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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Sikh Temple Shooter's Ties to White Supremacist Movement; Missouri Mosque Burned to the Ground; Fighting in Syria; Obama "Heartbroken"

Aired August 7, 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: A history of hate. The Sikh temple shooter's white power ties revealed.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Burned to the ground, a Missouri mosque that had been targeted by an arsonist before.

SAMBOLIN: Streaking through the sky. Fighter jets caught on camera scrambling to protect the president of the United States.

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

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

We are going to begin this morning with the disturbing revelations about the man police say is behind the deadly Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, including that an organization that tracks hate groups has been monitoring Wade Michael Page for more than 10 years now.

Police are looking into the 40-year-old Page's ties to white supremacists. This photo of Page in front of a swastika is from a Facebook page that's since been taken down. We also know Page was the front man for a white power rock band whose music was promoted on neo- Nazi websites. His former stepmother says she never saw this coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURIE PAGE, STEPMOTHER: I would not have known that was Wade. What has changed him, I have no idea. And obviously we're never going to know.

I'm totally devastated. His father is devastated. We're in -- pretty much in shock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: David Mattingly is now live with us in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. And David, it's the Southern Poverty Law Center who says they've been tracking Page since 2000. But was law enforcement involved in this at all?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not only was this man talking about his beliefs, but he's been talking about them apparently for quite some time. He may have been off the radar when it comes to law enforcement, but for the people who knew him, they say that his thoughts about racial ideas were well known to them. This going back to when he was in the military, in the U.S. Army. A former Army buddy tells us he describes him as being a kind person, a quiet person, someone who had a soft spot for his friends, but who believed very strongly in a coming race war. And even when they talked to him about this idea, he wouldn't talk about or elaborate about why he felt that way. But he had some very strong beliefs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS ROBILLARD, FORMER FRIEND OF WADE MICHAEL PAGE: He would often mention the racial holy war that was coming. And you know, we just looked at it as he was trying to get attention to himself. Because he was always the loner type of person. Even in a group of people, he would be off alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Even when he was maybe calling attention to himself by talking about his beliefs, his friend says that they never really thought that he would take those beliefs and do something violent with them. Of course, that's almost cliche at this point when you look back at previous cases. But at this point, this was 15 to 20 years ago, he was talking about these ideas that he still was holding when he carried out this shooting.

BERMAN: David, there are still several victims in the hospital recovering, including I believe Brian Murphy, the police officer who first responded to the scene. How is their recovery going?

MATTINGLY: Well, the last update we had was yesterday evening at the hospital. All three are still in the hospital. All listed in critical condition. Of course, that officer shot eight to nine times. He's gone through a couple of surgeries. Yesterday was described as resting comfortably. We're hoping for the sake of all three of them that we hear a new update today and hear of some sort of improvement in their condition.

BERMAN: That's something we are all hoping for. David Mattingly in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: And among the six people killed in the massacre, the Sikh's temple president, Satwant Singh Kaleka. He is being remembered this morning as a hero for trying to stop shooter Wade Page with a butter knife. His actions gave several temple members time to run for cover. Kaleka's son and mother recalling how proud and fearful he was when he bought his family's home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMARDEEP SINGH KALEKA, SON: My dad put that flag outside when we first bought the house, our first house. When we came home from high school and we were laughing, we were like, dad, that's going to be an eyesore. Like, you have an elementary-school sized flag in your front yard. And so he says to us, he goes, look down the street. Do you see any other American flags? And we didn't. And he goes, our house, because this is our house, and because we came here and it's been a land of opportunity for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we should know that (inaudible) close to the American friends, you know.

KALEKA: And a form of protection.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A form of protection?

KALEKA: He said it. He goes, look, I don't want anybody doing anything to our house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: In the next hour of EARLY START, you'll hear more of Anderson Cooper's interview with the son of the slain temple president, including his hopes for America in the wake of his father's murder.

And at 6:30 Eastern, we'll be joined by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. As we mentioned, his civil rights organization had been tracking gunman Wade Page for 12 years. We'll hear more about his efforts.

BERMAN: The FBI is in Joplin, Missouri this morning, investigating a fire that burned a mosque to the ground one month after an attempted arson at this same facility. The fire broke out early Monday morning at the Islamic Society of Joplin. Fortunately, no one was there at the time. Last month, an arson that was caught on camera caused minor damage to the mosque. And in the July footage, a suspect is seen approaching the mosque and throwing some kind of an ignited object on the roof.

Coming up at 6:40 this morning on EARLY START, we'll hear from Kimberly Kester , a member of the Islamic Society of Joplin. She'll tell us what she thinks is behind the fire and what's being done about it.

SAMBOLIN: Five minutes past the hour here. A big story to watch for in Arizona this morning, that's where attorneys for Jared Lee Loughner are expected to enter at least one guilty plea for their client. Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This was in Tucson last year. That guilty plea will happen at a court hearing later this morning. If a federal judge finds him competent to stand trial. Loughner has been getting psychological treatment at a Missouri prison facility.

BERMAN: President Obama's campaign visit to Connecticut creating quite a commotion in the air. Take a look. Amateur video of two F-15 fighter jets intercepting a small plane that strayed into the president's airspace over Long Island, New York. You don't see footage like this very often. The pilot was escorted to the ground and questioned. Half an hour later, another small plane was intercepted near New Haven, Connecticut. But NORAD said that plane was allowed to continue on to its destination. The Secret Service is investigation this.

SAMBOLIN: How bizarre, right? They declare these no-fly zones. Very odd. All right, and gas prices rise again overnight for the ninth day in a row now. The average price of unleaded is now 3.63 a gallon, and that is a 1.5-cent increase overnight.

BERMAN: And aiming for gold, the U.S. women's soccer team pulls off an amazing semifinal win. I mean really amazing. Outlasting Canada in a gripping match. I was on the edge of my seat. Team USA's youngest starter, forward Alex Morgan, who was awesome, scored a header in the 123rd minute, giving the U.S. team a 4-3 victory, and a date with Japan in the finals with the gold medal at stake. You know, Japan beat team USA in the World Cup final.

In men's basketball, Argentina gave the U.S. all it could handle for the first half, anyway. It was a one-point game at half-time, but then the U.S. started pulling away, mostly thanks to Kevin Durant, who just started hitting these bombs from everywhere. He led the way with 17 points in the third. I mean, this guy was shooting from Guam and getting it in. In the end, the U.S. ran away with a 126-97 victory. Next up, the quarterfinals against Australia. That's tomorrow.

SAMBOLIN: Somebody was saying yesterday that they're no fun to watch, because they dominate all the time. So there you have it.

BERMAN: I actually think there's something to that.

SAMBOLIN: Really?

BERMAN: I do. I think they're too good. They're too much better than most other teams. I find myself wanting the other teams to at least be competitive.

SAMBOLIN: Yesterday there was a little competition for you, OK?

BERMAN: For a few minutes.

SAMBOLIN: And check out the overall medal standings. China has the most medals, total that is 64, and the most golds, 31. Team USA, close behind -- 63 overall medals, 29 are gold. Russia has 42 medals total. Great Britain has 40.

BERMAN: And we have a big day for gymnastics ahead. Medals will be up for grabs in the men's parallel bars and horizontal bar finals. And on the women's side, the floor exercise finals. Gabby Douglas does go for her third gold in the final event of the games. Gabby will be competing in the balance beam.

SAMBOLIN: And ahead on EARLY START, war zone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Amateur video of bombs raining down on a Syrian city. The situation described as a state of panic. Our Ben Wedeman is live inside Syria, we are going to talk to him, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It's about 13 minutes after the hour. We're glad you are here. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

So we're learning more this morning about a key defection as more people die in Syria this morning. The prime minister of Syria declaring his allegiance to the rebels after showing up in Jordan. He is the highest-ranking official to date to abandon President Bashar al-Assad.

Meantime, the bloodshed continues. The opposition reports at least 11 more deaths, and that is just this morning, on top of 161 deaths in fighting across the country yesterday. Watch this amateur video shot inside Homs, the nation's third most populated city, shows bombs being dropped on the city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of this particular video. Meanwhile, fighting over the country's biggest city, Aleppo, is raging, with rebels maintaining their control over a number of areas inside the city. CNN international correspondent Ben Wedeman has made his way into Aleppo, and he joins us now on the phone. Ben, what can you tell us? What are you seeing? Because what we see in images is complete and utter crisis.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely a crisis here. We spent a very sleepless night inside the city in one of the areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army. Throughout the night, our building was shaken by multiple explosions, and (inaudible) basically every 10 minutes or so, we heard large blasts, some even quite close.

Early in the morning, we went out and we went into a bakery where there were about 100 people, men, women and children were lined up. Some of them have been waiting an hour and a half, and their situation was a very dire one. Most of them don't even have any cooking gas. Some of them have to cook their food over firewood. Many of the children seem to be somewhat traumatized by the fighting that's been going on around them. One man told me that they had left the city and come back in the hopes that things were calming down, but then we saw on the streets of the rebel-controlled parts of Aleppo that people are starting to pack up and leave again. There's real concern that the Syrian army is massing forces on the outskirts of Aleppo in preparation for an attempt to take the city (inaudible). It definitely will be a bloodbath here.

SAMBOLIN: So, Ben, is there no clear sign of humanitarian support or efforts in that area?

WEDEMAN: None whatsoever coming from outside. Clearly, those Syrians who have been more fortunate have been (inaudible) providing free showers for the bakeries, and therefore, the food, the bread is given to the people for free. But as for the humanitarian aid, international aid organizations, we have seen nothing on the ground here. People very much feel that they've been left to their own devices. It's a very (inaudible) because of the suffering, the lack of food, the generally difficult circumstances. The fighters saying that the help they were hoping that they would get in terms of ammunition and (inaudible) just hasn't arrived. There's desperation among fighters and civilians.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Ben Wedeman live in Aleppo for us, please be safe.

BERMAN: It's now 16 minutes after the hour. We want to get you up to date on this morning's top stories. This morning, we're finding out more about Wade Michael Page's ties to white supremacists. The man identified as the gunman in Sunday's Sikh temple massacre once posted this photo of himself in front of a swastika on Facebook. That picture has since been removed. Page was also the front man for a white power rock band called End Apathy. Neo-Nazi websites promoted this band.

SAMBOLIN: A raging fire at an oil refinery in Northern California burned right through the night. A huge black cloud of smoke has been flowing from the Chevron facility in Richmond. Since that fire started just after 6:00 p.m., health officials are warning people to stay indoors or to just leave the area.

BERMAN: So maybe this show should be called stupid criminals. Police say two thieves that robbed a Pennsylvania pizza shop taped their own crime on a cell phone, and they told the victims it's all part of a new reality TV show called, "We Just Got Robbed." A worker at the shop says he thought the whole thing was a prank.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUSTIN HARNISH, VICTIM: I thought it was a joke at first. I just was like, really? OK, ha, ha, ha, good joke, now you can let get me go. And it got real real -- it got real, real, real quick. The guy who was filming came up to me and grabbed me by the throat and I was like, yes, there's my wallet, you can have whatever is in there, it's 20 bucks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The show may have been big, but the consequences are going to be really real. Both suspects were arrested and charged with robbery, harassment and disorderly conduct. So that's the end of this show.

SAMBOLIN: Dumb dumb dumb dumb.

All right. So this morning we're getting the first color pictures from the Mars rover Curiosity. Today is the first full day on the Red Planet after its spectacular landing, labeled seven minutes of terror. Black-and-white photos beamed back earlier show one of the vehicle's wheels on the ground. Another photo shows Mount Sharp that is off in the distance. The 3.5-mile high mountain is Curiosity's eventual destination. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are expecting to receive weather data a little later this morning.

BERMAN: That's so cool.

SAMBOLIN: It is.

BERMAN: Cloudy with a chance of you know, of dust.

It's about 6:18 in the morning, and we're getting an early read on the local news making national headlines. We have some sports news for people sleeping in San Diego, this from the "North County Times." Guess what? The Padres were sold overnight, and it is to a familiar baseball family, a group led by the O'Malley family has purchased the Padres for the relative bargain price of $800 million. You know, the O'Malley family, of course, famous for helping move the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles way back in the '50s, something that makes the O'Malleys still rather unpopular in Brooklyn. But if they're going to go to San Diego and spend money, I bet they are plenty popular there.

SAMBOLIN: Safe for the family too, also. All right.

A Detroit boy spent his summer vacation selling snacks to save his city. I love this little boy. 9-year-old Joshua Smith has raised more than $3,000. He is selling lemonade, fruit punch, water and popcorn. He is giving all of the money to the City Council to help Detroit out of a financial crisis. A 9-year-old boy. Did you hear me? All right. So Smith is set to be honored by the city today. He's also giving the money that he raised to the City Council today. And listen to what he got. He got a $2,000 scholarship from a community group, and he got a surprise visit from the University of Michigan basketball team. Detroit is facing a $200 million budget deficit, so he's got a little bit of work to do, but how incredible, right, that he took matters into his own hands so that he can try to help save his city.

BERMAN: I hope he sells a lot of lemonade.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, he has. People keep on coming by. He's raised so much money. I think to date by Friday, Joshua had made $3,392.77.

BERMAN: All right. Go josh. We're pulling for you.

SAMBOLIN: Yeah.

BERMAN: And for an expanded look at all of our top stories, you can head to our blog, CNN.com/earlystart.

SAMBOLIN: Would you pay to have your bags delivered to your home from the airport? Perhaps, maybe. American Airlines thinks so. Alison Kosik has all of the details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: 24 minutes past the hour, we're minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are trading higher after some solid gains yesterday.

BERMAN: Alison Kosik is in for Christine Romans this morning. And Alison, I guess we have some more good news on the housing market.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So I know that if you own a home or an apartment, we love to hate our closing costs, but some good news, -- the average costs of closing on a mortgage fell about 7.4 percent over the past year. You put it in dollars and cents, so let's say at the end of June you took out a $200,000 mortgage, you put 20 percent down. Paid about $3,700 as a closing costs -- it's actually $300 less than a year earlier. So this includes all those lovely fees, the costs of doing credit checks, the fees for the title searches, and insurance.

OK, so why is this happening? Well, there are new regulations, so lenders are required to actually be more accurate when they estimate these closing costs for borrowers. So these were put in place a couple of years ago, where they are required to give what's called a good-faith estimate of fees, so that's within 10 percent of the actual amount that the buyer will pay.

So I mean, listen, the good news is that lenders are doing a better job of estimating what the costs will be. But you know, makes you wonder, hmm, OK, now that they're required to be within 10 percent, what were they doing before? Suddenly a light bulb came on and they were able to estimate better? That's a little frustrating. So what, were we ripped off before?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. The answer to that would be yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KOSIK: OK, that's good to know.

SAMBOLIN: All right, so American Airlines delivering your luggage.

KOSIK: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: It's a new option.

KOSIK: I don't know, you either have to be really wealthy or really lazy. So what American Airlines --

(CROSSTALK)

KOSIK: That's what I'm thinking. So starting this week, what you can do is pay for this service. You can either do it when you're booking your flight or two hours before you board the flight. Check out the fees. If you want your bags delivered to you to your home, your office, wherever, this is convenience at top dollar if you ask me. Or you know, if you have -- if you are running to a meeting or something and you can't wait at the baggage carousel, you can just get your bags shipped to you, and it would take about one to four hours, depending on -- you know, for 40 miles away or less. If your address is more than 40, it's going to cost $1 more for every extra mile. So you're paying for this convenience, I mean, come on, how lazy do you have to be to not want to go --

SAMBOLIN: OK, I have another argument here. If you have children, right? And you have got a lot of bags and you've got the kids and you've got the strollers, well, you just send your luggage and you don't have to worry about it.

KOSIK: But you got to have a lot of money. Look, I mean, do you see these prices here?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I hear you, I hear you, but I don't know, for the convenience--

BERMAN: So if you're rich, lazy, and you have a lot of children.

KOSIK: You know what this is, American is going to rake it in if it does well, and other airlines could catch on if this is successful. Other airlines will do this as well.

SAMBOLIN: I predict this is going to be successful, Alison.

KOSIK: We shall see.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

KOSIK: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. It is 26 after the hour, and still to come on EARLY START -- if you rebuild it, they will come. A diner destroyed by a devastating tornado gets a new look and a new name.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (voice-over): The Sikh temple shooter was a White power guitarist. New information on the gunman who murdered six people over the weekend.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Hurricane warning, Mexico and Belize bracing for Ernesto as the tropical storm churns, and it heads towards the Gulf.

BERMAN: And a former vice president, Dick Cheney, softens his stance on Sarah Palin. The GOP peace offering and why Palin might not accept.

(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 31 minutes past the hour.

Police in Wisconsin, this morning, still do not have a motive in the deadly Sikh temple shooting that left six people dead. The FBI and police are looking into the suspect, Wade Michael Page's, past for clues into what set him off. This photo of Page in front of a swastika is from a Facebook page that has been taken down.

Page also was the front man of a White power band that was featured on neo-Nazi websites. David Mattingly is live in Oak Creek, Wisconsin with more on who exactly Wade Michael Page was and what officials actually knew about him and the motive is something that everybody wants answered as well.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Zoraida. In fact, it tells us a lot when the FBI comes out publicly and says they're looking at this as a possible case of domestic terrorism. It implies that Wade Page's beliefs as a white supremacist might have been what pushed him to launch this deadly attack on a Sikh temple here outside of Milwaukee.

But what we're looking at now is going back, looking into his background. We're finding almost 20 years ago he was talking to friends in the army when he was enlisted in the U.S. army, talking about his fears of a coming race war. And we're also finding out that the southern poverty law center has been tracking him for years for his involvement in so-called White power rock bands.

Also, recently talking to neighbors who knew him both when he was a living recently with a girlfriend and later on his own here in the Milwaukee area, they didn't know about his beliefs. In fact, they know very little about him at all. But their limited contact with him says that they didn't have a very good impression of him, either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BROWN, NEIGHBOR: Like a recluse, almost. He didn't talk to us at all. I'd say hi, and he would go ugh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was nice, and then, when he moved in she just changed. It's you could tell he was running the show. He -- she wasn't as friendly any more. She wasn't -- it was kind of like she wasn't allowed to like talk to anybody any more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: About the only thing clear in this investigation right now is the history of the gun that Wade Page used in his rampage. It was purchased illegally here in the Milwaukee area. There's a 24-hour waiting period or 48-hour waiting period which he abided by, all purchased legally, that 9-millimeter handgun is what he used to kill six people and wound three others who are still in the hospital right now -- Zoraida. SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about the victims here. There are still many hospital recovering this morning, including Lieutenant Brian Murphy, we understand, shot eight or nine times. Do you know anything about their conditions?

MATTINGLY: At the last press conference they had yesterday evening, the doctors came out talking so much about the senseless tragedy that occurred here and telling us all that the three who are still in the hospital are still listed in critical condition. All of them undergoing some of them, in some cases, multiple surgeries.

But again, as of yesterday, they're all listed in critical condition and everyone hoping today that we hear some kind of improvement in their cases.

SAMBOLIN: We certainly hope so. David Mattingly live for us. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: President Obama says the Sikh temple massacre has left him heartbroken. And in the coming days and weeks, he wants to meet with law enforcement community and religious leaders and elected officials at every level to come up with ways to reduce violence in America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be important for us to reaffirm once again that in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another. And we respect one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: At 6:30 eastern, we'll examine the life of suspected Sikh temple gunman, Wade Page when we're joined by Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. His civil rights organization has been tracking Page for 12 years.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-five minutes past the hour. The gloves are off in the Reid/Romney feud. The Senate majority leader refusing to back down from his unsubstantiated claim that Mitt Romney hasn't paid taxes in 10 years. Reid insisted information comes from a credible source at Romney's old firm, Bain Capital, but he won't say who the source is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This whole controversy would end very quickly if he would release his income tax returns like everybody else has done that's running for president.

(INAUDIBLE)

REID: I've answered the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Republicans aren't buying Reid's claims about a source at Bain Capital. They believe White House senior adviser, David Axelrod, is behind the attack on Romney. RNC spokesman, Sean Spicer, saying, quote, "You've got to wonder if the so-called source is Axelrod, himself. Hours after meeting with Axelrod, Reid comes out and makes baseless accusations."

Axelrod firing back saying, quote, "Instead of pointing fingers in every direction, they can put the whole matter to rest by simply observing the standard George Romney and a generation of candidates have set by releasing the returns."

BERMAN: That hardly settles the case --

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Firefighters in Oklahoma reporting some progress in battling stubborn wildfires this morning. A fire in the town of Cushing has been contained. More than dozen fires throughout the state have scorched nearly 100,000 acres now. One woman has died, and more than 120 homes have been destroyed. Firefighters have been hampered by triple-digit temperatures, drought, conditions, and high winds.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. All right. So, let's get the latest on the condition there from Karen Maginnis. She's in for Rob Marciano. Good morning.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And good morning, Zoraida and John. Yes. We are watching this Cushing fire, because it is self- described as the pipeline crossroads of the world. It situated just to the northeast of Oklahoma City, and it had consumed about 5,000 acres before firefighters really got a handle on it.

But a number of fires raging across the state of Oklahoma where it has been deadly dry with triple-digit temperatures. Take a look at this mailbox. This coming from our iReporter, Cammy Himmerman. And she said she was looking outside of her window and saw this mailbox obviously made of plastique, and it was bending over due to the excessive heat that they've seen there.

Well, across Oklahoma, we are expecting these temperatures once again to be right around that 100-degree range, but also, the air quality is extremely bad due to all the smoke that is in the area, and they're saying some of those roadways are very dangerous to be traveling on, because the smoke and the visibility is so thick.

They only take a look across the Caribbean, and this is tropical storm Ernesto but could become a hurricane right before making landfall, we think, later on today, during the evening or overnight hours, moves across the Yucatan Peninsula, then into the southern bay of Campeche before making its way towards interior sections of Mexico. But in its wake, some sections of the Yucatan and into Belize could see anywhere between six and 12 inches of rainfall. We could see some mud or landslides across this region. Hot temperatures still prevail across the south central United States. Even in the northwest, it's still going to be fairly warm.

A few scattered storms, very welcomed across the southeast today, because it has been extraordinarily dry. Now back to you -- Zoraida, John.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much.

It is 38 minutes past the hour. A sure sign of healing in the small Indiana town that was devastated by a deadly tornado. Take a look at this. One of the most memorable images from the twister in Henryville last March was the sight of the school bus that had been slammed into Budroe's Cafe.

No one was injured when the category 4 twister tossed the evacuated bus into the empty diner. Five months later, the crowds came out to celebrate the reopening of the diner. That's been renamed by owner, Sherman Sykes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, it was Budroe's bus stop, because the bus pulled in here and stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Making light of that moment, right? And the terrifying moments before the tornado struck, Sherman had gotten all his workers and his customers to the safety of the basement. Quick thinking there.

BERMAN: We're glad they're up and (INAUDIBLE).

It is 39 minutes after the hour. And overnight, the Obama campaign may have come up with a new catch phrase. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney Hood

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, what exactly is the president talking about? We'll have more on that and how the Romney camp fired back coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: How about that music? Does that get you up this morning? Good morning to you, Washington, D.C., a little dark right now, 77 degrees. Later, it's going to be 91 degrees and cloudy. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us. It is 43 minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Techno Washington, D.C.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: All right. You know, this campaign is nowhere near Sherwood Forest, but Robin Hood somehow injected himself into this campaign. President Obama won't have to travel far to pick up his cash today. He's scheduled to appear this afternoon at back-to-back roundtable fundraisers at the exclusive W Hotel.

That is very close to the White House. About 20 supporters will be participating in the first campaign, $40,000 a pop for the privilege. And at a campaign stop in Connecticut last night, the president rolled out this new attack on his rival. Listen to what he said about Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: He asked the middle class to pay more in taxes than he could give mother $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney hood.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: They are nowhere near Sherwood Forest, but the president claims Romney's tax plan would cost middle class families up to $2,000 in additional taxes every year. Romney's camp fired back saying President Obama recently said the biggest regret of his first term was not telling better stories.

He's trying to make up for it now, but his stories just aren't true, there's only candidate in this race that's going to raise taxes on the American people and that is Barack Obama. That is, again, according to the Romney campaign. Romney is spending the day on the president's home turf today.

He's going to be in Chicago pulling in about $2 million in contributions there at three fundraisers in the Windy City. This weekend, Mitt Romney kicks off a bus tour in crucial swing states, Virginia, before heading South to North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio next week.

And if people with him , that's causing a stir, and he's being joined on the trail by some veepstakes contenders, Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida, Ohio's Rob Portman, and Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell. You know, a lot of people expect in to announce his running mate soon, and there's some speculation that it could happen on this trip. Other people think maybe sometime next week.

SAMBOLIN: All right -- the Romney Hood, I think. Do you think it will stick? BERMAN: The president was fired up when he said it last night, and I have to say he looked awfully pleased with himself when he said it.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: So, it looks like he's going to enjoy saying it again. So, I'm going with yes, we'll hear it again soon.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It is 46 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date on this morning's top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): New information about Wade Michael Page's ties to White supremacist. The suspected gunman in Sunday's Sikh temple massacre once posted this photo of himself in front of a swastika on Facebook. That picture has since been removed.

Page was also the front man for a white power rock band called End Apathy. Their music was promoted on neo-Nazi website.

BERMAN (voice-over): Floodwaters continue to rise this morning in the Philippines. Waste deep water can be found in several sections of the capital city of Manila. A dam near Quezon City began overflowing last night, sending more water toward low-lying areas. Weeks of torrential rains have left at least 50 people dead there so far.

SAMBOLIN: Federal prosecutors say three booth attendants at a Smithsonian annex parking garage stole at least $400,000 in parking fees. This was over three years. They say the attendants, two women and one man, were caught on video unplugging electronic vehicle counters, which let them steal as much as $4,000 in a single day.

The FBI and Smithsonian security arrested them over the weekend as they left work.

BERMAN: The reputed mob boss who was caught after 16 years on the run will take the stand at his upcoming trial. James Whitey Bolger, he's the inspiration behind Jack Nicholson's character in "The Departed," he allegedly ran the notorious Winter Hill Gang before he disappeared. You know, I have to say, he's probably more colorful and more notorious than Jack Nicholson's character.

Bolger's lawyer saying he'll testify so the truth can come out. This will be a circus. Bolger is facing faces 19 murder charges, plus extortion, money laundering, and drug dealing accusation. This is going to be a giant deal up in Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (on-camera): It is 47 minutes after the hour right now. And ahead on EARLY START, the first female NFL official set to take the field this week. Is the NFL ready for this?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It's just a few minutes before the hour. John Berman here along with Zoraida Sambolin, and we're taking a look at what is trending on the internet this morning.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): All right. So, this Mohawk guy speaks. Look at this, did you watch this? So, apparently, this guy became an internet sensation. This was during the Mars rover, here we go, mission control with Mohawk during Mars "Curiosity" landing. That's what it is. His name is Bobak Ferdowsi?

BERMAN: Ferdowsi.

SAMBOLIN: Ferdowsi. So, he's the Mohawk guy, and he gained 20,000 Twitter followers overnight and now has his own Tumblr page that is dedicated to him. Oh, there he is. You know what, I'm looking at the guy on the left, and he's the guy on the right. And, he changes his hairstyle, he says, for every mission.

John Zarrella tracked him down and talked to him. He's 32 years old. He's originally from the bay area. He earned his bachelor's degree in aeronautical and astronomical -- or astronautical engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and he went to M.I.T. and got his masters degree in the same subject. Do we have a sound bite from him?

BERMAN: Let's listen to Bobak.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF BOBAK FERDOWSI, MOHAWK GUY: Once we had landed and I looked at my phone for real, actually. All of a sudden, I see these, you know, links, pictures of me on the internet. I'm like, you know, funny captions and whatever and I'm like, this morning I woke up and just kind of -- mind-blowing like you know kind of internet celebrity.

It's just something I like to do to celebrate each of the big moments in this project. I've done it, not just the Mohawk like different colors or shapes and patterns as part of my big events, and it's celebrating the team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: I did not notice him yesterday, and you said you did.

BERMAN: He was a huge deal on Twitter during the landing.

SAMBOLIN: No, but during it. Did you notice --

BERMAN: Yes. Everyone on Twitter is saying look at the guy with the Mohawk. loOk at the guy with the Mohawk.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

BERMAN: So, I'm glad we heard the Mohawk guy.

All right. The NFL, some big news in the NFL, welcoming its first woman to the field in the way of officiating. Shannon Eastin will be on the sideline's line judge in the Chargers-Packers game, I believe, this Thursday. She has officiated high school/college games before. The reason she's being used now is interesting.

There's a work stoppage between the refs and the NFL right now. So, they're bringing in some replacement refs. She is one of them. She will be the first female to work on an officiating crew. Some past refs are grumbling not really so much, because she's a woman, but because they don't like the idea of replacements coming in to ref these games.

The NFL says they wanted to have a woman on the field officiating for a long time. Honestly, any reason why not. The NBA is in the best ball games.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. They reached out to her, and so far, no comment from her. I'd love to hear from her, though.

BERMAN: I'm sure she'll do a good job.

SAMBOLIN: Tough group that she's handling there.

All right. So, this little girl is being called the cutest NFL fan ever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Hi, Sam.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Hi, Sam.

SAM OCHO, NFL PLAYER: What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Cameron.

OCHO: Cameron, I'm Sam. Good to meet you. There you go, Cameron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much. Are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: I love you Sam.

OCHO: I love you too, Cameron.

(LAUGHTER) OCHO: You just made my day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Mommy did not ask her to say that. She just turns into Sam Ocho's eyes, looks at him and says, I love you.

BERMAN: That doesn't make you want to (INAUDIBLE)

SAMBOLIN: That's so sweet. And he stayed and he signed autographs for everybody, but you know, she made his day as well. Isn't that sweet? Love that. Little Cameron, four years old, by the way.

BERMAN: It is five minutes before the hour right now. We're going to have this morning's top stories straight ahead, including the man behind the massacre at that Sikh temple in Wisconsin. We will hear from the killer's mother. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (voice-over): A history of hate, troubling revelations about the Sikh temple shooter's past.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Burned to the ground, a Missouri mosque that had been targeted by an arsonist before.

BERMAN: Intercepted, amateur video captures a small plane's encounter with fighter jets that were scrambled to protect the president. Really, really interesting video.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (on-camera): Good morning, everyone, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Really, really scary moments probably for that pilot, right?

BERMAN: You never see that. You never see this.