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Bomb Threat Diverts Flight; Wildfires raging in 13 States; Search for Answers; Biden a Liability?

Aired August 16, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Raging out of control: dozens of wildfires intensify in the American West.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The search for answers, the FBI investigating whether a shooting at a conservative group's Washington headquarters was politically motivated.

SAMBOLIN: America's newest multigazillionaire. We don't know who he or she is, but we know where they bought the $337 million Powerball. I bet they didn't get any sleep last night.

BERMAN: Lucky dog.

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

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: We begin this breaking news.

Word that a flight from New York to Moscow was diverted to Iceland very early this morning. U.S. law enforcement officials say they received an anonymous threat that there were five suitcases with bombs on board. The plane is from Aeroflot, a Russian airline.

We know that it landed safely. Passengers are off and the plane is being searched as we speak right now. Of course, we're going to keep you updated all morning. We don't know how many Americans are onboard. There are few details, but we are gathering more information for you.

BERMAN: First, our lead story this morning, fierce fires just raging in the west. At least 70 large wildfires burning right now, already consuming 1.3 million acres. California has the most with 13. They've called the marines to help beat back the flames.

But folks in central Washington state had been hit the hardest. The wind whipped tailor bridge fire torched 40 square miles at this point, destroying at least 60 homes.

Rob Marciano joins us now live from Cle Elum, Washington, this morning. The issue here, it looks like these are going to get worse. ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, in many spots. The good news with this particular fire is that the winds calmed down a little bit. With that, the heat will be building. This fire started Monday night near a construction site and grew rapidly.

This is an area and a weakness in the Cascade Mountains, called the Stampede Pass. Well, during the summertime, the winds blow pretty steadily out of the West. So, the big fear all the time here is if they get a wildfire to go, it's going to grow and grow rapidly. That's exactly what happened Monday night into Tuesday.

The aerial shot here it gives you an idea the extent of this fire, over 40 square miles burned, 22,000 acres. And numerous homes, 60 homes. Some of the ground shots are heartbreaking as the winds whip these flames up and move them along the ground at such a rapid pace that people had to get out of their homes.

A story we've heard several times in other states, including Colorado.

They're battling for containment. They're cautiously optimistic, they'll get more than what they had as of yesterday, which was 10 percent. Maybe by today, they'll get to 25 percent. They're worried, John, that the fire could jump over highway 90 and residents that are evacuated, over 450 families evacuated, they might be able to go back and look, assess on Friday but no word as to when they'll be able to go back.

It's way too early to tell that. They'll be battling this for at least a week to get containment. One of the commanders said they're going to be seeing smoke and seeing ash until the snow falls this fall -- John.

BERMAN: Very dramatic pictures we're looking at here, Rob.

So, the wind is shifting but the weather conditions, dry heat, what are we looking at?

MARCIANO: Dry and heat.

You know, Oregon, Washington, these are states that typically -- you know, they're not as hot as 90 or 100 degrees. They'll get to that later on this week. But in California, they're still battling fires there. Lake County fire just north of Sacramento and in Napa Valley, that's a 75 - 900-acre blaze, the Sage brush fire near San Bernardino and another fire near San Diego, they're battling those as well.

But the heat from California will be surging north. Take a look at the numbers forecast for Oregon and Washington. Excessive heat warnings posted for the next couple days. Temperatures in Portland could get to 100 degrees, here in Seattle, over 90 degrees. And low levels of humidity.

And then, John, over the weekend, a potential for thunderstorms along the spine of the Cascades could spark more fires or at the very least cause more in the way of gusty winds. So, they're hoping to take advantage of the low winds today but the heat is going to certainly take a toll on the firefighters.

BERMAN: All right. Rob Marciano in Cle Elum, Washington, where it looks like it will be touch and go for the next few days. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Police in Washington, D.C. and the FBI are trying to determine a motive for shooting at the headquarters of the conservative Family Research Council. The suspect, 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins is in custody. He is tried with assault with a deadly weapon.

A security guard who was wounded withed in that shooting helped capture Corkins. Authority say the suspect made negative comments about the council's opposition to gay marriage before he opened fire. They say Corkins had recently volunteered at a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center. We're going to have a live report in just a few minutes from CNN's Sandra Endo. She is at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, D.C.

BERMAN: Five minutes after the hour right now. President Obama and Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker defending Vice President Biden's controversial remarks about putting people back in chains. Biden was referring to what he suggested were Mitt Romney's plans to deregulate Wall Street. The president told "People" magazine that Biden meant Americans will be worse off if we roll back financial reforms.

On CNN's "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," Booker said the vice president is a victim of what he called sound bite politics.


MAYOR COREY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I beg America, listen to the whole speech by the vice president. Don't let the sound bites that the media's presenting to you affect your mind. Listen to the whole speech. This was a substantive speech about how we're going to reform Wall Street, about how we're going to protect consumers.


BERMAN: For his part, Corey Booker says he's tired of politics fueled by super PAC money and sound bites.

On the other side, the former New York City Rudy Giuliani just ripped into Joe Biden, questioning his intelligence and his capacity to lead after the vice president's controversial remarks. Listen to what Giuliani told Piers Morgan last night.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: The vice president wasn't very nice yesterday. The vice president did something disgusting yesterday.

If Vice President Cheney did this, if Sarah Palin did this, if Paul Ryan did this, it would have been on the front page of "The New York Times" and you all would have been outraged. So, somebody had to get outraged and it's going to be me.


BERMAN: Giuliani went on to say, in all his years, he says he's never seen a vice president who's made as many mistakes or said as many, quote, "stupid things as Joe Biden". Again, those are Giuliani's words.

SAMBOLIN: So, just a few hours ago, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed an executive order directing state agencies to deny benefits, including driver's license, to defer action recipients there, even listening to the story for a couple of days now. So, thousands of young, undocumented immigrants across the country apply for deportation relief after it went into effect this week.

But Governor Brewer says the deferral program offers temporary legal status to some young illegal immigrants so they can work legally. It was created in June by president Barack Obama, the Department of Justice will now likely get involved.

BERMAN: It's got to be emotional for those people signed up yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: I just cannot believe she can do that. It will be interesting to see how the federal government responds to that. It's really a mandate. It's a new program and everybody gets to participate.

BERMAN: She's picking a fight, that's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, she is.

BERMAN: Seven minutes after the hour and there's a hearing later this morning for two former Penn State administrators accused stated of lying to a grand jury in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.

Lawyers for the former athletic director Tim Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz will argue to have the case against their clients thrown out. Both men are facing perjury charges. They are not expected to attend today's hear.

Penn state announcing they will be hosting a conference on sex abuse at the end of October. Among the attendees, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard and Utah kidnapping victim, Elizabeth Smart. They're both schedule this week.

SAMBOLIN: A hypersonic test flight spiraling out of control.

BERMAN: It's too bad.

SAMBOLIN: It is too bad. It's crash and burn, folks.

The Pentagon saying the Waverider aircraft was destroyed before reaching its target speed of 4,600 miles per hour. We previewed the test flight earlier this week with Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. The Air Force is saying a problem with the tail fin caused it to spiral. Yes, too bad.

BERMAN: All right. Put that retirement on hold unless you live in Michigan. Just one winning ticket was sold for last night's $337 million Powerball jackpot. It was purchased somewhere in Michigan. Lottery officials say it is the tenth largest prize in the U.S. ever.

Here are the winning numbers. 6, 27, 46, 51, 56 and the Powerball is 21. If you are holding that number --

SAMBOLIN: Call us.

BERMAN: Call me and be my best friend.

SAMBOLIN: You know, is that one of the states that Jason Carroll said typically wins.

BERMAN: He said Wisconsin or Indiana.


BERMAN: Nearby.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely. All those Midwest folks.

All right. D-day for Julian Assange after hiding out in an embassy for two months, will the WikiLeaks founder and sex crimes suspect be able to leave London?


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

It is 13 minutes after the hour right now. I'm John Berman.

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

A suspect is in custody this morning after allegedly opening fire at the Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council. It's a conservative lobbying group. A security guard was shot in the arm but he helped detain the gunman identified by police as 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins. Authorities say he made comments about he council's policies before he started shooting.

And a source tells CNN the suspect worked at the D.C. center for the LGBT community.

CNN's Sandra Endo is live at the FRC headquarters for us this morning.

And, Sandra, we know this was a full-scale effort now. The FBI has launched a joint investigation with local police and the U.S. attorney's office. What is the very latest on this investigation?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, authorities are still trying to figure out the motive in this case. As you mentioned, law enforcement officials say the 28-year-old suspect, Floyd Corkins, walked into the Family Research Council's building yesterday morning. He was confronted by a security guard. Law enforcement officials say the alleged suspect allegedly made comments saying he was against the policies of the FRC.

Now, we done the know specifically what comments the suspect made but we do know the FRC, as you mentioned, is a conservative Christian policy organization which has been vocal against same-sex marriage.

And authorities say that's when the altercation broke out and the suspect allegedly shot the guard in the arm and, of course, police are saying that is when police responded and the guard is being hail as a hero for allegedly wrestling the suspect to the ground.


CATHY LANIER, DC POLICE CHIEF: The security guard in this case is a hero as far as I'm concerned. He did not allow the armed person past the front. So, he did his job.


ENDO: And still this morning, you could see the blood spatter inside the lobby here at the FRC building.

And we know that Corkins, the suspect, is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Can you give us an update on the victim's condition as well, please?

ENDO: Fortunately, the guard is OK. He was taken to a local hospital and is in stable condition. We do know more information also about the shooter.

We understand that law enforcement officials say that they found a 9 millimeter handgun that he purchased fairly recently at a gun shop in Virginia. hey believe it was a legal purchase, and also they found a backpack apparently belonging to the suspect inside the lobby. Of course, the investigation is ongoing -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Sandra Endo, live at FRC headquarters for us. Thank you.

BERMAN: It is now 16 minutes after the hour. Let's look at some of the headlines we're talking a look at this morning. They've called in the Marines to help fight the wildfires in the West.

SAMBOLIN: Look at that.

BERMAN: Dramatic pictures. Right now, 13 states west of Mississippi are battling at least 70 large fires. They've already consumed 1.3 million acres. In Washington state, the wind-whipped Taylor Bridge Fire has torched nearly 40 square miles and destroyed at least 60 homes.

SAMBOLIN: A decision is expected this morning from Ecuador's government on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's request for asylum. The country's foreign minister says British authorities have threatened to assault Ecuador's embassy in London if they fail to hand Assange over to them. WikiLeaks calls the threat hostile and extreme. Assange has been holed up in the embassy since June. He's trying to avoid to being sent to Sweden to face allegations of rain and sexual molestation.

BERMAN: Parts of north Texas taking to the air to get a grip on the West Nile outbreak. The Dallas mayor approved the spraying of insecticide spraying there in more than 45 years. This is serious down there.

More than 200 cases of West Nile and 10 deaths are linked to the virus at this point, doing everything they can how to battle it in Dallas County.

It's a question of when accused Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal Hasan will face trial is being held up because of his beard. Military appeals court halted his murder trail yesterday after the judge threatened to have Hasan forcibly shave because his beard violates Army regulations. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 in the 2009 rampage at Ft. Hood.

SAMBOLIN: Another health scare for Britain's Prince Phillip, after doctors say he'll likely have to spend a few more days in the hospital fighting a bladder infection. The 91-year-old prince missed part of his wife's jubilee celebration in June with another bladder infection and suffered a blocked coronary artery last Christmas as well. We wish him well.

BERMAN: We saw him at the Olympics.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we wish him well.

BERMAN: Eighteen minutes after the hour.

Before we move on this morning, we want to get an early read of the local news that's making national headlines.

Our first look is out in Florida, the "Orlando Sentinel" and a recognizable name from the Casey Anthony murder trial. You may remember Jeff Ashton. He was the lead prosecutor on that trial. He didn't win but he lost.

But last night -- or Tuesday I should say, he did win. He won a primary race to become the state attorney in Osceola County in Florida. He took on a 30-year incumbent in this race, again, despite the fact that he got a lot of publicity for losing the Casey Anthony trial.

A lot of people think his name ID for being on TV every day for nearly a year may have boosted his chances at the polls. He doesn't say -- he doesn't obviously that's what happened. But again, we're going to see a lot more of him.

SAMBOLIN: Kind of a household name, right? So, he owns about 1/15 of the Nets. But he's 100 percent Brooklyn and he is now the face of the new franchise. Who am I talking about?


SAMBOLIN: Yes. This comes to us via "The New York Times." It is Jay-Z's role in building the Nets in the arena. So, the Nets are moving from New Jersey to the new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. It's happening this season.

His role is far greater, far greater than his ownership stake. Why? Because that's his hometown, right? He grew up there in a housing complex just a couple miles away. Listen to this, he is going to perform eight sold-out shows to kick it all off.

So, everybody is buying into this and loving it. The partners say he has put his mark on almost every facet of that enterprise.

BERMAN: I couldn't believe how deeply he's involved there, with the stores, the champagne that's served, like everything.

SAMBOLIN: I really I love that because it's total ownership of a place he really loves. It shows, right? He doesn't have to do this, he chooses to do it. So, good for him.

BERMAN: If only the Nets could play good basketball.

SAMBOLIN: They'll get there. They have great sold-out concerts. I want to go.

BERMAN: Let's see if they win.

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

SAMBOLIN: And coming up, defriending Facebook. It could be a tough day for the social network. The first day many investors have a chance to dump the slumping stock. But could it be an tune for you? We are minding your business this morning. That's coming up next.


BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning. Stocks are set for a higher open. They are getting some help from a 5 percent jump in shares of Cisco systems. The tech giant reported strong quarterly earnings and it's said to be raising its dividends.

SAMBOLIN: And it's big day for Facebook, up to 270 million shares could actually hit the market today.

CNN's Poppy Harlow is in for Christine Romans. Why are so many shares is going to become available?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So, this is a technicality when you have a public offering. Oftentimes, people have to hold on to their shares, insiders at the company, big investment banks that got in so they don't flood the market with shares, they don't sell right away. People like Sheryl Sandberg, the CFO of Facebook, or Goldman Sachs, the big investment banks, the underwriters, can sell their shares today.

There's going to be 271 million shares they could opt to sell. It's not necessarily going to happen.

But here's a reason why people might get out. If you take a look at Facebook's stock -- since they went public May 18th, it's down 45 percent, losing nearly half its value. Some people say no way am I going to sell there. I don't want to lose that money. Other people are going to want to get the cash if they think it's going to fall further.

So, it depends on your feelings on Facebook. I can tell you that this is only the first in a series of these lockouts that are going to expire. So, between now and November, there are going to be many more of those. Eventually by November, about 2 billion shares are going to hit the market.

The issue with a lot of shares hitting the market, people, as you said, Zoraida, defriending Facebook if you will. The stock value could drop even more. So, it's a very big day for Facebook. Zuckerberg, though, the founder, CEO, he can't sell his shares until November.

SAMBOLIN: He's still a multi gazillionaire.

HARLOW: Yes, he is.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, paying with your smartphone is getting more popular they say. A lot of major retailers teaming up with --

HARLOW: Yes, this announcement came late yesterday. It's really interesting. It's sort of whether you believe cash or credit cards or smartphones are payment of the future.

A lot of major retailers team to take on Google wallet or Isis, which is the mobile payment offering by Verizon. Walmart, Target, 7-11, all the brands you see on your screen, they teamed up, they have over a trillion in annual sales. So, this is a power house deal. And they're saying we're going to make a mobile payment system that you can use at any of these retailers to take on Google wallet.

The issue right now in the space and we talk about it last week, Starbucks teaming up wit Square, is that they're not even changeables, systems don't work together. They might work at those stores and then Google wallet will work at certain places. They teamed up with Citigroup and Sprint. But they don't work together. But it's progression.

SAMBOLIN: I'm not there yet.

BERMAN: They would need to convince me is that it's more convenient than pulling out my credit card out of -- pulling my phone is going to be more convenient than puling up my credit card and I just don't see the --

HARLOW: It's not. What if your phone dies and also do you get the points?

SAMBOLIN: That's the big one.

HARLOW: That's why I use my credit card.

BERMAN: The most important question for journalists everywhere. Poppy Harlow, thank you very much.

Twenty-six minutes after the hour right now.

And the wildfires, they are getting worse now across more than a dozen states. They've had to call in troops to protect lives and homes. We're live on the ground in Washington state with our dramatic pictures this morning. We'll have a full report coming up.


BERMAN: Spreading heartache and devastation, dozens of homes burned to the ground and Marines joining the battle against western wildfires going on right now this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Shark scare off Cape Cod. You're hearing about this again. A tuna fisherman becomes the latest to spot a great white in the water. Look, there it is.

BERMAN: This, a much prettier picture to look at. A season for perfection, one of baseball's rarest feats pulled off for the third time this year and this was the best one of all. This is amazing.

SAMBOLIN: It was the best one of all?

BERMAN: He is so good, so good.

SAMBOLIN: I can't wait to hear about that.

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's 30 minutes past the hour here; 31, actually, to be exact.

Up first, dry heat, whipping winds and lightning strikes, leaving 13 states in a fierce battle with wildfires this morning. At least 70 large wildfires raging right now, already torching 1.3 million acres.

Take a look at that map. California has the most, 13 there. They've called in the Marines to help beat back the flames. But in central Washington state, they've really been battered. The wind-whipped Taylor Bridge fire has scorched nearly 40 square miles so far, destroying at least 60 homes in that area. And Rob Marciano joins us live from Cle Elum, Washington, this morning.

Very nice to have you this morning. I got to tell you, they are bringing in all the reinforcements, trying to fight this. ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: They are. You know, it's the only large fire burning in Washington state, but it's the most devastating. It started Monday night near a construction site on a bridge. And this is an area that gets wind nearly all the time during the summertime. There's a kind of a weakness in the Cascades. You get westerly winds blowing 30, 40 miles an hour nearly every day.

So they always fear getting a fire started. And that's exactly what happened. And the pictures are heartbreaking, of homes quickly being devoured, dozens of them, at last count at least 60 homes completely destroyed, likely over 100 other structures destroyed as well.

Aerials of this thing showing how big it is, 40 square miles or better, 22,000 acres. As of yesterday, they had just 10 percent containment. They're optimistic to get a little bit more than that, but it will likely be a week before they see any sort of -- more containment.

They're worried about Highway 97. The town of Liberty has been told to get ready to potentially leave today. But as you mentioned, Zoraida, they're bringing in more manpower and more resources to try to beat this back before weather conditions get worse.

SAMBOLIN: It's horrible to watch. You really feel for the people in that area.

How is the rest of the west? What are they facing now and what might we expect in the next few days?

MARCIANO: Well, 13 states have large fires burning right now. And the core of that, the most -- the hardest hit stuff is across southern California. That's where the record heat started, just a few days ago. Now it's beginning to build.

In San Diego, they have a large fire there, about 15,000 acres, about 30 percent containment just up the road near San Bernardino. They also have a large fire burning there, only 5 percent containment and then the Lake County fires, just north of Napa Valley, some higher containment there.

But all that heat, they had temperatures that were around 110, 115. That heat now surging into the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures this time of year, typically 75, 80 degrees.

Take a look at the high temperatures expected along the I-95 corridor in western Oregon and Washington, well into the 90s, in some cases touching 100 degrees, excessive heat warnings posted, and low levels of humidity. So with the heat, low levels of humidity, that's not good for firefighters. They're going to be dealing with that today and tomorrow.

And as we get towards the weekend the threat for thunderstorms will creep along the spine of the Cascades and that will only add another factor in the way of some erratic winds and maybe sparking more in the way of lightning strikes.

SAMBOLIN: Terrible. And will that water affect it positively in any way? I know that the winds are really bad for them.

MARCIANO: Well, you know, once in a while you'll get lucky; you'll get some beneficial rain out of thunderstorms, but more often or not, just the gusty winds and the lightning. We're obviously set up at a local middle school here. It's the command post, which is quiet at this time of night.

But they are working around the clock on the fire lines, trying to get a hold of this thing. And they're optimistic for a little bit more containment today. But still, large fire, hundreds of people evacuated and dozens of homes burned in central Washington, the worst fire they've seen in decades.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, Rob Marciano, we appreciate having you there, live in Cle Elum, Washington, for us, thank you.

BERMAN: Thirty-four minutes after the hour right now, and we do have some breaking news this morning. Word that a flight from New York to Moscow was diverted to Iceland early this morning. U.S. law enforcement officials say they received an anonymous threat that there were explosives on board.

The plane is from Aeroflot, a Russian airline. We know it landed safely. Passengers are off and as of now the plane is being searched. Of course, we'll keep you updated on this story as it develops all morning long.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-five minutes past the hour, let's get you up to date on the morning's top stories.

A California man found guilty of murdering five people who died of heart attacks after he deliberately set a fire. This was back in 2003. Thirty-year-old Ricky Fowler also convicted of two counts of arson with special circumstances. It makes him eligible for the death penalty now.

The fire Fowler set in the foothills above San Bernardino burned 91,000 acres and over 1,000 buildings during a nine-day span.

BERMAN: More bloodshed in Syria. Consistent fighting between opposition rebels and government troops in Aleppo has torn that city apart.

Meantime, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 nations and 1.5 billion Muslims, this group has suspended Syria from its membership, the head of the group telling CNN they will not accept the Assad regime killing its own people. Iran and Algeria were the only nations to object to this suspension of Syria.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-six minutes past the hour. Police in Sparks, Nevada, say a man with a gun accidentally shot himself in the butt in a movie theater during a showing of "The Bourne Legacy."

Cops got several calls Tuesday night reporting gunfire inside the Sparks Century Theater. You can't imagine how crazy that must have been. By the time they arrived, the victim had already apologized to the people that were sitting around him and made his way to a local hospital to be treated. Police say he had a permit for the weapon but may face charges for illegally discharging a firearm.

He was trolling for tuna. But Cape Cod fisherman Jeff Richardson got a 12-foot surprise (inaudible).


BERMAN: That's no tuna.

SAMBOLIN: It's a shark. A local shark expert says the one he spotted is likely a great white, estimated to be 12 feet long and about 1,200 pounds. Let's go for a swim.

BERMAN: I hate those stories. I hate the shark sightings. Make me crazy.

But this I love. Perfection becoming somewhat routine in baseball. Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, he tossed a beautiful perfect game last night, a gem, a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. This is the 23rd perfect game in Major League history but it's the third this season.

SAMBOLIN: What's going on?

BERMAN: It's interesting, 23 perfect games in Major League history. You know, 11 of them have come since 1990. So the pitching is really getting better over time. (Inaudible) Felix last night, he had 12 strikeouts. It's the first perfect game ever for the Mariners franchise.

SAMBOLIN: French fries.

BERMAN: French fries.


BERMAN: Mariners franchise, first time Mariners perfect game. He is -- he's the best. I think he's the best pitcher in baseball.


BERMAN: Hands down.

SAMBOLIN: Well, good for him. He looked really excited.

BERMAN: He should be.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Beyonce is lending one of her hit songs to the United Nations to be the anthem for this weekend's World Humanitarian Day.

Why are you laughing? BERMAN: Because all I can think about is what if it's "All the Single Ladies"? You know, at the United Nations, that's what I'm thinking. That's why I'm laughing. Funny only to me. Sorry. Keep talking.

SAMBOLIN: I believe that's not going to be the choice selection there.

The goal for Sunday's event is to encourage a global celebration of people helping people. Beyonce telling CNN's Anderson Cooper the lyrics of her song "I Was Here" are a great fit for the mission.


BEYONCE KNOWLES, SINGER: It says I want to leave my footprints in the sands of time. And it basically is all of our dreams, I think, and that's leaving our mark on the world. I feel like we all want to know that our life meant something.


SAMBOLIN: Very appropriate indeed, Beyonce sang "I Was Here" during a performance at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The show will be used as a music video to mark World Humanitarian Day. What an honor for her.

BERMAN: (Inaudible).

And down there in Memphis, thousands of Elvis Presley fans making the pilgrimage to Graceland to mark 35 years since the King died. Organizers say they expect 75,000 people to attend the annual events this week.

The King's ex-wife, Priscilla, and daughter, Lisa Marie, they will be on hand for a tribute concert in Memphis tonight, featuring musicians playing alongside footage of Elvis in performance.

I covered the 25th anniversary of his death 10 years ago. I was down doing a live show for two days in Memphis. You know, it's sad, obviously, his passing, but it's so cool to be near Graceland, near like the aura of Elvis, because you can feel it still.

SAMBOLIN: And a lot of people still show up. I find that really remarkable.

BERMAN: It's cool. It's worth doing if you can.

SAMBOLIN: All right, 39 minutes past the hour, ahead on EARLY START, Tilegate, the top young player caught in a Scrabble scandal. It has nothing to do with steroids.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning, Washington. How are you this fine morning? It is 71 degrees right now. A little bit later, it is going to be hot for you, 91 degrees. Welcome back to EARLY START, 43 minutes past the hour. Glad to have you all with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's time to talk some politics because Mitt Romney repeating his claim that there is hatred in President Obama's re-election effort. This as both sides try to frame a very sensitive issue in their favor. We're talking about Medicare.

CNN political director Mark Preston joins us now live from Washington.

Mark, you wrote this -- about this in your latest column, your "Gut Check" column -- which, by the way, if you people aren't reading, what's wrong with you? Read it right now.

But, Mark, you wrote that this is getting ugly. How ugly are we talking?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: John, I mean, it's gone in the last 72 hours from a discussion on policy or what we thought was going to be about policy on the issue of Medicare to really getting down to this really nitty-gritty of raw politics and raw fighting.

We saw it with Joe Biden, making a very strategic move when he made these comments down in Virginia, when he said to an audience which had a lot of African-Americans in it that the Romney campaign, if Mitt Romney was in office, he would put them all back in chains. I mean, very strong language.

We saw then Mitt Romney come out and say that the Obama campaign is running on a campaign of hatred, which is, again, very strong language.

And John, then we have President Obama on the campaign trail, bringing up Seamus, the dog, you know, which is a story where Mitt Romney -- very embarrassing, but he had put his dog in a dog carrier and strapped him to the top of the car and they drove up to Canada.

But basically we're in the dog days of summer at this point. We shouldn't be talking about this. This is what we'd normally expect, John, to happen the last couple weeks of a campaign.

BERMAN: And you're getting charges going back and forth, saying you're meaner than we are. No, you're meaner than we are.

One of the other interesting things that I've been hearing the last few days is from senior Republicans, like John McCain, Sarah Palin and, of course, some Democrats like Doug Wilder suggesting that Barack Obama drop Joe Biden from the ticket and replace him with Hillary Clinton.

What's going on here? Is this mischief?

PRESTON: Certainly mischief, because there's no way the Obama campaign is listening to Sarah Palin, let alone John McCain, about what they should do.

You know, what's interesting is that this comes up every once in a while about Joe Biden, certainly when he slips up and says something egregious, certainly in what he's done in the past couple of days.

But it's never going to happen. Hillary Clinton is never going to join the ticket. Barack Obama is never going to move Joe Biden off the ticket. You know, Joe Biden tends to be the scapegoat and, in this case, maybe he deserves it.

But for the most part, he tends to be the scapegoat for the problems that the Obama administration is facing, John. But the bottom line is, it's not necessarily his fault all the time. And he's very effective for President Obama in certain key states, certainly in the Midwest, states like Ohio.

BERMAN: Interesting. They tend to build Hillary Clinton up also, which could be politically risky, too, especially if Bill Clinton gives a killer speech at the convention.

Mark Preston down in Washington, always good to talk to you. Thanks very much.

PRESTON: Thanks, John.

SAMBOLIN: It is 46 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date.

Now the Marines have been called in to help fight the wildfires in the west. Right now, 13 states west of the Mississippi are battling at least 70 large fires that have already consumed 1.3 million acres. In central Washington state, the Taylor Bridge fire has torched nearly 40 square miles. It has destroyed at least 60 homes as well.

BERMAN: Six former "News of the World" journalists appearing in a London court today to answer to phone hacking charges. Among them, Andy Colson. He's a former aide to British prime minister David Cameron and former editor at "News of the World."

One-time News Corp. chief executive Rebekah Brooks is expected to appear in court next month.

SAMBOLIN: IKEA is getting into the hotel business. The Swedish company plans to open 100 budget hotels across Europe that cater to cost-conscious travelers. We'll can assume, I think, that hotel guests won't have to assemble the furniture in their rooms, because that would be rather (inaudible).


BERMAN: Wonder if they'll have the IKEA meatballs in the mini bar?

SAMBOLIN: Oh, you like those?

BERMAN: My kids love them.

One of the country's top young Scrabble champions, he's been kicked out of the national chairmanship tournament in Orlando for cheating -- cheating at Scrabble.

SAMBOLIN: How do you do that? BERMAN: This has never happened before at a tournament; the player's name is not being released because he's a minor. But the National Scrabble Association confirms he was caught -- this is how you cheat -- concealing two blank tiles by dropping them on the floor.

And Scrabble aficionados know that the blank tiles are so valuable because they can be used for any letter. Not steroids, blank tiles. That's how you cheat in Scrabble.

SAMBOLIN: So he threw them on the floor and then used them later? (Inaudible) --

BERMAN: He put them on the floor presumably to have them available for when he needed them later, when he was in a bind.

SAMBOLIN: All righty, 47 -- don't do that.

BERMAN: Don't do that.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-seven minutes past the hour.

Nike taking some heat -- I have a cough drop in my mouth; I'm sorry -- after a T-shirt meant to honor women ends up insulting some women. The story and what the company is saying about it is coming up.

And if you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime, just go to your desktop or your mobile phone and go to


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 51 minutes past hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin, along with John Berman, taking a look at what is trending on the Web this morning.

What are you starting with this morning?

BERMAN: And one of the things trending on the Web this morning, something we were just talking about on the break --


BERMAN: -- a new T-shirt from Nike to celebrate the women Olympians. But the problem is what's on the T-shirt. Look at what it says.

SAMBOLIN: Why is this a problem?

BERMAN: "Gold digging." Now obviously what Nike means is that the women athletes are looking for gold at the Olympics. These T-shirts only come in women's sizes. So apparently only women can be gold diggers.

And a lot of people -- and I can see why -- think these shirts are sexist --


SAMBOLIN: Didn't they win a record number of golds? Wasn't it the women? Well, that's why they made it for women.

BERMAN: I know, but they're calling women gold diggers.

SAMBOLIN: No, they're not.

BERMAN: I think they are.

SAMBOLIN: They're digging for gold. That was the concept. And so I think they're going to sell a ton of these T-shirts.

BERMAN: (Inaudible) like prospectors out west, digging for gold. (Inaudible).

SAMBOLIN: At the Olympic Games. I like it; I wasn't insulted by it. But you know, I guess it's because of the traditional thought about gold diggers.

Would you wear it?

BERMAN: Well, no, because they only have it in women's sizes.

SAMBOLIN: Well, you could just take a large --


BERMAN: I would wear a tank top, though.


BERMAN: (Inaudible).

SAMBOLIN: All right. I love this next story. Julia Child auto-tuned for her 100th birthday.


SAMBOLIN: Listen to this.

OK, you said it was hilarious. And I thought, what an honor. I thought it was really cool.

All right, so "Keep On Cooking" is a mashup of Child's voice to tunes by producer John Boswell. PBS actually commissioned Boswell to autotune the icon to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday yesterday.

She's widely credited, you know, with helping Americans discover French cooking after World War II.

BERMAN: PBS has a fantastic sense of humor for stuff like this. I saw an autotune video like this for Mr. Rogers. You know, Fred Rogers (inaudible)?

And that made me laugh, also. So PBS, you rule. Good for you. You're very, very funny. Something else that's very funny right now, another hilarious video, nerd alert -- has to do with NASA. A thing we saw in YouTube, a group apparently ripped off, you know, "I'm Sexy and We Know It," the LMFAO video. And they did a NASA version. Take a look.


BERMAN: Honestly, how funny is that? You have the mohawk guy right there, you know, a rip-off guy of the mohawk guy. They can dance. You know, I'm telling you, in the last two weeks for the first time in decades, NASA has become cool. NASA is the coolest thing.

SAMBOLIN: And a bit sexy as well because of mohawk guy, right.

BERMAN: That's right. NASA is cool and NASA is sexy.

SAMBOLIN: I love that.

BERMAN: On that, Curiosity rover retweeted apparently, said this video -- "This fan-made video is awesome (and I know it). The hashtag here is MSL and wigglewigglewiggle.

SAMBOLIN: I love that.

BERMAN: Pretty cool, right?


All right. So the gloves are really off now in the presidential campaign. Now NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams talked -- or paid a visit to "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart about the loss of political civility.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Let's talk about Paul Ryan. All I've heard from the news divisions across network platforms is how thrilled they are to have Paul Ryan; now they can finally talk substance.

When is that going to start happening?


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: As soon as we exhaust all of our reporting on his driving of the Weinermobile while a young man.

STEWART: I know.

WILLIAMS: You know, the great Sy Syms, the clothier here in New York, had my greatest -- my favorite expression, radio commercials you and I grew up with, as Syms, "An educated consumer is our best customer."

And I always thought, well, good on the late Sy Syms, because he was right about being a haberdasher but he was also right about our business -- I say our, meaning mine and not yours. So... (LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I guess -- so let me reframe the question.

WILLIAMS: It's all --

STEWART: When are you going to start making nice suits?

WILLIAMS: It's all out there --



BERMAN: Jon Stewart looked at him with this sign of respect, like, oh, you're funny. That was funny.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, you got me good.


BERMAN: All right. Just a few minutes before the hour right now. And just ahead, you will have the day's top stories, including the desperate battle going on right now between men and flames in 13 states. The terrible fires out west. We are live on the ground in the fire zone. You're watching EARLY START.