Our first look is here in New York City. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a leading voice for tighter gun control laws in this country. He's defended his police -- what he's doing now is he's defending the New York City Police Department's action to sell shell casing, 28,000 pounds of shell casings. He has sold them to a Georgia ammunition store in June.

What happened was the police train at shooting ranges, left over all these shell casings, thousands and thousands of pounds of them. Usually they sell them to scrap metal dealer as well. One time one of the highest bidders was this arms store in Georgia.

There's nothing illegal about this, the mayor says, but a lot of people thinks this looks sketchy because Mayor Michael Bloomberg is such an advocate for gun control. He's trying to keep guns out of the wrong hands not ammunition to people who use it lawfully.

SAMBOLIN: Right. An exciting discovery by researchers in Texas could change the way that doctors fight cancer. This is a very interesting study. It comes to us via the "Los Angeles Times" and researchers were studying mice -- or who were studying mice conclude the tumors grow and grow back after being treated because they're fuelled by stem cells that drugs don't kill.

Apparently they've studied this before but were skeptical. This is an independent study. So, they're putting a lot of value behind it. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas conducted the study.

They say the discovery of a so-called "cancer stem cells" will allow researchers to device new strategies to destroy them. It confirms what's been long suspected, that specific cells within tumors are actually responsible for their continued growth.

The study that used mice, they studied tumors of the brain, intestines and skin. Hopefully this will lead to new ways to maybe treat them and new drugs also.

BERMAN: Certainly a whole new area of research --

SAMBOLIN: Very exciting.

BERMAN: For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog CNN.com/EarlyStart.

SAMBOLIN: And attention shoppers. The month of August is a great time to buy if you know what to look for. So guess what, Christine Romans with some late summer bargains coming up.

I'm looking forward to that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-three minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

Our top business story: the European Central Bank meeting in Frankfurt.

BERMAN: And our friend Christine Romans is back here. We are so happy you're back.

What do investors hoping to hear from the ECB? They didn't hear anything from the Fed yesterday.

ROMANS: No, they didn't. And I would say Mario Draghi might be more important than Ben Bernanke right now. You hear us talking about the Fed chief in the U.S. there he is, incredibly important guy right now.

You know, just about a week ago, he said we will do whatever it takes to keep the Euro intact. Now, he's got to prove to investors that they will. So, that guy's pretty key to what's going to happen overall in Europe.

And, of course, that matters to us because there's so many things happening in the U.S. right now to be concerned about. For example, new car sales down. This is something that's a concern to investors.

Manufacturing slowing, this is most recent piece of evidence that we have, that the Europe's problems are affecting the United States. We've got a weak labor market and a housing market, thankfully appears to be bottoming out. We don't know how long that will last.

Those are all things you can't control. Big things that will control your 401 k. But there are some things you can control.

Deal news out with a list of things to buy in August. You would think, of course, back to school items are on that list. But there other things as well.

Summer clothes. Have you checked these sales? Unbelievable right now.

Swimsuits, by the way, they point out Victoria Secret, Land's End, unbelievable sales. And barbecue grills, there are -- 30 percent more sales on grills this August than there were last year. And HDTV.

What not to buy, what should you hold on to until September? Do not buy a patio set. It's going to get cheaper. Kindle Fire -- Kindle Fire 2 is coming out in a few weeks. IPhone 5, September 12th buzz online. So, that's what we should wait for overall.

And finally, you Olympics guru, this guy loves Olympics, he tweets about Olympics and talks about it, did you know Grover Norquist's anti-tax group is out that a gold medal could mean a $9,000 tax bill.

SAMBOLIN: I read that.

ROMANS: That's what it looks like. Gold, silver, bronze. Not only do you pay for the gold in the gold medal or the silver, the bronze, but then the prize, $25,000 prize can be taxed depending on the situation.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't Marco Rubio putting through legislation?

BERMAN: Yes. His office has been very active on twitter arguing to lift this tax so the athletes can come back and keep their money.

ROMANS: So, it would be adding to the tax code by having to write another loophole?

BERMAN: I suppose you can look at it that way. We'll hear from Rubio.

SAMBOLIN: Feel good about it.

ROMANS: You can have income tax reform.

BERMAN: It is great to have you back these days.

All right. When you booked that tropical cruise chances are you didn't see this one coming. A powerful storm moving through the Atlantic Ocean. Meteorologist Rob Marciano with the very latest of what could be Ernesto, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (voice-over): Setting the bar. A team U.S.A. gymnast does something no American man has done since the Olympics in the 1980s.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And the dust bowl grows. More than half the counties in the country are now dried out disaster areas.

BERMAN: And caught on camera. You have to take a look at this. Really shocking video. A man disappears --

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.

BERMAN: -- as a sinkhole swallows him on the street. That is horrifying video. We'll show it to you again in a little bit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

And we are following breaking news this morning. Just seconds from disaster, the FAA is saying three commuter jets came that close to a mid-air collision at Reagan National Airport. This was yesterday after confused air traffic controllers dealing with bad weather launched two flights at another plane that was coming in for a landing.

The two closest planes were less than 1.5 miles apart and closing in at over 400 miles an hour. All three planes were operated by U.S. Airways and had a combined 192 people on board. Disaster was avoided. The airline says all flights made it safely to their destinations. According to the "Washington Post," the federal official who reviewed the incident said it was a basic failure to communicate and sloppy procedures.

The official said, quote, "This is a pretty big screw up for a major airport."

BERMAN: And there have been problems at Reagan before. This is not new there. They are looking into it. Really troubling.

SAMBOLIN: And air traffic controlling in general, that's been a major problem.

BERMAN: You know, troubling for people who fly a lot to say the least.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh!

BERMAN: More news, six weeks before the Aurora movie massacre, were there red flags about suspected shooter, James Holmes, that were missed? Unanswered questions this morning about communications between Dr. Lynne Fenton (ph) who was the University of Colorado psychiatrist who was seeing Holmes as a patient and the school, itself.

According to CNN affiliate, KMGH, something Holmes said caused Dr. Fenton to make an urgent phone call to the university's threat assessment team in early June, but a few days later, Holmes dropped out of school, and it appears there was no further action taken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They thought they had no jurisdiction. They had no control over him. So, there was nothing that they could do vis-a-vis this concern that she had. Again, we don't know what the concern was. What we do know is that no one through our sources and through our reporting, we have been told, no one contacted the Aurora Police Department with any of these concerns.

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: She did do the very appropriate thing of calling the threat assessment team. The question then becomes, though, each and every threat assessment team at every university has to make their own guidelines, at least, by my understanding how they function based on their own ethical, legal obligations of that particular community.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: You know, a lot of people want to know what Dr. Lynne Fenton (ph) and her colleagues at the university knew and whether they were legally obligated to call the police with their concerns. There are a lot of questions, and in the next hour of EARLY START, we're going to explore those questions with noted criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-two minutes past the hour. Just look at this incredible video. This is from Taiwan where closed circuit cameras captured a man being swallowed up by a sinkhole. This is during a typhoon. It happened this morning at the Temple of the Sansha, an important historical site in Taipei. Firemen were called to the scene, but they were just too late to save that victim.

BERMAN: Really sad and shocking video.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BERMAN: 218 counties in 12 states have been added to the list of drought disaster areas making those farmers eligible now for aid. The Midwest and southern plains have been dealing with triple digit temperatures. Crops have been scorched. Water levels are low, and power grids, they are strained. The USDA has now designated close to 1,600 counties in 32 states as disaster areas. That's more than half all the counties in the U.S.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, the rain that they've been hoping for in the plains may, instead, wash out some vacation plans in the tropics. Rob Marciano is tracking what could be a new storm in the Atlantic. Good morning.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, travel tip for you if you're looking for a deal in the Caribbean, this is the time of year to get it. And this is the reason why. You kind of roll the dice here. Windward islands, that's, you know, Barbados. Lower (INAUDIBLE), that's where this storm is. It's tropical depression actually number five.

It will be Ernesto if and when it strengthens into tropical storm strength. We're actually moving to 21 miles an hour. Pretty weak at 35 miles an hour. It's got a lot of obstacles to get across. Some strong winds are against it. So, we don't expect it to develop rapidly.

And the National Hurricane Center Forecast, although it does bring it into the Caribbean where there's plenty of juicy waters here and warm waters, we've got a storm that may not become a hurricane at least in the next three to five days. After that, we just don't know. Things may get a little bit more favorable, but certainly, watching it carefully as it gets closer to the Gulf of Mexico.

And if you are traveling south and roll the dice there, keep an eye here. All right. Little closer to home, decent day across the northeast after some heavy rains last night. Couple of frontal systems and hazy, hot, and humid conditions continue across the nation's mid section. Look at this numbers yesterday, 112 in Oklahoma City.

That is one degree off the all-time high of 113. Wichita Falls, similar number there, Dodd City seeing 107. And if you live in, say, Dallas, you're going to get the heat again today. Well up over 100 degrees.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, boy.

MARCIANO: Heat advisories and heat warnings are posted. Temperature high for Dallas forecast, that should be 110.

SAMBOLIN: Yikes.

MARCIANO: Yes. That's pretty toasty.

(CROSSTALK)

MARCIANO: Yes. Hey, listen. Hey, listen, a nice day in New York after the torrential rains you had last night and flooding across that area.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

BERMAN: And the name on everyone's lips this morning, Danell Leyva. The 20-year-old gymnastic star struggled during his pommel horse last night in the men's all around final, but managed to fight back and capture the bronze medal after earning the biggest high bar score of the night, 15.7, during the final few minutes of competition. It was thrilling.

His final score was 90.698 for those who understand the gymnastics scoring system which exactly zero of any of us. It's only the second all around medal for a U.S. man since 1984. Danell's teammate, John Orozco, finished eighth. The 19-year-old slipped several times during his pommel horse routine, that pommel horse, but he fought his way back to finish in the top 10.

Our friend, John Roethlisberger predicted on our show yesterday, predicted in this very place that the pommel horse might be a challenge for team U.S.A. John is back with us from London. And John, without drawing any aspersions here, pommel horse is always a problem for the U.S., isn't it?

JOHN ROETHLISBERGER, FMR. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: It is. You know, we talked about it, and it's one of those things that's like the balance beam for the women, quite honestly. You know, if you get through the pommel horse and you're in good shape, you have got a leg up on the competition.

We held our breath going into that event last night. And again, it came up and bit them, and especially John Orozco. It's a complete disaster for John Rascoe that he couldn't (ph) recover from.

For Danell Leyva, he had a mistake on the dismount which, unless, you have an eye for gymnastic, you might not have realized what a big mistake it was, but he had enough of a score there that he still had some room to dig out. I mean, that's exactly what he did.

BERMAN: What I love most about Danell Leyva is that he won the bronze, a huge achievement, but now, he's looking to the future. Let me read you the quote.

He said this last night about Kohei Uchimura that the Japanese gymnast who was phenomenal last night, and Leyva says, "If I spoke Japanese, I would tell him that he's the best gymnast that ever lived so far. I'm going to keep working to beat him. His gymnastics is just so beautiful, I'm working toward that. I'm not trying to copy a style. I have my own style. I need to perfect me more to beat him."

So, let's look way forward to Rio. What can we expect from Danell Leyva four years from now?

ROETHLISBERGER: First of all, I saw that quote and I was hoping you would bring that up, because I love it. I love it. There's an athlete. And I hate it when athletes pretend to -- you know, I just want to do my best. I'm just going to go out there and hit my routine. He wants to be the best gymnast in the world.

And I love that. He knows and he respects Kohei. He acknowledges him as the best, but he says he wants to be the best. And you know what, Danell Leyva, he can be the best. And he does have his own style. He's very unique. He's very exciting. He's very high flying. But there's a couple of weaknesses where Kohei has got him.

And one was glaring, obviously, in the pommel horse last night. Danell has the ability to be outstanding on that event. I expect him to be. And vault is another one. Danell has struggled a little bit here, especially on the vault. And Kohei had a big jump there. So, Danell has a couple of weaknesses, but he's the type of guy that he demands perfection every day he goes in the gym.

He goes in the gym everyday to win the Olympics. And not everybody does that. Some people just go in there and they just kind of go through the motions. He goes in there to win everyday. And if you're going to win, that's what you got to do.

BERMAN: So, that's what to look forward in four years. How about what to look forward today? We have the women's all around individual competition right now, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, the Americans up there. Is there some kind of a chance of a letdown after they won the team gold?

Any chance that they go out there maybe not with the fire in the belly they might have had, otherwise?

ROETHLISBERGER: You know, we always speculate. We speculate, did the Russians have a bad meet and so now they're just deflated and going to be terrible? The women were amazing, and they're going to have that emotional letdown. These women, I'm not going to put anything past them. I'm pretty sure one of them is going to be the first female president at the rate they're going. They are just -- they are like unstoppable. I'm not going to doubt them on one front. I think Gabby Douglas has got to be considered the favorite. You know, she has put up throughout the competition overall the highest scores, even though Aly Raisman finished ahead of her in the team qualifications.

But I think Gabby Douglas, if she gets through the beam, watch her on the balance beam, because that's the one that's kind of come up and bit her a little bit like the pommel horse for the men. Watch her on the beam. If she nails beam, I think she wins this competition. But, you know, don't count out Komova.

A lot of people think on paper she's the one to beat. Aly Raisman, again, I love this kid. She is a fighter. She might not have the glitz and the glam that some of the other athletes have, but man, you got to love somebody who just never makes a mistake. They're always just grinding it out, hitting their gymnastics and waiting for their opportunity.

So, it's going to be a battle. We might have a new American sweetheart after tonight.

BERMAN: And of course, they did all hear from the president yesterday. They were so happy. John Roethlisberger, thanks so much. I never want gymnastics to end, because I want to keep talking to you everyday.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: Thanks a lot, John.

ROETHLISBERGER: All right. Thank you guys.

SAMBOLIN: He still has that fire in the belly, doesn't he?

BERMAN: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Just love him. Love him.

Forty minutes past the hour. As the crisis in Syria deepens, so has America's hold in that region. Coming up, the White House's secret move to support the rebels. We're going to have a live report for you.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is about 44 minutes after the hour right now, and I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Happy to have you with us. CNN has learned President Obama has secretly authorized American covert support for Syrian rebels in an effort to oust dictator, Bashar al- Assad. This is fighting on (ph) killing nearly 200 people nationwide yesterday while the rebels make some gains.

Former CIA officer, Robert Baer, telling CNN's Anderson Cooper the opposition needs more of America's help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: More money is going to go to the opposition. The fighters are out of money. They've been complaining today. They're not getting enough medicine, they're not getting enough weapons, enough ammunition. They simply need more funding.

If it gets really bad, and it could be very soon, we're going to have to switch this to a lethal fighting. They're actually get the United States military to start supplying these people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Ivan Watson joins us on the phone from Turkey near the Syrian border. And Ivan, the president has said that he will not put arms in the hands of rebels. So, what is the United States giving to the rebels?

VOICE OF IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have no idea. I haven't seen any direct signs of U.S. assistance. One of the worst kept secrets among the rebels is that there are weapons, light weapons coming across the border from Turkey believed to be funded and supplied by the Turks, by the Saudis, and by the Qataris.

I've seen some of these weapons. They're basically ammunition for AK-47s, for heavier machine guns, and for rocket propelled grenades. I've heard that, perhaps, some kind of surface to air missiles in very small amounts have come through, but that's about the extent of it.

And the Syrian rebels are constantly complaining that it is not enough to turn the tide of the battle in their favor conclusively, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So, some of the things that we've heard also is that, perhaps, there's some more humanitarian support that is headed their way. Have you heard anything about that?

WATSON: No, but United Nations officials are sounding the alarm about the escalating humanitarian crisis there. And I think the two- week battle that we've seen in the largest city in Aleppo which has basically forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee that city, that's had a huge impact.

Every village and town I traveled through was choked (ph) of refugee families who are staying with cousins and staying with loved ones. And it's just an enormous burden on the countryside. I came out of Syria before dawn this morning, and there were refugee families lined up along the border waiting to come out.

I suspect that this is going to be a ticking humanitarian time bomb because so many people have been moved around and unsettled. The jobs have stopped. Salaries have stopped being paid. And it's just going to be an enormous burden on society just trying to feed these people.

SAMBOLIN: Ivan Watson live in the Turkey border for us this morning, the border there of Syria. Thank you for joining us this morning.

Really unusual, right? We're trying to figure out what exactly is the assistance that is being given, and we've seen some video that shows that there is an intense effort, right? And there's a lot of killing going on. And very uncertain as to who's killing who. So, you know, hopefully, we'll get some more details for you on that.

BERMAN: And Ivan Watson who is on the ground there, it's even confusing to him. He's not sure what he is seeing with the rebels (ph). Ivan, of course, has done fantastic and courageous work inside Syria and across the border in Turkey. So, thanks to him.

It is now 47 minutes past the hour, and we want to get you up to date on all the headlines. Here's Christine Romans with our top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, you two.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): New questions this morning in the Aurora movie theater massacre. Did the University of Colorado ignore warning signs? According to CNN affiliate, KMGH, the psychiatrist who was seeing suspect, James Holmes, was so concerned about something he said in early June, she called the school's threat assessment team to warn them.

Holmes dropped out a few days later. It appears there were no further action taken, and police were never called.

Louisiana Tech's beloved mascot, Tech 20, is dead. The veterinarian who took care of the dog says an employee left him out too long Sunday night and Tech 20 died of heatstroke. He says the employee then tried to cover it up. That worker has been fired. Initially, Tech was reported missing and possibly stolen.

Pennsylvania congressman, Mike Kelly, isn't a fan of the birth control mandate and President Obama's healthcare overhaul, but does it really compare to the September 11th attacks and Pearl Harbor. Here's what he had to say about the provision that went into effect yesterday, which requires private insurers include birth control coverage in their plans without charging a co-pay.

Kelly said, quote, "I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th. That's Pearl Harbor Day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack. I want you to remember August 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is the day that will live in infamy along with those other dates."

Mitt Romney is making two stops in Colorado today. He'll be in Golden this morning, then he'll be joined by New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, and New Orleans governor, Bobbie Jindal, and Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, for an executive roundtable at a high school near Aspen.

President Obama heads to the suburbs of Orlando today to talk about the economy and the middle class. He'll also make a campaign stop in Virginia tonight before heading back to the White House.

And, one of the Chinese badminton players who was disqualified in the Olympics for trying to lose her match says she's quitting the sport. Yu yang (ph) says farewell my beloved badminton in a blog, then accusing the sports governing body of ruining her dreams. Yu, her doubled partner, and six other players were kicked out of the competition yesterday for playing to lose in order to face easier opponents in the next round.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (on-camera): Ruining her dreams.

BERMAN: There's been a lot of talk about that, I have to say, on my Twitter account and Facebook. People have been shouting me with their opinions. If you have an opinion, should they have been kicked out or not, send us a tweet @EARLY STARTCNN --

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Their coach came out and apologized for, you know, what happened. Taking full responsibility for it. Just very sad, isn't it, that that is happening at the Olympics.

ROMANS: And it's overshadowed so many other amazing feats, by the way.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Fifty minutes past the hour. The wizard once ruled the book store, now, a new pop culture phenomenon has taken over across the ponds. Look at your screen.

BERMAN: It is so naughty.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: It is so naughty.

SAMBOLIN: That story's coming your way.

And if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop or on your mobile phone, just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: And welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It's just a few minutes before the hour. I'm John Berman along with Zoraida Sambolin. We're taking look at what is trending on the internet this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And way to go Mary Poppins. Did you see this? This was so cute. London's Mayor Boris Johnson stuck in the air, decided to go zip lining, but look what happened. It stopped. He was left dangling in the air after taking the inaugural line (ph) down the zip line, set up at Victoria Park (ph) to promote the London Olympic Games.

This was yesterday afternoon. I was watching him. I thought he handled this really well. He came to a halt about 65 feet from the end of the line. He was stuck for about five minutes before park officials decided to --

BERMAN: He looks so helpless.

SAMBOLIN: Can somebody help me out here? And they did. They towed him in. Do we have the video of that? There he is. He's being towed in with the flags still waiving in the air. Love that moment.

BERMAN: He is a colorful, colorful guy. Remember, he's the guy who attacked Mitt Romney on stage last week, you know, getting a lot of laughs over there.

Next up, operation teddy bear drop. This happened in Belarus. It's really interesting. What's you're seeing here is an airplane flying a sort of bombing mission over Belarus. It's a plane that's flown by a Swedish group and they're dropping teddy bears on parachutes with signs, with a message reading, "Belarus Freedom. We support the struggle for free speech."

This was done by an ad agency, and they say, you know, we recognize just flying into another country's air space is dangerous and we take risk, but they said they wanted to get the message of freedom out there. And what you're seeing there, out go the teddy bears being flown in and dropped over Belarus.

SAMBOLIN: OK. I don't know how we transition to this, but --

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Mommy porn over mugles and magic. OK. So, have you read this? "Fifty Shades of Grey?"

BERMAN: It's on my to-do list.

SAMBOLIN: It is? I'm going to share the books with you. I have read this. So, apparently, on the so-called mommy porn is trumping J.K. Rowling's books. "The Fifty Shade" books have now outsold all seven "Harry Potter" books. This is Amazon.com's British site. I want to be very specific about that. It's in Britain, their sites.

It's making author E.L. James the website's best-selling writer ever, and the U.S., the (INAUDIBLE) trilogy passed the 20 million sales mark last month. So, they're both British writers. And, you know, it's an interesting read, I got to say. I read it because everybody was talking about it, and I wanted to see what they were talking about. It is a rather interesting read. I'm going to share my books with you.

BERMAN: Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Yes. That's why you read it.

All right. We have our top stories straight ahead, including the frightening close call between three passenger jets in the sky near Washington, D.C. You are watching EARLY START.

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