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Wildfires Raging In 13 States; Shooting At Conservative Group HQ; Bomb Threat Diverts Flight; Defending Biden; Applying For Deportation Relief; Penn State Perjury Hearing; Hypersonic Test Flight Fails; $337 Million Powerball Jackpot; Assange Decision Soon

Aired August 16, 2012 - 06:00   ET


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

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Immigration showdown in Arizona, the Justice Department may take on the governor for blocking new benefits to immigrants.

SAMBOLIN: High-flying failure. A highly touted unmanned test flight of a hypersonic test crashes and burns.

BERMAN: Hypersonic. That's fast when it works.


Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. I'm sad that it didn't work because the technology aboard was supposed to be fantabulous and we're supposed to be able to use it in the future for regular air flight.


SAMBOLIN: We'll see what happens.

BERMAN: Try, try again. I'm John Berman. It's 6:00 am in the east.

Up first this morning, spreading heartbreak and real devastation across the west. Thirteen states sweating out dangerous wildfires. Hundreds on the run right now. The worst may be yet to come.

At least 70 large wildfires are raging now already consuming 1.3 million acres. California has the most with 13. They've been forced to call in the Marines to help 8,000 firefighters beat back the flames.

But folks in Central Washington State may have been hit the hardest. The Taylor Bridge fire has torched nearly 40 square miles so far destroying at least 60 homes.

Rob Marciano joins us live now from Cle Elum, Washington this morning. Rob, how are things there?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's a sombre mood for sure, very quiet to be quite frank with you. It's 3:00 in the morning local time, but on the fire lines they are battling the flames right now.

We're based at a command post where later on in the day things will get a little bit more active you can be sure of that. But it was Monday night when the sparks flew and the fire started near a construction site by this Taylor Bridge, which is the name of the fires.

And the winds just took over from there. During the day on Tuesday, dozens of homes engulfed in flames both in town and on the outskirts of town including some farm structure, livestock and other animals were sent fleeing as well.

A lot of these homes now are torched to the ground. The people who have evacuated these homes have not been allowed back to even look yet.

Still about 450 families have been evacuated and remain that way and there's not a lot of hope to get them back to their homes any time too soon.

More resources have been moved in yesterday, more manpower, more equipment to try to beat back the flames as winds calm down just a bit, but the heat is beginning to build.

In California, that's the other state that was hit very, very hard and they're battling flames as well. As far south as San Diego across near San Bernardino and up toward Lake County just north of Napa, we're looking at fires that continue to burn there too.

So as you mentioned, a number of states dealing with this but this is the largest uncontained fire in Washington and unfortunately over 60 homes have been burned.

BERMAN: Rob, officials have to have one eye on the fire line and another eye on the weather forecast. You know, what does it look like over the next few days, any chance for relief?

MARCIANO: Well, the winds have calmed down, but the heat from California with all of that record breaking temperatures, that's now building into Oregon and Washington so temperatures here will be near 100 degrees in many spots.

Excessive heat warnings have been posted for some of the bigger cities. But here on the fire lines not only hot, but really, really low levels of humidity.

So even though they lost the wind, they have the heat and low levels of humidity to contend with and then this weekend potentially more in the way of thunderstorms, which means gusty winds and lightning strikes, very little in the way of beneficial rains.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Rob. Rob Marciano right in the middle of some of the worst fires in Washington State right now this morning. Take care.

SAMBOLIN: It's 3 minutes past the hour. A suspect is in custody this morning after allegedly opening fire at the Washington headquarters of the Family Research Council, that's a conservative lobbying group.

A security guard was shot in the arm, but helped contain the gunman identified by police as 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkens. He is in custody charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Authorities say he made comments about the council's policies before he started shooting. A source tells CNN the suspect worked at the D.C. Center for the LGBT community.

CNN's Sandra Endo is live at FRC headquarters. Good morning to you, Sandra. We know that the FBI has launched a joint investigation with local police and the U.S. attorney's office. What is the very latest that you have on this investigation?

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, we know that officials are looking into trying to figure out a motive in this case and as you mentioned, we know from a law enforcement source that the suspect, 28- year-old Floyd Corkens apparently made comments saying that he was against the council's policies.

What we don't know exactly is what those comments were. Of course, investigators are looking into all of the details. But here's what one eyewitness had to say about what happened right after the shooting.


STEVE BIONDI, WITNESS: They just showed up pretty casual and walked into the building and told the guy to put the gun down and they moved in on him. My daughter actually saw the cops drawing their weapons and we just moved away.


ENDO: Still this morning, Zoraida, we see blood splatter inside the lobby here at the FRC headquarters. Again, as you mentioned, Corkens is charged with assault with a deadly weapon -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Sandra, we know that the alleged shooter, Corkens, is a volunteer for a gay rights organization, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community. What more details are you finding out about him?

ENDO: Well, we do know from the director of the D.C. Center for LGBT Community issued a statement saying they are outraged by the shooting and of course, they don't know how someone who volunteered for their center could do something as tragic and violent as this.

We also know more about the shooter. We know from law enforcement officials that he purchased a 9-millimeter handgun legally from a gun shop in Virginia fairly recently and that's what they retrieved from the scene.

They also retrieved a backpack belonging to the suspect and identified and taken his car, which was parked by a nearby metro stop in Virginia. So of course, those are all things they are going to definitely look into as this investigation continues -- Zoraida. SAMBOLIN: I know this organization has released a statement saying they don't support this type of violence. Thank you so much, Sandra Endo.

In about 30 minutes here on EARLY START, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown joins us live to talk about the hate group label.

BERMAN: Now to the rest of your top stories right now. It's about 6 minutes after the hour. A flight from New York to Moscow has been diverted to Iceland early this morning. U.S. law enforcement officials say they received unanimous threat that there were five suitcases with bombs on board.

The plane is from the main Russian airline. It landed safely. All 253 passengers were safely evacuated. We'll keep you updated with developments as this goes on this morning.

SAMBOLIN: 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 are Mitt Romney's plans to deregulate Wall Street. The president telling "People" magazine that Biden meant Americans will be worst off if we roll back financial reforms.

On "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," Booker said the vice president is a victim of sound bite politics.


MAYOR COREY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I beg America to listen to the whole speech by the vice president. Don't let the sound bites that the media is 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.


SAMBOLIN: Booker also says he's tired of politics fuelled by "Super PAC" money and sound bites.

BERMAN: On the other side of the aisle, the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he has just been ripping into Joe Biden questioning Biden's intelligence and his capacity to lead after Biden's controversial remarks. Listen to what Giuliani told our Piers Morgan last night.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: Well, 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. Someone had to get outraged and it's going to be me.


BERMAN: Giuliani has been saying that in all of his years he's never seen a vice president who, again, in his words, quote, "said as many stupid things or made as many mistakes as Joe Biden."

SAMBOLIN: It's 8 minutes past the hour here. Just a few hours ago Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed an executive order directing state agencies to deny benefits including driver's licenses to deferred action recipients.

This happened yesterday. Thousands of young undocumented immigrants across the country applied for deportation release after it went in effect yesterday.

But Governor Brewer says the deferral program offers temporary legal status to some 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 and coming up on "STARTING POINT" at 8 a.m., CNN's Rafael Romo we'll bring you even more information about Governor Jan Brewer's decision to deny benefits to deferred action recipients.

You know, when we first heard about this morning, I thought how do you do this legally, right? This is something that was mandated.

It's being offered up to everybody and it never said anything you can opt out as a state through executive order. I wonder if other states will do the same.

BERMAN: There must be a lot of questions for thousands of people especially in Arizona who are waiting in line to get this status yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: You know what was interesting about this is that there were so many unanswered questions in those documents for the kids and this will now become even more unanswered questions. I can't wait to see how they work this one out.

BERMAN: We'll be following it all morning. It's 9 minutes after the hour. There's a hearing later this morning for two former Penn State administrators accused of lying to a grand jury in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.

Lawyers for former athletic director, Tim Curly, 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're not expected to attend today's hearing. Penn State has announced that it will be hosting a conference on sex abuse at the end of October among those expected to attend, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard and Utah kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart.

A hypersonic test flight spiralling out of control. The Pentagon saying the wave rider aircraft destroyed before reaching its target speed of 4,600 miles per hour.

This is a shame. We previewed this test flight earlier this week. There were so much promise. The Air Force said a problem with a tail fin caused it to spiral out of control.

SAMBOLIN: And that was an expensive crash and burn also.

One winning ticket was sold for last night's $337 million Powerball jackpot. It wasn't you? It was purchased in Michigan. Unless you live in the Great Lakes State, call off that retirement party you were planning.

Grab those tickets because you might have won something, right? Here are the winning numbers for you, 6, 27, 46, 51, 56 and Powerball is 21.

BERMAN: Our new best friend in Michigan.

SAMBOLIN: Give us a call.

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


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. A tense diplomatic standoff in England, this morning, Ecuador's foreign minister will announce a decision about the asylum request from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

A police presence has increased outside that country's embassy in London. That's a live picture you're looking at by the way right now. Ecuador says British authorities have threatened to assault the embassy if they fail to hand over Assange.

He's been holed up there since July trying to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. Atika Shubert is live in London right now outside of that very embassy. There are some pretty strong words going back and forth between these two countries this morning, Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, pretty strong words have definitely ratcheted up the tension. You can see the increased presence behind me just in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy, but nobody looking like they're going to go into the embassy just yet.

To be clear, Ecuador feels that it's been threatened. That the sovereignty of its embassy has been threatened.

What Britain says however is that they simply want to resolve this diplomatically and what they did was give guidance and show that there was a diplomatic act that basically says if the embassy is being misused, they could revoke the diplomatic status. That's a long and complicated legal process. It's not likely that police will go in to arrest Julian Assange any time soon but it ratcheted up diplomatic tensions between the two countries

And now, we're waiting for this decision by Ecuador on whether or not Julian Assange will get asylum and we believe that Assange is inside the assembly waiting and watching.

BERMAN: Even if he does get asylum, though, Atika, will he ever be able to leave the U.K. without being arrested?

SHUBERT: Well, this is the big question. Even if he gets asylum for Ecuador, it means he's safe inside the embassy and Ecuador, if he steps outside, he's back on British soil and police can certainly arrest him. As far as the British government is concerned, they feel they have a duty to hand him over to Swedish authorities who are looking for him and because he's breached his bail conditions and should be arrested. The answer is no.

BERMAN: All right. Atika Shubert, raising one of these tense diplomatic issues of whether he'll stay inside the Ecuadorian embassy in perpetuity -- I'm sure we'll try to figure it out over the next few days.

Atika, thanks very much in London.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you, John.

It is 16 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date.

The Marines have been called in to help fight in the wildfires in the West. Right now, 13 states west of the Mississippi are batting at least 70 large fires that have already consumed 1.3 million acres. And central Washington state the wind whipped Taylor Bridge Fire has torched nearly 40 square miles and also destroyed at least 60 homes.

In a court hearing scheduled today in the Aurora movie theater massacre. It's not known if shooting suspect James Holmes will be in the courtroom. The hearing was supposed to determine if Holmes had an established doctor/patient relationship with a psychiatrist who received a package from the suspected shooter. The judge postponed that until next week.

BERMAN: A web video featuring former Special Forces officers, this video accuses President Obama of taking too much credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden. It also takes him to task over, in their view, using classified information in leaking that for political gain.


BEN SMITH: Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden. America did. The work that the American military has done killed Osama bin Laden. You did not.


BERMAN: The group that produced this video claims it's nonpartisan but it shares an office with two Republican political consulting firms in Alexandria, Virginia, and it's spokesman used to work for the Bush administration. According to the Brookings Institute, the 22-minute video blames Obama for leaks without providing any evidence that the leaks are actually his fault.

Also in Washington, talk about your do-nothing Congress, a report in "USA Today" says this Congress, the 112th is on pace to become the least productive session since World War II -- a dubious honor. Just 61 bills have become law this year out of nearly 4,000 introduced by lawmakers. That's less than 2 percent.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Hackers known as Anonymous trying to hijack the Curiosity rover. Say it isn't so. A New York City firm claimed to have spotted a chat message asking for help to hack into the signals NASA uses to communicate with the rover.

Some online discussion groups say the message could be a fake or an attempt by law enforcement to trap those hackers.

Coming up, de-friending Facebook. It could be a tough day for the Social Network. The first day many investors have chance to dump that slumping stock. But could this be an opportunity? We're minding your business. That's coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: We are minding your business this morning. We're expecting a positive day on Wall Street. Investors will watch for new reports on weekly jobless claims and also on home construction.

Earnings from Walmart will give some clues on consumer spending.

BERMAN: And while this is all going on, it could be a day of reckoning for Facebook. The company's stock price many think it could plunge today.

CNN's Poppy Harlow is in for Christine Romans.

And why? Why today?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Because a lot of the shares could flood the market. Today is the day when the so-called lockup of Facebook shares ends. That means when the company went public back in May, a lot of the insiders, the CEO, the COO, et cetera, the big banks that underwrote the deal had to hang onto their shares for a set period of time.

Well, today, they can start selling them. Goldman Sachs, the partners, COO Sheryl Sandberg, the CFO, they could start selling their shares, 270 shares could be sold.

Will they be? We don't know. If a lot of them are, that will bring the stock price down.

Here's the issue with Facebook. Look at the stock over the past few months. It went public May 18th, down 45 percent. So, a lot of questions about strategy, mobile strategy, how do they make enough money on mobile there.

Zuckerberg is going to hang onto shares until November at least. He has to because these are the rules that dominate. If a lot of shares hit the market, this is the problem.

BERMAN: So, we've been seeing the share price go down, down and down some more. The questions investors ask is should we be worried about Facebook or is it a buying opportunity?

HARLOW: It depends on what camp you're in. For people that believe in long term strategy of this and think it's the future of advertising, this is a buying opportunity. If you believe thought that most people look at Facebook on their mobile phones and having a tough time with monetizing that, you are not a buyer of Facebook.

You know, I was interviewing Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger back in May and I asked them, do they like Facebook? Take a listen to what they said.



HARLOW: But even at this time, you said, look, even a Google and Apple now, you wouldn't be a buyer and you wouldn't short them either?

BUFFETT: I would not short them either. I would not short Facebook,. I would not short Google. I would not short Apple.

They're fantastic companies. In terms of what they're worth five or 10 years from now, I don't know.

CHARLIE MUNGER, VICE CHAIRMAN, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: I don't invest in what I don't understand. I don't want to understand Facebook.



HARLOW: These are two old guys that invest in traditional companies they understand. Do you believe that Facebook has a long-term opportunity here or not?

And just don't jump into things because they're a fad. Look into this. Spend your time before you buy or sell something like Facebook.

BERMAN: He sounded like I don't want to understand this.

HARLOW: He totally doesn't get them. He doesn't want to understand. I don't get it, they put all your personal information up there. And that was Charlie Munger, Buffett's partner. They stick to more traditional investments.

BERMAN: So, we have one thing we need to know today?

HARLOW: I think the one thing is do not invest in things because they're a fad. If you are going to invest in something, look into why it has long-term opportunity. Do not try to day trade. Leave that up to professionals. A lot of people tried to do that with this stock.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Poppy Harlow, thank you. Appreciate it.


BERMAN: Twenty-five minutes after the hour right now. And get this -- paternity on wheels? Coming up, a truck that offers answers to that trashy talk question, "Who's your daddy?" We'll have to plain this and you will have to watch, coming up.


BERMAN: The search for answers after the shooting at the Family Research Council's headquarters. Was the shooting politically motivated?

SAMBOLIN: Tight squeeze. Take a look. Rescuers work to free a young boy -- oh my goodness -- who somehow ended up stuck in this very strange spot.

BERMAN: And say it ain't so. There he is. The hero of Major League Baseball's all star game suspended suspected of cheating.


BERMAN: Fifty games.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: Let's get you up to date with top stories this morning. More than 900 firefighters are trying to get the upper hand on a destructive wildfire that scorched 40 square miles of Washington state.

At least 60 homes have been burned and fire officials warn the worst may be yet to come.\


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A word of caution: we have much hotter, drier temperatures along with instability Thursday as we go into Friday. And then also, a very big concern to us firefighters is lightning in the forecast for Saturday.


BERMAN: Right now, at least 70 wildfires are burning in 13 states west of the Mississippi with 1.3 million acres burned so far. And in 10 minutes, we're going to go live to Rob Marciano in Cle Elum, Washington, where firefighters are struggling at this very moment to get the upper hand on a fire that's torched 22,000 acres. SAMBOLIN: For this morning, looking for a motive into a shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council. The FBI says the suspect is 28-year-old Floyd Lee Corkins II.

Corkins allegedly shot a security guard who then wrestled him to the ground. He is in custody, charged with assault with a deadly weapon.


JACQUELINE MAGUIRE, FBI: The security guard was a hero in this case. He did an excellent job in stopping the gunman from getting any further into the building and from anyone else getting injured or shot by him.


SAMBOLIN: Well, the guard is in stable condition but the motive is still unclear. But a source working with D.C. Center for the LGBT community tells CNN the suspect worked as a volunteer at that center.

And joining us now is Brian Brown. He is the president of the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative organization against same-sex marriage.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate your time.

What was your reaction when you heard about the shooting?

BRIAN BROWN, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: I was horrified, you know. Immediately our thoughts and prayers went to the Family Research Council and we're still thinking about them and praying for them. It's really horrifying that something like this would happen.

But, you know, all of the indications from multiple sources that were there say that the shooter actually came in and started attacking the policies of the Family Research Council. At the end, he said something to the guard that he wasn't going after him. He's going after what the Family Research Council stands for and there was supposedly Chick-fil-A bags in his backpack.

So, everything points to the fact this was politically motivated and it's totally unacceptable. And groups like Southern Poverty Law Center which have labeled the Family Research Council which is a mainstream group, a hate group, that sort of talk, that sort of labeling and attack, it's totally irresponsible and unacceptable, and I think this incident makes that clear.

SAMBOLIN: The Southern Poverty Law Center has a long list of organizations on its Web site that they have labeled hate groups. None of those groups in the past have been victims of an attack like this.

Why do you think that this particular organization was targeted?

BROWN: Well, again, when you take the Family Research Council, which is again a mainstream group that does a lot of work in D.C., the Values Voter Summit is a huge summit in Washington, D.C. that stands up for traditional values and you have a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center saying this group is no different than the Aryan Brotherhood, you've crossed a line. It's totally unacceptable.

And again, the responsibility is on the shooter but we need to have a civil debate over issues like redefining marriage. We should not be attacking and labeling as hate groups those that we disagree. We should condemn violence of any sort but also be responsible.

SAMBOLIN: Handling this with civility. Let's focus on that for a while, because the Southern Poverty Law Center says the reason they added this organization to their hate group is because they're defaming gays and lesbians.

And I want to highlight -- I want our viewers to see some of the things that this organization has put out there so that we kind of understand why they were labeled a hate group. They say, "One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the prophets of a new sexual order."

Isn't that hateful in your opinion?

BROWN: No, you shouldn't -- just because you disagree with that statement, you should argue with it. By no means can you say just because of a statement like that this is the same as the KKK or the Aryan Brotherhood. That's unacceptable.

SAMBOLIN: It is spewing hate, isn't it? It's hate spewing hate. Would you agree or disagree with that?

BROWN: It's -- no, I would disagree saying that -- you can agree or disagree with the position but saying it's spewing hate and that we are going to therefore label you a hate group, that's totally irresponsible.

I think the American people understand this. And this tragedy highlights how irresponsible something like this is.

SAMBOLIN: Are you concerned now about your organization, the National Organization for Marriage?

BROWN: Well, I think throughout the country, we've all tightened up our security measures even before this. We've received death threats.

We had package sent to us a week ago that was clearly intended to intimidate us. We thought it was a bomb scare. We're going back to the D.C. police and saying this stuff needs to be investigated. So of course we are.

But it's not going to stop us. The key point is that in America we disagree, we debate, we don't try to silence folks that we disagree with. And it's just completely unacceptable to say that the Family Research Council is the same as some sort of violent hate group. It's just totally unacceptable. SAMBOLIN: All right. Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: John, back to you.

BERMAN: The Milwaukee County sheriff's office released a new 911 call from the deadly shooting rampage at the Sikh temple earlier this month. A 40-year-old army veteran opened fire inside the temple killing six and wounding three other before taking his own life. In this released tape, you can hear gun shots in the background as the caller tries to speak.


DISPATCHER: Hello, Dispatch.

CALLER: Hello?

DISPATCHER: Yes, Milwaukee Sherriff.

Hello, can I help you?

CALLER: There is shooting. There is shooting.

DISPATCHER: OK, did anybody get hit, sir? Sir?

Did anybody get hit, sir? Sir, I understand that.

Did anybody get hit? Hello?


BERMAN: The Sikh temple since reopened. A dime size bullet hole has been left unrepaired there as a memorial to the victims.

Some big news in baseball overnight. Major League Baseball suspending giants outfielder Melky Cabrera for 50 games. He tested positive for the performance enhancing substance testosterone. Cabrera, contender for the batting title, he was this year's all-star game MVP.

He did not deny it. Not at all. In a statement, Cabrera says he's deeply sorry for the mistake. He apologized to teammates and fans for letting them down. His contract is up this year. He may have cost himself a lot of money.

SAMBOLIN: I will never understand that.

All right. Amazing video of a young Chinese boy getting rescued.

Look, look, look, the boy got his head stock in a stone. Look at that. That's a stone opening on a balcony. He was freed using hydraulic spreading pliers and he does appear unharmed. Kids will do the darnedest things, won't they? BERMAN: Oh my goodness! I'm glad he's OK. My God!

SAMBOLIN: That's incredible. I have no idea what the hydraulic spreading pliers are. Thank goodness they had those on hand, right? Chance of life, I was told.

All right. So, why go on a sleazy talk show to prove who or isn't your daddy, when you can up to a truck? Look at that. That's the idea behind the "who's your daddy?" truck. It rolls through New York City and it offers DNA tests.

The owner says his clients are usually fathers who suspect their children may not be theirs. And in some cases, he says they have been right and in one case he says it helped reunite a Harlem man with his long lost 20-year-old daughter.

So there could be good news there, right?

SAMBOLIN: So, there could be some good news there, right? I'm a little skeptical there.

BERMAN: And it's capitalism at work I suppose.

All right. Thirty-nine minutes after the hour. Wildfires, they are getting worse across more than a dozen states right now. They have called in troops to help protect lives and homes. We're live on the ground on the fires in Washington state, coming up.

Stay with us.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

Dry heat, whipping winds and lightning strikes, leaving 13 states in a ferocious battle with wildfires this morning. It's shaping up to be the worst fire in the season in decades. At least 70 large wildfires raging right now, already torching 1.3 million acres.

California has the most. They have 13 burning. They even called in the Marines to help beat back al of the flames.

But in central Washington state, they've really been battered. The Taylor Bridge Fire has scorched nearly 40 square miles, so far destroying at least 60 homes.

And Rob Marciano joins us live from Cle Elum, Washington, this morning.

All of the details that we're getting on these fires, it's just brutal for those folks out there.

MARCIANO: It is, and this is an area here in central Washington that really hasn't seen a fire like this in decades. They are used to getting a wind. It's a weakness in the Cascade Mountains where during the summertime they get strong west winds every day. So, the fear always is if they get any sort of sizable wildfire, it's going to grow in a hurry. That's exactly what happened Monday night. A spark flew near a construction site and then Tuesday dozens of homes engulfed in flames and some of the video is heartbreaking, not only in town but on the outskirts of town as well some barns making livestock and other animals having to run as well.

All in all, at least 450 families have been evacuated because of this fire. And at best they have 10 percent containment, maybe a little bit more today. The aerial show just how big this fire is, over 40 square miles, over 22,000 acres and still some towns outside of Cle Elum that are threatened as well, and they may have to evacuate.

As you mentioned, not just here. It's in California as well. That's been building from California is now surging up this way but the slice of good news, Zoraida, is that the winds did die down yesterday and they are hopeful the winds will lie down again today but the heat is building -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLLIN; It's really sad, but it's only 10 percent contained.

Rob Marciano live in Cle Elum, Washington, for us, thank you -- John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Zoraida.

Authorities in Washington, D.C. are investigating whether a shooting at the headquarters of the conservative Family Research Council may have been politically motivated. Twenty-eight-year-old Floyd Corkins is being held on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. He allegedly made comments about the group's policies before opening fire. A security guard was shot in the arm. He helped subdue the suspect. A source says Corkins had recently volunteered at an LGBT community center.

President Obama and Vice President Biden taking a break from the campaign trail today. They will have their weekly lunch. Meantime, Mitt Romney will focus on fund-raising, with receptions in South Carolina and Massachusetts. So only Paul Ryan will be on the stump today, with a speech at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, before he heads to a fund-raiser in Virginia.

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. Assange has been holed up there since June, and he is trying to avoid being sent to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual molestation.

Drought has hit the mighty Mississippi so hard, health officials in Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana -- is that how you say that? -- Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana have issued a drinking water advisory. They say the water is perfectly safe to drink, it's just higher in salt because salty water from the Gulf of Mexico is creeping in. People on dialysis or low sodium diets are encouraged to check with their doctor before drinking any of the water there. BERMAN: Soledad O'Brien is here, now, with some pronunciation tips and a look at what's coming up --

SAMBOLIN: Well, that's because she spends a lot of time there.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I was going to say -- and some of those names -- actually, just like like Long Island, Hauppauge, all those Indian names or French names or Spanish names, sometimes they don't actually change them.

SAMBOLIN: Throws you a little, yeah.

O'BRIEN: A lot, really.

All right. Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, now is in another clash with the White House. It happened on the first day of the president's new immigration policy going into effect: the governor banning public benefits to young immigrants who are in the country illegally. Some say it's a slap to the president. Other questions about whether what she's doing is even legal. We're going to talk about that this morning.

Also, we're going to chat with the actor, Stephen Baldwin -- he'll stop by. Going to talk about some political hot topics. You know, he is from a big family, where the family members are on all sides of the political aisle. We'll chat with him about the vice president -- Biden's "chains" remark and also some of his thoughts about religion and politics.

Also, the lovely young ladies. There they are. The Fierce Five, as they call themselves, now, take on New York. They come and visit us in the studio. You know what's funny? They used to be the Fab Five, of course, and then they said -- this is a quote, roughly: Well, you know there was some basketball team with the name Fab Five. Yes. There was some basketball team. Any way, they changed their name to the Fierce Five and they really are. We'll talk with them this morning.

Plus, there's a test. Are you a real college football fan? There are rules that you have to follow. We'll tell you if you can pass the test. That's ahead on STARTING POINT this morning as well at the top of the hour.

BERMAN: A couple old rivals saying Vice President Biden is dragging President Obama down and it's time for him to call in the bull pen. Could Hillary Clinton be the relief pitcher? VP chatter and the race -- is it getting uglier?

All the headlines, next.

SAMBOLIN: Is it possible?


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 51 minutes past the hour. We are so happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. BREMAN: And I'm John Berman. And you know, you only thought that all the veepstakes speculation was over, because, instead of Obama/Biden in 2012, some political insiders from both parties have suggested that President Obama should have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as his number two. What's really going on here?

CNN political director Mark Preston joins me now, live from Washington, with all of the VP buzz.

Mark, what is this about? Biden is taking a lot of flak lately.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He is taking a lot of flak. This happens every few months, John, right. You and I hear this all the time. Not just when we talk about it on TV, but for all of the Democratic and Republican operatives we talk to, who might be frustrated by Biden or they think it might be helpful for the Republican ticket if they could just talk about this.

We heard this from Doug Wilder yesterday, he's a former Virginia governor, a Democrat. He suggested it. We also heard it from Sarah Palin. Let's hear what she had to say.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: The strategists there in the Obama campaign have got to look at a diplomatic way of replacing Joe Biden on the ticket with Hillary. And I don't want to throw out that suggestion and have them actually accept the suggestion, because then a Obama/Hillary Clinton ticket would have a darn good chance of winning.

But really, Joe Biden really drags down that ticket.


PRESTON: John, bottom line is this was never, ever, ever going to happen. I'm not even sure if it was ever contemplated. It's great talking point. It's really interesting. Why would Hillary Clinton want to join the ticket right now when she's done such a great job of secretary of State? She could potentially just run for president on her own merits in 2016, which she very well might do.

BERMAN: And Sarah Palin language so interesting, by the way, because she still hasn't given a full-throated endorsement of Mitt Romney. She's not as supportive as she could be in some cases. It's interesting to hear her talk.

There are some other sparks flying this morning, Mark, over a new video from a group of former Navy SEALs talking about the president and Osama bin Laden.

PRESTON: This is an organization that is very similar to the 2004 group called Swift Boats for Veterans that went after John Kerry for his military service. This new group is called Special Operations Education Fund, has strong ties to the Republican party and they put out this 22-minute video -- let's take a quick look at it -- which is critical of president obama.


BENJAMIN SMITH, FORMER NAVY SEAL: Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden. America did. The work that the American military has done killed Osama bin Laden. You did not.


PRESTON: And let's put this in real good perspective here. The fact of the matter is they say they're a nonpartisan group but they direct their anger at President Obama. They say his administration has been leaking classified information and they're mad at him for taking credit for killing of Osama bin Laden, John.

BERMAN: All right, Mark Preston in Washington, DC, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: I always love hearing from Mark.

We'll take a quick break and we'll be right back.


BERMAN: Just a few minutes left until STARTING POINT. And Zoraida, you are rushing out for something incredibly cool.

SAMBOLIN: I'm headed to Detroit to meet with Nascar great Jeff Gordon and I'm very excited about it. They asked me if I can drive a stick shift.

BERMAN: What did you say?

SAMBOLIN: I said, Yes. I'm very hopeful, I'm crossing my fingers I get to drive his car. I don't think so. Maybe it's a different one. The fastest Chevy ever he has it. I'm riding with him today.

BERMAN: You've been looking to this for a long time.

SAMBOLIN: I always wanted to drive a really fast car. I've attempted to get these stories and they never give them to the girls. They give them to the guys. This is my opportunity finally. If you have any questions for Jeff Gordon, send them to me. Tweet me. I will be happy to ask him for you.

BERMAN: Don't miss your flight. That's all for early start.

BERMAN: STARTING POINT with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.