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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Seven Americans Dead in Afghanistan; Inside the Wisconsin Temple; Afghanistan Attacks; President Obama Pulls Ahead

Aired August 10, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news out of Afghanistan to tell you about this morning. A pair of attacks killing seven Americans, including three high ranking officers.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A bullet left in the door to never forget. A CNN exclusive. We go inside the Sikh temple open for the first time since the deadly rampage.

HARLOW: And big trouble in the bayou. Evacuations ordered after a massive sinkhole opens up.

Good morning, everyone. Happy Friday. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Poppy Harlow, in for John Berman.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: We begin this morning with breaking news.

A deadly past 48 hours in Afghanistan. New details of two attacks, an effort to derail the transition of power there. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for an attack Wednesday that left four Americans dead, including senior members of an Army brigade after an insurgent detonated a suicide vest in the Kunar province.

Army Major Thomas E. Kennedy, Command Sergeant Major Kevin J. Griffin and Air force Major Walter D. Gray were killed, along with an American aid worker and Afghan interpreter. And NATO confirms that three U.S. service members were killed when a gunman wearing an Afghan forces uniform opened fire in the southern Helmand province this morning. No claim of responsibility there yet.

New details are expected and well be live at the Pentagon at the bottom of the hour with more information for you.

HARLOW: And now let's take you inside the Wisconsin temple where six people were killed, three others wounded by a gunman on Sunday. This video shot exclusively by CNN, showing a stark reminder of that horrific attack, a bullet hole that punctured the door leading to the main prayer room. Members say it will not be repaired. They're going to keep it there forever to remind them of what happened that day.

Ted Rowlands is live outside the temple.

Ted, you've been covering this all week. I was there with you at the start of the week. And your cameras were the only ones allowed inside, and it was really moving what I've seen so far of what they were doing inside the temple, also the members gathered together. I know that you talked to some of the victims' children.

Give us a sense of what it was like inside and what they're saying.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, it was very emotional as you can imagine. People were crying. People came to pray.

But there was also an upbeat sense to it. People were working to fix the temple, painting the temple. They replaced the carpet in the areas where the people were murdered. They did replace all of -- they got rid of all of the bullet holes and there were several of them. They dry-walled the walls. They just kept that one bullet hole they say so that they will never forget.

And talking to the people -- it was amazing, you know, and you know this from being out here this week -- they really are hoping that what people will take from this will be a change. And they say they really do want people to look at Sikhs as a kind group of people. They say that's exactly what their religion is about. So, it was very emotional.

We did talk to a few of them. One of the victims' family members actually not only addressed the victims, but he also the shooter. Take a listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMARDEEP KALEKA, TEMPLE MEMBER: Simply put, our families, his mother who left behind two beautiful boys and was the only mother -- imagine losing your mother. Our father, the four other victims, the people who were shot and are in the hospital, the police officer that did his job -- they are heroes. They are living the American dream.

The other person was a coward. And at the end of the day, he should always be remembered as a coward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: And today, Poppy, there will be a public memorial service here at Oak Creek High School, all six of the victims will be laid out in the gymnasium and they're expecting thousands of people from the community and the surrounding area to come and pay their respects.

HARLOW: You know, I think, Ted, that's so important -- the sound you just played from the Kaleka son. He's someone I talked to on the phone a lot throughout this process. And the focus on the victims and not on the shooter, it's the same thing that we saw after the Aurora, Colorado shooting. It's people saying don't focus on the suspected shooter, focus on the victims, remember the people.

We still have three people hospitalized, two temple members, a police officer. They're still in the hospital after the attack.

How are they doing?

ROWLANDS: Well, Lieutenant Brian Murphy is doing well. He's improving every day. There's one of the victims that is still in critical condition and having a tough time according to the hospital. But the other two, including Murphy, are improving.

HARLOW: That's good to hear. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with them today, a very important day when they're going to be remembered. And as you said the six bodies laid out in just a few hours. Ted, thank you.

SAMBOLIN: And President Obama has opened up a seven-point lead over Mitt Romney in the latest CNN poll of registered voters. And the GOP challenger's unfavorable rating is headed in the wrong direction. Here are the latest numbers. With less than three months to go before election day, the president, 52 percent of the vote, Romney with 45 percent.

And here's a real concern for the Romney camp. The former Massachusetts governor's unfavorable rating climbed from 42 percent to 48 percent in the past month, with 64 percent saying he favors the rich.

HARLOW: Well, fresh off a huge success on Mars, NASA's Morpheus, which is an moon lander crashed and burned yesterday during an engine test at the Kennedy Space Center. No injuries were reported during that test of the cargo transport vehicle. NASA officials believe it was a hardware problem with the lander's guidance navigation control system.

SAMBOLIN: Definitely doesn't look good.

This just in. Gas rises rise for the 12th day in a row now. The average price nationwide, up another cent. Now, $3.67 a gallon.

HARLOW: Well, some really interesting developments in the case of suspect shooter James Holmes out of Aurora Colorado. His mindset before the massacre is still a mystery this morning. A judge issued no ruling on unsealing the full court record in the case against him. Prosecutors agreeing with Holmes defense team yesterday in court, arguing that that full court record should stay sealed. Seventeen news organizations, including CNN, have asked for access to that.

There was also a very strange development during the hearing. A woman had to be escorted out of the courtroom after she stood up and blurted out that she had, quote, "vital information for the defense team."

Also Holmes' landlord filed court papers yesterday to have him convicted from his once booby-trapped apartment, saying he violated his lease when he allegedly, and this is a quote, "murdered numerous individuals, materially and substantially damaged the premises, and booby-trapped the premises substantially endangering property and person."

The landlord's attorney said the apartment will be clear out if they don't get a response within a week. I mean, I was standing outside that apartment, unbelievable, and it must be a legal formality that he has to file this eviction notice.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, that's what I figured. Unbelievable.

All right. George Zimmerman's lawyers confirmed they are planning to seek a hearing for the stand your ground defense. Everybody was wondering about this. The big if at hearing, and the judge agrees, the Florida self defense always applies in the killing of Trayvon Martin, he could walk free. Zimmerman could walk free.

Another development -- prosecutors mistakenly releasing a photo of Trayvon Martin's body along with Zimmerman's school records. Last month, the judge ruled those items could not be seen by the public. Prosecutors are now asking reporters to disregard them.

And officials in Louisiana want to know if an underground salt cavern is responsible for a massive sinkhole that has swallowed trees and forced from homes on a bayou. The sinkhole is in Assumption Parish. It measures 324 feet in diameter, 50 feet deep. Bt in one corner, it actually goes down more than 420 feet.

I've never seen one of those in person.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!

HARLOW: But people had to be evacuated.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt cements his Olympic brilliance, winning gold in the 200-meter final. The island nation has a lot to celebrate this morning. Jamaica actually swept the metal stand. Yohan Blake and Warren Weir took silver and bronze respectively.

So here, the big story for Team USA, do you know what it is, the women's soccer team winning its third consecutive gold medal. They beat Japan 2-1, avenging their painful loss to the Japanese in last year's World Cup.

HARLOW: Rock on. They look so thrilled.

Well, Team USA is tops in total medals, 90, with the most golds as well at 39. China has got 80 total medals, 37 of them gold. Russia has 56. Great Britain is, of course, behind with 52.

SAMBOLIN: So here's what's a happening in Olympic action today. The preliminaries of the men's 10-meter platform diving and the men's pole vault final. Also, the women's final in the 5,000 meters and the men's basketball Team USA taking on Argentina in the semis.

HARLOW: And this is just a great story, a history making night on the gridiron. Shannon Easton becoming the first female to ever owe officiate an NFL game. She was a line judge in last night's preseason game between the San Diego Chargers and the Green Bay Packers. The league has locked out its referees and Easton is one of the replacement officials.

The hat she wore last night headed to he football Hall of Fame. Good for her. It is about time.

SAMBOLIN: You know, there's so much media scrutiny behind this and she's so cool, calm and corrected.

HARLOW: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Nine minutes past the hour.

Officials cranking up the Atlantic hurricane forecast. Seeing an active few months ahead. How many names could be knocked off the list? That number is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 13 past the hour. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow.

Predictions for this hurricane season have been revised higher. This just out. Forecasters predicting more named storms this season.

Meteorologist Andrea Steele is here to break down the numbers.

So we talked this week already about Ernesto and another one yesterday. And now, NOAA has revised this higher, right?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. Gordon, yes.

So, the numbers, as you said, have been revised a little bit higher. And I want to show you what those are and kind of just give you an update of what's happening in the season and atmospherically.

All right. So, named storms just to give you a perspective, on average, 12 named storms in the Atlantic usually, six hurricanes and three majors, which are 111 miles per hour winds or greater than that. We've already had six named storms. But the latest figure is kind of taking it up average plus. So, bringing it up slightly, expecting from the old nine to 15 named storms, up to 17, up to eight potential hurricanes and two to three majors.

So, why? Why did they up the numbers? What's happening atmospherically?

Well, a few factors are certainly looked at. Again, we've already had six. We look at the water temperature and also what's happening aloft in the atmosphere. Check it for kind of aggravated season. We do have above average temperatures in the Atlantic basin, but conversely, we've got dry sinking air at the higher levels of the atmosphere. So one mitigates, one exacerbates, so does that take it to average? Potentially so.

So, here's the big outlook, here's what's happening -- coming off Africa, 50 percent chance. Maybe something developing. There's TD number 7. So the water is warm, things are did getting active. There's the potential for TD 7 taking it south of Puerto Rico and towards Jamaica by the beginning and middle of next week.

A little closer to home, though, we are expecting some major delays today in the Northeast. So if you are flying New York, Philadelphia, all the way down from Washington to Atlanta, Georgia, some big storms expected. So the earlier you go, the better off you'll be.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you for that warning. We appreciate it.

HARLOW: Always the case, the earlier you go, the better off. It's those last flights at night that are tough. Thank you.

STEELE: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Breaking news in our top story this morning. It has been a deadly day for Americans in Afghanistan. NATO says three U.S. service members died there today after a gunman wearing an Afghan forces uniform opened fire in the southern Helmand province.

And the Taliban is taking responsibility for an attack earlier this week that killed four Americans when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest in the Kunar province. We'll have a live report in about 15 minutes for you.

HARLOW: Sixteen minutes past the hour now. A bullet hole in the door will serve as a grim reminder at the Wisconsin Sikh temple where six people were shot to death last weekend has finally reopened.

CNN has an exclusive look inside. Tiles are being polished, drywall being repaired. Only one bullet hole will be left unrepaired. It's right in the door leading into the main prayer room in memory of the victims.

And Goldman Sachs is off the hook. The Justice Department late last night deciding not to pursue criminal charges against the Wall Street powerhouse. This follows a two-year investigation into the firm's bets against subprime mortgage securities that it was selling.

SAMBOLIN: A daring chopper rescue of an illegal immigrant stuck on a nearly vertical cliff in Arizona. Take a look at this. The man called 911 twice. Before a customs and border patrol helicopter actually spotted him.

He spent at least 11 hours on that cliff before he could be rescued. He was taken to border patrol for processing to return to Mexico.

HARLOW: And this story -- can you blame a bear for taking a little spa vacation? That is a black bear caught on camera Sunday wandering around the lobby of the Angel Fire Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The bear snuck in through an open back door, inspected the hotel for about 10 minutes and then checked himself out.

SAMBOLIN: I love that story, bear hanging out. Yes.

All right. It's 17 minutes past the hour. We're getting an early read on your local news that is making national headlines.

I love this one because it is a win for you.

HARLOW: Yes, it is.

SAMBOLIN: An airfare win.

And this comes from the "New York Daily News." El-Al, Israel's national airline, says it will honor tickets that you purchased this week at discount prices after fares were cut by mistake. It was a huge mistake. It was and online pricing glitch.

The mistake drastically lowered round trip airfare between New York and Israel in El-Al Airlines, and created a run on tickets. It was for an entire three-hour period. At least 5,000 tickets were purchased Monday after El-Al posted fairs for less than $400. Do you know what the average cost is?

HARLOW: What?

SAMBOLIN: Sixteen hundred dollars. They got it for $400. And, you know, they were struggling with this decision, do we, don't we, and they did the right thing.

HARLOW: Total bad P.R. move not to honor them. So they made the right choice.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

HARLOW: I wish I got that. I was dying to go.

All right. Well, Peyton Manning fans out there, don't call him perfect Peyton. That's the lead out of Denver this morning. Not yet. So, big day for Peyton Manning. He's been off the field for 19 months, making his first appearance with the Denver Broncos. It was a brief one. Seemed to look like his former hall of fame self, only in a new uniform.

He showed off no ill effects of the injury that he had sustained. He played one possession in that preseason opener game against the Chicago Bears and got intercepted near the end zone. Again, first appearance in 19 months since the pro ball after the 2010 season. He spent the entire 2011 season on the sidelines, recovering from multiple neck injury, but last night he completed 4-7 passes for 44 yards. Not bad.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we're always talking about concussions and football. I'm worried to death about his neck. I don't want to see him, you know, get hit. Very scary.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Absolutely.

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

HARLOW: Well, coming up, feeling worse as we get close to the fiscal cliff. We teach on that word, do you know what it means, we're going to explain all of it, including some new numbers out how confident or not very confident people are about the economy, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 23 past the hour. We're minding your business this morning.

How do you think the economy is doing? That is what we asked in our fresh CNN/ORC poll released just a few minutes ago. Fewer people today compared to April think the economy is starting to recover and the same think it has stabilized. And more people, 39 percent, think the economy is actually getting worse.

It's hard to tell what will happen to the economy in the poll, but one thing is for sure, if Congress does not deal with the so- called fiscal cliff before the end of the year, the U.S. economy will dive right back in to a recession, and that's according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Poppy has been doing some digging on what this could mean for our kids' education --

HARLOW: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: -- and also for medical research.

So, I am dying to know, because I'm really -- I'm stressed out about education in this country.

HARLOW: Well, that this is -- the fiscal cliff is two big things, right? The simultaneous tax hikes and also major spending cut, 8 percent spending cut across the board. So a lot of focus on that defense spending cut that you'd see in the first year. But half of what the cut you'd see in terms of spending in the first year is also nondefense.

So the big things there are education and also health care. So, Congress doesn't act, you're going to have $1.2 trillion cut from spending over a 10-year period. Let's focus on nondefense. Let's focus on health first off.

If you look at health research, there's a new interesting report out from research America that's a nonprofit health care advocacy group. What they say is if spending cuts go through, if that 8 percent is cut across the board, you're going to get $3.6 billion in cuts in 2013 alone. That's going to come from the National Institute of Health, the CDC, the FDA, all the ones you see on the screen.

And the CDC director issued a very stark warning. I want to read you this quote. He said, "An 8 percent to 10 percent reduction will risk costly and deadly spread of disease and failure to prevent tragic and expensive health problems." OK?

Also, the director of the National Institutes of Health is saying that this would mean 2,300 fewer grants, about a quarter of the new and competing grants. Those go towards research, education, important things for this country. That's the health care side.

Let's talk about the education side, Zoraida. This is big for you and for every parent out there. If we see these cuts across board, that's going to cut about 8.5 percent there all education programs. Education funding will drop to pre-2003 levels. As many as over 80,000 jobs could be lost.

And if we have this cut, this is a across the board. And, you know, it doesn't discriminate. So, it's going to hit those areas that are struggling most in terms of lack of proper education.

SAMBOLIN: The inner city, it's going to affect the inner city in a very big way, right, because that is where we are struggling the most. And that's across the country. So, that's very scary.

The CDC also, what they put out is very scary. You could end up spending more money trying to fix the problem after you cut the funding.

HARLOW: That you could have prevented.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

Thank you, Poppy. We appreciate that.

HARLOW: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour here.

One of the nation's largest veterans charities is now accused in court of ripping people off. See what happened when CNN's Drew Griffin tried to get answers from the man in charge. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Breaking news this morning. High ranking U.S. military officers are among seven Americans killed in Afghanistan.

HARLOW (voice-over): New polling in the race for the White House. President Obama's lead over Mitt Romney growing.

SAMBOLIN: Something wild in an Arizona family's home. A feisty bobcat pays an unexpected visit. I suspect it was unwelcome, as well.

HARLOW: Right. SAMBOLIN: Wow. All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. We're really happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

HARLOW (on-camera): I'm Poppy Harlow. It's 31 past the hour.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

HARLOW: Breaking news this morning out of Afghanistan. A man wearing an Afghan military uniform opening up fire on U.S. troops, killing three soldiers in the country's Southern Helmand province.

This, as we're learning more details about another deadly attack on Wednesday where a suicide bomb attacked in Eastern Afghanistan left four Americans dead. including an aid worker and senior members of an army brigade. Our Chris Lawrence joins us live from the Pentagon this morning. Chris, what can you tell us?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, you never want to say any one life is worth any more than any other soldier or marines. But based on the ranks of the people involved, this was a serious blow to the leadership of this brigade that's been working in Eastern Afghanistan to try to secure that area as time starts to wind down on the Afghan war.

This suicide bomber was able to kill some very senior leadership, including Army Major Tom Kennedy , Air Force Major Walter Gray, and the Command Sergeant Major Tom Griffith , the senior enlisted man. We're also told by sources that a colonel who was in charge of about a 4,000 man brigade was also wounded in that attack -- Poppy.

HARLOW: You know, you mentioned the timing and I think that this is so disturbing. This comes as the U.S. is drawing down forces, getting ready for that anticipated 2014 handover of power and the big question is is Afghanistan ready for that. And this really brings that into question. On top of it this morning, three U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan after the wednesday attack, right?

LAWRENCE: That's right. And officials I've been speaking with say they're still trying to determine whether this was someone who was actually a part of the Afghan security forces who turned on his allies on the Americans or it was someone a Taliban member, perhaps, who got an old uniform and hid amongst the Afghan forces. I can tell you either way, it's a problem.

When I was in Afghanistan, you could see the casual way in which some of the Afghan forces treat their uniforms laying around.

HARLOW: Right.

LAWRENCE: It would be very, very easy for someone to get them. Now, if it's an Afghan force who turned, it may be even more troubling because that would be the third time in just this past week that you've had this so-called green on blue type attack.

HARLOW: Right.

LAWRENCE: And at one point earlier this year, out of every four allied soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan, one out of every four, was killed by a so-called friendly force.

HARLOW: Wow! That's an incredible number and very, very disturbing. Chris, thank you. Appreciate it. Stay on top of this for us.

LAWRENCE: Yes.

HARLOW: Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-three minutes past the hour. With less than three months until America votes, new poll is showing President Obama's lead is growing, and Mitt Romney's support is slipping. President Obama now lead Mitt Romney by seven points, 52 percent to 45 percent. That's according to a new CNN/ORC national poll.

CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, is with us now to break down all of these numbers. I got to tell you, Paul, I walked in this morning to so much paperwork of all of these polls that you are going to be breaking down for us today. So, this is not all bad news for Romney, this first poll that you're talking about.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Some bad, some good. And you're right. A lot of numbers. Let's take a look at them. This is interesting. You know, while the president's favorable and unfavorable numbers have really not changed over the last two months, ,take a look at Mitt Romney's numbers.

We've seen some other national polls out over the last week, and here it is and ours. Look at the bottom. His unfavorable number, 42 percent in July. That's gone up six points to 48 percent now. And among independents, that's risen even more.

And that's a little troubling for Mitt Romney and maybe it has something to do with all those negative attacks by the Obama campaign, those TV commercials and by other groups supporting the Obama campaign going after Mitt Romney. The good news for him, take a look at this. Remember, he pretty much locked up the GOP nomination back in April. He is really solidifying his support.

You can see, in May, only 47 percent of Romney voters said they were firmly strongly behind their candidate. Now, that is up to 56 percent. You can see the president's numbers remaining pretty much static. Zoraida, as I was saying, with every poll, it's a snapshot of how people feel right now. The election is still around three months away. People change their minds.

SAMBOLIN: Well, this is the season of polls, as well, right? So, every day we'll have something new. All right. So, yesterday, at this hour, we were talking about the veepstakes, and there were three contenders everybody was talking about. They were like these are the three to watch.

We were talking about Portman, Pawlenty, and Ryan. But, there is now a new name, and actually, it seems like Republicans, perhaps, favor him. Tell us about that.

STEINHAUSER: Yes. We asked republicans nationwide and independents who lean towards the GOP who they would like. You know, if they got a choice. Well, obviously, they don't. Mitt Romney's choice --

SAMBOLIN: Right.

STEINHAUSER: But take a look at the numbers. We asked Republicans nationwide. Marco Rubio came out on top in our poll. You know, no clear favorite, but Rubio is on the top of our list 28 percent, the senator from Florida. Chris Christie, the outspoken governor of New Jersey and Paul Ryan, house budget chairman, whose name does come up a lot both at 16 percent. Yes. The people that we think Portman and Pawlenty --

(CROSSTALK)

STEINHAUSER: Yes, in single digits. But, you know, a lot of this is name recognition and people just don't know Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty that well. They do know Chris Christie or Marco Rubio a little bit more -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Well, we'll see once, you know, they get fully vetted, right? And we're targeting some more information. I can't wait to see what it is. Now, I know that there is another poll, 39 percent of folks think the economy is actually getting worse. When you come back at six o'clock, you're going to dive into that, as well. Paul Steinhauser live in Wasghinton, thank you.

HARLOW: Well, rebel forces withdrawing and waiting for reinforcements in the bloody struggle for control of Syria's largest city, Aleppo. The opposition has been taking heavy artillery fire from government troops. At least 134 people killed across Syria yesterday, including 47 in Aleppo alone.

And one of the nation's largest veterans charities is being sued by the state of California. The organization help hospitalized veterans is accused of engaging in fraudulent fundraising. California's attorney general seeking to recover more than $4 million that she claims was diverted from veterans programs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Over 65 percent of their revenue went to overhead and not to the programs that were intended to help these vets. And it's outrageous. It really is. They have really tugged, I think, at the heartstrings of Americans who want to help our veterans, and instead, they've had golf club memberships and condominiums and they've been lining their pockets.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: According to the charity's tax records, help hospitalized veterans president, Michael Lynch , is paid an annual salary of $389,000. The state of California alleges he used donations to pay for two country club memberships at a cost of 80 grand. Our Drew Griffin tried to track him down for a comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to ask you about the money, though. I mean, that doesn't answer any of the questions about the money that they're -- that's it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: In its complaint, the state of California claims help hospitalized veterans used accounting gimmicks to inflate how much it spent on veteran services resulting in false filings to the IRS.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour here. An Arizona animal rescue team had their hands full after a Tucson woman found a bobcat inside her house. The young bobcat fell through the roof into the open air solarium. Kelly Jacobson heard the cat trying to escape Wednesday morning. Can you imagine? So, she called Jeff Carver who had to carefully snare the frightened animal with a net.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF CARVER, RESCUED BOBCAT: Gives you that little adrenalin boost that's better than a double cappuccino.

KELLY JACOBSON, FOUND BOBCAT IN HOUSE: I don't like cats. Far away from me, but I don't like cats.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Look so friendly, right? (INAUDIBLE) your hand off. Experts at the Forever Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center say the bobcat is very young, just 10 to 12 week old. The cat will remain at the rehab center where a bobcat named (INAUDIBLE) will become her foster mother. Who knew?

HARLOW: Well, the U.S. is pulling away the medal count and looking for more gold in the pool today. Olympic diving legend, Greg Louganis, will be joining us. He's going to be there cheering along. He's joining us live from London next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Team USA is turning up the heat in London and looking to finish this Olympics really strong. The U.S. is pulling away from the rest of the field in the medal count. A full ten medals ahead now of China, and they have more gold medals, too. The gold for team USA in the men's 200-meter was not to be. Jamaican superstar, Usain Bolt, is now the only man to ever win the Olympic sprint double white . Afterwards, he said, quote, "I'm now a legend, I'm also the greatest athlete to win." I don't know if we agree with him, but congratulations are in order for the U.S. women's soccer team for bringing home the gold. They beat Japan 2-1 to avenge their loss in last year's World Cup Final. The U.S. team has won gold four out of five times since soccer became an Olympic sport.

That was back in 1996. And today, the action switches back to the pool as two Americans vie for the men's 10-meter dive, Nick McCrory and David Boudia already won a bronze together in the synchronized dive. That is the first medal for men's diving since the 1996 Atlanta game.

One man who will be watching very closely is diving legend, Greg Louganis. He is a mentor for the U.S. men's diving team and he won gold in the 10-meter platform dive in 1984 and in 1988. Thank you for being with us this morning. And as I was pronouncing the divers names. I heard you call out. So, did I mispronounced them?

GREG LOUGANIS, AUTHOR, "BREAKING THE SURFACE": Yes. David Boudia. David Boudia and Nick McCrory. I've been working with them -- Nick McCrory is coming on real strong. It's really helped him be partnering with David Boudia and synchronized diving. It's elevated his level of competition.

And also, David Boudia was silver medalist last year at the World Championships. So, we're looking for high hopes for both of them, pretty good performances.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I hear that they're good friends, and obviously, they're team mates, but they're rivals in the 10-meter dive. Which one is America's best shot at gold do you think?

LOUGANIS: Well, it would probably have to be David Boudia. I mean, he's been on the international stage a little bit longer. He's more seasoned. He was silver medalist at the World Championships last year, second to Qui Bo. It's really -- they have their work cut out for them, because, you know, they've got China that's been really tough, very, very dominant.

We expected that. And then, we also have Tom Daley from Great Britain where on his turf. So, the crowd is going to be pulling for him.

SAMBOLIN: I got to ask you -- go ahead.

LOUGANIS: But there's also defending Olympic champion, Matthew Mitchum , who's going to be in the contest, as well. So -- and then Sascha Klein from Germany. Yes. There's about five contenders in there that can really be battling it out.

SAMBOLIN: Well, we're going to be rooting for Boudia here also. But I read something that I thought was really interesting that the 10-meter dive is the equivalent of diving off a three-story balcony. And Boudia says that he didn't overcome his fear, until after Beijing, of heights. Have you been coaching him through that? LOUGANIS: I haven't really been coaching him through that. I mean, I leave the coaching to the coaches. I'm just athlete mentor. So, I'm working with them in preparation for the Olympic games, what to expect at the Olympic Games, some of the practices that worked for me dealing with the mass media and the pressures that comes from outside the pool.

And also, when you go into that space, into that diving venue, there's something you feel, you know? And I want them to interpret that feeling and sensation as inspiration and not pressure, you know, because everybody in there wants them to succeed, even the judges. The judges want to throw a 10, but you got to give to them.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. You know, I want to talk a little bit about that pressure because you know a bit about that. This is the first Olympics that you have attended since 1996. And you have publicly blamed homophobia in the sport as one of the reasons why you stated away. There's a lot of pressure on these athletes, right? And their personal lives become an issue.

How do you feel about that now and how do you feel that, you know, they're dealing with this issue of homophobia? Do you think that we've made some progress there?

LOUGANIS: We've made tremendous progress. I mean, that's the reason why I'm back, you know? (INAUDIBLE), our high performance director came to my house and asked, you know, how do we get you back involved in USA diving, and I said ask. And he was surprised I was never asked. And so, you know, we just started working together and it's a different day and age.

We have much more positive images, you know, of gay people. You know, gay is not a lifestyle. Gay is just a part of your personal identity. You know, we have Matthew Mitchum who's openly gay who competes for Australia. And his contention was he couldn't -- he had to be himself in order to be able to achieve the things he wanted to achieve.

SAMBOLIN: Well, Greg Louganis, it is really nice to see you back. And you know, I am giving you a lot of credit for the golds that they've won because you're mentoring, you know, both the women and the men. So, congratulations to you and come back when we win the gold. Come back. Thank you.

LOUGANIS: I will. We have goals for the future.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much. Poppy, back to you you.

HARLOW: All right. Well, breaking news -- breaking news to tell you about this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW (voice-over): A deadly day in Afghanistan. Three U.S. service members died after a gunman wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire in Southern Helmand Province. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for an attack Wednesday that killed four Americans when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest in Kunar Province.

Three U.S. service members were killed along with an American aid worker and an Afghan interpreter.

The Sikh temple where a gunman killed six people on Sunday has opened it doors again. You're looking at exclusive video taken by our CNN team on the ground there. Temple members inside the main prayer area polishing tiles and the floor, fixing damaged drywall. They're going to leave that one bullet hole, though, in the main door leading into the prayer room there.

They want to use it to remember people and remember this tragedy, something of course, they'll never forget.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The Centers for Disease Control says a new strain of swine flu has been found with 145 cases reported in four states. Indiana has been hardest hit with 113 cases of the H3N2 variant. That was reported since mid-July. The CDC is expecting that number to increase in the coming days.

HARLOW: And a Utah sheriff deputy had to dodge an angry moose whose antlers got caught in a swing set. The moose wandered into a backyard in Weber County and got tangled up in the chains. Sgt. Lyn Findele says the adult moose was clearly agitated, clearly in pain. He used bolt cutters and set that animal free.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, that was pretty dangerous what he did.

HARLOW: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Straight ahead on EARLY START, stop in the name of love.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN Why this inflatable doll is turning heads at an intersection? Oh, we so want to share this with you.

If you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime. We will be on your desktop or on your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 54 minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Poppy Harlow this morning, and we are taking a look at what is trending on the web.

HARLOW: Mars. We've been talking about it all week. We love the pictures coming back from Mars Curiosity, that rover totally stunning photos, new high-res 360-degree images of the Red Planet.

SAMBOLIN: I'm kind of agree that they're stunning, by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: And we were saying yesterday that it looks similar in some sense to, some are saying, to the Mojave Desert. You're really seeing it now. These were taken on the third full day that the rover was on Mars. They're the first color panorama set of photos that we're getting they show dark bands of dunes in the distance.

You see those. A rim of the gale (Ph) crater where the rover landed. Great spots from the rocket powered sky crane blasted the ground. The rover also took a high-def self-portrait. We'll see if we can show you that.

SAMBOLIN: Who knew, huh? HARLOW: And what it shows is some of the wear and tear of that seven-minute landing that was sort of treacherous, but then they executed it perfectly. It went from 13,000 miles an hour to zero.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

HARLOW: Pretty stunning. Very successful.

SAMBOLIN: Like a car landing on Mars.

All right. I think we have an attention getter for you. Take a look at this. A grand mother in China was fed up that police weren't doing anything to slow down traffic near her home, so she decided to take matters into my own hands. She dressed an inflatable doll in lazy lingerie and she tied it to a tree right near the crosswalk.

So, she was hoping that drivers would rubber neck and ease off the gas pedal. She told the mayor in the UK, quote, "I thought the drivers would slow down if I could give them something worth looking at."

HARLOW: Give them something to talk about. Give them something to look at. We don't know if it worked, but I'm assuming it did. We just hope it didn't cause any --

SAMBOLIN: I was worried about traffic accidents, but we don't know.

HARLOW: All right. It's 56 minutes after the hour this morning. Top stories straight ahead, including what NASA is saying about this failed test launch of an unmanned lunar lander. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW (voice-over): Breaking news out of Afghanistan this morning. A pair of attacks killing seven Americans, including the three high ranking officers. SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Bubbling up on the bayou, a mysterious sinkhole forces families to evacuate their homes. It is quite a sinkhole.

HARLOW: And total determination at the Olympics. Refusing to let his teammates down, a U.S. track star finishes the race with a broken leg. That is incredible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)