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High-Stakes Speech; Soccer Hazing Scandal; Obama to Address United Nations

Aired September 25, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama on the world stage. A high stakes speech today at the United Nations, and a chance to answer his foreign policy critics.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Shocking allegations of hazing and sexual abuse on a high school soccer team. Investigators want to know if any adults played a role.

SAMBOLIN: Monday night foul-up. Packer Nation cheesed off, the blown call by replacement refs that cost their team the game.

BERMAN: This was outrageous. Outrageous.

SAMBOLIN: They're going to take a lot of heat.

BERMAN: They are already and they deserve to.

SAMBOLIN: All right. On that note, good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. Thank you for being with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

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

The big story this morning, the eyes of the world will be on President Obama as he speaks to the United Nations General Assembly on its opening day. The president is expected to address the recent violence in the Middle East, the U.S. consulate attack in Libya, and issue a new warning to Iran about its nuclear program.

SAMBOLIN: But President Obama is not meeting one-on-one with any of the world leaders. He had 13 bilateral meetings last year.

CNN foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is with us.

And, Elise, what can we expect from the president's speech this morning?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, I think that, you know, obviously, the president is going to touch on some of the big issues that are out there. He's going to talk about Syria and how to contain the crisis there and get President Bashar al-Assad out. He's going to talk about Iran's nuclear program.

But he really has to address the last couple of weeks, the consulate attack in Libya. But more importantly, these raging protests that have gone through the Middle East, these anti-American protests. Secretary Clinton was speaking to the Clinton Global Initiative yesterday and she kind of previewed what the president was going to say about the need to not have extremist hijack the Arab Spring.

Let's take a listen to what she said.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: People and leaders from across the region and the world and beyond have spoken in recent days against violence. Foreign minister of Tunisia came to Washington last week and personally underscored his country's stand. And unity on this throughout the international community is crucial, because extremists around the world are working hard to drive us apart. All of us need to stand together, to resist these forces and to support democratic transitions under way in North Africa and the Middle East.


LABOTT: So the president has to, as you say, thread the needle very carefully. He has to voice U.S. outrage in this video decrying Prophet Muhammad, but at the same time say violence is not the answer and we need to really think about how the Arab Spring should go forward.

BERMAN: So, it was interesting, you showed a clip of the secretary of state there, Hillary Clinton. She has been meeting with all kinds of world leaders while President Obama has been meeting with the ladies from "The View."

LABOTT: That's right. I mean, Hillary Clinton could not have written this moment better herself. It looked foolish for the president to be talking about some of the issues on "The View" with the girls on the couch, while secretary was meeting with all of these leaders about all of these important issues. Yesterday, she met with the leaders of Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and President Obama is trashing Mitt Romney.

Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would it be disastrous for the country if Mitt Romney were elected?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I think America is so strong and we've got so much going for us, that we can survive a lot. But the American people don't want to just survive. We want everybody to thrive. We want folks to have a shot at success.

And so the question then just becomes whose policies are more likely to lead us to where we want to go.


LABOTT: And, you know, obviously, in this campaign season, this is where the candidates are going. They're going to the "The View." They're going to the Jay Leno show or "The Daily Show."

But, you know, the president is campaigning on his foreign policy credentials. He got rid of bin Laden. He's ending the war in Afghanistan. He ended the war Iraq. So, it just seemed weird that he had a world stage to show how important he was as a world statesman and here he is talking on "The View."

SAMBOLIN: But how significant are these meetings? Are there any big accomplishments that come out of these meetings? Because I know he is getting a lot of criticism over this, but what's the outcome anyway?

LABOTT: I mean, gosh, if you look at some of the issues out there and you saw what happened last week, raging protests in Pakistan to not take a minute to sit down with the president of Pakistan and show when you have the posture (ph) of the president speaking about some of these issues. I mean, Secretary Clinton certainly capable of dealing with some of these things. But the U.S. has a lot of business with Libya, the president of Egypt, President Morsi, with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So, I think it might have been a little bit error in judgment or his aides might have advised him a little badly on this one. But it does make a difference.

BERMAN: I want to bring in around full circle, because there was something that the secretary of state said yesterday that raised some eyebrows, at least sounded a little political when she was talking about taxes.

LABOTT: That's right. The secretary making a speech to the Clinton Global Initiative and she was talking about the kind of wealthy around the world.

One of her things is that people are not paying enough taxes. Let's take a listen to how she got a little dig at Mitt Romney.


CLINTON: One of the issues that I have been preaching about around the world is collecting taxes in an equitable manner, especially from the elites in every country. You know, I'm out of American politics, but it is a fact that around the world, the elites of every country are making money. There are rich people everywhere. And yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries.


LABOTT: Who is she talking about there? I mean, but --

SAMBOLIN: That's global context there.

LABOTT: Exactly. She doesn't do it that often but once in a while, the kind of inner politician in her comes out. I travelled with her to Morocco in February and she also talked about President Obama being re-elected.

And when I interviewed her, I said, hey, secretary of state not really supposed to go there. She's like, it's in my DNA.

BERMAN: She's never completely out of politics.

All right. Elise Labott, thank you so much for joining us. We'll see you again later in the show.

And at the bottom of the hour, we're going to talk to Danny Danon, the deputy director of the Israeli Knesset. There are a lot of issues between the U.S. and Israel to talk about right now.

SAMBOLIN: And two staff sergeants will be court-martialed over video U.S. officials described as deplorable and disgusting. U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters last year, you remember, and posing for pictures with the corpses.

Staff Sergeant Joseph Chamblin and Staff Sergeant Edward Deptola were charged in that incident, for failing to supervise the junior troops. Three other marines have already been punished in that case.

And an update to the sexual hazing story that we told you about yesterday: four students at La Puente High School in southern California briefly taken into custody on suspicion of assaulting four younger soccer players. They were cited and released Friday as the D.A.'s office investigated if any adults might have been involved in this.

The players were reportedly beaten with a stick, possibly a javelin. And at least one case, the stick was used to sodomize one of them.

An attorney for three of the players announced the lawsuit yesterday against the high school, and the school district. Their coach is on leave now.

BERMAN: Awful.

Officials at Washington's National Zoo are still trying to determine how a giant panda cub died. The initial test reveals that the newborn which was six days old and weighed just four ounces was not crushed by the mother. In this video, the mother can be heard crying out in distress. This was the first indications officials had that something was wrong. They say the mother appeared to be returning, but get this, she still cradles a toy in her den -- a sign she's not transition from her mothering role.

Next hour, at 6:45 Eastern, we're going to talk to Dr. Suzan Murray, the chief veterinarian at the National Zoo who overseas the pandas.

SAMBOLIN: And we may find out today if the Supreme Court will take up the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage. There are two pending appeals cases in which the high court may or may not decide to hear arguments. One involves the legal rights of surviving same sex partners. And the other, a challenge to laws denying gay couples the right to wed.

BERMAN: All right. The big story now, former coach Jon Gruden called it tragic and comical. Ex-Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman tweeted, these games are a joke. Humans everywhere are saying it is simply unbelievable.

They are talking about the replacement refs in football and a stunning finish to last night's game between the Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. Final seconds, Seattle down by five. That pass from Russell Wilson to the end zone, a Hail Mary. It appears it was intercepted in the end zone by Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings.

But the replacement refs rule it a touchdown, they say Golden Tate caught it.

After reviewing, the play stands. They said, look, the Seahawks win, 14-12. They said, look, the Seahawks is the guy in blue. They said he had possession there.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh.

BERMAN: No, no. The Packer guy had it on his chest. M.D. Jennings had it on his chest. They say Golden Tate also had both hands on it.

I do not know what replay they were looking at. Twitter exploded last night. Everyone on earth who saw this really thought this was an awful call.

Players, coaches, analysts, all thought it was bad. There was so much outrage on Twitter, the NFL actually said, we're not going to fine players for their opinions on the refs, unless it happens during the game or inside the stadium, because they would be fining everyone, because everyone thought this was a bad call.

SAMBOLIN: It started so well, right? They thought maybe they were over the hump. And here we go.

BERMAN: The replacement refs have had a really, really rough weekend.

SAMBOLIN: I know that this is not your business, right? But what is the solution here, right?

BERMAN: The holdup is money between the refs and the ownership. The ownership has locked up the refs. The refs want a raise. You know, football refs are just part time. They hold other jobs during the rest of the year. But the football refs still want more money and they also want better pension and benefits and stuff like that.

SAMBOLIN: I think a lot of people are going to rally behind the refs on this one.

BERMAN: Yes, I think this has gone on a long time.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh!

All right. Ten minutes past the hour. When 150 miles an hour is simply not fast enough. Coming up, Amtrak with the need for speed this week, and what it could one day mean for commuters.


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

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

So, with the Middle East nearing a boiling point, an anti-American sentiment spreading, foreign policy is front and center in New York City today.

President Obama will be delivering two big speeches, one shortly after 10:00 at the U.N. General Assembly and the other two hours later, when he follows Mitt Romney at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting.

He will have to respond to repeated criticism like from his Republican rival.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said the developments of the Middle East are bumps in the road. These are not bumps in the road. These are human lives. These are developments we do not want to see.

This is time for the president who will shape events in the Middle East, not just be merciful or be at mercy to events in the Middle East.


SAMBOLIN: CNN political reporter Peter Hamby is live from Washington.

Nice to have you this morning, Peter.

The president is facing a fierce foreign policy attack from Romney right now. Is this part of the Romney campaign reboot we've been hearing a lot about?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It absolutely is, Zoraida. You know, the bumps in the road quote from "60 Minutes", the events in the Middle East have handed the Romney campaign an opportunity to talk about something other than his tax returns, other that fund-raising video where he criticized 47 percent of Americans.

And this has really taken over the economy has the main thrust of the Romney campaign message. They're really hitting Obama hard on this. For example, listen to what Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, had to say about Obama's foreign policy yesterday while campaigning in Ohio, Zoraida.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the president on too many occasions has deferred our foreign policy leadership to the U.N. Security Council, to the U.N. This means Russia and China get to veto what we want to do. Why do we want to give them that kind of clout over our national security interests?


BERMAN: The goal here is to paint President Obama as weak, as projecting weakness overseas. Ryan interestingly yesterday also compared the situation in the Middle East to Tehran in 1979, you know, calling to mind the hostage crisis there that helped undermine President Jimmy Carter's re-election bid. Obviously, that's a nice little narrative they're trying to push, trying to compare President Obama to Jimmy Carter.

We've heard that many times before, Zoraida. We'll se if that works this time.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Peter, both candidates are speaking this morning. What do they hope to accomplish today?

HAMBY: Yes, well, for the president, I mean, being president has -- is both an advantage and burden. The burden as Elise mentioned earlier in the show, you know, the president has to soothe anxieties both here and overseas about the Middle East. But, you know, politically, he gets to look presidential. Mitt Romney doesn't get to step in front of the U.N. General Assembly. The president does. For Romney, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York today, Bill Clinton's foundation we expect him to be critical of President Obama and talk specifically about foreign aid and talk about, you know, putting greater conditions on foreign aid overseas, particularly in places like Egypt, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Peter Hamby, live for us, thank you very much.

HAMBY: Thanks a lot.

BERMAN: It is now 17 minutes after the hour. We want to get you up to date on all the headlines. Christine Romans is here with some stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you. Thanks, John.

President Obama set to lay out his global priorities in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly this morning. He's expected to have strong words concerning Iran nuclear defiance. He's expected to re-affirm the U.S. commitment to Israel.

One thing he won't be doing, he won't be meeting separately with world leaders. Last year, he had 13 bilateral meetings.

A search is under way for a missing University of Florida student Christian Aguilar. He disappeared last week apparently after fighting with another 18-year-old over a young man. Police call this a case of foul play. They believe Aguilar may be injured.

The second man, the person of interest in this case, has been charged of depriving a person with medical care.

Blink and you might miss it. This week, Amtrak is conducting test of its high speed Acela train service at even higher speed. Trains that normally run at a maximum of 130 to 150 miles an hour will be pushed to 165 miles per hour along the Northeast corridor between Maryland and Massachusetts. Amtrak is spending $450 million to upgrade track signals and overhead wires. That's fast.

BERMAN: Yes, but Wi-Fi still won't work.

ROMANS: And the quiet car won't be quiet.

BERMAN: That's a little inside joke for Acela travelers here, which (INAUDIBLE).

It is about 18 minutes after the hour right now. Time for an early read. Your local news, which is making national headlines.

We're going to begin with the story in "The Boston Globe", in a huge drug lab scandal which is rocking Massachusetts, an investigation found more than 1,100 people are state prison or county jails because of potentially tainted drug evidence. Former state chemist Annie Duke (ph) allegedly told law enforcement officials she mixed drug samples to create positive results --


BERMAN: -- even violated evidence handling procedures. She may have handled 60,000 samples in 34,000 criminal cases. Crazy. Duke has not been charged.


BERMAN: But a criminal investigation is under way.

SAMBOLIN: That's terrible.

All right. In New Orleans, the "Times Picayune" -- a federal court reversing a damage judgment against the Army Corps of Engineers, saying the corps isn't liable for billions of dollars of hurricane Katrina flood damage, specifically in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

The same three-judge panel reversing a decision it made back in March. The judges say the corps is immune from damages, citing a provision that protects a federal agency from lawsuits when it makes a discretionary call.

And the sky high cost of college coming up. CNN goes in depth on what President Obama and Mitt Romney each propose to do to give students some relief.

BERMAN: Parents, too.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Twenty-three minutes past the hour.

We've been going in depth on the issues that matter to you in 2012. This morning, the high cost for college and how to pay for it. We've been having quite a dialogue about it.

BERMAN: It is so expensive.

And Christine Romans has been speaking with students and looking at how both President Obama and Mitt Romney have their plans to help the middle class pay for college work. Here's her report.


ROMANS (voice-over): When Jackie Giovanniello graduated from Brown University this year, she put off going straight to medical school. Instead, she took a research job at Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

JACKIE GIOVANNIELLO, GRADUATE IN DEBT: It is nice to have a paying job where I can pay back part of my student loans before going to med school and possibly adding on a lot more.

ROMANS: And she had plenty of them, $100,000 worth. Why? Her family is middle class. Her mother works in a school. Her dad owns a bar.

She says they're considered too wealthy to qualify for many grants but she says not wealthy enough to have saved the money for the more than $50,000 a year to attend Brown.

GIOVANNIELLO: When you're in the middle class, you are a normal suburban family but you just don't make an outrageous amount of money so you can't pay for these outrageous prices for tuition, you know?

ROMANS: She's not alone. Student loan debt hit $1 trillion last year, even tuition for public four-year colleges rose 68 percent over the last decade.

Enter the presidential campaign with college affordability a key issue for younger voters.

OBAMA: And I want to make college more affordable for every young person who has the initiative and drive to go. And make sure they're not burdened by thousands of dollars worth of debt.

ROMANS: President Obama has expanded Pell Grants and cut out the banks as middlemen for loans, allowing students to borrow directly from the government. Now Obama proposes to slow tuition growth by increasing state grants. Yet he'd need Congress to help fund that.

ROMNEY: I'm not going to go out and promise all sorts of free stuff that I know you're going to end up paying for. What I want to do is give you a great job so you'll be able to pay it back yourself.

ROMANS: Mitt Romney's plan to help students, remove burdensome regulations and get the government out of the student loan business. Romney says the flood of federal dollars just drives up tuition.

Molly Corbett Broad of the American Council on Education says the recession's heavy toll on state budgets is also a factor.

MOLLY CORBETT BROAD, AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EDUCATION: When the state reduces its support, the only other place to turn for most colleges in the public sector is to increase tuition.

ROMANS: Either way, students like Jackie feel left out in the cold.

GIOVANNIELLO: A lot of people who don't have students in college or don't have kids my age do think like, you're either wealthy enough to go to college or you get financial aid from the government, and it's that simple, but it's not that simple.


BERMAN: Thanks so Christine Romans for that report. College is so expensive.

Twenty-six minutes after the hour right now. This question: could there one day be another President Obama? Coming up, the first lady talks about whether she'd like to have her husband's job.

And if you're leaving the house right now, watch us anytime on your desktop or mobile phone, just go to



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): President Obama under pressure. He takes the podium today at the United Nations amid calls for a tougher stance on Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see flaming aircrafts, we see the enemies shooting at us.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Marines in the line of fire. A firsthand account of the night the Taliban infiltrated a NATO base in Afghanistan.

BERMAN: School punishment controversy. A Texas high school that wants to let male teachers spank female students.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Ooh.

BERMAN (on-camera): Yes. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I'm not going to chime in on that. We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty minutes past the hour here.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): President Obama set to address world leaders at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. He will use a speech to reaffirm U.S. support for Israel and restate the position that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will speak tomorrow. BERMAN (voice-over): The FBI will investigate a controversial shooting death of a disabled man by Houston police. On Saturday, officers were called to a group home for mentally ill people responding to a report that a wheelchair bound resident was acting aggressively.

Police say Bryan Clunch (ph) that's double amputee advanced towards officers holding an object. It turned out to be a pen. One officer shot him in the head. Clunch died on the scene.

SAMBOLIN: The army psychiatrist arrested in a 2009 shooting massacre at Fort Hood in Texas is in an army hospital this morning. Major Nidal Hasan was admitted Saturday for an undisclosed condition. The military says he is in good condition and is expected to be released within 48 hours. Thirteen people died in the shooting, 32 others wounded.

A couple accused of trying to extort $5 million from Stevie Wonder will be on probation for the next three years after pleading no contest in Los Angeles. Prosecutors say Alfa Lorenzo Walker (ph) and his girlfriend, Tamara Aileen Diaz (ph), allegedly threatened to sell false information about Wonder and his family to the tabloids unless Wonder paid up.

SAMBOLIN: Facebook says private messages dating back to 2009 and earlier are not being posted on user's public timelines. Its engineers checked out the situation after some folks actually complained. They say the old messages and question were actually public wall postings from friends, the kind that have always been viewable on a user's profile.

BERMAN: This story is will get you talking. Officials at a Texas high school want to expand their corporal punishment rules to allow male teachers to spank female students. It already happened to 15- year-old Taylor Santos (ph). The Springtown High School sophomore chose a paddling to reduce a suspension for allegedly copying class work.

Her mom approved it, but tells affiliate, WFAA, she didn't realize a male vice principal would be administering the punishment against school policy.


ANNA JORGENSEN, TAYLOR'S MOTHER: It was like it had been burned and blistered. It was so bad.

TAYLOR SANTOS, SPANKED BY MALE TEACHER: It was bright red, like bad. I still have welts on me today.


BERMAN: Nineteen states, including Texas do allow corporal punishment in schools.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAMBOLIN (on-camera): All right. Thirty-three minutes past the hour.

Our big story this morning, in just a few hours, President Obama will address the United Nations General Assembly. The speech comes as Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has increased pressure on the White House to clearly set a red line for Iran's nuclear program.

And joining me now from Tel Aviv is deputy speaker of the Israeli National Parliament, the Knesset, Danny Danon. Danon is a member of the Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud Party. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. We really appreciate your time. So, President Obama will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu --


SAMBOLIN: -- good morning to you -- or any other heads of state while he is in New York. Are you disappointed about that?

DANON: Yes, I think we are disappointed, because Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted to meet President Obama to discuss with him the crucial issue of Iran. I think it's a threat not only to the Israelis but also to the Americans.

And only yesterday, we heard Ahmadinejad saying very clearly, I want to wipe out Israel, but then, he's going after the U.S. as well. I think they should have met in New York or D.C. Hopefully, maybe, there will be a meeting.

SAMBOLIN: I want to discuss a little bit more about what President Ahmadinejad said about the timing of a possible military conflict between your nation and his. If we could listen to this and then I'd like you to respond.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you fear that war is imminent? Do you fear that there will be military conflict, perhaps, even before the end of this year between your country and Israel?

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): Of course, the Zionists are very much -- very adventuresome, very much seeking to fabricate things. I think they see themselves at the end of the line. And I do firmly believe that they seek to create opportunities for themselves and their adventurous behaviors.


SAMBOLIN: Mr. Danon, what is your timeline?

DANON: Well, I think we all agree, even the people in Washington, D.C. that we're talking about few months, 2013, it will be the end game. We have to decide whether we allow Iran to become nuclear or not. And when we look at the speeches coming from Iran, I can tell you that here, in Israel, we cannot allow Iran to become nuclear. We hope it will be a joint effort with the U.S., with the U.N. or other international organizations. That if do not (INAUDIBLE), we would have to do it ourselves. We have the capability. Even though we believe it should not be a war of Israel against Iran, because Iran is not against Israel.

They are against the western society. There's a linkage between Benghazi in Libya to what's happening today in Iran.

SAMBOLIN: Well, Ahmadinejad characterized the conflict between Israel and Iran only. And you view that situation very differently.

DANON: Well, in my new book, I write about the actual ideology of Ahmadinejad in Iran. And I say it very clearly, they need a great one, which is the U.S. They need a small one, which is Israel. First, we will go against the Saturday people, meaning the Jews who live in Israel, but then, we will go against the Sunday people, the Christians.

So, you cannot ignore it. Maybe today you think if it's not in your backyard, you don't care about the Middle East, but you must care about the Middle East, because you see what's happening on 9/11. Eventually, it comes to your shores, it comes to your embassies, it comes to your citizens.

You cannot ignore such kind of hatred. We will have to face it first, but it will also come to the American citizens.

SAMBOLIN: Prime Minister Netanyahu has been critical of President Obama on the issue of Iran. In your point of view -- is it your point of view that President Obama is unwilling or unable to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?

DANON: In the Middle East, there is a different mentality. To talk the talk, it is not enough. President Obama came to Cairo in June 2009, he delivered a very nice speech, but look what happened. And today in Iran, they're looking at the U.N. They are laughing at us. They were there talking, but we are doing, we are building the bomb.

I expect President Obama to say very yearly today we will not allow Iran to become nuclear no matter what. It is a moral decision between good and bad. We do not expect to see American troops coming to the Middle East tomorrow morning, but to take a moral decision, to support Israel on this crucial moment, we do expect that.

SAMBOLIN: Danny Danon, deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, member of the ruling, Likud Party, we thank you for your time this morning.

BERMAN: A lot to say there.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.

BERMAN: Thirty-eight minutes after the hour right now. You know, coming up, bravery under fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STAFF SGT. GUSTAVO DELGADO, US MARINE CORPS: It's definitely like the movies, you know, how you see -- I mean, the fire was huge.


BERMAN: U.S. marines give CNN a firsthand account of the fierce battle for a NATO base in Afghanistan.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. We have new details this morning about one of the boldest attacks in Afghanistan in recent memory. Eleven days ago, Taliban fighters dressed in U.S. army uniforms, used a hole in a fence to penetrate the perimeter of Camp Bastion, a British run military base in Southern Afghanistan of (INAUDIBLE) station.

This morning, we're finding out more about their brazen attack, how they prepared, and the staggering damage that was done inside. You'll get the story only from CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.


MAJ. GREER CHAMBLESS, MARINE ATTACK SQUADRON 211: We see flaming aircrafts. We see the enemy shooting at us. We're seeking cover. We're hearing small arms fire, AK-47s, PKMs, and then, at some point, soon thereafter see another RPG shot towards us and towards our building.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time on television, U.S. marines tell CNN just how bad it got on the night of September 14th here at Camp Bastion in Southern Afghanistan when the Taliban got inside the base. Major Greer Chambless and his squadron commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Rable (ph), raced to the scene as the first rounds hit.

CHAMBLESS: He performed heroically that night. He was the first engaging the enemy. He came out of the door. He saw the enemy. He engaged the enemy.

STARR: These Taliban videos which NATO believes show the insurgents getting ready weeks before the attack, may be a clue to how 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters dressed in U.S. style military uniforms, infiltrated through the fence on the eastern edge of the airfield. When it all happened, the Taliban broke into three groups.

One group headed right for the flight line. Six harrier jets were destroyed, more than $200 million in damage. Some marines say it is the largest loss of aircraft since the Vietnam War.

CHAMBLESS: We're hearing ammunition begin to cook off as well as their rounds that are firing at us. We're hearing the sounds of fire as the gases released from the aircraft. So, it was -- like I said, a surreal scene to behold.

STARR: Staff Sergeant Gustavo Delgado (ph) led another team into the firefight.

DELGADO: Well, it's definitely like the movies, you know, how you see -- I mean, the fire was huge. So, you can feel the heat hitting your face. You can smell it. You can hear all the snapping and cracking and all around the walls, all around you.

STARR: For Sergeant Bradley Atwell (ph) and Christopher Rable (ph), it would be their final mission. Both men died of their wounds, Lt. Col. Rable (ph) remembered by his marines.

CHAMBLESS: He saw a challenge, and he took decisive action. He took the size (ph) of action. He led his marines and he led them from the front.

STARR (on-camera): Lt. Col. Rable went up against the Taliban with the only weapon he had, his nine-millimeter pistol. A full investigation remains under way as to how the Taliban got on to Camp Bastion, in the first place.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


SAMBOLIN: Thanks to Barbara.

Forty-four minutes past the hour. Fast moving and now deadly. Coming up, the battle to save lives and homes amid a raging wildfire.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. It's time to get you up to date. Here's Christine Romans with this morning's top stories.



ROMANS (voice-over): President Obama set to address world leaders at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. He'll use the speech to reaffirm U.S. support for Israel and restate the position that Iran must not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he will speak tomorrow.

He sparked outrage with his comments about what he called legitimate rape and pregnancy. And today is the deadline for Congressman Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race. Akin has vowed to stay in that race despite the national GOP pulling funding and for lots of calls for him to drop out.

And Newt Gingrich is calling on Republicans to Support akin as a way to take back the Senate from Democrats.

Michelle Obama for president? Don't bet on it. On the eve of his address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama and the first lady sat down with the ladies of "The View." And when Barbara Walters brought up the topic of maybe Michelle running for office one day, the president was quick to shoot the idea down.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She should run for office, but she said she doesn't want to.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I -- I -- look -- I mean, Michelle would be terrific, but temperamentally, I just don't think --


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Wait, no, it's absolutely true. It takes a lot of patience to be the president of the United States. And I'm not that patient.


ROMANS: The first lady went on to say her husband was the perfect temperament to be president. No emotional shifts, very steady. She says she's one of the only people who can really make him mad.



BERMAN: I'd be in such big trouble by it. I mean, I'm not so sure he can get away with that.

SAMBOLIN: He just did. She agreed with him.

ROMANS (on-camera): I do not know what happened in the limo right on the way home. That's a private moment.

All right. The NFL's replacement refs getting hammered again following last night's controversial finish to the Green Bay Packers- Seattle Seahawks Monday night game. On the final play of the game, Seattle's quarterback, Russell Wilson throws a Hail Mary pass.

It appears to be intercepted by Green Bay safety, M.D. Jennings, but the replacement officials call it a touchdown. Seahawks win, 14-12.

You know, I want to go back to Michelle Obama. I think there are a lot of people who think that she would be a great president.

BERMAN: Well, I think when you're her husband, you say she would be a great president no matter what, whether she will or not. I mean, at the right answer when someone asks you if your wife would make a great president is yes.


BERMAN: All right. There's only one answer to that question.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know. ROMANS: She was real smooth with her answer about him about how he's patient. And, although some of his critics say he's been too patient with some in Congress, right?

SAMBOLIN: But the temperament, I mean, you know?

BERMAN: Like I said, I wonder how that's going this morning for them.


BERMAN: Thank you, Christine, very much.

We do have some other news. Wildfires are threatening people and property in the Midwest --

SAMBOLIN: Terrible.

BERMAN: -- and far west. The body of an 82-year-old disabled man was discovered in a home in San Diego County. The so-called shockey fire in Southern California has now scorched about 2,000 acres and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes. Another fire in Cato County, Oklahoma has been contained.

About 100 firefighters in Oklahoma battled that grassfire which threatened about a dozen homes and crossed the state highway for much of the afternoon.

I want to get a check on other weather around the country from Rob Marciano in Atlanta. Rob, any rain on the horizon anywhere?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Not -- well, yes, right here near St. Louis. and points eastward across Southern Illinois, but not quite getting down into Oklahoma, and there's a red flag warning for southeastern Oklahoma just east of where that fire where you saw the video was yesterday. So dangerously low levels of humidity there.

Some of these thunderstorms have some punch to them, one heading towards Evansville, Indiana and then a low out here in the intermountain west. This will bring high elevation snow and some rain across parts of the basin in parts of Utah, but as far as the fires out west go, we have those in Southern California.

The one in San Diego, it's still only 40 percent contained. It will be toasty inland today. And across the pacific northwest, we continue to see large fires burn there to the extent where we've got low visibility and bad air quality, especially east of the cascade. Another cool shot of air is making its way down across the northern tier into the Western Great Lakes.

And that will push some rain into the northeast tomorrow. But until then, looks to be a pretty nice day. Another chilly start to the day in places like Atlanta, 57 degrees, 54 degrees currently in Washington, D.C., and 56 in New York City. You'll get up to the mid- 70s there in the big apple, 73.

Seventy-six degrees expected in Chicago, and there's the heat building across Dallas, 94 degrees. And some spots, it still feels like summer. Guys, back over to you.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Rob.

SAMBOLIN: It is 52 minutes past the hour.

We have a packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including why your vacation may turn into a staycation if you're booked on American Airlines. Flyer frustration is sky high as American Airlines cancels hundreds more flights. Even Senator Marco Rubio tweeting his frustration. Is a sickout to blame? We're going to explain that.

BERMAN: Plus, say it ain't so. You better enjoy your breakfast this morning because a bacon shortage is looming. Seriously. All that and more right here in the next hour of CNN.

SAMBOLIN: But first, here's something you don't see everyday. Former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, behind -- look at her -- a drum set. The story behind that, coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Fifty-six minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman along with Zoraida Sambolin. We are talking about what is trending on the web this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And the tables have turned on the bullies. A town rallying around a high school girl who was voted homecoming princess as a prank. Can you believe it? Sixteen-year-old Whitney Croft (ph) of West Branch, Michigan was humiliated when she found out that classmates voted her on to their homecoming court as a joke.

She decided to stay home. And the boy who was going to be paired with her turned in his own crown so that he would not have to be seen with her. But other classmates started rallying around her, then the town, then nation. And an anti-bullying Facebook page was set up to support Whitney.

BERMAN: Thank goodness.

SAMBOLIN: Good for them.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

All right. Move over, Ringo. Make room for Madeleine Albright. The former secretary of state made a surprise performance in Washington's Kennedy Center on Sunday night.

SAMBOLIN: Look at her.

BERMAN: She performed at a star-studded Thelonius Monk International Drums Competition. This crowd -- I can't believe this. I'm looking at that picture. The crowd included Helen Mirren, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock. She can get down.

SAMBOLIN: And how does -- she play well -- can we hear? We don't have any sound. BERMAN: I can tell you she plays well.

SAMBOLIN: How do you know?

BERMAN: She's Madeleine Albright.


BERMAN: Of course, she plays well.

SAMBOLIN: That is so cool.

BERMAN: Yes. You're not going to beat that. That's the best picture pretty much ever.

All right. Excitement for the new iPhone 5 is reaching fever pitch, certainly in late night.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": You know who's at the U.N. is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Iran. Oh, creepy, weasely little guy, huh?


LETTERMAN: The beady eyed little weasel, he just dropped by the U.N. for another hate-filled rant, then he went back in line for the new iPhone.



LETTERMAN: That's what he did.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": In China, a factory that makes iPhones had to be shut down after 2,000 workers, 2,000 workers got into a brawl.


O'BRIEN: The brawl was captured on 10,000 iPhones.


LETTERMAN: I wish the iPhone people would design one that's black and has two pieces in it, plugs into the wall and you can pick one piece up and talk into it --


LETTERMAN: -- and dial. I wish they would -- the new --


LETTERMAN: I tell you, the whole time I had one of those old- fashioned plug-in phones, not once did I misplace it.


LETTERMAN: Not once could I not find my phone.


SAMBOLIN: EARLY START continues right now.


BERMAN (voice-over): President Obama on the world stage. A high stakes speech today at the United Nations and a chance to answer his foreign policy critics.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Mystery at the national zoo. What killed a giant panda cub just days after its birth?

BERMAN: Outrage just about every single sports fan (ph) in America last night. A call by replacement refs. It costs one team the game.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): OK. So, how long do you predict before the lockout is over?

BERMAN (on-camera): I think it's soon. It's soon.