Return to Transcripts main page


Arizona Gunman Gets Life Sentence; No Death Penalty For Arizona Shooter; Motive For A Massacre; Armed At The Movies; NYPD Subpoenas Twitter Over User Threat; Tropical Storm Ernesto; "Romney Hood" Versus "Obamaloney"; USA Women Continue Domination; American Silver And Gold; Loughner Pleads Guilty to 19 Charges; Ernesto Downgraded After Slamming Mexico; Falling Out of Favor?

Aired August 8, 2012 - 06:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Poppy Harlow in for John Berman.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy you're with us this morning. It is 6:00 a.m. here in the east so let's get started.

Up first, the beginning of closure for the scarred community of Tucson, Arizona, Jared Loughner now facing a lifetime in prison after pleading guilty to a shooting that killed six people and almost killed a former member of Congress, Gabrille Giffords.

Under the plea deal, Loughner will be sentenced to life imprison with no parole, but will avoid the death penalty. The U.S. attorney prosecuting this case says Loughner's mental state was a big factor in this decision.


JOHN LEONARDO, U.S. ATTORNEY: The doctors who have treated and observed Mr. Loughner since the shooting agree that he suffered from a severe mental illness. That is severe schizophrenia at the time of the shooting and before the shooting. The fragility of his continued competency to stand trial was taken into account.


SAMBOLIN: Kyung Lah is live in Tucson this morning. And Kyung, you were in the courtroom yesterday. We're used to seeing Loughner like we just did in a photo now. Did he look different to you yesterday?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very, very different, Zoraida. When he walked in, he walked with a slouch. He had more of his hair grown in and when he looked at the public and at his family, some of the victims and reporters, he had an unusual look on his face, almost leak a bit of a sneer.

But he was very calm in demeanor. This is different than what the public has seen before, the people sitting in court. In previous appearances and his very first appearance he looked down and smiled as charges were read against him.

And another time he appeared in court, he had a loud outburst and had to be subdued by the guards. This time he was much more calm. He sat very still, listening intently to the judge.

He was able to talk to his lawyer. He was able to respond to the judge's question and he did say 19 times very clearly I plead guilty -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And the victims here, a lot of them were present, it must have been a very difficult day for them as well. Do you have something on their reaction?

LAH: You know, within the courtroom, inside the courtroom, you can definitely feel this very sombre, sad tone from the victims. You could hear them react as the names of the various victims were called by the judge.

And right after the hearing, what we heard from them again and again is that, sure, they would have liked another outcome, but what they wanted most of all, was to avoid a long and painful trial. Here's what one of them told us.


SUZI HILEMAN, SHOOTING VICTIM: This was the system doing its best. It's not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is one that we can't have, what we want is not available to us.


LAH: What she wanted really is to try to turn back the hands of time and it is something that she cannot do. That is the woman who brought Christina Taylor Green to the Congress on your corner event to meet Representative Giffords.

Green just 9 years old at that time, the very youngest of the six people who killed that day, 18 months ago. We did also get a statement from Representative Giffords through her husband, Mark Kelly, and here what he said.

He writes, quote, "Gabby and I are satisfied with the plea agreement, avoiding a trial will allow us and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives." -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It's really tough to make sense out of senseless acts. Kyung Lah live for us. Thank you very much.

Coming up at 6:30 Eastern, we'll talk to Retired Army Colonel Big Badger, he helped disarm and bring down Loughner even after he took a bullet.

HARLOW: Well, we may never know what motivated Wade Michael Page to kill six innocent people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee. FBI teams have gathered some evidence from Page's home. But Oak Creek's police chief says this case is unusual because mass murderers usually leave behind letters or some sort of obvious clue about their plans. Page did not.


CHIEF JOHN EDWARDS, OAK CREEK, WISCONSIN POLICE DEPARTMENT: You look for the obvious, you know, somebody said, he said this, he posted that, he did that. We're not finding anything like that.

We may ends up with a lot of facts of what he's involved with and who he may be associated with. But we may never know that motive because he died and that motive died with him.


HARLOW: Meanwhile, Milwaukee police have arrested Page's former girlfriend on a gun charge. Officers found an unauthorized weapon in the home Misty Cook once shared with the Sikh temple shooter.

The Anti-Defamation League reports that the 31-year-old waitress shared Page's interest in the white power movement and was also active in at least two neo-Nazi organizations.

SAMBOLIN: Movie viewers in Ohio getting a scare when a man is arrested with a loaded gun and three knives at a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Police in West Lake arrested this man, 37-year-old Scott Smith on Saturday. His lawyer claims he just wanted to protect himself if a gunman entered the theatre like what happened in Colorado last month. Investigators say he did not have a concealed carry permit for that weapon.

HARLOW: Well, New York police have slapped Twitter with a subpoena. Officers are trying to get information about a Twitter user they say threatened to attack a Broadway theatre.

The user claimed to be planning an attack on Mike Tyson's one man show, somewhat similar to the movie theatre attack in Aurora, Colorado. Twitter initially had refused to give up the user's information to authorities.

SAMBOLIN: New overnight, Ernesto has been downgraded now to a tropical storm. This after the storm slammed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a hurricane. It sent tourists on the run.

Hurricane Ernesto came ashore packing winds of 85 miles per hour and a lot of rain, and could still make a second landfall. Alexandra Steele joins us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. With Ernesto's latest whereabouts, what can you tell us?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: All right, let me show you where it is. This is Mexico. No U.S. impacts with this. Again, now a tropical storm downgraded from a hurricane. Maximum sustained winds now at 70 miles per hour. Take a look. This is the center of circulation, it did make landfall last night about 11:00, but look how small and tight it is. Again, 70-mile-per-hour maximum sustained winds, but only about 30 to 35 miles out from the center so a very small, tight center.

All right, here is its track. Again, Yucatan Peninsula on land, of course, land weakens these things. It needs the warm water to really spew it and strengthen it. So don't count Ernesto out.

Expectation is for tomorrow it to move into the very warm Bay of Campeche, re-strengthen as a hurricane and make its second landfall in Mexico as a hurricane Thursday into Friday.

The biggest threat with this, especially in the mountainous area, could see a foot of rain, storm surge as well and of course, the strong winds we'll see. But again, a pretty small narrow quadrant of concern, predominantly a Mexico affair, no U.S. impacts at all with this. Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: OK, thank you, Alexandra.

HARLOW: Well, two presidential candidates playing can you top this, Mitt Romney, President Obama, coining catchy phrases to take each other down.

It started yesterday when the president attacked Mitt Romney's tax plan. It didn't take long for the GOP challenger to bite back, the whole state of presidential politics in 2012.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney Hood.

ROMNEY: If I were coin a term, it would be Obamaloney.


HARLOW: We'll see if the name calming continues today. The president travels to Colorado for a two-day four-stop visit in that battleground state. And Romney holds a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa later this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It is a scoring controversy in women's gymnastics involving America's Aly Raisman.

Plus a really big scare in weightlifting. The reigning Olympic champ drops 432 pounds right on his neck. The video and all highlights from London coming up next.


HARLOW: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 11 minutes after the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. The USA women's gymnastics finishing on a high note in London yesterday. Aly Raisman winning gold in the floor exercise, taking home bronze on the beam, but not without a little bit of drama surrounding it.

Fellow American and all-around champ Gabby Douglas didn't fair as well. She took a fall on the beam to finish seventh.

Amanda Davies live in our Olympic Bureau. I want to start with Raisman, she walks away with the coveted prize, right, but what was the drama all about?

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Zoraida. Yes, she likes to keep everybody on her toes, doesn't she? Aly Raisman for the second time in this Olympics, she went to a tie breaker and the first time in the all around final.

She lost out on a medal. The ruling went against this time on the beam she was tied. She appealed the difficulty scoring on her beam and in the end the judges ruled in her favor and gave her a higher difficulty rating so she came away with the bronze medal on the beam.

But perhaps more importantly, she also came away with the gold medal on the floor. She's now tied with Gabby Douglas in terms of gold medals won at these games.

The U.S. captain pretty much missed out on the headlines because of everything else surrounding Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas, but this was her moment at the Greenwich arena.

Gabby as you said didn't put in a good performance at all. She has been talking about how many distractions had been put in her way in the last few days since she won that coveted individual title and then Jordyn Wieber, we've got to give a note to her as well because she limped out at the Greenwich arena with her foot in a fixed cast.

Some suggestion that she's aggravated an existing stress fracture so not a good end to the games to her either.

SAMBOLIN: All right, but a big day on track for the Americans including a photo finish in the women's 100-meter hurdles final. Tell us about that.

DAVIES: Yes, it was really tense finish last night. A little bit unfair to the athletes on the track because those watching on television could clearly see that Australia's Sally Pearson had taken the title in the 100-meter hurdles.

But for the athletes on the track, it was a very nervous watch and wait with the rain falling down and both herself and the defending champion from America, left staring at the screen to see who had taken the title.

In the end, it was Sally Pearson, much to her delight. A whole lot of Australia had been watching her with pressure on her. Lolo Jones not so, she walked off the track without congratulating anybody else.

But then of course, the big night for America this evening, the 200 meters potentially could go for a 1-2-3. Allyson Felix and Jeter, I think Jamaica may have something to say about it.

SAMBOLIN: I know, we'll wait and see. All right, I want to talk about this last interesting bid here. A Nigerian runner was kicked out of the Olympics and then reinstated and wins the men's 1,500 meters. And I want to read, when they kicked him out, they said they're kicking him for failure to compete honestly with bona fide effort.

What happened?

DAVIES: Yes, a man who was allegedly injured 24 hours previously was something of a Lazarus-like rebirth for the Algerian athlete Taoufik Makhloufi. Basically, he had been in the 800 meters heat. He wanted to pull out, but a bit of paperwork hadn't been put in in time. So he was made to compete, got 200 meters and then just pretty much decided to walk off.

So he was disqualified for not giving his best. As it was, he was reinstated, competed in the 150 meters and blew the rest of the field away and gone home with gold and leaving everybody else wondering what on earth happened. They really didn't give him a race at all.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Amanda Davies, live in London for us, thank you very much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: A scary moment to tell you about at the games. 2008 weightlifting medalist Matthias Steiner drops a 432- pound barbell on his neck. That's happened yesterday. Amazingly, he was able to get up on his own, walk away.

He, of course, had to withdraw. He was taken to the hospital for x-rays.

So, no word yet on any long lasting injuries, but very good he was able to walk away. Very hard to watch as well.

SAMBOLIN: Let's hope that those muscles are nice and strong --

HARLOW: If anyone can, in his neck.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, he can.

All right. Checking the medal count, shall we?

China has the most medals at 73. Also the most gold at 34, way too many, 34.

Team USA has 70 total medals, 30 of them are gold.

And Great Britain and Russia each have 48 total medals.

In today's events, historic all-American match for women's beach volleyball gold. And Team USA's men's basketball team takes on Australia in the knockout phase of the games. And also the men's volleyball quarterfinals. And track and field, a likely thriller, 200 meter final.

You heard Amanda Davies talking about it.

HARLOW: We can never stay up late enough to watch.

All right. It's 17 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date on this morning's top stories.

First off, Tucson massacre gunman Jared Lee Loughner pleading guilty to 19 criminal charges to avoid the death penalty. He also waived his right to use an insanity defense. He'll be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole in November. Loughner killed six people and wounded 13 others, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when he open fire outside a Tucson supermarket in January of last year.

Well, the East Coast of China is being hammered by the third typhoon in less than a week. The typhoon Haikui came ashore with winds over 100 miles an hour and much heavy rain. Well, the storm is losing strength as it moves inland. It is capable of dumping another six to 10 inches of rain on the already waterlogged region.

SAMBOLIN: If you purchased Reebok EasyTone or RunTone sneakers, you may have a check in the mail. Today, customers are receiving refunds as part of a federal settlement over claims of deceptive advertising. Reebok claims the shoes were better than others at strengthening muscles. It's now coughing off $25 million and sending out over 300,000 checks.

To get a refund, customers must have filed their claim by the April deadline.

SAMBOLIN: I love this story. I'm so glad I get to tell it to you.

A new poll has chosen Toad Suck, Arkansas, as having the most unfortunate town name in the entire country.


HARLOW: The poll was conducted by the genealogy site Toad Suck reportedly take its name from an old drinking spot for boaters on the Arkansas River where locals say they suck on the bottle until they swell up like toads.

Toad Suck beat out Climax, Georgia, Boring, Oregon, Hooker, Oklahoma, and Assawoman, Virginian, and that is to pronounce it, because the producers called the local diner so I wouldn't mispronounce the last one. So, thank you guys for doing that.

SAMBOLIN: Good job, Poppy.

HARLOW: Toad Suck.


All right. From curse words to passwords, a frightening hack attack on a supposedly savvy Internet user. What you need to know to protect yourself.


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

It is the hack attack heard all over the Internet. "Wired" magazine reporter Mat Honan wrote a very personal and scary story about how he was hacked late last week. And that story is the way his accounts were attacked and it could happen to anyone.

HARLOW: What we're seeing here, Zoraida, is what seems to be a loophole, a blind spot in what secures your account. Let's talk you through it.

OK. Here's what happened to Mat -- the hackers that attacked his account used his Amazon account to get into his Apple account and basically wreak total havoc from there. Let me get you to how it worked.

The hackers called Amazon, said they wanted to add a credit card number to Honan's account, pretending to be him. Amazon then asked for the name, the billing address, and the email address attached to the account. The hackers had that. They gave it over, that was it. That part was done.

Then they called Amazon back, a few minutes later, saying they have lost access to that account for verification, they just needed to provide a name, billing address and a credit card, any credit card associated with the account, which they had because they just added a new credit card number.


HARLOW: So, gaining access allowed them to add a new e-mail to the act and then change the password on Honan's account to Honan was locked out.

And this is where the Apple ID comes in. By getting access to the last four digits of the credit card on file on the Amazon account, the hackers could then get into Honan's Apple account. From there, they could get into iCloud account, his Gmail, Twitter, wipe out the data on the three devices.

Look at this tweet these hackers sent out from Honan's account. It read, "Clan Vv3 and Phobia hacked this twitter."

And CNN Money is reporting this morning that Amazon and Apple are working closely to close this loophole. But, you know, it seems to me from the story that there's nothing that he could have done, that the user could do differently. So the companies are working on this.

A lot of detail if you're interested in the CNN Money report.

SAMBOLIN: That's incredible how they can access all that information. I mean, for -- that's scary.

HARLOW: Yes. And it's all online and there's nothing really in this case you can do to protect yourself.

SAMBOLIN: We have a blue print of how it happened.


SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable. Thank you.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Ahead on EARLY START, a 4-foot-long alligator found in a backyard. You know where this is, it's Florida. No? No, it's not Florida. We're going to tell you where.


SAMBOLIN: Life behind bars for Jared Loughner, the man who murdered six people and almost killed a sitting congresswoman. We're talking to the man who took a bullet in the massacre taking the gunman down.

HARLOW: Bring the rain. Ernesto downgraded after it slams one of the hottest tourist spots on the continent as a hurricane.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were to coin a term, it would be Obamaloney.


SAMBOLIN: And the political pun keeps on coming. Romney Hood versus Obamaloney. What do voters think about all of the name- calling? New polls out this morning that we're going to share with you.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow, in for John Berman.

It is 29 minutes past the hour.

Well, he shot a sitting U.S. congresswoman and killed six people. Now, Jared Lee Loughner struck a plea deal.

Loughner changed his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty" on 19 different charges. The guilty spares Loughner on the death penalty. He will, though, be formally sentenced on November 15th to life in prison without parole.

Retired Army Colonel Bill Badger was one of the 13 people wounded that day. He didn't even realize he had been shot before he helped take down Loughner. He joins us now.

Sir, thank you so much for your bravery and for all of the people you helped that day. We appreciate it.

COL. BILL BADGER (RET), U.S. ARMY: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Can you give me a sense of how you're feeling right now? You know, there has been some outcry. Some people saying Loughner should have faced the death penalty. They feel they were cheated in this way.

What is your reaction? Do you agree or do you feel that this puts the whole episode behind you and you can now move on?

BADGER: It puts the whole episode behind me and we can now move on. I think we will start to heal now. And I've talked to all of the other victims and that's pretty well the consensus of opinion, that we're glad that we don't have to go to a trial. We think it would have been a long trial and so we feel a sense of relief right now and we're satisfied with the decision that was made for him to plead guilty and get life in prison.

HARLOW: You know, you have a rare perspective on this because you were there that day. You were shot. But at the same time, you grabbed Loughner and you held him tight on the ground. You saw him up close. You saw his face.

Can you give us a sense of the man you saw that day and the man we saw in court yesterday?

BADGER: Well, the day that he did the shooting when I took him down with the help of Roger, why, he had his stocking cap on and his glasses. His glasses fell off when he hit the sidewalk. And but he had this medium hair. His hair was not shaved like a lot of pictures you see of him now, and he just looked like a young man.

HARLOW: You know, I know, sir, that you spoke out after the Aurora, Colorado, shooting a few weeks ago. I was there covering it firsthand. I just came back from Wisconsin covering the temple shooting. A far too common these days the use of violence with hand guns.

And you said after the shooting in Colorado, "How in the world could something like this happen again and again?" You've been outspoken at the forefront part of the campaign among some mayors to put more restrictions on gun ownership in this country.

You've been disappointed with your senator there in Arizona, John McCain, on gun control issues. I want you to listen to what he had to say to CNN two days after the Aurora shooting.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think the strongest second amendment rights people would be glad to have a conversation, but to somehow leap to the conclusion that this was somehow caused by the fact that we don't have more gun control legislation, I don't think has been proved.


HARLOW: What's your reaction to that?

BADGER: Well, see, I disagree because when I look at the gun control we had that was let expire in 2004, I don't understand why, because President Clinton signed into law the Brady Act and also, he signed into law the law where you couldn't have assault weapons, like the Uzi and the 47s, and also you could only have magazines with 10 clips in it. Then in 2004, why, these expired.

And you know, the laws are all there. It just takes somebody, some of our Congress to go back and implement again the laws that we had during when Clinton was president.

HARLOW: Well, Colonel, we're so sorry for what you went through, what everyone went through that day. I'm glad for you, at least, that you feel like you can put this behind you now. Very brave actions that day that everyone is grateful for. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

BADGER: Well, I would like to say one more thing. We would really like to see the plan from President Obama or Governor Romney, on what they plan to do if they are elected president for the next term and -- as far as gun control. All we're getting so far is rhetoric. And we would like to see some action. And that's what we're working on right now.

HARLOW: I think it's absolutely going to be a topic and it's going continue to be a focus into the election. Thank you very much, sir. We appreciate it.

BADGER: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 34 minutes past the hour.

First, it was a tropical storm. Then it was a hurricane. Now, Ernesto has been downgraded again to a tropical storm. But it struck Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula with 85 mile an hour winds and very heavy rain.

An update now from Alexandra Steele. She's at the CNN Center in Atlanta. She's been tracking this one.

It's kind of like the lull again before the storm?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Well, something like that, right?

What we've seen, of course, of this entities, the tropical storm or hurricane, move on land, they lose their breathing, their fuel, which is the warm water, right? So, of course, we saw it downgraded to a tropical storm. Maximum sustained winds now at 70 miles per hour.

But take a look. Here's the center of circulation. Look how small and tight it's gotten. Maximum sustained winds only extend out about 30 to 35 miles per hour.

Of course, as expected, it did weaken as it has come on land. But Bay of Campeche is very warm, so the expectation tomorrow into tomorrow night, expected to re-strengthen and become a hurricane once again then make its second on land Mexico landfall.

This was only the first landfalling hurricane we've had in Atlantic basin. Of course, rainfall and the winds and storm surge, about two to four feet above tide level expected. So that is the biggest threat. The most severe aspect, though, pretty tight and small corridor.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Alexandra Steele, live at the CNN Center -- thank you very much.

HARLOW: A Louisiana school is putting a policy under review that forces girls to take a pregnancy test and pregnant students to be kicked off campus. The ACLU has challenged this policy as unconstitutional. The school is now asking its attorneys to make necessary revisions to ensure that the policy is in compliance with constitutional law.

SAMBOLIN: So, one man's pet is a neighborhood's pest and you're going to see why.

Animal control officers called out to remove a gator at the Cleveland man's backyard. It was being kept in a tub covered with a metal grate and bricks, the backyard of an apartment complex. The owner faces charges. The neighbors say he's already in jail in an unrelated incident.

So who was watching the pet?

HARLOW: That's absolutely my nightmare.

All right. New polls out and not great news for Mitt Romney. More voters falling out of favor with him. The brand new numbers, straight ahead.


HARLOW: A look this morning at our nation's capital. A cool 77 degrees, up to 93 and I'm sure pretty humid there in D.C. later.

Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 40 minutes after the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.

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

Mitt Romney's poll numbers are actually ticking up, but not the way the campaign would like that to go.

In a brand-new poll released overnight by the "Washington Post" and ABC News, Romney saw his unfavorability rating jump four digits since May from 45 percent to 49 percent. And the president, he remains steady with 53 percent, feeling favorable towards him and 43 with an unfavorable view.

CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser is joining us now.

And you have some more numbers for us I understand this morning on independents.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, let's talk about that, because they are the voters who could decide come November who wins the race for the White House.

So, take a look at this favorable/unfavorable from the same ABC/"Washington Post" national poll. And you can see the same story. The president has the advantage here has the higher favorable, lower unfavorable. Just the opposite for Mitt Romney, Zoraida.

And, you know, other polls have indicated the same thing and you've seen a lot of attack ads going after Mitt Romney over the last couple of months. Maybe it's having an effect.

National polls do indicate, though, that he has a slight advantage on the economy over the president. Of course, that's the top issue.

And talking about that, you know, some new state polls as well, because remember this is a battle for states and their electoral votes. Take a look at this from CBS News, "New York Times" and Quinnipiac University.

Virginia, a state the president won four years ago, a slight four-point advantage for him. Wisconsin, president won it by double digits four years ago, just a six-point lead here. And Colorado, a five-point advantage for Mitt Romney.

The president today in Colorado and guess who else is in Colorado? Senator Rob Portman of Ohio who a lot of people are thinking may be Mitt Romney's running mate, he's there to campaign for Mitt Romney. A lot of speculation there, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: There is so much speculation, trying to figure out who that name is going to be.

All right. I want to move onto this new commercial that Romney has. It's about welfare to work. And apparently, it is suggesting that the Obama administration is taking the work part out of welfare.

A lot of talk about this yesterday, true or false, Paul?

STEINHAUSER: You know what? PolitiFact is saying pants on fire. So, they are going with false.

Let's take a listen to the ad.


NARRATOR: President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work or wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.


STEINHAUSER: Interesting thing here. You know, Mitt Romney was talking about this on the campaign trail yesterday. And, Zoraida, I guess it's a push by Romney in his campaign to try to portrait president as a big government liberal who wants to get rid of those work requirements.

Obama campaign points out that guess what? This actually -- the memo that they released earlier last month gives states more flexibility and some Republican governors actually like this. And they point out that when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he was also in favor of such ideas and such plans.

This seems to be an attempt by Romney to maybe drive a wedge before President Obama and former President Clinton.

Former President Clinton very popular with Americans according to polls. Take a listen to his response on this ad just last night. He goes and says, "Governor Romney released an ad alleging that the Obama administration weakened the work requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. That is not true. We need bipartisan consensus to continue to help people move from welfare to work even during these hard times, not more misleading campaign ads."

A tough statement from President Clinton there. We're going to hear more about this today, I'm sure, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I'm sure of it. Paul Steinhauser -- live in Washington for us -- thank you.


HARLOW: It's 44 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to speed on the morning top stories:

Jared Lee Loughner will be back in court in three months after pleading guilty to 19 charges in order to avoid the death penalty. The Tucson shooter was also waived his right to pursue an insanity defense. He'll be sentenced to life in prison in November with no chance of parole.

Loughner killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords outside an Arizona supermarket, 19 months ago.

SAMBOLIN: And new this hour, details of a rush rescue to save an American in Antarctica. An Australian rescue team is on its way to Antarctica to help with a medical emergency at the U.S. base. It is helping to transport an expeditioner from the American Antarctic McMurdo station. The McMurdo station is the largest base on Antarctica and is currently negative 22 degrees there.

The medical team will head to Christchurch, New Zealand today then fly to the McMurdo Station when weather and light permit. When they update us, we're going to pass on all of the new information on to you.

HARLOW (voice-over): And a passenger on an Alaska airlines flight took this photo after she looked out the window to see what looked like a damaged area of the wing with a note written on it, "We know about this." The picture sparked the huge backlash on the web.

Maintenance actually wrote that note, and the airline says the plane was safe to fly, but they apologized. The spokeswoman saying a maintenance technician who wrote that was not approved to do so, and it was an approved trim repair to the wing. But they didn't follow policy by writing that.

SAMBOLIN: Good gracious. All right. Hillary Clinton showing off her moves yet again. Look at her go. The secretary of state mixing dancing with diplomacy during her 11-day African tour. Clinton danced at the dinner hosted by her South African counterpart, even did a little bumping and grinding there.


Whooh! That dance, party followed her busting a move on Sunday in Malawi after announcing the U.S plans to invest $46 million over the next three years to strengthen that nation's agriculture system.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): It's kind of nice to see her chill and relax a little bit. All right. John Berman and Brooke Baldwin are in for Soledad O'Brien this morning. And Brooke is joining us now with a look.

HARLOW (on-camera): She was getting down.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She was getting down. We like that. Good morning, ladies. How are you?

HARLOW: Good morning. Good.

BALDWIN: We got a lot coming up this morning here in the next two hours. Really, it's come to this. You've all been talking about it this morning, Romney Hood versus Obamaloney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's Romney Hood.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were to coin a term, it would be Obamaloney.


BALDWIN: All right. Question is, have we hit a new low in campaign tactics? Joining us live this morning here on "Starting Point," we have Andrea Saul, press secretary for the Romney campaign, also Stephanie Cutter, deputy manager for the Obama campaign. We've got both sides and folks there very well could be some fireworks.

Also this morning, we heard about this, this Louisiana high school under attack for a policy that forces girls to take pregnancy tests and bans them, yes, out of school if they're pregnant. Is it too much? That's the question we ask.

Also, we are vamping it up this morning, "True Blood" star, Deborah Ann Woll, stops by our studio live. Cannot wait for that.

Don't forget, you can watch CNN live on your computer, your mobile phone, if you're on the go, while you're at work, wherever you are, go to See you at the top of the hour.

HARLOW: It's show(ph) coming up.

BALDWIN: I know. Such a "true blood" fan. Excited.


HARLOW: All right. Ahead on EARLY START, an Olympic update. As track and field takes center stage, we're going to talk with the last American woman to win the gold in the long jump, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. What are America's chances today? That's straight ahead.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 51 minutes past the hour. A come from behind effort from American runner, Leo Manzano, to win a silver medal in the men's 1,500-meter final and more disappoint for Lolo Jones. And today, more medal races in several track and field events, including a shot for the American women to medal in long jump, an event that hasn't been won by an American since 1988.

And who knows about those events more than Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She is the last American to win gold in the long jump and the world record points holder in the heptathlon. Thank you so much for joining us.

I want to start with Lolo Jones. She missed another shot at Olympic gold, placing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. This is what she said. "Now, that you had two bitter sweet Olympic, it's like, man, I don't know. Every time I come here, I get burned." So, do you think it was all the pressure and the hype going into the Olympics? JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE, THREE-TIME OLYMPIC-GOLD MEDALIST: You know, I think it's part of the preparation and process. You know, you had two other American hurdlers, Don Harper (ph), who won the gold medal in 2008 and also got the silver medal last night and Kellie Wells who came away with the bronze. And we are all quoting (ph) for Lolo.

I know it's going to be extremely tough, because this year, she's gone through a lot of ups and downs, had back surgery, and to see her back on the track running, I know she was disappointed, but, you know, I don't think it was all about the hype. I feel going into the games that she was just as a threat as anyone else.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I want to talk about yesterday a surprise silver in the 1,500 meters. Leo Manzano was not expected to win, but he came from behind, the first U.S. medalist in the race since 1968. How does something like that happen?

JOYNER-KERSEE: You know, it's all part of preparation. These are the Olympic Games. You never know what's going to happen. You never count yourself out. You never look at the record books. If you're ready, you're ready. And last night showed that he was ready. And he was pulling, you know --

SAMBOLIN: It was like beyond ready, though, right? It was like beyond ready. Like something just kicked in, and you know, it was just a remarkable moment.

JOYNER-KERSEE: Yes, it was a remarkable moment. But in his mind, he wasn't beyond ready. But in the minds of other, because it hadn't been done in so many years or decades, but he was ready.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, today, we have the women's long jump, two Americans trying to be the first to medal since you did it. We'll see what happens. Brittney Reese, Janay DeLoach, they're facing a very tough crowd. DeLoach is considered the best American chance to medal today, but Brittney Reese broke your indoor jump record.

She has the best jump in the world this year. You said that you have been waiting for someone like this to come along. What advice would you give her?

JOYNER-KERSEE: You know, my advice -- there are two most consistent long jumpers. They both jumped over 23 feet in Olympic trial. Brittney Reese, it's just a matter of her finding the board. And I don't know what she might jump. It's going to be a great gift (ph) if she hits the board and then Janay has been jumping well.

Even last night, did a qualifying round, hitting a qualifying mark. And I think they both have a chance to be on the podium, and it's just a matter -- in Brittney's case, I think she has the ability to go beyond seven meters as well as Janay.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, we are delighted that you joined us this morning. Thank you very much, live from London. All right. Poppy, back to you. HARLOW: So cool to hear from here. she's just amazing.

SAMBOLIN: Superstar.

HARLOW: Absolute superstar.

All right, folks. Well, today's best advice from TV host, Ty Pennington. That's coming up.


HARLOW: We wrap it up this morning as always with "Best Advice."

SAMBOLIN: And we asked TV host, Ty Pennington, the best advice that he's ever received.


TY PENNINGTON, HOST, ABC'S "EXTREME MAKEOVER HOME EDITION": I've been given a lot of advice. But I would say the most resonant would be be passionate, believe in yourself or nobody else will.


HARLOW: That's good advice.

SAMBOLIN: It is good advice. And I also think, you know, that dose of energy that he has, if he could figure out how to get that in best advice --

HARLOW: Yes, how to bottle it.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We just had him the other day, and he's actually working on this really neat project where they're building a home. It's going to be a Democratic and Republican effort, and they're going to come together and build a home for veterans.

HARLOW: A bipartisan effort.

SAMBOLIN: It is. It is, indeed.

HARLOW: Well, that's great. I love anything they do to help vets.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. An let's hope they have long-term implications on that. So, that's it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. "Starting Point" is next. John Berman and Brooke Baldwin in for Soledad O'Brien today. Take it away, guys.