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Seven Troops Killed In Two Afghan Attacks; Inside The Wisconsin Temple; No Decision On Unsealing Court Records; Obama Opens 7-Point Lead; Bayou Sinkhole; More Hurricanes Ahead; Bolt: I Am Legend; Team USA Reigns Supreme In Soccer; American Finishes Relay Lap On Broken Leg; Controversial Mosque Opens; President Obama Pulls Ahead; American Pole Vaulter Upsets To Win Gold

Aired August 10, 2012 - 06:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Happy Friday, welcome to EARLY START. I am Poppy Harlow in for John Berman.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: That is determination, isn't it. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thanks for being with us. It is 6:00 a.m. in the east.

We begin with breaking news this morning, it is out of Afghanistan, a man wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire on U.S. troops killing three soldiers in the country's southern Helmand Province.

This as we are learning more details about another deadly attack on Wednesday where suicide bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan left four Americans dead, including an aid worker and senior members of an Army brigade.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is live from the Pentagon. What can you tell us about this, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, this is a big blow to the leadership of that brigade there in Eastern Afghanistan.

Military officials have said securing Eastern Afghanistan on that border with Pakistan is one of the primary missions that they feel they have to accomplish before all of the American troops start to come home.

In this case, two suicide bombers blew themselves up just as a team of American military and civilian personnel were going into the province council's office, sort of the council that runs that part of Afghanistan.

This team was going in. The suicide bombers blew themselves up. Two majors were killed, Army Major Tom Kennedy and Air Force Major Walter Gray, as well as the senior enlisted man, Command Sergeant Major Keith Griffin -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And also this morning, three U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan. What can you tell us about that attack?

LAWRENCE: That's right. Right now, what the officials are trying to determine is, was this an actual Afghan security force, an Afghan policeman or soldier who turned on the Americans or was it someone who just got the uniform?

Either way it's a huge problem. When I was there in Afghanistan, you could see the casual way that some Afghan troops treated their uniforms leaving them around where they could be picked up by anyone.

On the other hand, if it is a true so-called green on blue attack, it's the third time this week, just this week that the Afghan forces have turned on Americans.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Chris Lawrence, live from the Pentagon for us. Thank you for those details.

LAWRENCE: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Well, A CNN exclusive now, inside that Wisconsin temple where six people died and three others were wounded. This video shot by our CNN troops on the ground, a stark reminder of the attack.

What you're looking is a bullet hole in the door to the main prayer room. They say they will keep that there forever, to remember what happened that day.

Our Ted Rowlands is live in Wisconsin joining us now. Ted, I know you're outside of the high school where they are going to have the memorial for the victims in just a few hours.

They are going to lay the six bodies out. First though, tell me what it was like for you personally to be inside the temple, what they call the Gurdwara, and to be with family members who lost had their fathers and mothers.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can imagine, Poppy, it was very emotional to be in the temple with them after it was released by the FBI. As soon as it was released as a crime scene, many people from the temple came to help repair and clean up.

There were bullet holes all over the place. They have been able to clean all of those up and get rid of them. You mentioned the one there, leaving that because they never want to forget what happened.

In fact, there was some discussion about leaving all of the bullet holes, but it was decided that that would be too much. So they just left that one.

Talking to them, a range of emotion, some saying our temple will never be the same. Others were saying that it's important that it is the same and we get as soon as we can. We talked to one of the victim's sons and he talked about not only the victims, but also he addressed the shooter. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMARDEEP KALEAK, 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 and people who were shot and 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 she always be remembered as a coward.


ROWLANDS: You may have seen Reverend Jesse Jackson was up yesterday and prayed with victim family members in the Gurdwara. And they plan on having a private ceremony in the temple, Poppy, after the public ceremony at the high school. That's why they worked throughout the night last night to prepare for today's ceremony.

HARLOW: It stood out to me so much, Ted, that press conference on Monday, the day after the shooting, one of the Sikh members said when are we going to be allowed back inside?

Every family member that I spoke with that was affected said that they have no hesitation to go back. Their resolve to go back to this Gurdwara is even stronger now.

So you're absolutely right about how important it is. It is amazing that you are in there with us. Thank you for bringing us those pictures and those stories. Thanks, Ted.

SAMBOLIN: It is 5 minutes past the hour. A Colorado judge is not ruling on unsealing the full court record in the case against movie massacre suspect, James Holmes. Prosecutors agreeing with Holmes' defense team yesterday arguing the full court record should stay sealed. Seventeen news organization, including CNN, want access.

HARLOW: President Obama widening his lead over Mitt Romney in the latest CNN/ORC poll of registered voters and the GOP's challenger unfavourable rating looks like it's heading in the wrong direction.

Here are the latest numbers with less than three months to go ahead of the election, the president with 52 percent of those favoring him and Romney with 45 percent.

Here's a real concern for the Romney camp. The former Massachusetts governor's unfavorable rating climbing from 42 percent to 48 percent in the past month, 64 percent of Americans saying they believe he favors the rich.

SAMBOLIN: After a triumphant week on Mars, a bit of trouble for NASA. Take a look at that. It's (inaudible) unmanned moonlander crashed and burned Thursday during an engine test. This was at the Kennedy Space Center.

There were no injuries reported during the test of the cargo transport vehicle. Officials believe a hardware problem with the navigation control system is to blame for that blaze.

HARLOW: Officials in Louisiana want to know if an underground salt cavern is responsible for what has become a massive sinkhole that has swallowed trees, forced people in the area to leave their homes.

It's on the bayou. The sinkhole is in Assumption Parish. It measures 324 feet in diameter and 50 feet deep. But get this, at one corner, it's actually more than 420 feet deep.

SAMBOLIN: Wow, mother nature in action there.

Predictions for this hurricane season have been revised up. Forecasters now say they expect more named storms this season. Meteorologist Alexandra Steele is here to break the numbers down. More and perhaps more intense as well?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, intensity is very tricky, one thing and a few aggravating factors and mitigating factors. We'll show you what's happening in the atmosphere.

But we are heading into the peak of the Atlantic season, which goes mid-August to mid-October. So here's a look at where we stand. On average in the Atlantic, we see 12 named storms. We've actually already had six thus far this season.

Six hurricanes on average, three majors, but you can see the numbers have been bumped up. Named storms up to 17 potentially, up to eight hurricanes, three being major, but atmospherically, what moved, what kind of move the needle up ever so slightly kind of taking it to above average?

For two factors, water and air. Now above normal temperatures are there in the Atlantic in the tropical Atlantic. That will kind of bump the numbers up towards more active. But the mitigating factors, we have dry sinking air in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

So that would be a mitigating factor so does that call it a wash? Will that be average or just above? It is hard to tell, but I mean, it only takes one serious hurricane. In 2010, we only had two hurricanes, but they did a lot of damage to the U.S.

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

HARLOW: Will, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt cements his Olympic brilliance? Winning the gold in a thrilling 200-meter final.

SAMBOLIN: And he says so himself.

HARLOW: The island nation has a lot to celebrate. Jamaica actually swept the medal stand, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir took silver and bronze respectively.

The big story for Team USA, the women's soccer or football 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. SAMBOLIN: Listen to this, he heard a pop and felt a snap, stopping was not an option. If you're still wondering what separates an Olympic athlete from the rest of us.

Here it is. A pretty unbelievable story from the track in London. American Mitchell finished his relay lap on a broken leg. He had 200 meters to go in the first leg of the 4x4 meter relay preliminaries on Thursday. The adrenalin must have been flowing.

HARLOW: Look at that. It is hard to tell when it happened. He's running harder than I run with both legs not broken.

SAMBOLIN: I know. It's incredible. Mitchell finished the lap and limped to the side to watch the Americans finish the race and qualify easily for the finals.

A few hours later, doctors confirmed he had run the last half lap with a broken left fibula. Mitchell downplayed it to reporters after, but later he said, quote, "I felt it break, I heard it.

I put out a little cry, but the crowd was so loud, you couldn't hear it. I wanted to just lie down. It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half."

HARLOW: Incredible.

SAMBOLIN: Now I want to rewind.

HARLOW: You can't tell. He's an Olympian. He's amazing.

SAMBOLIN: That is incredible.

HARLOW: A woman takes the field for an NFL game for the first time in history. She's the one calling the shots.


HARLOW: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Happy Friday. It is 14 minutes after the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you for the happy Friday. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Glad you're with us this morning.

After years of protests and lawsuits, a controversial mosque in Tennessee is set to open this morning. The Murfreesboro mosque located about 30 miles southeast of Nashville will hold its first prayers later today before the close of the holy month of Ramadan.

The opening follows the burning of a mosque in Joplin Monday, a fire that federal agents are investigating as a possible arson they say.

And Sunday's Wisconsin temple attack where an alleged white supremacist gunman killed six Sikhs and wounded three others including a police officer.

George Howell is live outside the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. George, you actually got an exclusive look for us inside the mosque. Can you tell us about it?


In fact, we did. We were the first visitors allowed inside to see exclusively what it looks inside this facility, a 12,000 square foot facility. Much larger than the older mosque they have outgrown.

And, Zoraida, you have to keep in mind, this had been a long time coming, a two-year time line of even events. When you consider this timeline, in 2009, that's when the land was purchased. 2010, construction started. Then a lawsuit brought on by some who feared this sight brought a risk of terrorism to the community. Then you see later, a county judge stepped in and stopped the permitting process.

But then, this year, a federal judge ordered it to continue on. And, Zoraida, remember, this has been the site of vandalism, arson and even a bomb threat.

But many members here, they believe that's been brought on by outside members, people outside this community determined to mischaracterize their religion. Let's listen.


SALEH SBENATY, ISLAMIC CENTER OF MURFREESBORO: There is an agenda nationwide unfortunately that label Islam and Muslims to be not what they are but because of the act of few people, they are labeling the whole religion to be that way. It is unfortunate but it is true, and it's un-American as well.


HOWELL: So, Zoraida, the feeling today is one of excitement. Again, a long time coming. The prayer service, first prayer service here at this facility will happen at 1:10 Central Time. And many people are anxious for that moment.

SAMBOLIN: That's a really interesting attitude from that gentleman. I talked to a woman who belongs to that mosque that is being investigated now for a suspected arson but did have an arson back in July. This was in Joplin.

And, you know, she said the same thing, that she feels very comfortable in the community and feels maybe it's coming from outside. But aren't they worried whether it's coming from outside or internal that they'll be continued vandalism and threats?

HOWELL: Zoraida, there is an ongoing concern here. I've seen some of the e-mails that are sent to members of this mosque. A lot of hateful stuff sent here.


HOWELL: And they are taking those things very seriously. I also spoke with people with the Rutherford County sheriff's office. They are keeping close watch on the site to ensure everyone at this mosque and throughout the community, that everyone is safe.

SAMBOLIN: We certainly wish them well.

George Howell, live for us. Thank you very much.

And this Sunday, Soledad O'Brien chronicles a dramatic fight over the construction of this mosque in the heart of the Bible Belt. "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door" airs CNN Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern.

HARLOW: We're following breaking news for you this morning. NATO says three U.S. service members died today in Afghanistan alone after a gunman wearing an Afghan forces uniform opened fire in the southern Helmand province.

And the Taliban is now claiming responsibility for an earlier attack this week. It happened on Wednesday and it killed four Americans when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest in Kunar province. Three U.S. service members were killed in Wednesday's attack, along with an American aide worker and Afghan interpreter.

SAMBOLIN: The West Nile virus is spreading so fast in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, a judge has now declared a public health emergency there. A hundred seventy-five people have the virus. Nine people have died. State and federal health officials are going to meet this morning to discuss how they are going to handle this.

HARLOW: And history on the gridiron last night. Shannon Eastin becoming the first female to ever officiate an NFL game. She was a line judge at last night's pre-season game between the Charges and the Green Bay Packers. The league has locked out regular referees and Eastin is one of the replacements.

The hat she wore is going to head to the Hall of Fame. I think it's about time.

SAMBOLIN: You see number 98 shaking her hand. Number 98, nice job.

HARLOW: Good for her.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up, feeling worse as we get closer to the fiscal cliff? Are you more confident about the economy? We're going to find out next.


SAMBOLIN: It is 22 minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

How do you think the economy is doing? That's a loaded question. That's what we asked in our fresh CNN/ORC poll.

Fewer people today compared to April think the economy is starting to recover. About the same think it has stabilized. And more people, 39 percent, think it is getting worse.

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

Poppy has been doing some digging on this. What could it mean for our kids education, also for medical research.

HARLOW: I think it's important because we hear the word fiscal cliff and a lot of people's eyes glaze over. This is just to ensemble an important thing, taxes go up and spending gets cut about 8 percent across the board. What does that mean? It means $1.2 trillion cut from federal spending over a decade, next year alone, that would be $55 billion gone from defense spending, but also $55 billion from nondefense spending.

And I think we've been focusing a lot on defense. So, what about nondefense spending? Two things you need to know here -- health research and education. There's a new report out from a non-profit called Research America and it goes through the health care cut spendings that we could see.

Here's what we're talking about. If we have a 7.8 percent cut across the board, it's going to cut big time from the National Institutes of Health, the CDC and FDA, the list goes on, you see the numbers there.

The CDC director came out -- and listen to what he said. He said and I quote, "An 8 percent to 10 percent reduction will risk costly and deadly spread of disease and failures to prevent tragic and expensive health problems." That's coming from the head of the CDC. OK? That's if they have to take the major cut.

What about education? We were talking about this, Zoraida. Can we at all afford education cuts right now? It would mean about 8.5 percent slashed from education spending. We would see federal funding drop to pre-2003 levels. It could mean more than 80,000 jobs cut.

This is where it hits home for people, not just defense spending, it really hits home for people when you talk about research in terms of health care and when you talk about kids' education.

SAMBOLIN: The health care, really, they both concern me. The health care because you end up cutting and perhaps --

HARLOW: You pay later.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, in the long run.

And then, education, when you talk about trying to be a global leader and you're not educating your own, there are small countries that totally blow us away.

HARLOW: And who can fix this? The people we pay in Washington to fix this.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, that's our soap box this morning.

HARLOW: There you go.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you for bringing this down for us. We appreciate that.

Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

One of the nation's largest veterans charities, this is mind blowing, is now accused in a lawsuit of ripping people off, the same people they are supposed to be helping. See what happened when CNN's Drew Griffin tried to get some answers from the man in charge of this organization. That's coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Twin attacks in Afghanistan. High ranking U.S. military officers are among seven Americans killed.

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

SAMBOLIN: And something wild in an Arizona family's home. A feisty bobcat pays an unexpected visit.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. It is 29 minutes past the hour.

Brand new this morning -- the latest poll numbers out. President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney by a full seven points, 52 percent of Americans now saying they'd reelect President Obama. That's according to the latest CNN/ORC national poll.

Our political editor Paul Steinhauser joining us from D.C.

Paul, let's talk about this. Let's talk first about favorability.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. Interesting numbers there. We conducted the poll Tuesday and Wednesday.

Are there any good numbers for Mitt Romney? Yes, there actually is an interesting number. Take a look at this, Mitt Romney locked up the GOP nomination back in April. Do Romney voters more strongly support their candidate? Yes, they do, 56 percent. That's up nine points from back in May.

You can see Obama voters strongly favor their candidate about the same number from May until now.

But who do you think will win the election? Regardless of who you're backing, take a look at this number. We ask Americans who do you think will win the election? And overwhelmingly they say almost a 2-1 margin, they think President Obama will win the election in November, not Mitt Romney.

You know, one of the troubling numbers there for Romney, his unfavorable numbers, Poppy. They are starting to rise. We've seen it in our poll. We've seen it in two other national polls over the last week.

HARLOW: Most interesting numbers are the economy polls and how the U.S. economy is doing. They got less than three months to go. Jobs on the line, fiscal cliff, major spending cuts likely ahead and that would mean a lot of companies. We know -- they are saying a lot of companies ,that they are not hiring, Paul, because they are concerned about this federal spending cut and what that's going to mean.

Tell us about the economic numbers out.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. The economy has been the stop issue in the minds of Americans since late 2007. That has not changed. So we asked how people feel about the economy.

Look at these numbers, brand-new out this morning. You can see here, people who say that the economy is starting to recover, look, that number has edged down from April of 24 percent to 19 percent now. And a 6-point jump in people who say the economy is getting worse -- 33 percent in April, 39 percent now.

So, who do they think will do a better job on the economy -- the president or Mitt Romney? Well, Americans are divided. You can see, 31 percent say the economy will get better only if the president wins re-election. About an equal amount say the same if Mitt Romney wins. Sixteen percent say it will get better if either wins, and you can see at the bottom, 22 percent, say it will not get better at all.

Listen, you've seen both candidates say I will do the better job on the economy. Both candidates really making the pitch to the middle class. This election is all about the economy, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, there's only so much the president can do, right? It's not in the president's hands right now to solve the fiscal cliff looming crisis that we have. This is up to Congress. The people and men and women we elect in Washington to get the job done and it's not happening.

So, I think it's a bit frustrating from voters out there and maybe that's why you see pretty similar numbers in terms of will the economy get better if it's Romney or Obama because there's only so much that the president can do.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. And that's one of the arguments the president and his re-election campaign are doing, that they've been basically stopped at every attempt by the Republican-led House of Representatives.

But, you know, at the end of the day American voters look to the president as the person who can fix the economy, whether it's true or not. That's why so much is riding on this election.

But also, remember, Congress is up for grabs, all members of the House and one third of the Senate are up for re-election in November, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, interesting numbers. Very important numbers. Thank you, Paul.


SAMBOLIN: The moral of the story there is get out and vote, right?

HARLOW: Yes, do something.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-three minutes past the hour.

We're monitoring developments out of Afghanistan this morning. NATO confirms that three U.S. service members were killed when someone wearing an Afghan forces uniform open fire in southern Helmand Province. That was this morning.

And the Taliban is claiming responsibility for a suicide attack that killed four Americans Wednesday in the Kunar province. Three U.S. servicemember s died there, along with an American aide worker and an Afghan interpreter when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest.

HARLOW: And one of 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 is seeking to recover $4.3 million that she claims was diverted from needy veterans.


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. It's outrageous. It really is. They have -- they have really tugged I think at the heart strings 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.


HARLOW: According to the charity's tax records, Help Hospitalized Veterans president, Michael Lynch, you see him there, is paid an annual salary of $389,000. And the state of California charges that he used donations to pay for two country club memberships at a cost of $80,000.

Our Drew Griffin tried to track him down -- watch this -- for a comment.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I got to ask you about the money though -- I mean, that doesn't answer any of the questions about the money that they are -- that's it?


HARLOW: That's it. In its complaint, the state of California claims Help Hospitalized Veterans used bookkeeping gimmicks to inflate how much it spent on veteran services, resulting in false filings to the IRS.

I got to say, Drew has been such a good job staying on top of those veterans charity stories.

SAMBOLIN: And that's not it. There will be much more. Yes.

And Arizona animal rescue team had their hands full after a Tucson woman found a bobcat inside her house. That young bobcat fell through the roof into an open air solarium. Kelly Jacobson heard the cat trying to escape Wednesday morning. So she called Jeff Carver who had to snare the frightened animal with a net.


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

KELLY JACOBSON, FOUND BOBCAT IN HOUSE: I do like cats, far away from me but I do like cats.


SAMBOLIN: I'm so glad that had a happy ending. Experts at the Forever Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center say the bobcat is very young, just 10 to 12 weeks old. The cat will remain at the rehab center where a bobcat named Bisby will become her foster mother. HARLOW: Well, two-ton dragons with 40-foot wing spans coming to life on stage. Your kids are going to love it. Zoraida goes behind the scenes of the "How to Train a Dragon" spectacular.

SAMBOLIN: Your kids? You're going to love it.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

The 2010 animated film, "How to Train Your Dragon" was an epic tale of a mystical Viking boy who befriends a dragon and teaches his town a lesson in friendship. And now, audiences across America can experience the fire-breathing action and characters in a new live stage show spectacular all summer long.

I got a chance to see behind the scenes how they make these mythical creatures come to life and even learn how to train a dragon as well. Take a look.


SAMBOLIN: This was a book and then it became a movie and now it is this. How do you go from a book to this?

NIGEL JAMIESON, DIRECTOR, "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR": Well, we had lots of stages and lots of two and a half years in the making and teams around the world trying to produce this extraordinary melange of skills that we've managed to bring together to create this epic tale of epic creatures and flying and battles.

Apart from the dragons, 25 of them, and then there's a huge 60 meter wall, 180 foot, which is all kind of live projection, and this whole floor. These creatures are set within a world that can spin and turn and rotate. Principle operation is done by a team up there through remote control.

We're talking about you, behave please. Sometimes they misbehave. But on a good day, they're (INAUDIBLE) -- yes.

SAMBOLIN: You are in charge of special effects and I would expect most people are expecting a lot of fire.


SAMBOLIN: Gosh, you feel the heat.

AESCHLIMANN: Oh, yes, everybody will feel the heat.

"STOICK", "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR": This is the Gronckle, she is excited. You know why? She wants company, she wants --

SAMBOLIN: Can I ride Gronckle?

STOICK: I want you to get up there and go for a ride around the room.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's do it.

Oh, very cool.

STOICK: Be good now.

SAMBOLIN: Whenever they make any movement, any gesture, any noise, that's all you?

DANIEL FLOOD, "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR": Yes, I did everything from the head rotate, the head left right. Up down, this part represents the body so I can bounce the body up and down.

SAMBOLIN: You are the dragons.

FLOOD: Although Dan makes the great rules and there's like 100 sounds for each creature. It's a big comical moment in the show. It's a milder one. That's when he's confused. Angry.

SAMBOLIN: What's your favorite part of all of this?

"HICCUP", "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON LIVE SPECTACULAR": Probably the dragon and training with them and being with them and just how real they are and like it's so cool because I've always wanted a pet dragon. I always thought that would be awesome.

SAMBOLIN: I think every little boy, right?

HICCUP: Sure enough, I get one.

This amazing.


SAMBOLIN: Boy, I agree with him. That was really amazing. The coolest part of this though is those that are called voodoo puppeteers, the guys who actually control the dragons. And so, they are on there for about two hours. You cannot let go of that device at all.


SAMBOLIN: So, imagine having to go to the bathroom or having to scratch your nose or anything of the sort. So, another guy comes over and will scratch his nose --

HARLOW: Take it over?

SAMBOLIN: No, scratch his nose or do whatever. Yes, exactly. It's an incredible production. Good for children of all ages.

HARLOW: I'm going to take my 8-year-old nephew.

SAMBOLIN: You're going to enjoy it.

HARLOW: Might be a little scared.

SAMBOLIN: It is a little scary for the little ones. But, you know, at the end of the day, you'll have to sleep with them for a couple of nights.

HARLOW: Very cool.

Let's get a quick check on weather and the status on the drought. Let's go to the CNN weather center, Alexandra Steele, standing by. What can you tell us?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Well, you know, the bottom line is the drought that's continued to intensify. Latest numbers coming out today and as we look at it, you can see the darker the red, the worst it is. So, over 60 percent in a moderate drought and over worse, and over 50 percent of the country in a severe drought or worse.

So, things are getting worse for the most part. A little rain one day certainly won't impact it but we will see rain today. And especially the chance in the Northeast. New York, Philadelphia, D.C., the threat if you are flying, certainly the later you go, the worse it is. Some strong winds and hail for about a third of the country today.

Back to you guys.

HARLOW: Thanks so much. Have a great weekend.

STEELE: You too.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Our top stories:

NATO says three U.S. service members died after a gunman wearing an Afghan forces uniform open fire in southern Helmand Province.

The Taliban is claiming responsibility for an attack on 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 aide worker and Afghan interpreter.

HARLOW: Well, Goldman Sachs is off the hook. The Justice Department deciding not to pursue criminal charges against Wall Street powerhouse, following a two-year investigation into the firms bets against subprime mortgage securities, which it was subsequently selling to clients.

And officials in Louisiana want to know if an underground salt cavern is responsible for a massive sinkhole that has swallowed trees and forced all people from the area -- from their homes on the Bayou. The sinkhole is an assumption parish . It measures 324 feet in diameter, 50 feet deep, but in one corner, it actually goes down more than 420 feet.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): That is remarkable.


SAMBOLIN: Brooke Baldwin and John Berman are in for Soledad O'Brien this morning. And Brooke joins us now with a look at what is ahead.

BALDWIN: Happy Friday.


SAMBOLIN: Happy Friday.

BALDWIN: Good morning, ladies. And good morning to all of you. We are all over this breaking news here out of Afghanistan. A man in an Afghan military uniform opens fire on U.S. troops this morning, killing three. CNN, obviously, we're working our sources. We will take you live to the Pentagon for more.

Also, we're talking buses this morning as in Mitt Romney's bus tour about to get some unwanted company, as in the Democratic National Committee. Yes, Democrats plan to shadow Romney around the country. We've seen this before. It's happening again. This tour starts today. Tom Perriello leading of this tour.

The former Democratic congressman from Virginia, he will join us live. Plus, we will ask some Republicans what they think of this bus shadowing tactic. RNC chairman, Reince Priebus and Virginia's lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, they're also firing back with us this morning.

Plus, space geeks, intriguing images from Mars. The Curiosity rover is now, for the first time, giving us this 360-degree panoramic shot to the Red Planet. Lots of color. We're going to talk to someone with Goddard, and he'll explain sort of what this really means, you know, for really deep space exploration.

And heartthrob alert --


BALDWIN: Ladies and gentlemen, Olympic bragging rights team USA gold medal swimmers, Nathan Adrian and Ricky Berens stop by live to talk to us about swimming and some other things.


BALDWIN: Don't forget, you can watch CNN live in your computer, your mobile phone, while you're at work to


BALDWIN: Berman is really excited. I'm kind of excited.

SAMBOLIN: Of course. Thank you, Brooke. We're looking forward to it.

HARLOW: She fought through injuries and a mystery illness and finally got her gold medal. American pole vaulter, Jenn Suhr, joining us live from London next.

SAMBOLIN: Look at those arms.


HARLOW: Can anybody stop team USA? Our country's athletes are blowing away everyone else in the medal competition, a full ten medals ahead of China at this point. More golds too, including another gold medal for the women's U.S. soccer team. They beat Japan, the team they lost to in the World Cup last year.

Forget about the gold when you're up against the fastest man on earth. Jamaican superstar, Usain Bolt, is now the only man to ever win the Olympic sprint double twice. One of the greatest stories out of these games is a gold medal win for Jenn Suhr. She stunned the Russian favorite to win the women's pole vault competition. Suhr fought through injuries and a lot of adversity to get that top spot.

She's joining us now live from London. I think your story is incredible. So many congratulations to you with that gold medal shining on your neck. You vaulted 15 feet 7 inches. Tough conditions. Take us through your mindset to beat the Russian favorite.

JENN SUHR, U.S. POLE VAULT GOLD MEDAL WINNER: Yes. You know, entering the competition, I knew it was going to be tough. You know, just when she's in there, you have to really bring your A game and I knew that. And I also knew the weather and I knew that we're going to be up against rain and wind.

So, really going into this competition, I was preparing for that. I jumped in rain, I jumped in wind, you know, all to get ready for it. And those aren't ideal pole vault situations and conditions, but I mean, it work out. And really, you know, it was just hard training that went into it.

HARLOW: Very smart. Let's talk about where you trained, because you call the place that you trained here in the U.S., Rocky's meat locker. It's a worn out building and gets down to 30 degrees and train there on purpose to prepare for exactly what you had to face that day there in London.

SUHR: I do. You know, it does have that nickname and it's a steel building. It's cold. And we heat it with propane blowers. And as you know, Western New York is known for the Snow Belt. So, you know, we really prepare like that. And it makes you tougher. It makes you really have to deal with elements and conditions that you might not be used to, but you learn how to dig just a little bit deeper.

HARLOW: This year has been quite a year for you, Jenn. I mean, you have celiac disease, and you have to battle that, pay attention to your diet every day in terms of that. You had an Achilles' injury. You also had a torn quad, all this year. How did you get through those things to get to where you are now in the games and to win gold? How challenging was that?

SUHR: It was challenging. And you know, every time that I seemed to get to the level where I thought I was going to have a breakthrough, that's when the injury occurred or that's when something happened. I think that was the hardest part is I'd be up top and I was just ready to, you know, break through and do something that I've never done before in terms of my vaulting and then an injury happens.

So, it was hard to stay motivated. It was hard to stay positive in that where you just wanted to sink in depression, but you really have to just pick yourself up and that's where my husband and coach came in with that part.

You know, he is able to encourage me through it and be there and keep me motivated, because when you're hurt, you know, it's hard to stay motivated, and you really have to -- it's time. Honestly, you have to be patient and do whatever you can to stay in shape.

HARLOW: So much of it is mental and you brought up your husband and your coach, Rick. This is just a heartwarming story. Tell us what he told you right before you made that final vault. I know it was something that he'd actually never said to you in competition before.

SUHR: Yes, before the whole thing, you know, I left him and I was going to go warm up and he looked at me and he said, you're going to win this one. And you know, for him to say that and having competed in so many meets, and you know, all over the place, he's never said that before.

So, entering it, I was like, he really has that faith in me. He really believes that, you know, we have a partnership in the vault that can pull through, and we can win this.

HARLOW: He was absolutely right. So many congratulations, enjoy it. Savor this moment.

SUHR: All right. Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Thanks so much, Jen. And you know, Zoraida, amazingly, she didn't start pole vaulting until 2004. Can you believe it?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, man! That ranks a superstar. Thank you very much, Poppy.


SAMBOLIN: Wow! All right. Today's "Best Advice" from Bill Nye, the science guy, the ultimate geek, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: We wrap it up as always with "Best Advice."

HARLOW: Today, some quick words of wisdom from very smart guy, Bill Nye, the science guy.


BILL NYE "THE SCIENCE GUY", SCIENTIST, EDUCATOR: Everybody you ever meet knows something you don't.


HARLOW: No kidding.


HARLOW: But it's true. I think he's saying listen to what anyone you encounter on the street or at work says because they might teach you something.

SAMBOLIN: Or your children, I'm going to add that, because you just never know where these little brilliant minds are.

That is it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow. It's been great being with you this week. "Starting Point" starts right now.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, thank you. I'm going to miss you.

HARLOW: Thanks for having me. Me, too.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sorry, I forgot to say goodbye.


HARLOW: Brooke Baldwin and John Berman, take it away.