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"Top Gun" Director Dies; New Romney Ad Attacks Obama on Welfare; Possible New Amelia Earhart Evidence; Alaska Ship Rescue

Aired August 20, 2012 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, a shocking development from Hollywood overnight. Director Tony Scott, the man behind "Top Gun," he's taken his own life. Details just ahead.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: At least five people hurt when a race car crashes into a crowd. This was at the Missouri state fair. What went wrong? In moments.

BERMAN: And political firestorm. A U.S. congressman creates a major controversy when he says this --


REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.


BERMAN: Now, he's backtracking.

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

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: We do begin with breaking news overnight. We're following three big developing stories for you this morning.

First of all, the director of the movie "Top Gun" is dead. He reportedly jumped off a bridge. Christine Romans is here.

What you have found out for us, Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we found out, quite frankly, that Hollywood waking up to news -- really sad news. Mourning the death of "Top Gun" director Tony Scott.

The L.A. County coroner's office is treating this case as a suicide, saying he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge yesterday in San Pedro, California. His death has taken the entertainment industry and insiders by surprise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEANNE WOLF, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: We use the word shocking all the time when we hear about these deaths. But to think of Tony Scott, brother of Ridley Scott, one of most prominent and successful directors we have jumping of a bridge is almost impossible to contemplate.


ROMANS: Scott directed many blockbusters like "Top Gun," "Crimson Tide." He also produced a number of films with his brother Ridley, including this summer's "Prometheus". Their next collaboration is a creepy medical mini-series called "Coma." It's set to premiere next month on A&E.

According to "Box Office Mojo," Scott's movies as director and producer grossed more than $1.6 billion in theaters. Tony Scott was 68. And again, this morning, Hollywood is taking this in this morning, taking to Twitter to talk about their sadness over this news.

Also a developing story we're following in Missouri this morning, you guys. An investigation under way after a race car driver at the Missouri state fair lost control and slammed into a fence in a pit area. Five spectators were injured including two people seriously hurt. The races were stopped for the night after that accident.

And a dramatic rescue off the coast of Alaska, "Reuters" reporting that 76 people were taken from a sight seeing vessel after it ran aground and was filling with water in Alaska's Glacier Bay. None of the passengers, none of the crew suffered serious injuries. The Coast Guard is investigating that accident -- 76 people.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. Turning to politics now. The Republican national convention is just one week out and there is no letup in the campaign attacks from both sides.

Just minutes ago, Mitt Romney unveiled a new ad which accuses President Obama, again, of gutting bipartisan welfare reform by eliminating, so says Mitt Romney, the requirement that welfare recipients work.

Take a look.


NARRATOR: One of the most respected newspapers in America called it "nuts," saying "If you want to get more people to work, you don't loosen the requirements, you tighten."

Mitt Romney's plan for a stronger middle class will put work back in welfare.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Now, independent fact checkers have found all sorts of problems with the claims behind this ad. But we're joined by CNN's Dan Lothian. He is following the developments from our Washington bureau.

And, Dan, what do you make of this ad?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First of all, it's not new. The Romney campaign is hitting the Obama campaign on this issue. Why? Because they believe this really resonates with voters, specifically the voters in their base. And what they're trying to do is essentially paint Mr. Obama as the entitlement president, so that's why their pushing this.

But the Obama campaign, the White House, pushing back, saying that what these waivers would do is give states more flexibility. You get more people on welfare back to work. Even former President Bill Clinton who signed this welfare reform law back in 1996 has been supporting the administration on this issue, other administration officials calling these charges categorically false, blatantly dishonest.

As you pointed out, independent fact checkers also pushed back on this. PolitiFact saying, "That's a drastic distortion of the planned changes to temporary assistance to needy families. By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare to work effort mores successful, not end them. And what's more, the waivers would apply to individually evaluated pilot programs -- HHS is not proposing a blanket and national change to welfare law."

Essentially though what the Romney campaign is trying to do here is put the Obama campaign on the defensive, leveling these charges so that the Obama campaign will have to answer back -- John.

BERMAN: Now, it's a tact that the Obama campaign knows well, because the president himself is not immune to muddying the factual waters, let's say. And over the weekend it was on the issue of tax policy, right?

LOTHIAN: That's right. Going after Paul Ryan, saying that his tax policies will benefit the very wealthy and hurt the people, the hard- working men and women, the voters out there, the middle class voters. And what the Obama campaign is trying to do essentially is paint Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan with the same brush, saying that Paul Ryan is pushing for something, then that is the same thing that Mitt Romney is going along with.

Take a listen to what the president had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His new running mate, Congressman Ryan, put forward a plan that would let Governor Romney pay less than 1 percent in taxes each year. That's a pretty good deal. Just paying 1 percent in taxes. You're making millions of dollars. Now here's the kicker: they expect you to pick up the tab.

Look, we have tried this kind of trickle down snake oil before. It didn't work then. It won't work now.


LOTHIAN: You see the Obama campaign not only on this issue but also on Medicare charging Mitt Romney with essentially buying into or embracing the plans that Paul Ryan has put out there.

Why are they doing this? Well, they hope these kinds of charges will resonate with their base as well.

So, both sides leveling attacks on each other as we get closer to the convention and closer to the election in November.

BERMAN: You mentioned, just one week away. All right. Dan Lothian, thanks very much.


SAMBOLIN: It is six minutes past the hour here.

Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin trying to douse a political firestorm after his comments about legitimate rape rarely results in pregnancy. The conservative congressman now running for the Senate says he misspoke in a TV interview when asked if he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape.


AKIN: It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.


SAMBOLIN: In a statement, Akin said he has deep empathy for rape victims but maintains his opposition to abortion in those cases.

BERMAN: His statement has set up a firestorm in Twitter overnight. A lot of people --

SAMBOLIN: All abuzz, yes.

BERMAN: All right. New developments overseas in one of the biggest political scandals to rock China in decades, a court has found Gu Kailai guilty of murder of poison death of British businessman Neil Heywood. The wife of disgraced communist party leader Bo Xilai will not appeal the verdict or the death sentence which will be commuted. So, she will not face execution.

A former household aide was sentenced to nine years in prison for helping her carry out this crime.

SAMBOLIN: Talk about a bizarre story there.

All right. People barely outrunning the flame. Take a look. As Western United States continues to face serious threats posed by these raging wildfires. High temperatures, strong winds and dried conditions are fueling major fires in Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Montana, and California. One fire in rural parts of northern California forced the evacuation of about 2,000 homes. This is in Saturday.

Evacuees are telling horror stories of their narrow escape from those fast moving flames.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was on the road and there were flames on the road on either side. I looked up and everything was black. It was like I was in a block box. I just drove through it. I can't breathe. And then it was fire everywhere, like, you turn around everywhere it's on all sides of you.


SAMBOLIN: Can you imagine that?

Many of the fires were sparked by lightning strikes.

BERMAN: And we have storm systems which we're watching for you this morning. They're heating up in the tropics right now.

Let's get to Karen Maginnis in Atlanta, at the weather center.

Karen, how things are looking in the tropics right now?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Very active. And we're beginning the very peak of hurricane season, at least for the Atlantic basin. Twenty percent chance this area across the southwestern gulf of Mexico will develop into a tropical system.

It is going to be kind of the focal point for a lot of rainfall along the Gulf Coast, associated with a stationary front there. Four, five, six inches of rainfall in some regions.

But this is going to be the most interesting thing as we go into the next week. And, yes, a week from today, the Republican convention. Here we go, 80 percent chance we could see tropical development from this system that is expected according to the computer models, the spaghetti models as we say, expected to move across the Lesser Antilles and perhaps move towards the Florida peninsula, maybe into the Caribbean. We'll just have to se how this plays out.

It's still a long way away, but we've got very conducive atmosphere for that to develop as we go into the next four, five days. Keep you updated on that. We're still looking at quite a bit of rainfall along the Gulf Coast and very warm again in the Northwest -- Zoraida.

BERMAN: All right, Karen Maginnis, a lot of people watching that storm. Thanks very much. MAGINNIS: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: All right. She is 63 and trying to swim 103 miles through shark infested waters. Diana Nyad is now beginning day three of her swim from Cuba to Florida. Her Web site says day two of the swim was an awesome day. Her operations chief saying the water is flat and calling the day classic.

She was stung by jelly fish on her lips, forehead, hands and neck the night before. She called it off.

BERMAN: It's an awesome day when you're just stung by jellyfish.


Well, she has tried three other times to make it from Key West to Havana without any success.

So, we are wishing her luck, 63 years old and going strong.

BERMAN: Good luck, be careful of those jelly fish. One of the world --

SAMBOLIN: Not to mention the sharks, right?

BERMAN: Shark infested waters with jelly fish, sounds like an awesome day really.

One of the world's most wanted men speaks after being granted asylum. This is big. Why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange thinks the U.S. is waging a war on whistleblowers. We'll have a live report from the ground in London, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is quarter past the hour. I'm John Berman.

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

It is 15 minutes past the hour.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange delivers a message to the United States, saying the war on whistle blowers must end.


JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: I asked President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks.


SAMBOLIN: In his first public speech in about five months, he said WikiLeaks is about freedom of expression, but mentioned nothing about the rape charges against him in Sweden. Assange has been confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June now.

Our Atika Shubert was there for her speech. She joins us now live from the London bureau.

I think you've been camped out there since the very beginning. What's the latest, Atika?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is still stuck inside the embassy, because Britain still insists this is about extraditing him to Sweden for questioning on those sex crime allegation that's he faces.

For both Britain and Sweden, this is not a political issue. This is a criminal one.

But that's not how Julian Assange put it yesterday. It was much more of a political rally where he described this witch hunt on WikiLeaks. And he particularly called for the case of Bradley Manning, you might remember Bradley Manning is the U.S. military officer who allegedly leaked all those classified documents to WikiLeaks and is now undergoing a military trial.

Take a listen to what Assange said about his case yesterday.


ASSANGE: Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and an example to all of us.


ASSANGE: And one of the world's foremost political prisoners. Bradley Manning must be released.


SHUBERT: Now Assange insists the reason he doesn't want to face questioning in Sweden is that he fears that Sweden will then extradite him to the U.S. as part of this on going investigation against Bradley Manning and himself.

SAMBOLIN: And, Atika, what is the latest from U.K. officials as to how they will proceed in the standoff? We were reading something about an obscure rule or law. Do you think they'll barge into the embassy to arrest him?

SHUBERT: No, I don't think they will. This seems to have been a diplomatic misstep, where they pointed out an obscure law to Ecuador, that they could strip the embassy of diplomatic status, that could take months of legal wrangling and would hotly be contested by Ecuador and other countries. More likely Britain wants to take the temperature down a bit, negotiate, figure out a compromise.

SAMBOLIN: Atika Shubert, live in London for us -- thank you very much.

BERMAN: Pretty amazing pictures, though, of Julian Assange standing in that window over the weekend. It's really interesting to look at.

It is now minutes after the hour. We want to get updated on the top stories with Christine Romans who has more on the tragic death of one of Hollywood's top directors.

ROMANS: Yes, Hollywood walking up this morning to some really sad news, you guys, breaking news. Hollywood stunned by the death of "Top Gun" director Tony Scott. The L.A. County coroner's office treating his death as a suicide, saying he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, California.

Scott directed blockbusters like "Top Gun," "Crimson Tide," "Days of Thunder." He also produced a number of films with his brother Ridley, including this summer's "Prometheus". Tony Scott is 68 years old.

A terrifying scene on Long Island, New York. A small plane crashing into a neighborhood yesterday and new this morning, we now learned that a second person onboard that plane has died. A third person on the plane was injured. No one on the ground was hurt. The plane hit trees. It damaged a car and an industrial trash bin when it went down.

In Texas, the aerial assault on mosquitoes that care I didn't think West Nile virus just wrapped up minutes ago. It's expected to resume later again in Texas. Planes were grounded most of the weekend due to bad weather.

So far, health officials say West Nile virus has killed ten people in the Lone Star State. The Centers for Disease Control reports nearly 700 cases nationwide with 26 deaths this year. West Nile is causing some concern.

Curiosity breaking out the laser. The rover zapped small rock about 30 times in 10 seconds to identify chemicals on the planet. NASA says each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one billionths of a second. Think about that for a minute.

The rock was the first of thousands of targets Curiosity hope to analyze over the next two years.

SAMBOLIN: Too early to think about that, Christine.

BERMAN: My 9-year-old boy, you know what I thought of? I thought of R2-D2, like zapping things with his little laser. That's the way I think.

SAMBOLIN: I think that's effective way of thinking, right, to kind of wrap your brain around it.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

It is 19 minutes after the hour right now.

We want to get a look at the early read of the news that's making big headlines in your local papers. And first off, from the "Herald Sun" in North Carolina this is very interesting. The Latino credit union there is offering a special loan to assist immigrants who are applying for that education employment opportunities to the U.S. citizens and immigration service. They're calling this the "Dreamer Loan". This will cover that very high application fee, the $465 application fee.

Applicants must be members of the credit union. They must have a valid photo ID, taxpayer ID and proof of residency.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's move on here from the "San Francisco Chronicle."

A scheme hatched by Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, in an attempt to avoid a drug suspension. I'm sure you have plenty to say about this, Mr. Berman.

The report says Cabrera created a fake Web site with fake product to try and prove to Major League Baseball that he inadvertently purchased a ban substance. The trick backfired. Major League Baseball suspended Cabrera for 50 games for using testosterone.

But listen to this -- a 50-game suspension ban may be the least of his problems. The Justice Department is now investigating as well.

BERMAN: He could be in huge trouble. This is fascinating. What he tried to do was create -- when they found out that baseball was on his trail, he tried to retroactively create this paper trail, this digital paper trail showing that he got this stuff legally.

Of course, he didn't. Now, Jeff Novitzky, who is the investigator on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, one of the most famous drug investigators in the business is investigating this.

SAMBOLIN: I can't believe he thought he could get away with this.

BERMAN: Trouble.

SAMBOLIN: That is shocking.

BERMAN: He could be in big trouble.

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

SAMBOLIN: It is 21 minutes past the hour.

The Dow up for the sixth week in a row. Could your stocks be on track for another good week? Christine Romans is going to weigh in on that.


SAMBOLIN: It is 25 minutes past the hour.

We are minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are trading higher ahead of the opening bell this morning. BERMAN: The Dow closed higher last week for the sixth week in a row.

And our Christine Romans is here.

And why so good?

ROMANS: You know, the Dow is up 7 percent so far this year. All of the things we're concerned about with Europe and slowing U.S. economy. The Dow is up 7 percent. The S&P 500, that's the index that your stocks and your 401(k) are most likely, you know, pegged to, about 11 percent. That's up this year.

Really, really interesting the moves we've seen. Six weeks higher in a row for the Dow. This week, we're going to get a whole bunch of housing news. So I'll be looking to see if there are more signs of the housing market is bottoming.

We're also going to get minutes from the Fed this week. That will be really, really important. Will the Fed be signaling even though it didn't do anything new and interesting to try to juice the market or juice the economy? Will the Fed chief -- did any of the people in that Fed board, they did talk about doing new things? We'll be watching that.

And still watching Europe. There are a lot of concerns about Europe. I think so far, the U.S. economy has weathered the European storm pretty well. Hasn't had a double dip recession here like they have in other parts of Europe. Still plugging along at a little bit of growth in the U.S. that's what people and markets are looking at.

BERMAN: So, we're talking about the drought for the last month. You just went home with a little fact-finding mission in Iowa. What did you find?

ROMANS: Well, I found a lot of farmers are resigned this is going to be a bad year. There is a crop progress report later today from the government that's going to tell us how bad this corn crop is going to be.

One thing about farmers that's really important to note here. Most of them, 90 percent of them, do have insurance. And some farmers are grumbling a little bit you keep hearing they have insurance, don't worry about the farmers. They're going to take a big pay cut this year.

They're not going to go out of business. They're not going to buy a new truck and not be able to -- they're not going to save for college for their kids.

So it's a pretty big story there. There was some rain. I'm happy to report there was some rain. That's good for the beans. August is soy bean month.

In case you're wondering, that's the brought map. You can see even with the rain, there is a lot of orange and red on. There not great. The beans could do a little bit better, because we've had some rain in the Midwest. The corn crop is cooked, I'd like to say. So we'll hear from the U.S. government later today exactly how cooked it is.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, thanks so much. We'll be watching for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. Don't mess with this granny. How a 73-year-old woman was able to fight off her attacker. She is 73. This is how she fought off her attacker. We'll tell you more about it in a second.

If you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time on your desktop or mobile phone. Just go to



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Growing demand for Vice President Biden and the White House to apologize for that chains comment. The latest on that controversy.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A major rescue in Alaska this morning. Seventy-six people brought to safety after their ship ran aground.

BERMAN: 9/11 families versus the 9/11 memorial. Who gets to say where the remains of the unknown will be kept?

SAMBOLIN: Tough one.


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

BERMAN (on-camera): I'm John Berman. It's about 31 minutes after the hour right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking News

SAMBOLIN: We begin with breaking news this morning. Hollywood simply stunned by the death of "Top Gun" director, Tony Scott. The L.A. County coroner's office treating his death as a suicide saying he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge yesterday in San Pedro, California. Fellow filmmakers offering their condolences on Twitter.

Everybody's talking about this on twitter. Ron Howard tweeting, "No more Tony Scott movies. Tragic day." And Adam Shankman with this, "My heart stopped when I heard of the tragic death of one of our most inspiring directors, Tony Scott. Rest in peace, Tony. You will be missed so." Tony Scott was just 68 years old.

BERMAN: Sad, sad story to wake up this morning. Moving on to politics now and some serious backtracking by Missouri congressman, Todd Akin. The six-term Republican who is now running for Senate says he misspoke in a TV interview in which he was asked whether he'd support abortion in the case of rape. This is what he said.


TODD AKIN, (R) MISSOURI: It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. but let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.


BERMAN: So, the words he chose there set up a firestorm on Twitter and among political chattering class overnight. CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, is in Washington right now. And Paul, the question is, this is in a Senate race in Missouri. Could this play on a larger stage, say, in the presidential campaign?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, the Romney campaign did put out a statement, John. I guess they felt that they needed to distance themselves from this candidate. And this is what they said from Amanda Henneberg, one of their spokeswomen. "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Ryan-Romney administration would not oppose abortion in instance of rape." Again from Amanda Henneberg (ph) last night.

Missouri, listen, let's be honest, some people consider in play and some people consider it safe, it's kind of safe for the Romney-Ryan ticket. But, John, the Senate race is very important one. And one where the Republicans think they can have a very good shot at winning back the seat is held by Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator.

Akin was one of the most conservative in a very, very crowded feel earlier this month. Republican primary came out on top, partially, (INAUDIBLE) from McCaskill. This is the candidate she wanted to face. She now has him, and maybe she has a little bit of a wounded candidate -- John.

BERMAN: It is interesting, though, Paul. The Romney campaign put out a statement saying that Romney-Ryan administration would offer exceptions for rape and incest. Paul Ryan has been on the record in the past opposing some of those exceptions. So, you will hear, I imagine, from the Obama team today on that.

Moving on now to Vice President Biden, talk about controversy. A lot of people calling on him to apologize for those chains comments he made for a lot - loud volume this weekend on the Sunday shows.

STEINHAUSER: It sure did, John. I mean, this started back on Tuesday when he made these comments in Danville, Virginia on the campaign trail. He was criticizing the Romney proposals to loosen restrictions on Wall Street and he was speaking in front of a crowd that contained a lot of African-Americans that he talked about, they would put you back in chains.

As you know, this was a firestorm all last week and continued on the Sunday talk shows. Here's a little bit of a taste.


RUDY GIULIANI, MAYOR, NEW YORK: Last week, that was an absolutely blatant appeal to racism. It was they're going to put you back in chains. Emphasize the word "back," and it was on a teleprompter. Now, that's disgusting.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: There isn't a racist bone in Joe Biden's body. And to suggest that is, I think, over the edge. The fact is that Joe Biden throughout his career has fought for equality and opportunity and to suggest something else, it may have been a misuse of words, but to take it to that extreme is just too much, Mr. Mayor.


STEINHAUSER: Of course, former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a major surrogate for the Romney-Ryan campaign. And Dick Durbin, a senator from Illinois, big backer of the president and Joe Biden. Vice President, he's back on the campaign trail this week, John, Minnesota, Missouri, no apology coming from the campaign.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Steinhauser in Washington. Politics heating up on the trail. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-five minutes past the hour here. Saudi Arabians with tribal ties to Syria are reaching deep into their pockets to help Syrian rebels. Fundraisers have raised $150 million during the month of Ramadan alone. Sources tell CNN the money will be used to buy weapons as well as pay for medical care in the war torn country where an estimated 150 people die each and every day.

BERMAN: Police in Central Texas say they have a suspect in custody in a shooting in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Police say at least four people were injured when a group gathered for a fight in the Cedar Park Wal- Mart lot early Sunday morning, and one person opened fire. No Wal- Mart employees or customers were hit. The investigation into what caused the fight, that continues this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen members of people killed in the World Trade Center attacks are fighting the September 11th memorial museum over where unidentified victims remains will be kept. The museum wants to keep the remains underground near the museum, but some families say they weren't meaningfully notified nor consulted and many have objected now.

The family members are appealing, lobbying for contact information for all 2,749 families in order to get their fee back.

John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, is up for parole this week. This is for a seven-time. Chapman could go before the parole board as early as tomorrow. A decision on his release is expected by week's end. Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life for Lennon's murder in 1980. His last parole hearing was in 2010.

SAMBOLIN: Seventy-three-year-old Margaret Jackson says Houston police called her "gangster granny" after she fought off a home intruder with, get this, look at that, right there, a barbecue fork. Jackson said her dog spotted someone right outside her home. This was on Friday afternoon. She grabbed a pair of scissors and a barbecue fork and surprised the teenager at the back door.


MARGARET JACKSON, FOUGHT OFF INTRUDER WITH BARBECUE FORK: He was pushing on me. He turned around, and when he turned around, that's when he messed up. I got him right in the neck!


SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness! Right in the neck, she says. All right. So, Jackson says she's lucky that the suspect didn't have a weapon. Good thing that she recognizes that. Next time, she says, she will call the police.

BERMAN: You know, Christine Romans says she almost never uses that barbecue fork.

SAMBOLIN: Now, there's a purpose for it, right? Oh, my goodness. That was one surprised teen.

BERMAN: Right in the neck.

It is 38 minutes after the hour right now. And it's really one of the most famous mysteries of the last 100 years. Could we finally know what happened to Amelia Earhart 75 years ago? Next, the new video that may actually hold the key, the key to one of the biggest mysteries of our time.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Forty-two minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thanks for being with us this morning. A 75-year-old mystery could be closer to getting solved this morning. There's potential new evidence surrounding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Scientists with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery or TIGHAR launched a $2 million underwater expedition last month near the Republic of Kiribati.

It is a string of pacific islands where Earhart is thought to have landed or crashed on July 2nd, 1937 while trying to fly around the world. So, after combing through hours of footage, they stopped at this image that you're looking at right there. It might not look like much to you, but forensic experts say it could be the evidence that they are looking for. Ric Gillespie is executive director of TIGHAR and author of the 2009 book, "Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance." He is live from Philadelphia. So nice to welcome you back to EARLY START. Thank you.


SAMBOLIN: So, we have that image up there. Tell us what you found.

GILLESPIE: Well, what we found was something that looks like what we're looking for in the place that we hope to find it. Unfortunately, at the time we didn't have the high definition video that we could see in real time or we would simply swum up to these things with the ROV and poked at them to see if that's what we're looking for.

We had to wait until we got home to process the video and really review it. The forensic people have looked at it and said, yes, there's man made material there in the debris field.

SAMBOLIN: So, Mr. Gillespie, we're watching this right now. I want to put that image back up again, because I'm not sure what we're looking at. So, you can walk us through. We have some arrows pointing at some stuff, but we're not sure what it is. Can you tell us what you see?

GILLESPIE: Well, we're not sure what it is either, but what we see is -- I think, the upper most arrow has the same shape and dimensions as the fender on the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra. The thing in the left hand most arrow is -- could be a pully, sort of box like, but it's definitely man-made.

Down to the right, seemed to be other components of the landing gear. There's something there that might be a tire. I think that's in the second from the right arrow. You know, it was a landing gear that we saw on the reef in the 1937 photo. And we're wondering if maybe we found the thing that we see in the 1937 photo, although now broken into pieces in 75 years.

SAMBOLIN: This is a really rough area at the bottom of the ocean. So, can you access it so that you can study it?

GILLESPIE: We would -- if we continue to develop this evidence and it does appear to be aircraft wreckage as we hope it will, we have to go back -- we can go back into that area with submersibles and retrieve this stuff. If we can get it up on the deck of a ship, we can know for sure what it is, but it sure looks interesting at this point.

SAMBOLIN: It does. I want to go back to that photo that was taken back in 1937 shortly after she disappeared. If we can put that up so that you can explain to people also what that is.

GILLESPIE: This is a photograph taken on October 15th, 1937, three months after disappeared. It was taken by a British colonial service officer who was visiting the island on an expedition. It was inhabited at the time. They were just checking it out for future settlement. And he just snapped a picture of the western end of the island primarily to get a picture of that ship wreck that's there. That's the (INAUDIBLE) that went aground in 1929.

And what we noticed is that there's something sticking up out of the water on the left hand side of the frame that shouldn't be there. And the forensic imaging experts look at that and parse it and do their magic. And what they see is something that's consistent with the landing gear assembly of a Lockheed Electra aircraft.

SAMBOLIN: And so, that's what specifically then took you to that place to continue to look.


SAMBOLIN: This is fascinating stuff. Will you come back and share some more with us, because we're all fascinated by your pictures.

GILLESPIE: Well, thank you. I'd be happy to come back with more information.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, author of "Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance."

BERMAN: He's got some really good eyes.

SAMBOLIN: He does.


SAMBOLIN: Well, he has that trained eye, right? He knows what he's looking for.

BERMAN: Forty-six minutes after the hour right now. We want to get you up to speed on the latest headlines, including some very sad news overnight out of Hollywood. Here's Christine Romans with the latest.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, you two. Breaking news this morning.


ROMANS (voice-over): Hollywood is mourning the death of filmmaker, Tony Scott. The L.A. County coroner's office is treating this case as a suicide saying he jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge yesterday in San Pedro, California. Scott is probably best known for directing "top GUn" and "Crimson Tide."

Fellow directors are taking to twitter to share their thoughts, including Ron Howard. He tweeted, "no more Tony Scott movies. Tragic day." Tony Scott was 68 years old.

A developing story in Missouri this morning. Two out of five spectators injured when a race car crashed into the Missouri State Fair. They remain in the hospital this morning. Police say they were watching a charity race near the pit area when a driver lost control, left the track, crashed into them.

The battle of the badges races featuring old police cars were canceled for the rest of the night.

And 76 people rescued off the coast of Alaska. Seventy-six people rescued when their sight seeing vessel ran aground in Glacier Bay. Coast Guard officials tell Reuters passengers were transferred to a cruise ship after the boat began taking on water. No serious injuries reported. The Coast Guard is investigating the accident.

And the U.S.S. constitution, Old Ironsides --

BERMAN (voice-over): Yes, baby.

ROMANS: Set sail again yesterday. It's only the second time it moved under its own power, the second time since 1881. That's why John remembers, he was a little kid.

BERMAN: Right.

ROMANS: The constitution set out on Boston Harbor to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle that earned the ship her nickname. Her victory over a British brigade (ph) during the war of 1812.


BERMAN (on-camera): Call Piers Morgan, we won that one.


SAMBOLIN: Yes, baby.


BERMAN: I'm from Boston.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS (on-camera): We're very proud of Old Ironsides of Boston.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Forty-eight minutes past the hour here. After $60,000 worth of Steve Jobs' personal items were stolen, one of his iPads ended up in some unusual and colorful hands. One clown's really unusual download seriously coming up next.

And if you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time -- I could not make that up, John -- on your desktop or your mobile phone, just go, to We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Fifty-two minutes after 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: Madonna sued in Russia for voicing her support of gay rights. Reuters says anti-gay activist are suing the singer for nearly $10.5 million for asking concert goers to wave pro-gay pink arm bands that were distributed at her show. Russia legalized homosexuality in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union, but only stopped classifying it as a mental disorder in 1999.

And anti-guy attitudes still run high in the country. Part of this lawsuit had to do with the fact that there were children 12 and under in the audience and they said that, you know, they didn't want those messages to reach their fans.

BERMAN: Madonna is making big news in Russia all the time. She's a big supporter of that punk rock band there.


BERMAN: All right. What you would do with Steve Jobs' iPad? Well, if you're a clown, "Kenny the Clown," that is, you download a Pink Panther theme and Michael Jackson. I can't really get on the clown thing here, but I'll try. The "San Jose Mercury News" says the professional clown, he ended up with the late founder's iPad when it was stolen from Jobs' home earlier this month.

We've reported on this before. "Kenny the Clown," his real name is Kenny Kahn (ph), says he received the iPad from a friend who was later arrested for that break in. Kahn said he had the iPad for a few days before police came asking for the tablet, which he happily returned to Jobs and his family.

He says he never really dug for any Jobs' secrets but he did go to iTunes to download some songs for his act, because he's a clown, as we said after all. $60,000 worth of computers, IPhones, personal items were stolen from Steve Jobs' home in this --

SAMBOLIN: He said as soon as they logged in, they police were at his door.

BERMAN: Right away.

SAMBOLIN: You know, last week when we reported this story. I believe we report (ph) it was that they -- that this guy had given the iPad to his daughter. So, maybe --

BERMAN: Thinking he had more than one.

SAMBOLIN: Several. He took quite a bit from that --

BERMAN: $60,000 worth of stuff.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Getting wet and arrested for a landmark home run ball. Listen to this and check it out.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): That's Chicago White Sox slugger, Adam Dunn (ph), belting out the 400th home run of his career. So, an overzealous Sox fan in the bleacher Saturday night flipped over the railing, jumped into the waterfall in left center field --

BERMAN: Did you say he jump in or fell in there or rolled in?

SAMBOLIN: Maybe did he fall in. So, he did get the ball, too, but he didn't get it for long. "USA Today" says stadium security arrested him and they took the ball away from him. There are signs at Kauffman Stadium warning fans they will be arrested if they decide to take a dip. But you know what? He should take this video and show them that he fell in, because it doesn't look like he's jumping --


BERMAN: You know, he's not left with the ball and goes to jail, but he has am indelible memory he'll treasure forever.

SAMBOLIN: No, but the fine is like $2,000 or $2,500.

BERMAN: So before with an indelible memory he'll treasure forever.

It is 55 minutes after the hour. Top stories straight ahead. First, it called Mitt Romney a wimp, but now the cover of "Newsweek" is saying "Hit the road, Barack." Reaction to the cover and why the author says Paul Ryan scares the president. We'll have a live report from Washington just ahead.