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No Holds Barred; Syria Hotel Attack; The West in Flames; Biden's "Back In Chains" Remark

Aired August 15, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: No holds barred. The vice president sparks what might be the nastiest attacks yet in the race for the White House.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Too close for comfort. An explosion detonated just outside a hotel housing U.N. monitors in Syria.

SAMBOLIN: The American West in flames. Look at this. Fire crews struggle to contain more than 60 blazes. Those are burning right now.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Just when you thought the race for the White House couldn't get any nastier, it did. Mitt Romney now claiming that President Obama is, quote, "angry and desperate, intellectually exhausted" and a, quote, "disgrace".

The White House firing back suggesting the former Massachusetts governor is coming, quote, "unhinged". It was Vice President Joe Biden who lit this fuse on this latest firestorm. Listen to what he said about Romney in southern Virginia yesterday.

And keep in mind, hundreds of African-Americans were in the crowd.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said in the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They're going to put y'all back in chains.


BERMAN: That comment got Romney and the Republicans all riled up. And Biden had to jump right back in later and do some damage control. Take a listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Another outrageous charge just came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little bit lower.

His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency.

BIDEN: I you want to know what's outrageous, it's their policies, and the effects of their policies on middle-class America. That's what's outrageous!


BERMAN: So are you feeling the love?

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Washington this morning.

And, Paul, you know, Paul Ryan was supposed to lift the level of rhetoric in this campaign. We're three or four days later. Hasn't really happened yet, has it?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: You know, Paul Ryan's name as Mitt Romney's running mate has changed the makeup of this campaign. It was a choice election -- or it is a choice election now, before it was a referendum on Barack Obama. So, yes, that is true, John.

But what hasn't changed is the nasty rhetoric. We had it before. We had it last week. We still have it now. The Biden comments getting a lot of play yesterday, a lot of pushback as you mentioned from Mitt Romney and from his campaign.

Also, from some of the surrogates -- Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania, who ran a pretty tough campaign against Mitt Romney back in the Republican primaries, but now is somewhat of a surrogate. He was on Piers Morgan last night. Take a listen.


RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way he said it, put y'all back in chains, that to an audience that was, you know, a lot of African-Americans in that audience, that's -- that's just -- that's just the kind of stuff that you would expect from -- from a campaign that has played special interest politics more than any campaign in the history of this country.


STEINHAUSER: You know, the candidate himself, Governor Romney, also reacted. You played a little bit of that sound from Chillicothe, Ohio, last night. He went on to say, "Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago."

As you mentioned, the Obama campaign responding, saying that Mitt Romney had become unhinged. They also pointed out, "Wait a minute. Isn't Mitt Romney putting a lot of negative ads out there and pouring millions of dollars into it?"

Both sides, John, both sides here laying it on. We asked in a poll, what do you think? Is one side more negative than the other? Americans are divided. They don't think either campaign is more negative than the other. I guess they're getting used to very, very nasty talk.

BERMAN: The president was in Iowa yesterday on the stump. A lot of people including me, frankly, were surprised he weighed in on the issue of Seamus. Seamus, of course, the old Romney family dog that is subject of late night comedy for years now. But the president went there yesterday. Let's take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During a speech a few months ago Governor Romney even explained his energy policy. This is what he said. He said, you can't drive a car with a windmill on it. That's what he said about wind power. You can't drive a car with a windmill on it.

I mean, maybe he's tried it. He's put other things on the roof.


BERMAN: You know, he had a smile when he said it. Still, that's the president making a Seamus joke, Paul.

STEINHAUSER: You know, not only is it once, twice, three times. Three different stops in Iowa yesterday he did it. It used a different variation of that line. Of course, he's talking about the story of Seamus the dog, the Romney family dog. They took a family trip. Put the dog in a crate and put it on top in the roof of the car.

It came up in the 2008 campaign when Romney was first running from the White House, used by his detractors, used again this time. And there you go, the president talking about that.

Again, John, it seems everything is fair game in this campaign. Whether that's good or bad, I'll let the voters decide.

BERMAN: We haven't even hit the conventions yet. Paul Steinhauser in Washington, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It is five minutes past the hour.

President Obama and the first lady will speak at two campaign stops, that's in Iowa today, before they return to the White House. Vice President Biden attends a rally at Virginia Tech, and Mitt Romney spends a day fundraising in North Carolina and Alabama.

And Paul Ryan heads to Ohio for a campaign rally at Miami University.

BERMAN: His alma mater, by the way.

Moving on, the West, it's burning. A pair of fires in Lake County, north of San Francisco has already torched 7,000 acres. Three buildings have been destroyed or damaged. Nearly 500 homes are threatened.

In Washington state, the National Guard has been activated. More than 60 homes have been burned and at least 900 people have been forced to evacuate because of a fire in the central part of the state that's now charred 28,000 acres and counting.

This morning there are 62 mostly uncontained fires raging in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Washington state and California. And in Idaho, a firefighter was killed.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. Take a look at that map. Let's go right over to Rob Marciano. This is just unrelenting.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You notice something about that map. Obviously, the Intermountain West. We had very, very little snow this year. So, without that snow pack, you've got not a whole lot of runoff and very dry land. And that's part of the reason. The heat as well.

Good morning again, guys. We're looking at red flag warnings across the Intermountain West in spots, including the Pacific Northwest as well, temperatures there 90s. Winds gusty at times.

Here are some of the record highs we continue to see especially across the Desert Southwest and southern California, Needles seeing 117, Phoenix another record high of 113, Redding, California, at North Cal, seeing 112. That's where some of those fires are burning.

We do expect to see similar numbers today. Along the immediate shoreline, I mean, it's cool. That's the deal. You go into the inland valleys, including valleys across the I-9 corridor, from Eugene up through Seattle, in the next couple days, they're going to see temperatures that will approach in some cases 100 degrees. And that's going to cause a threat for fires in those areas as well.

We do have video out of Sage, California. You mentioned a number of fires. There's one in northern California that where actually they jumped fire lines. This one in southern California. One burning in the Joshua Tree National Forest as well.

So, up and down the western coastline we're seeing some of this action.

Also should point out, guys, severe thunderstorms potentially across the western Great Lakes today and the extreme eastern coastline. We'll talk more later about a potential cool down in the Midwest. Cool down, that would be nice.

Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Some people will enjoy that, actually. Thank you very much, Rob.


BERMAN: All right. You're seven minutes after the hour right now. An unrelenting violence in Syria. Syrian state TV reporting an explosive device on a diesel tanker detonated behind a hotel housing U.N. monitors in Damascus. Three people were reportedly injured. State media reporting that monitors, though, are safe.

SAMBOLIN: This West Nile virus is out of control. A state of emergency after the nation's worst outbreak of West Nile virus. Sixteen people have died in Texas and early 200 have been infected with West Nile.

Health officials say an unusually warm winter and rainy spring in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area have made it an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

BERMAN: It is getting really bad down there.

SAMBOLIN: It's terrible.

BERMAN: All right. You have to take a look at this. A plane pileup on the runway at Nashville International Airport. You don't see this very much.

SAMBOLIN: That's something you don't want to see.

BERMAN: Investigators trying to figure out how these two private jets collided on the runway and one ended up on top of the other. Our affiliate WTVF says no passengers were on board and no one was hurt. Luckily.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, no kidding.

Berman, you feeling lucky this morning?

BERMAN: Always.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, good. You might want to play the Powerball. The multistate Powerball jackpot is growing. It now stands at $320 million. Of course, it could very well keep climbing. The big drawing happens tonight. We'll have more Powerball fever in a live report in about 25 minutes.

What are you chances of winning, right? We always, they're just so poor. But there's actually an interesting spin on this. We're going to share that with you.

BERMAN: After this big craze this May, I'm surprised people are still buying.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: All right. And nine minutes past the hour right now.

An attempted robbery at the home of the late Steve Jobs foiled, get this, with the help of Apple technology. That's what the police say. We'll tell you how, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 12 minutes past the hour.

Well, they're already lining up in Houston, Texas. You're looking at pictures from outside the Mexican consulate where today young illegal immigrants there and across the country will begin their quest for a temporary reprieve from deportation. They can apply for a two-year deferral under a program put in place by the Obama administration.

Immigration officials are expecting a flood of applications. We spoke with a student here in New York City about the reprieve and how it could change his life.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): For much of Antonio Alarcon's life, his parents have gone missing.

ANTONIO ALARCON, MEXICAN NATIONAL: I live probably most 1/3 of my life without them.

SAMBOLIN: They left him in Mexico at the age of 6 to work illegally in the United States. They brought him across a desert to the United States at 11. But then they were forced to go back for good.

ALARCON: I stay here. I think I have better future in education in the United States than Mexico.

SAMBOLIN: On this day, he feels he made the right decision. Now 17, he is one of as many as 1.7 million illegal immigrants who today became eligible for a two-year break from prosecution. That's according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center.

OBAMA: This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix.

SAMBOLIN: The election year executive order helping the so-called DREAM Act kids came even as the Obama administration deported record numbers of immigrants.

AD NARRATOR: Obama has deported more people than any other president in this country's history.

SAMBOLIN: Even as he is under attack from conservatives for being too soft.

ROMNEY: Because an executive order, of course, is a short-term matter. It can be reversed by subsequent presidents.

SAMBOLIN: The new immigration rules also allow the students to apply for U.S. work permits.

DAN STEIN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION: We have profound unemployment levels, structural problems in the labor market. And now, all of the sudden, right before the election, he's claiming this newfound authority to virtually -- allow virtually limitless numbers of people to come in.

SAMBOLIN (on camera): Why do you deserve to be here?

ALARCON: Well, I think I contribute to this country. We pay -- I mean, I'm going to pay taxes next year. So I think I'm part of this country, too.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Once his papers are processed and approved, Alarcon can visit his parents in Mexico.

(on camera): What do you miss the most about your mom and your dad.

ALARCON: For example, graduation, they weren't here for me to be there. I was part of student government. I was on the stage. They weren't there to see me, like, be one of the best students in the city.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The next time he sees them, he will be just starting college.


SAMBOLIN: You know, for this young man and for all of the kids yesterday that I visited at that place here, it was in Queens, you know, they've made a huge sacrifice. They're working really hard in order to get some rights. That paperwork that was supposed to be released today actually got released early while we were there. These kids were crying, hugging each other, because for them it means hope.

The big question here remains if there's a new administration come November, what does it mean for them then?

BERMAN: But they're all looking at this as a life-changing moment.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is. But it's a daunting process. I have to tell you. The paperwork was five pages with a six-page explanation on how to fill it out. That is so that they could stay here in the country legally. And then on top of that, you have to fill out the paperwork in order to be able to work in this country.

So, it's quite a process. Some people are saying that it could be bad because now they're going to be able to track you. They're going to know exactly where you live and they're going to know you're in this country illegally.

So, in our next hour at 6:40 Eastern, we'll talk with Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Democratic chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force. We're going to ask him tough questions about this, because, you know, he's saying, come out and fill out this paperwork. Should they, is the question.

BERMAN: It is now 16 minutes after the hour. We want to get you up to speed on some of the other headlines.

"Presidential politics taking a nasty turn, it started yesterday with Vice President Biden saying Republicans would, quote, "unchain and put voters back in change. And he said this in from of the Wall Street and put voters back in chain. He said this in front of a largely African-American crowd.

Mitt Romney calling that remark outrageous and a disgrace to the office of the presidency. Biden returned fire later on saying what's really outrageous is Romney's policies.

SAMBOLIN: Police on New York's Long Island are investigating, look at this, an explosion that destroyed a home. It also killed an 18-month- old boy. It sent 14 others to the hospital.

There's nothing left of that two-story house in the Suffolk County community of Bentwood. Police and firefighters have been sifting through all of the rubble. They are trying to determine a cause.

Investigators say there are no natural gas lines in that area. But two destroyed, 200-pound propane tanks were found right outside the home. Seven people were inside when it blew up including that little toddler.

BERMAN: House completely gone.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh! Horrible.

BERMAN: All right. More bad news for Chad Ochocinco Johnson. His wife of six weeks, Evelyn Lozada, is filing for divorce after Johnson allegedly head butted her last weekend which led to his arrest. VH1 pulled the plug on the couple's reality show after the altercation. The Miami Dolphins released Johnson.

In a statement, he apologized for the recent events that have occurred and says, quote, "I would like to wish Evelyn well and will never say anything bad about her because I love her to death. I will continue to be positive and train hard for another opportunity in the NFL.

SAMBOLIN: Apple has been granted a major TV patent. It will allow Apple TV viewers to use a cable box to watch both regular and cable channels as well as recording programs. It could significantly boost the popularity of Apple TV, whose greatest asset has been connecting with Apple devices.

BERMAN: All right. 18 minutes after the hour. We're getting an early look at your local papers and the headlines making news around the country.

We were just talking about Apple. Well, in Palo Alto, where Steve Jobs had his house, his house was burglarized. There's a suspect in custody. This is from San Jose Mercury News. It says 35-year-old Kareem McFarland (ph) entered the home last month in Palo Alto. It was empty. No people were inside. But he walked way with $60,000 worth of loot -- iPods, iPhones, Macs, iPads. Even Steve Jobs' wallet which only had $1 in it.

You know, police caught this guy because he allegedly tried to go online on the Internet with some of the devices he found in the house. The police nabbed him. SAMBOLIN: He actually gave one of the iPads to his daughter. I mean, it's a special story.

All right. Here's another one for you. A homeowner in Connecticut realizes she's being billed for electricity used to power street lights right near her home. And that she has been paying for it for 25 years. This story courtesy of WTNH. Her name is Grace Edwards.

And she realized that, you know, there was this error because she was selling her home. She's looking through everything and she's like, I'm paying more than I need to. So, she contacted the power company. They did nothing for her. She contacted media. Apparently media did nothing for her.

So, she contacted a third party who in two days solved this problem. And get this -- more than $10,000 she had overpaid. Moral of the story: check your light bill very, very carefully.

BERMAN: Check all your bills very carefully.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable.

BERMAN: You never know what they're sneaking in there.

SAMBOLIN: She was persistent, though, which I like about her.

BERMAN: Ten thousand bucks. Hope she uses it well.

For an expanded look at our top stories head to our blog,

SAMBOLIN: It is 20 minutes past the hour.

People show their confidence in the economy not on Wall Street. They show it at the mall. What the latest sales figures say about the recovery. That is coming up.


BERMAN: Minding your business this morning. Stocks are set for a slightly lower open, although futures are close to the flat line. So, things could easily turn around. A new report on inflation could impact trading today.

SAMBOLIN: Ready for some good news? Some good news on the economy? Americans are shopping again.

CNN's Poppy Harlow is in for Christine Romans.

Why is this so important?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Because what we spend, consumer spending is two-thirds of our GDP. So, our growth. So, it's really the driver, the economic engine of us getting back on track.

What we know now is that in July things turned around. You're spending more at the mall, on cars, et cetera. Retail sales rose for the first time in four months.

It shows that the U.S. economy is rebounding a bit in the face of all the troubles in Europe. What it also shows is the Fed may step back because we had a good jobs report in July as well, relatively good. They may say we don't necessarily need more stimulus at this point in time. That's going to be important out of their September meeting.

But this is only one month's data. We can't read too much into it. But it is a shift. What we all spend is very important to this economy turning around. It's a little bit of good news.

Michael Kors, interesting tidbit here. We're seeing luxury doing well. Michael Kors just went public in December. Their sales were extremely good, earnings nearly tripled.

We're seeing luxury doing well. And this is what we've seen throughout the recession -- Ralph Lauren, Saks, et cetera. So, a just little tidbit. Luxury doing better than others.

BERMAN: So, we're learning a lot every day about Paul Ryan, the V.P. pick for the Republican Party. But one of the things I'm hearing, he's good at the stock market thing.

HARLOW: He's very good. So, what we got is this disclosure. Every congressman has to put this out. It's 2011 disclosure. So, we know what he held in 2011. A lot of blue chips. But some very interesting investments he's done very well at. Home Depot, it's up 30 percent. He didn't buy rival Lowe's. Apple up 56 percent, Amazon up 35 percent, Wells Fargo,

But I think some of the most interesting things are he owns Nike. We know he's a workout phen (ph). He owns a little bit of McDonald's. And we know he used to work at McDonald's back in the day. And he owns some Berkshire Hathaway stock, the company founded by Warren Buffett. He doesn't like the Buffett rule. He doesn't like Buffett telling people to pay more in taxes.

So, just from tidbits, but he's done really well. And our Maureen Farrell, who wrote this story on, she pointed out there's not a Paul Ryan ATF out there, and ticker RYAN is available. So, if the V.P. thing doesn't work out, you know, maybe --

SAMBOLIN: There you have it. A lot of people would be following him.

Poppy Harlow, thank you very much.

BERMAN: Twenty-six minutes after the hour right now. And he admits he's not politically correct, but the congressional candidate once known as Joe the plumber, he may have crossed the line this time with something he said. We will let you be the judge, coming up.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Do you feel lucky? The power ball jackpot growing every minute. $320 million and counting.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): But as John Berman says, that's not much money.

All right. The final chapter in the Exxon Valdez saga. The infamous oil tanker from the 1980s meets its end.

BERMAN: And come on down! "The Price is Right" is looking for a few good men where only women have gone before.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Are you going to go?


SAMBOLIN: They're looking for a few good men.

BERMAN (on-camera): Yes. I don't measure up to that. That's not me. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It's half past the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are very happy that you're with us this morning. All right. So, tonight's power ball jackpot swelling to $320 million. Stoking players' wildest fantasies. How about yours? So, Jason Carroll is asking ticket buyers that very question. What would you do with all of the money? You know what I want to know is where do I buy the winning ticket?


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, well. You know, you can buy a winning ticket here where we are. You can do that at the 7- 11 in Times Square. You know, we saw a lot of folks out here yesterday trying to cash in on their dreams, buying tickets, trying to do what they can, using whatever strategies that they may have to pick numbers.

But, you know, the distinction of luckiest states actually does not go to New York. That distinction goes to Indiana and Wisconsin. Indiana with 46 winners in the past, Wisconsin, 41 winners.


CARROLL: But that's not stopping New Yorkers from coming out, trying to buy tickets. Listen to what some of them have to say about what they would do with the money.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I really want to do is travel. I want to travel to all the countries in the world, you know? So, when I got my money, it's going to be hard to find me, you know?

(LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest thing, I guess a nice -- nice car. Luxurious car. Maybe a Mercedes or a Jaguar, you know? Get a limousine. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quit my job. Yes. Not that I don't like -- I like my job. Hello, boss.




CARROLL: What would you do with the money? Would you keep your job? Would you still keep working? I don't know. I don't know if I'd be doing live shots here at 5:30 in the morning if I win the power ball.


CARROLL: I'm just kidding. I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

SAMBOLIN: I know, right?

CARROLL: I would. I would keep my job.


BERMAN: His pockets are stuffed with tickets right now. Overflowing.

SAMBOLIN: Be careful what you say, Mr. Carroll. This could get you into trouble. All right. So, you know, the mega millions last time was $600-some million. And Berman says, you know, this is just $320 million, but it could keep growing.

CARROLL: Yes. I mean, if there's no winner tonight, it is going to keep growing, without a doubt. And so, you can imagine how many more people are going to try and cash in on this. You know, you have to talk about the odds here. When you get to the odds, what, it's 320 million, x number of people are playing.

The odds are about 175 million to one. But you know, I was just reading something. Forget about those odds. I have just been reading that it's actually healthy to dream about winning and to dream about having money. And so, even if you don't win, it's a healthy dream to have, you know?

SAMBOLIN: Well, wait a minute. I have something here that says that the odds aren't bad that players will win something, but those are one in 32.

CARROLL: Well, you know, you could win $4, Zoraida. You know, that might buy you a cup of coffee here in New York.


BERMAN: You take the $4. I'll take the $320 million. All right? (LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Hey, Jason, buy us some tickets while you're out there, OK?

CARROLL: All right. I will. For sure.

BERMAN: But we are coming back even if we win.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, absolutely. As is Jason. As is Jason.

BERMAN: Excellent. Fantastic.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

CARROLL: You bet.

BERMAN: It is 33 minutes after the hour right now. We're talking politics and the race for the White House taking a decidedly nasty turn. Mitt Romney calling President Obama angry and desperate and a disgrace. The White House is firing back suggesting the former Massachusetts governor is becoming what they call unhinged.

It was Vice President Biden who started this all. Listen to what he said about Romney and the Republicans in Southern Virginia yesterday followed by Romney's response.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said in the first 100 days, he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They're going to put you all back in chains.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Another outrageous charge just came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little bit lower. His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency.


BERMAN: It's important to note Biden made those comments in front of a largely African-American audience.

Today, President Obama and the first lady will speak at two campaign stops in Iowa before they return to the White House. Vice President Biden is still in Virginia. He attends a rally at Virginia Tech. Mitt Romney, he'll be in North Carolina and Alabama for fundraisers. And Paul Ryan heads to Ohio for a campaign rally at his alma mater, Miami University.

SAMBOLIN: And the cast of the HBO series "The Wire" will host an Obama campaign fundraiser tonight on Martha's Vineyard. President Obama will not attend that fundraiser. The president has said "The Wire" about life on the streets in inner city Baltimore is his favorite show. BERMAN: Slightly different Martha's Vineyard than Baltimore where "The Wire" was set.

Samuel Wurzelbacher known as "Joe the Plumber" has his own unique solution to America's illegal immigration problem, unique (ph), some people call offensive. Wurzelbacher is running for Congress in Ohio. He was attending a fundraiser in Arizona Saturday for a local Senate candidate when he stirred things up with this comment.


SAMUEL WURZELBACHER, (R) OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: For years, I've said, you know, put a damn fence on the border going to Mexico and start shooting. I'm running for Congress and that should be a bad thing to say, but you know what? That's how I feel. I'm going to speak like I like to speak, and not worry about being politically correct.


BERMAN: Wurzelbacher was asked later if he'd like to retract those comments. He refused.

SAMBOLIN: Linda McMahon pinning a huge defeat on Republican challenger, Chris Shays, in last night's Connecticut Senate primary. The former WWE wrestling executive capturing more than 70 percent of the vote. McMahon will take on Democratic congressman, Chris Murphy, in November for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring, Joe Lieberman. She ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for the state's other seat.

BERMAN: George Zimmerman's lawyer says Florida's stand your ground law does not apply to his client. Attorney Mark O'Mara now believes the killing of Trayvon Martin is just a basic self-defense case, because he claims Zimmerman never had the option to retreat from being attacked.

And O'Mara's now claiming his client is so poor he may have him declared indigent so the state will pick up the legal expenses.

SAMBOLIN: It may be fitting end for a ship responsible for one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. The Exxon Valdez is being dismantled and is being sold for scrap. Back in 1989, the tanker spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William sound. The ship actually ended its seafaring days carrying ore under the name Oriental Nicety.

BERMAN: And he was best known as the wisecracking sweat hog. Actor, Ron Palillo, who played Arnold Horshack in 1970 sitcom, "Welcome Back, Kotter," has died of an apparent heart attack. Palillo, he was a Shakespearian actor before hitting it big as a goofball in the "Welcome Back, Kotter" show. He (ph) was so good. And that show was fantastic. Ron Palillo is 63 years of age.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. So young.

All right. So, if you are a guy, listen up. BERMAN: I am a guy.

SAMBOLIN: And you know how to showcase your good looks. How about that, Mr. Berman? And maybe even a toaster. Come on down. "The Price is Right" has announced it is looking for its first male model. The prices have almost always been displayed by female models in the game show's 40-year history.

CBS says the male model search will air as a five episode web series on "The Price is Right's" official website. An open casting call will be held in Los Angeles tomorrow. I'm going to check out the lines there.

BERMAN: I do love the showcase showdown.

High anxiety at a Maryland condo complex after a truck carrying dangerous cargo crashes. Look at that. We'll have the story coming up.


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

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It's 41 minutes after the hour right now. Glad you're with us. Overseas, a blast absolutely rocking Damascus. Syrian state TV reporting an explosive device on a diesel tanker truck detonated behind a hotel housing U.N. monitors in the Syrian capital. Three people reportedly injured, but the monitors are said to be safe. Then there's this.




BERMAN: YouTube video that reports to show the fight for the Salahadin district of Aleppo. CNN can't independently confirm this. The video was uploaded yesterday. It shows how intense the fighting has been lately in that neighborhood. Senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, and his crew have made really dangerous trip in and out of Aleppo, dodging sniper fire to get the story.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are literally just a few meters from our destination here in Aleppo. Car's run out of gas. We're pushing it up a hill. I don't know where we're going to get any petrol. All right. Well, we made it. We left our safe house at 11 o'clock in the morning. It's ten minute past 10:00 at night, and we finally made it to Aleppo.

All right. We're now going in the direction of Salahadin where, of course, all the fighting has taken place. He's saying -- they're saying here there's a sniper that's shooting. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a sniper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get down, get down, get down.


WEDEMAN: OK. We made it.


BERMAN: Again, that was Ben Wedeman reporting, showing how incredibly dangerous it is to try to get the truth out of Syria. Fifty-seven member states of the organization of Islamic Cooperation meet today. They will consider whether to vote on suspending Syria from their group. The group represents 1.5 billion Muslims.

SAMBOLIN: It's so sad to continue seeing that happen over and over and over again. All the destruction and devastation and the death. And you know, to see him going in there.

BERMAN: It's courageous.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Risking his life. Forty-four minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date with this morning's top stories.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Vice President Biden igniting a firestorm by telling voters in Virginia, many of them in the audience African- American, that Republican policies will put them, quote, "back in chains." Former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, entering the fray, blasting the vice president and the Obama administration for trying to divide Americans.


RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no end and no depth that this campaign won't go to try to solidify votes and to try to polarize this nation. And to see that out of president -- Vice President Biden was really sickening.


SAMBOLIN: Santorum also praised Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate calling the Wisconsin congressman's ideas, quote, "innovative and bipartisan."

BERMAN (voice-over): Police in Jonesboro, Arkansas, revealing a video to back up their claim that a 21-year-old suspect shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back of a squad car. This video you're looking at shows an officer re-enacting how Chavez carter could have killed himself after he was picked up on an outstanding warrant in July. The FBI has been called in to investigate Carter's death.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. All right. After 49 years in a prison cell, the longest serving female inmate in America is free. Betty Smithey (ph) tasting freedom for the first time since 1963 Monday, following an order from Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, and the agreement of the state clemency board. Smithey was just past her teens with a history of mental illness when she killed a toddler she'd been hired to babysit.

Smithey says she turned her life around after the child's mother sent her a letter forgiving her 19 years after the killing.

BERMAN: All right. You have to check out these pictures out of Northeastern Maryland. Look at that. A propane tanker loses its brakes, overturn, and slams into this condo complex. The driver was taken to a hospital. We don't know his condition. You know, there was apparently a small leak in the propane tank, but luckily, there was no explosion. Bad enough the truck flipped over and landed in the condo complex. These buildings were evacuated as a precaution.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): No kidding. That is incredible video there.

All right. Your cell phone knows where you will be tomorrow give or take about 60 feet. An article in slate says a team of British researchers has developed an algorithm that uses tracking data on people's phones to predict, predict where you are going to be in 24 hours. Listen to this. The average error? Just about 20 meters. It's crazy. Seriously? OK. I want them to test it out on me.

BERMAN (on-camera): That's spooky.


BERMAN: You'll be asleep --

SAMBOLIN: Well, tomorrow morning, they know where I'll be, but beyond that, that would be interesting.

BERMAN: Dangerous. Dangerous, dangerous stuff.

All right. Forty-seven minutes after the hour right now. And get this. Hooter's, high heels, and beer.

SAMBOLIN: What do they have in common?


BERMAN: Let me tell you. They all have to do with your money and maybe the economy. Big picture economy. That's a tease, and we'll tell you why coming up.

And if you're leaving your house right now --

SAMBOLIN: For so many reasons, Mr. Berman.

BERMAN: Yes, that's right. (LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: If you're leaving your house, don't worry about it, because you can watch us all the time on your desktop or your mobile phone. Just go to


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It's about ten minutes before the hour. I'm John Berman along with Zoraida Sambolin. And we are taking a look at what is trending on the web this morning.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Weird but true, folks. Economic indicators said they don't teach you in business school. This is incredible. Business insider compiled a list of 36 bizarre signs of how the economy is doing. One of them? The Hooter's Index.

BERMAN: I want to hear this.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, yes. Here's the idea. The hotter the waitress, the closer the economy is to the brink. Some analysts say physically attractive people can leverage their looks in down times to get better paying jobs. Makes sense, right? I have the beer index for you. I know he's speechless here.


SAMBOLIN: So, here's the concept behind this. (INAUDIBLE) flip when the economy flips because people often try to save money by drinking at home, sending pub (ph) sales and bar jobs into a tailspin.

BERMAN: That's interesting. Makes sense.

SAMBOLIN: That makes sense, right? A lot of these make sense. Here's another one. The high heel index.

BERMAN: This one I don't buy.

SAMBOLIN: Well, in an economic downturn, heels go up. You can interpret that so many different ways. Analysts say consumers turn to more flamboyant fashions as a means of fantasy and escape. I have proof for you. During the 1920s, low flapper shoes gave way to high pumps during the depression. Stilettos surged over the dot com boom. Heels reached new heights over the 2008-2009 crisis.

BERMAN: My heels haven't changed one bit.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, but what about your wife?



BERMAN: All right. This is also trending. He is always trending.

SAMBOLIN: I love the story, actually. BERMAN: Tim Tebow. Tebow is on the cover of "GQ," but you know --

SAMBOLIN: Inside, inside --

BERMAN: It's not the cover that's causing the stir here. It's a picture inside that shows Tim Tebow, shirtless, posing in a somewhat Christ-like pose. This has caused quite a stir. People on radio talking all about this, calling him a narcissist and the like. But what's interesting about this, this photo is not even close to new.

"GQ" recycled this photo from when Tebow was in Florida. They actually made it black and white and they photoshopped it to make it, you know, you can see where it was taken. But again, it is causing quite a stir here. Tim Tebow, the backup quarterback in the news every day.

SAMBOLIN: Can you put the cover back up, because I think maybe we missed this, right? Can we look at the cover again? Because it says "brothers, have you accepted Tim Tebow as your Sunday savior?" But I think it's the women they were really appealing to.

BERMAN: I don't know who they're appealing to. Not Jet fans.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Listen to this, shark week fans taking a bite out of their TVs. This was a head scratcher for me this morning, but here it is. The Discovery Channel launched a viral campaign on Twitter under #photochamping. The network was asking people to tweet pictures of themselves champing on their TV sets to promote shark week. Some of the best posted on their website. The first 25 chompers got a free T-shirt. I participated.

BERMAN: That's right. We want to make sure you get the free T-shirt. So, if you want to get a sense of what this is supposed to look like, there she is. Zoraida Sambolin biting a TV.

SAMBOLIN: And you know what happened? I got so close that I actually did bite it. My tooth hit the TV.

BERMAN: Right. Well done. Well done.

SAMBOLIN: I still don't get it.

BERMAN: Maybe you'll win. We'll all get lucky here. Coming to a city near you, it's America's fierce five, the gold medal winning women's gymnastics team. They're set to embark on a 40-city post- Olympic tour. But first, they paid a visit to David Letterman.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Some of these events like the thing, you know, where you go running as fast as you can run and you see the thing right there --


LETTERMAN: And you got to get over it. What do they call that? That's the vault --


LETTERMAN: The vault. Exactly. Now, is the vault related to the pommel horse?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't do the pommel horse.


LETTERMAN: Only the men do the pommel horse.


LETTERMAN: Do the men also do the vault?




LETTERMAN: But tell me about the vault. You're running as fast as you can, and then what happens?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You flip over it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do a round up on the floor. You put your hands on a mat, and then you put your feet on a springboard. You do a back hand spring on the table and block as hard as you can to go high.



LETTERMAN: Is it as -- it looks frightening. Is it frightening?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is pretty frightening.

LETTERMAN: Why do they make you do that?




LETTERMAN: You know what I mean? You're daredevils. Well, it kind of looks that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why we're the fierce five.

LETTERMAN: You are the fierce five.



BERMAN: I like how they all squeezed out on to the same couch. It's fantastic.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And the fierce five, they coined that phrase. That's how they wanted to be known. So, they are actually going to be on "Starting Point" tomorrow. And you know how I know this? I walked in this morning and the guy from security says, Zoraida, tell me it's true. And he said the girls -- Gabby is going to be here.

He has got the "People" magazine with her on the cover, and he's pointing to her. He is so excited to meet her. So, they will be on "Starting Point" tomorrow. You're going to have to stay tuned for that.

So, this morning's top stories are straight ahead for you, including the race to save homes out west from dozens of wildfires. They are raging right now. You're watching EARLY START.