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Empire State Building Shooting; Landfall in Haiti; Florida on Alert; Syria Suffers Deadliest Months; Mexican Federal Police Attack U.S. Diplomatic Vehicle

Aired August 25, 2012 - 06:00   ET


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: From CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, this is EARLY START WEEKEND.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four or five people got shot in that corner. There were just stray bullets that hit them.


KAYE: A disgruntled employee opens fire in New York City. Brand new surveillance video reveals exactly what happened.

It's supposed to represent the party. But for Mitt Romney, is it a help or an inconvenience? All morning we're putting the Republican platform in focus.

Isaac tracking north. When will it hit the U.S.? And how much damage could it mean for the Gulf Coast.

It is Saturday, August 25th. Good morning, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Glad you're with us.

We begin this morning with new information on those terrifying moments in New York City after a gun battle in front of the Empire State Building. It left two dead, including the gunman, and nine others injured. The brother of the slain victim says Steven Ercolino was a loving person and the light of so many lives.

Now, we're about to show you some video that you may find disturbing. But we're showing it to you to help illustrate how the chaos unfolded. Here's Anderson Cooper.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). The cops just shot someone.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN (voice-over): This is the aftermath of a gunman opening fire in one of the most crowded streets in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just shot him.

COOPER: Police say they fired at this man, identified at 58-year-old Jeffry Johnson, after he shot at them. At this point in the video, he still appears to be alive.

Just minutes before Johnson, dressed in a business suit and carrying a briefcase, navigated the crowds around the Empire State Building, found his target and pulled out a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: At 9:03 this morning, in front of 10 West 33rd Street, a disgruntled former employee of a company at that address shot and killed a former co-worker, striking him three times.

COOPER: Police say Johnson had been laid off from his job as a woman's accessory designer last year. His victim, 41-year-old Steve Ercolino, was a vice president there. Police say Johnson and Ercolino had a long standing dispute over allegations of harassment and both men had filed prior complaints against one another.

A co-worker of Ercolino's was walking right next to him when they both saw Johnson lurking. She said, quote, "I saw him pull a gun out from his jacket and I thought to myself, oh my God, he's going to shoot him. Steve screamed, Jeff shot him, and I just turned and ran."

KELLY: Jeffrey Johnson then fled with a .45 caliber handgun secreted in a black bag that he had under his arm. A construction worker, who had followed Johnson from West 33rd Street, alerted two uniformed police officers.

COOPER: Chaos erupted as bystanders ran for cover and police pursued Johnson.

KELLY: As the two officers approached Johnson, he pulled his .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol from his bag and fired on the officers, who returned fire.

COOPER: Police fired 14 rounds. Some of which are believed to have hit eight innocent bystanders.

ANIKA BASU, WITNESS: I heard the gunshots and we looked towards the left and saw three or four people fall. The whole entire crosswalk emptied and people were running.

COOPER: Johnson went down immediately.

LISA SULLIVAN, WITNESS (voice-over): They rolled him over on his stomach and cuffed him, kicked the gun away from him.

COOPER: After one man was killed, eight people wounded and hundreds of people ran for their lives. Jeffrey Johnson died in the shadow of the Empire State Building.


KAYE: And joining us now is CNN producer Rose Arce, who was first on the scene yesterday.

Rose, good morning.

ROSE ARCE, CNN PRODUCER: Good morning, Randi.

KAYE: Explain what that was like when you got there.

ARCE: Well, it was a very dramatic scene when I arrived. From early on, the police had been reassuring people that this was not an incident of domestic terrorism. That this was not a random shooting, but that they suspected that it was a crime between probably not more than one or two people. As it turned out, it was two people.

However, all of this took place in front of the Empire State Building. Arguably one of the world's biggest tourist attractions. Literally thousands of people gather in front of that building every day, standing in line for hours to get in.

And when I arrived, the front of the building where the sign said "observatory entrance," there is a body lying on the floor. There's shrapnel lying on the floor. Police officers running around. The shooting had just happened.

And you can just imagine the number of people surrounding that scene. The number who witnessed it, heard the gunshots, were affected by it. Ambulances were rolling in, taking people away. It was very, very scary.

KAYE: And people, I assume, were still taking cover, right, not clear exactly what was going on or maybe if there was another shooter even?

ARCE: Absolutely. Nobody knew what had happened. And people were definitely running away. And if they weren't running away, the police were pushing them back. At that point, police started to say that they thought that more than one person had been hit. But there was an enormous amount of confusion over how they had been hit.

Later, I spoke to several witnesses who recounted that this incident had started around the corner from the Empire State Building. And many people, on another very crowded street where there's a lot of garment industry work, had watched a man in a gray suit with a bag in his hand walk up, pull out a gun and start shooting at point-blank range another man in the middle of the street.

And then there had been this, you know, terrible scene that had erupted where people had tried to run away thinking that he was going to shoot other people. And a guy that was wearing sort of like a security vest of some kind, a neon vest, who worked in the Empire State Building across the street, had actually come out and run after this guy as people were yelling, you know, "police, police." And he'd run down the street and around the corner. He actually managed to go down the street, around the corner, through this crowd of people to where tourists were standing before he was subdued.

KAYE: And was the general feeling that police handled this well? Handled it the right way?

ARCE: Well, I think that the moment that I read, people were certainly happy that the police had been able to subdue him so quickly because what they were seeing is an armed gunman running through a crowd of people that didn't know why he was there, didn't know why he was shooting people. We've certainly had some fairly awful mass shootings this year. So, you know, the tourists that I spoke to said, we didn't know who else he was going to shoot. We didn't know why he was doing this. And he did have this gun in his hand. And I did talk to a witnesses who said they saw him with his black bag and they assume that there was another guy in there, maybe there were bullets in there. He's carrying it to his side. Once he had been felled by police officers, as his body was lying out there, you could see this black bag was just a few inches from his hand. So he had presumably access to other weapons.

KAYE: Wow, some really scary -- scary moments there. Rose Arce, appreciate that. Thank you very much.

New watches and warnings are in effect for southern Florida ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac. Isaac is emerging off Haiti's coast after making landfall on Haiti's southern peninsula just a short time ago. Hundreds of thousands of people are riding out the storm in tent camps. And we'll have a live report from Haiti capital in just a few minutes.

To politics now and a comment from Mitt Romney during a stop in Michigan is getting a whole lot of attention. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital. I was born at Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.


KAYE: Romney later said it was just a joke and not a swipe at President Obama. In the past, Romney has said he believes Obama was born in the U.S. and that it's not an issue, which makes this all the more curious.

So what was the Obama campaign's response? Well, they turned it into, of course, a fundraising plea, echoing this line from Romney. "They said that this is the place that we were born and raised. Take a moment or two to think about that, what he's actually saying and what it says about Mitt Romney." And on Twitter, the president sent out a link to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

Apple has won a major victory over Samsung. In federal court, the jury hearing the copyright infringement case ruled that Samsung has to pay Apple more than $1 billion in damages. They said Samsung willfully violated Apple's patents in developing their own mobile products. Samsung says it will appeal. There could also be a possible injunction against the sale of some Samsung products. A hearing on that is scheduled for next month.

Lance Armstrong says he is innocent, but that didn't stop the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency from issuing a lifetime ban on the champion cyclist. Armstrong has been accused of using performance enhancing drugs during his career and now it's up to the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union to decide if Armstrong will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Tropical Storm Isaac coming off of Haiti and making its way to the U.S. Now the Gulf Coast is preparing for some really nasty weather. We'll have the latest on the storm's progress.


KAYE: Welcome back.

South Florida and the Gulf Coast are bracing for Isaac. But first, it is Haiti's turn. The tropical storm is now emerging off Haiti's coast after making landfall there. So let's get you straight to CNN's Gary Tuchman. He is in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

Gary, good morning. What is the situation like there right now? Has the capital been spared so far?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Randi, good morning to you.

It is still raining as we speak, but the winds have died down. But it was quite a tumultuous evening. From about 11:00 Eastern Time to 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time. So about four hours here in Haiti, the rains were coming down very heavily. The wind's, tropical storm force. And right now it's still dark. So it's hard to ascertain the damage.

But here's what Haitian radio is saying so far. No confirmations of any casualties, but it's way too early because they have had reports of much damage, particularly in the hillside, the mountainsides, not only here in Port-au-Prince but outside the area. And until the sun comes up, they won't know for sure.

Certainly there's potential for immense damage. Even when they get normal storms here in Haiti, because of the deforestation, because of the mountaintops and the mudslides they have huge problems. Back in 2008, they had relatively minor storms, four of them, but 800 people died in those four storms four years ago. There hasn't been a tropical storm since the Haiti earthquake until now. So once the sun comes up, we'll have a better idea of what's going on.

But it certainly was quite a scary situation. Last night we were in one of the tent city where thousands of people live. And it was very alarming because, according to the people who live in the tent cities, very few went to shelters. Shelters were set up in this country, hundreds of them, but it appears that people who live in the tent cities, who have lived -- who haven't had a home since the earthquake, did not want to leave because they feared if they left and came back, somebody would take their place. So they made the decision to stay and hopefully that won't be a poor decision for those people. Well, right now, it's just too early to tell because it's still dark in this nation. They went through quite a scare over the last several hours.


KAYE: Yes. How prepared do you think the country was for this? TUCHMAN: You know, it's hard to tell. We spent some time yesterday with President Michel Martelly, his prime minister, Lamothe. And what they were doing was traveling from camp to camp throughout Port-au- Prince and the surrounding area telling people, please, we have shelters for, leave. But they acknowledged that there wasn't enough room in the shelters for everybody because there's still 400,000 homeless people in this nation of 10 million. So what they were telling people is, we want all the women and children who can leave, to leave. And their quote was -- the president's quote to them was, we want the strong men to stay behind in the camps to help people who can't leave. Well, we saw lots of strong men staying behind in the camps and also lots of their women and children. I mean this camp we were at last night was full and these people road it out in their tents.

KAYE: Wow. A very difficult time for them yet again.

Gary Tuchman for us in Port-au-Prince. Thank you very much, Gary.

And back here at home, new watches and warnings have been issues for much of south Florida. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider joining us this morning.

So, Bonnie, what can you tell us about Isaac's path? Will Florida get a direct hit?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well now Florida's under a hurricane warning, Randi. So that is new. And you can see the warning extends all the way from Bonita Shores through all of the Florida Keys, all the way up to the Florida bay. So this is a good portion of south Florida now under a hurricane warning.

A hurricane watch extends northward towards Golden Beach and that does include areas of south Florida. Some major cities as well. And this means we will see hurricane force winds within 24 to 36 hours likely with this storm. And that's particularly true for the Keys, I think. We'll see some of the strongest winds there.

We also have tropical storm watches and warnings posted all the way through south Florida and up towards the Sebastian inlet. So that goes as far north as Port St. Lucy and the Stewart area of Florida.

So let's talk about the storm as we take a look at what's happening. You can see, as it emerges from Haiti, we're really watching for this storm to work its way through Cuba and that will really determine the terms of how much more intensity we'll see with Isaac at this time. But, remember, through the straits of Florida, the water temperature is definitely warm enough to see more intensification. So while we still have a tropical storm, the National Hurricane Center says Isaac will become a hurricane as early as Sunday, meaning that we will see some very strong winds even as far south into Florida as early as Sunday. So if you haven't made your storm preps, I would do so now.

Now where the track is, it's still not 100 percent certainly because we have a wide cone of uncertainty that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico. And depending on how far west the storm goes, that will really impact the effect on Florida. It will also impact where landfall will be. Right now landfall could be anywhere from parts of Alabama all the way through Florida. And then what's interesting is, we'll still be talking about this storm well into the week, into Thursday. It's possible we'll still be seeing tropical storm force winds as far inland as Birmingham and even here in Atlanta possibly through the week. So Isaac is a large storm. It's one to keep monitoring, especially in Florida right now and throughout the southeast through the week.

KAYE: Bonnie, thank you very much. Appreciate the update there.

Setting the Republican agenda as the candidates gear up for the convention. Their road map is getting more and more attention. We'll go in focus on the Republican platform.

But first, a very big good morning to everyone joining us and waking up with us in Washington, D.C. Look at that gorgeous shot of the capital. The lights are on. So glad you're with us.


KAYE: The 2012 presidential campaign has really embraced social media and technology. President Obama has now made it possible to donate to his campaign via text. They also have an app that allows you to follow the candidates, but it also tells you which of your neighbors are Democrats. On the other side, Mitt Romney's campaign allows you to sign in through Facebook. So you have to ask yourself, do you want the campaign to know who all your friends are? Yes, something to think about.

There's a new TV ad set to debut in Florida in time for next week's Republican National Convention. It's from conservatives who support same-sex marriage. The man behind the ad is San Diego's Republican mayor, Jerry Sanders. The group also plans a rally on Tampa on Tuesday.

The definition of marriage also has a place in the official Republican Party platform. The language there defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. We are focusing on the platform this morning. It is the road map to Republican Party principles. The platform is reworked and updated every four years for the Republican National Convention. It will be voted on by convention delegates on Monday.

So, you're probably wondering, who is writing this thing? A platform committee is made up of around 110 party activists, conservative insiders and legislatures. And this year the chairman of the committee is Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who himself had been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate.

So, what's in the platform? Well, much of it we've seen before. As I said, it's updated every four years. Now, one of the items getting the most attention is abortion and the lack of exceptions for rape and incest. Here's an excerpt from the platform. "Through Obamacare, the Obama administration has promoted the notion of abortion as health care. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life." The big update is the inclusion of Obamacare. Another update is to immigration policy. The committee toughened the language to say, "no amnesty for illegal immigrants." They also want tougher border security and have adopted the policy of self- deportation.

Again, the platform will be voted on by delegates on Monday, but isn't necessarily binding for the candidates. Republican leaders themselves just call it a broad statement of principles, but it's a rallying point for the party faithful and for Democratic opponents.

We'll have much more on the platform and its impact next hour. I'll talk to the head of the Young Republicans and the head of the Youth Democrats. I'll ask them about the race, the issues and the future of both parties. So be sure to stay with us.

A sneaky staff sergeant decided to give his mom the surprise of a lifetime all while in disguise. Wait until you see her heartwarming reaction.


KAYE: Welcome back. Twenty-four minutes past the hour. Checking stories across country.

First to North Carolina, where a reporter from our affiliate, WSOC, was on air when a car accident happened directly behind him. Watch this.


DAVE FAHERTY, WSOC REPORTER: We have been checking in with the sheriff here in Carteret County (ph) and also checking the jail website. Oh, my gosh. There was an accident right behind me, folks. I'm sorry about that. One of the drivers pulling up here, folks. Let me -- let me get off --


KAYE: You saw him jump out of the way here. Dave Faherty had been there to do a report on a homicide investigation. The news room actually called 911 to report the crash. The good news is, both of the drivers were OK.

Now to Greenville, Georgia, where Air Force Staff Sergeant Tray Murphy (ph) disguised himself as a baseball player to surprise his mom. He wasn't supposed to be back from Afghanistan for three days. His parents thought they were special guests at the game and were called to the field.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we can talk this over. When do you expect Tray home? Is it right now by any chance?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

Because I really wasn't going to sleep well until I could hug his neck and --



KAYE: What a beautiful moment there. The Greenville Drive minor league baseball team helped put that surprise together.

And in New Britain, Connecticut, a new school superintendent wants to start fining parents $75 for every day their kids skip school. And people have some mixed feelings about this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not fair. $75 for every time that these kids don't want to go to school. Some of these mothers barely have a car to bring them to school. Then that $75, $75.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, these kids are outside, they're selling drugs, they're, you know, buying drugs, they're stopping cars in the middle of the street. You know, they're riding their bikes around. They should really just be in school.


KAYE: The policy still has to go in front of city council. But city officials say truancy is a major problem and right now there is no financial penalty. Student who can't afford the fine would have a community service option.

We want to hear from you on this. Should parents be fined for kids skipping classes? Is $75 too much or maybe even too little? What are your thoughts on this? You can tweet me @RandiKayeCNN. We'll read some of your responses on air later this morning. So be sure to send those in.

Taiwan braces for round two. A powerful typhoon takes aim, washing out roads and soaking Taiwan with the worst rains in 100 years. And it's not over yet.


KAYE: It is about 30 minutes past the hour. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Randi Kaye. Thanks so much for starting your day with us. The White House insists there is still time for a diplomatic solution to an impasse with Iran over its nuclear program. That's according to "The New York Times."

Eight straight hours of talks yesterday failed to get Iran to agree to allow U.N. inspectors to visit suspected nuclear facilities in Iran. The "Times" reports that inspectors believe Iran is boosting its ability to make a type of uranium that can be converted to bomb fuel.

A pair of typhoons are causing havoc in Asia. Typhoon Tembin lashed Southern Taiwan with torrential rains, the worst in more than a century. And it may not be done yet. Forecasters warn the storm may return for another round on Monday. And Okinawa, Japan is bracing for a super typhoon that will hit tomorrow. There are fears it could be the worst storm to strike in a decade.

The civil war in Syria is spilling over into neighboring Lebanon. Lebanon state run News Agency reports that at least three people were killed and 18 others hurt in clashes in Lebanon's second biggest city of Tripoli. There had been gun battles and fighting in Tripoli for nearly a week now. Syria's unrest has aggravated sectarian tensions across the border.

And in Syria, fighting has been raging in the capital Damascus and other major cities. August is now the deadliest month yet in Syria civil war which is dragged on now for a year and a half. The opposition says, more than 3700 people have died this month alone. The fighting is pushing thousands of refugees across Syria's borders, many to Turkey.

And that's where Syria expert and author Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is right now. He is Antakya with the free Syrian army near the border.

Andrew, good morning to you. Tell us more about what you are actually doing with the FSA there in Turkey.

ANDREW TABLER, AUTHOR, "IN THE LION'S DEN": Well, we are here along with my colleague Jeff Wyatt (ph) to evaluate the free Syrian army, its capabilities, its operations -- and what kind of assistance it needs. And we have been meeting with a number of groups and will continue to do so. It's a very confusing picture but a very interesting story.

KAYE: The FSA, as far as I understand it, began as a group of military defectors who fled to Turkey. How are they keeping contact with the rebels inside Syria? That can't be easy.

TABLER: It's not. I think they keep contact via cell phones. The Turkey's cell phone network goes over for the border in some parts of Syria. They put up satellite equipments that allow us to communication via the internet. Programs like Skype, like the one I'm talking to you over now they use extensively. Chat. In many ways (INAUDIBLE) communication by smart phones and the internet allow people to carry out operations. Ultimately at least the way the FSA looks at it and bring down Assad dictatorship.

KAYE: So, what is the goal? I'm glad you brought that up. Because what is the goal of the free Syrian army? I mean, is it just to end the al- Assad regime or are they interested in becoming a more powerful force that maybe Washington has going to have to deal with?

TABLER: First and foremost, they want to end the Assad regime. And I think they are organizing to do that. Politically, they are not organized into one body. It is a regular force with many different groups. Beyond that, one central goal of putting down the Assad regime, you have a lot of other agendas, we just don't know about it. And I think in many cases, in speaking of this group, I'm not even sure they know what their long term agendas are. But most definitely, what is happening is that we are going to the -- the United States is going to have to have a relationship with these groups because they are the ones who are going to inherit parts of Syria at first and then ultimately (INAUDIBLE).

KAYE: Certainly, we have spent a lot of time covering these major defections recently from Syrian regime. Do you think they are the defections putting significant pressure on that regime?

TABLER: They are. Most of the defections though are from the majority. (INAUDIBLE). The regime in its core is -- especially at the top. So, while those defections recently, the prime minister and generals, those are important but because they are not -- in the quarter of regime doesn't mean that the regime is going to fall over. And that's the problem that we are dealing with at the moment. Is that the Assad regime might not tip over, instead it might just contract over lesser areas of geographic area. And those liberated areas, the free Syrian army is going to be calling it (INAUDIBLE).

KAYE: President Obama and the British Prime Minister are warning the Syrian regime not to use their chemical weapons. Mr. Obama saying, it would be a quote, "red line." Would the U.S. and its allies, do you think be willing to use force and can they even succeed in doing so?

TABLER: Yes, I think they would be willing to use force. This is not a new message. This was communicated by President Obama quietly, about a month ago. And I think what you see with the announcement coming out is that the United States and its allies have agreed on a course. I think they would be willing to intervene militarily. It could involve air strikes, it could involved boots on the ground but not in substantial numbers. This is a worst case scenario in its contingency planning on behalf of the administration. This is the first red line that the Obama administration has laid down with Assad on Assad's 18 month killing spree in Syria.

KAYE: Andrew Tabler for us in Turkey with incredible access there to the free Syrian army. Andrew, thank you very much.

TABLER: You're welcome.

KAYE: He is a two-time cancer survivor. Meet this week's CNN hero. He's giving cancer patients support, encouragement and hope by connecting them with others who have been down the same road.


KAYE: It is not the news that anyone wants to hear, learning that they have cancer. But two time cancer survivor, Johny Imerman has made it his duty to make sure no one battles the disease alone. Meet this week's CNN hero.


JOHNNY IMERMAN, CNN HERO: All of a sudden, it was like bam, it was like someone took a syringe and stabbed me directly in my left testicle. At 26, I was diagnosed with cancer. So I had to go right into chemo.

In the hospital, I saw these people by themselves. You could see the fear. My goal was to get in there and motivate patients so that they wanted to jump out of their chemo bed and literally start swinging at this thing.

My name is Johnny Imerman. I'm a two-time testicular cancer survivor and I created an organization to make sure that people that are diagnosed with cancer are able to reach a survivor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to keep your immune system strong. You have to listen to your body. It will tell you what you need to do.

IMERMAN: It started with just a few survivors sharing information one to one with somebody diagnosed with the exact same cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a 29-year-old, healthy young adult. Cancer is not a part of our language. I'm really happy that I have this community that Johnny has built.

IMERMAN: We have helped people in over 60 countries. We have matched over 8,000 total since inception.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terry has been like my guardian angel. Anytime I call her, she's right there.

IMERMAN: It's a brotherhood and a sisterhood. That's for sure. We help people of all ages, caregivers, spouses. We'll help the parents get hooked up with other parents. And we just get a ton of young adults. We share stories. We listen. We learn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was 30 years old when I was diagnosed. So I wanted to make it until my son was at least five. And I'm still here today.

IMERMAN: We see each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the kind of information that you need to hear from someone who's been through it. There's really no other way.

IMERMAN: I don't really count the days since cancer because every day is a good day. Like be happy you got out of bed this morning. Life is amazing.


KAYE: And remember, CNN heroes are all chosen from people that you tell us about. And time is running out for this year. You've only got one week left to nominate someone. You can do so at today.

Are you making the most of your mornings? My next guest looks at why taking advantage of those early hours, in this case really early is the secret behind many successful CEOs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KAYE: Welcome back. Forty two minutes past the hour. If you are watching us right now, you might be a morning person like me. I try to get to the gym first thing in the morning, take care of some personal business before work, otherwise you never get to it.

But sometimes making the most of your morning just isn't that easy. Laura Vanderkam is the author of "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast." And she joins me now to help break down how to get your day-off to a more productive start. Good morning, Laura.


KAYE: Glad to have you here. So, let me ask you this, what are the common activities that you see among highly successful people, I guess they start their day off right.

VANDERKAM: Yes, anything that is important to them that life has a way of crowding out. So, for many people, like you, that's exercise. Other people use that time for focus, creative work or even spending quality time with their families.

KAYE: How important do you think consistency is and routine, I mean, in trying to find a focus in the morning?

VANDERKAM: Well, routine is very important. Because that's how we build habits. And the funny thing about will power and self discipline is that when things are habits, they are actually easier to do than when we argue about ourselves, argue every morning with ourselves about it.

KAYE: If you don't have a normal and a daily routine, I mean, what do you do?

VANDERKAM: Well, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So, if you can't work out every morning, it's OK to do it three mornings a week, that still better than never at all.

KAYE: And you wrote in your book, the madness of mornings is a key reason most of us believe that we have no time. So, what is the most common mistake people make or the routine that people fall victim to?

VANDERKAM: Well, one thing that happens is we become so focused on the end goal which is getting out the door, that we don't notice how much time is passing between that. So, people set their alarms early, they're focused on getting everyone dressed, getting everyone in the car. And they don't stop and think, well, could I do something else with that time? Maybe I could use the first 15 minutes just to pause and center myself and plan the day ahead.

KAYE: I guess how extreme, you know, do you need to go? I mean, I know the First Lady, she wakes up at 4:00 in the morning to go work out before the day starts. She's talked about that quite a bit. I mean, how early is too early to get started?

VANDERKAM: Well, the important thing is that you have to get enough sleep. So, that determines what time you can get up. And it also determines what time you should go to bed. For me to get up at 4:00 in the morning would require going to bed at around 8:00 p.m. which is probably not going to happen. Most people can't get up at 4:00 a.m. But even if you are used to getting up at 6:30, getting up at 6:00 and using that first half hour for something that's important to you can really change your life.

KAYE: Let's talk about a few proactive things that people can do in the morning for a better day. Laura you say, one is keep track of your time. That helps?

VANDERKAM: It does. Most of us have no idea how we are spending our time. It's just like keeping a food journal, it keeps you accountable.

KAYE: And another one, you say is picture the perfect morning. What should that include?

VANDERKAM: Well, anything that would make you excited to get out of bed. One of the reasons people don't want to get up early is because they don't have anything planned that makes them excited to get out of bed. So, they would rather hit snooze. But if there's something you really love, maybe it's running on a beautiful trail near your home, maybe it's spending some time reading something that is important to you, those are things that will actually make you want to pop out of the covers and start your day.

KAYE: And think through the logistics. That's another tip.

VANDERKAM: Yes. You want to think through how can this vision mesh with the life I have. If you got young kids, maybe you'll have to trade off with your partner on who is taking care of them in the morning so each person can get their own time. Maybe if it's something like if you want to take up painting in the morning, then you need to put your easel near your bed. So, you can't get up without saying it. Anything that makes it easier to get your perfect morning done.

KAYE: Laura Vanderkam, I wish you the perfect morning today. Thank you.

VANDERKAM: And you as well. Thank you so much.

KAYE: And you can join the conversation on twitter using the hashtag before breakfast and you can see how other people are taking advantage of their mornings. Hopefully it includes EARLY START WEEKEND here on CNN.

A diplomatic vehicle attacked two Americans shot and wounded by Mexican Federales. The full story, straight ahead.


KAYE: In an embarrassing and dangerous incident for Mexican Federales, police officers opened fire on a U.S. embassy vehicle yesterday shooting and wounding two Americans.

Nick Valencia is here this morning to tell us more about this. All right. So, help us understand Nick, what happened here. These guys are driving in a marked car, right?


KAYE: So, why did they open fire?

VALENCIA: Well, that's a lot of the question that we are asking this morning. Why did these happen? That's what Mexican government wants to find out. And the U.S. government that's investigating this as well. It's a joint investigation. They're trying to figure out what happened here. There was a U.S. embassy vehicle that left yesterday morning for Mexico City on its way to Cuernavaca just about 50 miles south of the capital when they were intercepted by this group of federal police that mistook them for criminals.

Now, Randi, we have to understand sort of about this area. This mountainous area is that it has been frequented by criminal organizations by leftist rebels and drug traffickers. So, in a case of sort of mistaken identity here, they seem to have opened fire on the wrong vehicle even though it was clearly marked.

KAYE: So, the vehicle was marked.


VALENCIA: It is. Yes.

KAYE: So, is the U.S. vehicle at fault for not stopping? I mean, what should they have done?

VALENCIA: Well, it's better safe than sorry in these instances. If you remember back in 2010, Randi, U.S. consulate employees were attacked in Ciudad Juarez, three people were killed there. So, it's an instance where this is better safe than sorry especially in these rural areas where, you don't know if these people that were brandish in weapons, which we hear that the federal police did, they showed their weapons at which point, U.S. embassy vehicle trying to maneuver around them. And that's when the federal police gave chase. Luckily, there was a Mexican navy captain in the car with these two Americans radioed for help and that's when the shooting stopped.

KAYE: They are lucky. So, what are the Mexican Federales saying about this?

VALENCIA: Well, you can imagine, not much. It's a very embarrassing situation for them. I mean, another black eye, again another incidents in recently, this summer in late June where a federal police exchanged gunfire with each other in the Mexico City airport. This is just another black eye for them.

KAYE: In the airport?

VALENCIA: In the Mexico City airport.

KAYE: Oh my goodness!

VALENCIA: We tried repeatedly again to get in touch with the spokesperson for the federal police, he didn't answer his phone. But the Mexican federal government did release a statement, they said that the federal police that were participating in these events appear, they will appear before the Public Prosecutor of the Federation and just to establish the facts and figure out if they are subject to prosecution, determine if they are going to face such charges...

KAYE: What about the State Department? Any reaction there?

VALENCIA: Yes. The State Department spoke to them on background yesterday. And they said very clear that this was a case of mistaken identity and will probably unfold as such. But again, very delicate relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. You can imagine this makes the relations the more strained.

KAYE: Yes. But everybody is OK?

VALENCIA: Everyone is OK? The two U.S. citizens, two Americans in critical, but stable condition. And the Mexican navy captain escaped with minor cuts and bruises.

KAYE: Wow! Good thing he radioed for help there. All right. Nick, thank you.

VALENCIA: Thank you.

KAYE: What a crazy story.

KAYE: All right. So, maybe you remember the kiss that seemed to last a lifetime during the Democratic National Convention in 2000. That is just one, there it is. Just one of the more memorable political convention moments. We'll look at more next hour with comedian Dino Begala.


KAYE: Good morning. Just about the top of the hour here. Earlier, we asked for your thoughts on a school superintendent who wants to fine parents $75 for every day their kids skip school.

Grand Duke twitted this. "Very good idea than maybe parents will ensure kids are in school, instill a better ethic."

YacPics writes, "Do it. Fine the parents. I think that will force the kids to focus and the parents will know their kids are in school."

And R Moni tweets, "Seventy five dollars, a good idea, won't work. Parents rights and ability to control and discipline kids has been quashed."

What are your thoughts on this? You can tweet me at RandiKayeCNN and we'll read responses later on this morning.

All right. Take a look here. Because I want to show a really funny piece of video, it is from a group calling themselves the Raging Grannies. And they have got a message for Missouri Senatorial candidate Todd Akin and his views of quote, "legitimate rape." Watch this.


RAGING GRANNIES (singing): Our female bodies aren't clever that way, we only get pregnant when we say OK. Doctors have told him so it must be so, the stork only comes if we don't say no.


KAYE: The Raging Grannies have a message for any occasion actually, not just Akin. They have also done other songs like the 12 days of taxes and a wasteful military spending, 2012, little video just like that one.

And a scary moment in Boston to tell you about. Take a look at this. A woman tried to board a train that was on the opposite side of the tracks and fell straight to the ground with her child in her arms. Turns out she's OK. Everyone is OK. But she still has no idea how or why she did it.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You were walking into the train station and you saw the train, where you're trying to go --

MEERA THAKRAR, MOTHER: I just thought that train was on that track -- that platform. And it was not like that but, I just said oh, let me go there and just catch the train. Like I thought that train was on this platform. I have no clue what I was -- my thinking was. I just wanted to make it to (INAUDIBLE) that was my goal. It was not like I had to catch another train or something. It was really stupid or me.


KAYE: Her foot wasn't on the gas and her emergency brake was fully applied. But that wasn't enough to stop the accelerator from climbing to 120 miles per hour in one Iowa woman's care. The woman who said, she couldn't turn off the car or shift out of drive eventually actually jumped out of the car. State troopers eventually tracked down the vehicle and disconnected the battery. That is one brave woman.

And the 50,000 people expected to attend the Republican National Convention won't just be focused on what's going on inside. They will also be keeping an eye on the skies above Tampa, amid concerns that tropical storm Isaac could disrupt the event.

Comedian Bill Maher put his own spin on what he describes as a unique set of events.


BILL MAHER, STAND-UP COMEDIAN: They're all going out in Tampa where an Evangelical party is going to nominate a Mormon and a Catholic, and then get wiped out by a hurricane.

(LAUGHTER) Leaving Florida to the Jews as God intended.



KAYE: A little bit of a morning laugh for you there. Thanks for starting your morning with us. We've got much more ahead on "CNN SATURDAY MORNING" which starts right now.