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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Political Football; The Last Word; Replacement Ref Fiasco

Aired September 26, 2012 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Political football. The candidates try to score points amid fans' outrage over the NFL's replacement refs.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The last word. Iran's president takes the podium for his final U.N. address today. How far will he go this time?

CHO: Nature's fury. Take a look. Funnel clouds spotted in the plains. This one touched down.

And good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alina Cho. Great to see you, my friend.

SAMBOLIN: Very nice to have you with us this morning. Very nice.

I'm Zoraida Sambolin. John will be on a few hours. He is hosting "STARTIGN POINT" today. It's 5:00 in the East.

So, let's get started here.

Up first, Iran's president ready to take the world stage. And it's hard to predict what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might say or do later this morning, when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly for the last time.

CHO: That's right. It's his final term in office that ends in June. And he's expected to go out with a bang after hearing this warning yesterday from President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained, it would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy. And that's why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: CNN foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is with us this morning, as she has been all week.

Good morning.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Good morning. CHO: Ahmadinejad obviously one of the most anticipated speeches of the UNGA, always, in no small part because he's considered a loose cannon. Do we have any idea what he might say today?

LABOTT: Well, I think you're going to see the rhetoric that's heating up between the Israelis and Iran and talk about a possible Israel strike against Iran on its nuclear program. I think he's going to double-down, up the ante. Nothing he's going to say today is going to make Israel do anything, it's going to be based on the nuclear program. I think he's going to -- he likes to play with people, so I think he's going to have a little bit of fun.

And I think you can expect some tough rhetoric. In previous years, it's been so tough people walked out of the room.

CHO: That's right.

You know, I was with, as Zoraida knows, with Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General. He met Ahmadinejad on Sunday. And basically he told him, I made it quite clear that you must prove yourself for your nuclear program that it is for generally peaceful purposes. You have not convinced the world. Time is of the essence. I made it quite clear that we have not much time left.

President Obama basically echoed that sentiment, yet Ahmadinejad does what he wants.

LABOTT: Well, and I think -- what I understand is that Ban Ki-moon also told him, look, tone it down this year. The rhetoric is very high and you might want to, you know, give a statesman-like speech.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about President Obama. He gave a stirring defense of freedom of speech. Tell us about that.

LABOTT: Well, this is all in the context of the horrible video that was out, decrying the Prophet Muhammad and those anti-American protests that were raging across the Middle East as a result. So what President Obama did was, he said, listen, the United States definitely approve of this video. He said he finds it disgusting, but at the same time, when we are talking about democracy in the region, free speech is one of the tenets of that. Let's take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression. It is more speech. The voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understand and mutual respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: And the reason that this is so important is because some of the leaders are saying, listen, we have to have some laws -- some international law banning blasphemy and the anti-religious rhetoric, not just in their own countries where it exists but around the world. Listen to the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, talking about this subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Such acts cannot be called freedom of speech or expression. Equally, they cannot give reason for the genuine protests to be used to incite violence with terrible losses of innocent lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: What President Obama did then was said, listen, if you want to talk about -- if you want to have blasphemy be horrible, then you have to talk about a church being burned in Egypt, and you have to talk out if the Holocaust is denied. It's not just against Islam, you know, this type of rhetoric is horrible anywhere, but we all have to speak out about it.

SAMBOLIN: It was interesting because I think it highlights cultural differences, right? Everyone says violence is not what you should resort to. But there are some fundamental cultural differences there as well.

All right. So, we want to talk some meetings yesterday. You were here. We were talking about President Obama not taking meetings that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was going to take. He took a lot of heat over this.

And you gave him some as well, and it seems like he listened to you, Elise.

LABOTT: Well, he did have a couple meetings. It is customary for the President to meet with the Secretary General of the U.N. and he did meet with Ban Ki-moon and did a short meeting with the President of the General Assembly, former prime minister --

CHO: And he met briefly with Yemen's president, but these are not exactly the type of high-level meetings that Republicans would want, right?

LABOTT: Well, I think the meeting with Yemen was important to show President for the Yemeni government, new president there, Hadi, he basically was very helpful in terms of this anti-American protests in the region.

But in Pakistan, you know, there's a lot of tension between the U.S. and Pakistan and a whole host of issues, drones for instance. And the President Zardari came in and Secretary Clinton met with him.

CHO: President Clinton met with 20 world leaders, right? So when you compare, you could see the Republicans are making.

LABOTT: But I do think President Zardari had a lot of interesting things to say in the hall yesterday, because there's a lot of -- there's like this perception that Pakistan is not doing enough to counterterrorism and he wanted to take a look at that and make sure that everybody knew his country is suffering. Let's take a listen.

SAMBOLIN: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASIF ALI ZARDARI, PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: No country, no people have suffered more in the epic struggle against terrorism than Pakistan. Drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory and to the complexity -- add to the complexity of our hearts and minds through this epic struggle. To those who say we have not done enough, I say, in all humility, please no dot insult the memory of our dead and the pain of our living.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: And you know, it really resonated in the hall, and this is like what the U.N. General Assembly is made up of, a lot of long, boring speeches and a few magic moments, and I think this is one of them.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Elise Labott, thank you so much. We appreciate it. We'll see you again in the next hour.

And in the next half hour of EARLY START, we'll be joined by former White House appointee Margaret Hoover, and Richard Socarides, former special adviser in the Clinton White House. They always have so much to say. A lot of fun to have them on.

CHO: Now to America's growing impatience with the NFL's replacement refs. You knew it was only a matter of time before the politicians turned it into political football, right?

So, Paul Ryan campaigning in Ohio yesterday as Mitt Romney's running mate, understandably very unhappy about the replacement reps robbing his beloved Packers at victory on Monday night. Just listen to the sound of pigskins mixing with politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Did you guys watch that packer game last night? I mean, give me a break. It is time to get the real refs.

You know what? It reminds me of President Obama and the economy. If you can't get it right, it's time to get out.

REPORTER: Paul Ryan called those refs out today are. You glad that he did that?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's just fine. Paul was very angry that the Green Bay Packers he believes won and the referees took it away from them.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

CHO: I think a lot of people feel that way, right? The Democrats are also weighing in on the replacement refs. Listen to former President Bill Clinton breaking down the controversial play and sounding a bit like an NFL analyst. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: With the football game, no, I did not think it was a touchdown. I thought the pass was intercepted. I thought the defender hit the ground before there was joint position. And yes, it means that we need to get strike over and get more experienced people in there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Very serious moments there.

CHO: Having interviewed Bill Clinton, you can ask this man anything, and he has an opinion.

And from the former president to the sitting president, this tweet from Barack Obama, quote, "NFL fans on both sides of the aisle, hope the refs lockout is settled soon."

He also we might add called that call terrible. I don't know much about football but that was not a touchdown.

SAMBOLIN: Well, here's what I read. This is a $9 billion operation and somebody compared it to actually tip money. This is what they're squabbling over, so get it over with. Yes, you got a lot to lose and the safety of the players as well. So, hopefully, though, it happens soon.

Nine minutes past the hour here.

Storm chaser saying at least tornado touched down in rural southwestern Illinois. The roof of a farmhouse east of St. Louis was ripped to shred. A trucker was also overturned by those really high winds and a number of funnel clouds were also spotted in the area. But they never reached the ground.

There were no reports of any injuries. We are very happy to report that.

Congressman Todd Akin is not -- is not -- dropping out of Missouri Senate race, despite intense pressure to do in the wake of his controversial comments about legitimate rape. Yesterday was the final day for the Republican to take his name off the November ballot. He declined and launched a campaign bus tour instead.

CHO: Chelsea Clinton, the former first daughter, is now working with her father at the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation. She says she's inspired by the work of her parents and always understood that service is the defining mission of their lives.

Clinton told Charlie Rose that she hopes to emulate them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHELSEA CLINTON, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON: I want to live a life that will make my parents proud and lead a life that when I do have children, not only makes my children proud of me, God willing, as I am of my parents, but that I can similarly embed in my children that same kind of ethos.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: In addition to the Clinton Global Initiative, Chelsea Clinton also teaches at New York University and is studying at Oxford. How about that?

SAMBOLIN: A bit of a multi-tasker, huh? Yes.

College kids in search of a buzz and they are taking it to the extreme. Coming up, the dangerous stunt blamed for sending a student to the hospital and landing a fraternity in trouble with the law now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back to EARLY START.

A University of Tennessee at Knoxville fraternity suspended over alcohol enemas. Twelve students cited for underage drinking, another for disorderly conduct. One student was actually rushed to the E.R. over the weekend with alcohol poisoning. The hospital says his blood alcohol level was at five times the legal limit.

Of course, this is really a bit uncomfortable to talk about, but doctors say it's important to do so because it's happening on campuses all over the United States, with college kids trying to get drunker faster. The student who was sent to the E.R. is now out of the hospital and reportedly back in class.

National correspondent David Mattingly is in Knoxville, Tennessee, rather, this morning.

David, good morning to you. So, tell us, what is this all about?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, the Knoxville Police Department is standing its ground behind the statements that they have made publicly, describing in graphic detail, how they believe that this dangerous form of ingesting alcohol is going on at this fraternity here behind me on campus. They say that they did extensive questioning.

They don't say who they talked to, or who told them this, but they said that once they found out that the alleged violations occurred on campus, then they turned everything over to the university police here at the University of Tennessee.

And we are not done here by a long shot because we are expecting today to hear from the parents of that 20-year-old who had to go to the hospital. They are strongly denying that this is what happened.

Also, we are expecting to hear from the university officials as well about where they are standing in this investigation.

CHO: And you mentioned the parents, what are the parents saying about this? And I'm just curious to know from your reporting, how widespread is this?

MATTINGLY: Well, both the mother and father have talked to CNN and they are saying that this did not happen. They are saying that their son denied this. In the statement to us, they are saying, "We are still getting all of the records and all the facts. I don't think that happened."

He said it didn't happen. "My certain is the defamation of character that is occurring to my son."

So again, expect to hear later today from the parents, a more detailed statement about what they're finding and what their position is on this. But I did have a chance last night on campus and off to talk to a lot of students, a lot of former students who are here.

Everyone I spoke to said they had not heard of this practice before. If the few that had heard of it, they say that they've never known of anyone here who actually did that. Everyone very surprised by the news, and you can imagine just about everyone here, knowing about it and talking about it now.

CHO: Of course. David, I'm just curious to know really quickly -- has the school said anything about this?

MATTINGLY: Well, the school is taking very strong steps in the interim right now while the investigation is still going on. The university is under a 30-day suspension. They can't participate in any events for that 30 days. That's a big deal during football season. They're going to miss one big home game in the University of Alabama playing here during that month. So they're going to miss that.

So, they are not allowed to have any sort of social functions at all. But the University has been taking some very strong step just this school year, sort of laying it out there for the fraternities and sororities on this campus, about the practices that go on at these institutions that they say encourages underage drinking and binge drinking.

They say they want to -- that to stop and they have been leaning on these organizations this semester, saying they have to change the way they party here to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen.

CHO: All right. David Mattingly in Knoxville, Tennessee -- David, thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 18 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes his final appearance before the U.N. as President of Iran. That is happening later this morning. He's already telling reporters Israel will be, quote, "eliminated from the Middle East" and he's dismissing the threat of an attack by the Israelis. He's also calling for a new world order free of American bullying.

NORAD fighter jets scramble into action over New Jersey after two small planes violated a special no-fly zone which was in place while President Obama addressed the U.N. General Assembly in separate incident. The planes were forced to land Tuesday morning at Central Jersey Regional Airport. FAA investigators want to know why the pilots failed to request permission to enter that restrictive air space.

CHO: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is ordering the U.S. military to step up its sexual assault prevention training for commanding officers and senior enlisted personnel. Secretary Panetta says nearly 3,200 sexual assault cases were reported last year throughout the U.S. military. Since many of those cases go unreported, Mr. Panetta says the real total may actually be closer to 19,000.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. And a Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren is getting personal and it is getting nasty. A new video shows Brown aides doing the tomahawk chop at a recent rally. It has meant to remind voters that Brown identify herself as a Native American when she thought at Harvard. A Massachusetts genealogist says the Democrat's great, great, great grandmother was Cherokee, which makes her part Native American.

CHO: It is 20 minutes after the hour. We're getting an early read on your local news that's making headlines nationally.

And we begin with this "National Inquirer." I love this story. A story about rare 1778 bust of Benjamin Franklin that's apparently worth -- wait for it -- $3 million.

SAMBOLIN: There it is.

CHO: There it is.

SAMBOLIN: The bust was stolen in August from the house in suburban Philadelphia. FBI agents found the piece in Elton, Maryland, and arrested a 46-year-old woman who previously worked as a housekeeper for the lawyer who owns the bust.

There was some bad news. The bust now has a crack -- can you imagine? But its owner is hoping to have it restored.

SAMBOLIN: That's a lot of mulla (ph), Alina.

CHO: Hopefully you can glue that back together, right?

SAMBOLIN: Oh my -- I know you love the next story. We have heard about the futuristic cars that drive themselves. So, the "San Francisco Chronicle" has this story about the new law signed Tuesday by California Governor Jerry Brown aimed at making driverless cars a reality now in this state. The law establishes safety regulations, required to test and operate the vehicles on state roads and highways.

Google has been developing autonomous car technology and says its fleet of the 12-computer-controlled vehicles have gone more than 3,000 miles without an accident. That's a pretty impressive record there.

CHO: It is. You can probably be accident-proof with the driverless cars, a lot better than we can be on the road.

All right. For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart.

SAMBOLIN: Well, America loves a good comeback story. Coming up, the new numbers that might point -- might point -- to a rebound for the housing market.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. It's 25 minutes after the hour. Minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures signal a lower opening for stocks this morning. World markets are down as well.

SAMBOLIN: Are you surprised? Stocks closed at two-week lows yesterday as the Dow fell more than 100 points, which is -- you were giving us all this great news yesterday.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We had great economic news yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: What happened?

ROMANS: What happened was Caterpillar turned around, the big industrial company, and said global growth is slowing and that's spooked investors. Cat cutting a profit outlook citing weaker demand for its construction and mining equipment in 2015.

So, that means folks are like, oh, we are so worried about the storm clouds over the horizon, but there's so much good news on the domestic economy yesterday. The housing market you guys is showing signs of a rebound. You have been hearing me --

SAMBOLIN: Of a real rebound.

ROMANS: You have been hearing me for months say there's a bottom that looks so much like the housing market is bottoming. And now this case from Case-Shiller shows it has gone up three months in a row. Three months in a row of home price gains, we'll take it.

Rising now, the home prices in America, 2003 levels. So, now, back to where we were before the big housing bubble. We are still down 35 percent from the peak in 2006.

What does this mean for you? It means if you bought a house in 2003, finally, you're even again, right? If you bought a house in 2007, you're still crying in your beer every day.

Home sales are showing strength. Here's how you look around the country up 20 percent in the Midwest, 15 percent in the Northeast, nearly 13 percent in the South. Growth is less robust in the West, 4 percent growth over the past year. We're going to be getting some more data on home sales at 10:00 Eastern this morning.

On my show "YOUR BOTTOM LINE" this weekend, you guys, I'm going to look specifically at Washington, D.C. and there, they're saying it's becoming a seller's market in D.C.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON SHOSH, REALTOR, CENTURY 21 REDWOOD REALTY: It's becoming more and more of a seller's market and less and less of a buyer's market. As of right now, things are outstanding. Open houses are very busy. There's buyers out there getting a lot of Internet response to listings and getting a lot of calls on listings and things are moving fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And part of the reason is because prices are not where they were in 2004 and people are moving for their jobs, especially in the D.C. area. There's the lot of -- look, consumer confidence was also a good number yesterday.

Stocks were down, though. Still worried about global growth but at least two positive signs of a pulse in the American economy. We'll take it.

CHO: You get excited about the housing economy the way I get excited about shoes.

ROMANS: Although maybe your shoe investment is just as big as my housing environment, I'm not sure.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: The house happens to be my biggest monthly bill. Are shoes your biggest monthly bill?

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

CHO: Players and fans aren't the only one upset at the NFL replacement refs. Coming up, why Vegas sports brokers aren't happy either.

SAMBOLIN: I don't even think about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Ripping the replacement refs. They want them banned in New Jersey. They're costing people big bucks in Vegas. Even President Obama has something to say.

SAMBOLIN: You're in the minority if you don't have something to say about that.

Foreign policy face off. The President and Mitt Romney going global on the same stage. They are trying to score campaign points.

CHO: And show strength to sea. China shows off its new naval weapon to the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO (on-camera): Good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alina Cho. So glad you're with us on a Wednesday.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And so glad you're with us this morning. Thank you. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty-one minutes past the hour.

And things are so bad with the NFL's replacement referees. One powerful New Jersey politician is planning to introduce a bill that would ban them from working Jets and Giants games. State senate president, Stephen Sweeney, says the bill is necessary because the replacement officials pose a safety risk to the players.

Sweeney also happens to be a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. And it is only fitting that in a country where football is like a religion to millions of Americans, it was a Hail Mary pass that brought this controversy to a head. Here's Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After three weeks of controversy and complaints, the NFL's replacement referees literally decide the outcome of at least one game. On a desperation pass into the end zone, M.D. Jennings of the Green Bay Packers appears to catch the ball for an interception, but the reps rule that Seattle Seahawks Golden Tate also has possession. By rule, the tie goes to the offensive player, Tate. After a replay review --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The call on the field stands. Touchdown.

TODD: Seahawks win. Packers fume.

MIKE MCCARTHY, FOOTBALL COACH: Don't ask me a question about the officials, all right? So, we'll just cut to the chase right there. I've never seen anything like that in all my years of football.

AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: Just look at the replay. and then, the fact that it reviewed, it's awful. That's all I'm going to say about that.

TODD: Tame compared to the tweets which went viral. From Packers offensive guard, T.J. Lang, got F'd by the refs, "embarrassing. Thanks, NFL." Even President Obama tweeted, "NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs walkout is settled soon."

This is after a disputed field goal gave the Baltimore Ravens a one- point win over the New England Patriots and a series of botch calls and misapplied rules that have driven coaches, players, and fans crazy. All this because of the labor dispute between the NFL and its regular referees that began when the league locked out the refs in June.

(on-camera) The referees want more money asking for more than the NFL's offer to increase their average salaries from $149,000 a year to $189,000. Compare that to the median NFL player's salary, $770,000 a year. It's important to remember, the average NFL playing career is only three-and-a-half years. And most of the refs have other careers. So, these aren't full-time jobs for them.

(voice-over) The NFL wants to make the refs full-time and to add more refs so the average referee would make less money. The league also wants to move them from a pension system to a 401(k). But in the context of a business that brings in $9.5 billion a year, it seems relatively solvable.

Red Cashion, an NFL referee for 25 years who worked two Super Bowls told me he doesn't blame the replacement refs who've been pulled from small colleges, high schools and lower-level pro leagues.

(on-camera) What were they really not ready for at this level of the game?

RED CASHION, FORMER NFL REFEREE: Well, it's a combination of speed and things that happen. These folks are not used to these million- dollar athletes, this $70,000 to 80,000 people in the stands or whatever it is that happened with quickness and the severity and the talent that these guys have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Red Cashion says it takes about two years to get used to that speed, to see the game in slower motion. The NFL issued a statement on the Seahawks game saying it supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling, but the league also said there should have been a penalty pass interference against that Seahawks receiver, Golden Tate, which would have ended the game in Green Bay's favor. Zoraida and Alina, back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. OK. So, the difference here. We're trying to figure out, because I've been very curious about this. When talking about $9.5 billion, how much will it actually cost in order to bring the referees back? What's the difference in money we're talking about here? It looks like $30 million versus a $9.5 billion operation.

Someone suggested to me yesterday half the top tier players strike. So, we're not going to play until they bring the refs back, because we're worried about safety.

CHO: That's an idea.

SAMBOLIN: There's an option for you.

So, listen to this, Las Vegas is seeing enough of the replacement refs as well. The (INAUDIBLE) are very worried. All the blown calls will cause fan to stop betting on NFL games. One casino operator says when it comes to wagering, you want in black and white. The y don't want gray. Monday night's botched touchdown call not only cost the Green Bay Packers a victory, it caused --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: -- estimated $200 million.

CHO: Wow.

SAMBOLIN: Because it is estimated closed to 80 percent of all the wagers on the game were on Green Bay.

CHO: I think it's important to point out as well. I don't know how much you talked about this, but you know, the replacement ref who made that call is actually said to be a local executive for Bank of America who's only ref high school and junior college football games.

(CROSSTALK)

CHO: Right. Yes. And I'm not saying that this person might not one day be ready for the NFL, but clearly, there's a learning curve there, and we saw that and not to mention the money.

SAMBOLIN: Well, that was a criticism in the beginning as a fact that they didn't have the breadth of experience.

CHO: Right.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, let's move on.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice-over): Former "News of the World" chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, is expected to enter a plea in the British phone hacking scandal to allegations she conspired to hide evidence. She and six former staffers, including Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief, Andy Coulson, will appear in court later today.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): An army private is now facing manslaughter charges after shooting a fellow serviceman. The two Ft. Hood soldiers were drinking while watching the football game Sunday in Texas.

Police say the victim, 22-year-old Private Isaac Lawrence Young (ph) had a case of the hiccups, and the suspect allegedly put out or pulled out a gun to scare him and stop the hiccups. You know what happened? That gun went off hitting Young in the face.

CHO: That's awful.

China took one more step in flexing its growing military muscle in East Asia. It launched its first aircraft carrier yesterday. And there you see it. It's a refurbished vessel that China bought from the Ukraine, but there's a catch here which may calm some of its nervous neighbors. The carrier is expected only to be used for training purposes at this time.

SAMBOLIN: Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate, took time off the campaign trail in Ohio yesterday to buy his daughter deer hunting gear. Ryan said now that his daughter, Lisa is 10 (ph), she's (inaudible) deer hunting with him. that's going to happen this fall. He gave her a riffle last Christmas. Some father/daughter bonding there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (on-camera): Talking about the world trying to impress American voters. Coming up, scoring President Obama and Mitt Romney's dueling foreign policy speeches with some duelers of our own. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-one minutes past the hour. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, slated to talk later today at the U.N. His speech follows one from President Obama who yesterday said the U.S. will do what it must to stop Iran from developing a nuke. He said time is running out for diplomacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me be clear. America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy. And we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: That didn't stop some political back and forth in dueling speeches. We saw Mitt Romney and President Obama on the same stage just hours apart. We want to talk about that, so let's go to Margaret Hoover and Richard Socarides. Margaret, CNN contributor, former White House appointee in the Bush administration.

Richard is a former special adviser in the Clinton White House and a democratic analyst. So, good morning to you both.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: Good morning.

CHO: Great to see you. I want to talk, first, about an op-ed that came out in "The Wall Street Journal." Am I -- do I have this right here? Yes. And essentially -- where's the first page here?

SAMBOLIN: Here you go.

CHO: There we go.

SOCARIDES: It's early.

CHO: Editorial -- that's right. It's early.

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: -- the editorial in "The Wall Street Journal" on the President's U.N. speech yesterday before the U.N. GA. Obviously, generally unfriendly to the President, but here's part of what they said in his U.N. speech on Tuesday. "President Obama took a tougher than usual election-season line against Iran. The cold realty is that after nearly four years of failed diplomacy and half-hearted sanctions that he opposed until Congress forced his hand, neither Iran nor Israel believe him."

Now, you know, the President speaks before the U.N. G.A. every year. He takes more stance against Iran. He talked about diplomacy but that time is not unlimited. Is that enough? I mean, don't Republicans have a point here, Richard?

SOCARIDES: Well, it's hard to tell. I think "The Wall Street Journal" maybe was trying to give him a little bit of a left-handed compliment, right? I mean, he was very firm yesterday and he was very clear. You know, I think diplomacy, in general, is a business of nuance. But yesterday, he was about as firm and clear and it was a very beautiful actually defense of American policy or freedom of speech.

He was very clear on the nuclear issue, and I thought he spoke beautifully About Chris Stevens. So, I think the editorial opinion this morning is very favorable to him.

HOOVER: And to your point, I mean, I think he did speak very clearly. He did speak very forcefully. He did speak quite beautifully. It was a well-practiced speech. But I think what Republicans are saying is to what end? We've been speaking beautifully about these topics for four years now and the centrifuges are still turning in Iran.

CHO: Well, that's -- right. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will speak at the U.N. today and we all know that Ahmadinejad does what he wants, says what he wants, and does what he wants, right? So the question is, does anybody really listen?

HOOVER: And frankly, President Obama has been talking about the Iranian problem. He's been talking about Israel and the Palestinians. He's been talking about Syria. He's been talking about many of these issues which presents real challenges for the United States foreign policy. And there are very few --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: How about looking at some polls here, right, because when you take a look at poll here, and it's CNC or CNN/ORC poll. Who handles foreign policy best? We keep on talking about foreign policy, right? Obama, 49 percent, Romney, 46 percent. Margaret, go ahead.

HOOVER: Absolutely. I mean, this is a strong suit for President Obama, but we have also seen these numbers soften in the last few weeks, especially since the attacks on September 11th on our embassy abroad. And what -- I think the real question is, this goes to a point of where is the American leadership?

There has been no -- no actionable response to the fact that an American ambassador was killed in one of our embassies abroad.

SOCARIDES: Well, that's -- I mean, I don't think you can say there's no actionable response. I mean, I think we've done a lot of things, but I think the most interesting thing about yesterday (INAUDIBLE) was looking at the two of them. I was there at the Clinton Global Initiative where both of them spoke, you know, just a couple hours apart. And I would say that I thought Romney was terrific.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Can you hold that thought for a second, because we want to play that and then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: A lot of Americans, including myself, are developed -- excuse me -- are troubled by developments in the Middle East. Syria has witnessed the killing of tens of thousands of people. The President of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Our ambassador to Libya was assassinated in a terror attack. Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons capability. We, somehow, feel that we're at the mercy of events rather than shaping events.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, Richard, "Politico" actually agreed with you. You know what they said? It called him one of the best prepared and best delivered of his campaign.

SOCARIDES: Not a lot of solution there, though, right, Margaret.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: You go, because I'll go next.

(LAUGHTER)

SOCARIDES: it was a very well-practiced speech. He was funny. He looked relaxed. He did not look like a man who's about to lose a presidential election, even though he is. But you know, Obama showed up, you know, just a couple hours later, and he took the stage and he spoke substantively, and the contras was amazing.

I mean, here you saw someone who you want to be the leader of the free world and compared to someone who looked like he an extremely polished CEO --

HOOVER: The big headline out of the speech yesterday with Mitt Romney is the hit against him has been there's been no -- no energy, all you saw in his speech yesterday was new ideas. He basically offered a solution for re-hauling and modernizing our foreign policy, our foreign aid system.

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: They came up with this idea of prosperity pack. What's the prosperity pack --

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: Richard, you got to give him credit, because our foreign aid system is totally outdated and what it suggests is that we can tie our foreign aid to economic developments in the modern world, because the key insight is that pulling people out of poverty happens, when they have economic mobility and economic prosperity. And this is a method for doing that with the aid that we're already sending abroad.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to jump in. Does anybody want to talk about the swing states? We will do that in our next hour. So, I'm going to invite you to come back and talk with us -- Richard and Margaret, thank you very much. We appreciate your time this morning.

CHO: All we have to do is just let them know.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: A heated debate is always really good.

SOCARIDES: We are highly caffeinated.

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: If you haven't had your coffee, you don't need it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

CHO: Thanks, guys.

Well, it's video you just have to see to believe. Coming up, a truck driver defies the odds. If you are leaving the house right now, keep this in mind, you can watch us any time on your desktop or your mobile phone, just go to CNN.com/TV. We're back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. It's about 52 minutes after the hour. I'm Alina Cho along with Zoraida here. We're going to take a look at what's trending this morning. Lady Gaga.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Taking off the silence to the haters. Gaga posted pictures of herself in her underwear on her website in response to attacks on her weight in the tabloids saying weight loss and gain has tormented her since she was a child. This is really serious.

The captions above each photo read "bulimia and anorexia since I was 15, but today, I joined the body revolution to inspire bravery and breath some bleeping compassion"

CHO: All this came out after it was revealed that her photo on the cover of "Vogue" magazine was maybe photo shopped. So, anyway, good for her, though,for speaking out about this. SAMBOLIN: Yes, I agree.

CHO: Madonna diving into politics during her show a couple of nights ago in Washington. Now, she's in a little bit of hot water calling President Obama a black Muslim while endorsing him. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADONNA, SINGER: So, no (EXPLETIVE DELETED) President Obama, OK?

(CHEERING)

MADONNA: For better or worse, all right? We have a Black Muslim in the White House.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Madonna was forced to release a statement saying, clearing things up a bit saying, quote, "I was being ironic on stage. Yes, I know, Obama is not a Muslim. The point I was making is that a good man is a good man no matter who he prays to. I don't care what religion Obama is nor should anyone else in America."

SAMBOLIN: -- it's a little bit -- OK. A father starting a heated debate. Is it OK to have a favorite child? This is a tough one. A Canadian radio host is being blasted on the web for admitting that he has a favorite son. Buzz Bishop (ph) put up a blog post about how the birth of his first son, Zachary, who's now five changed his life.

And is his favorite of the two because he can do more things and is more fun. So, after feedback started pouring in, he put up a post a second post titled "Admit it. You have a favorite kid. I do." Bishop also wrote that he doesn't love either of his sons more than the other. He just likes them differently.

CHO: Is there a distinction there?

SAMBOLIN: You know what, I just think the interpretation here, at least mine, is that he gets to do more things with the older child, spend a little more time with that child. As the other one grows up, I think he's going to feel that it's probably different maybe but equal in the love, right?

CHO: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: So, that's what I'm going with.

CHO: I love you anyway, Zoraida.

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: If you're away from your TV right now, come over here. You're going to want to see this one. A lucky trucker in Russia is caught on camera barely escaping a brush with death. Oh, wow!

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!

CHO: Oh my goodness! We didn't know that was happening. The video shows a head-on collision. All the man there involving two trucks after a tractor-trailer makes a sudden move, and there you see it again.

(CROSSTALK)

CHO: He walked away without a scratch, apparently. That viral video, by the way, 400,000 hits in just two days.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!

CHO: Somebody was watching over him.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding.

All right. A packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including ground and pound (ph). Police under investigation for beating down two brothers so bad that the jail wouldn't even take them. The whole thing caught on their dash cam. The men who both have criminal records may now sue the department. We have that complete video for you.

Plus, something we're both very excited about from "Three's Company" to daytime TV. Suzanne Somers is here to talk about her brand-new morning show that promises to make women healthier and younger.

SAMBOLIN: I'm taking notes.

CHO: Exactly. She's coming up in the next hour right here on CNN. More EARLY START after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: All right. Stay with us. About a minute before the top of the hour. David Letterman right in the thick of U.N. week craziness in New York City and taking the diplomatic approach. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": What a night. The entire balcony is full of Hooligans with diplomatic immunity.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN: We know the U.N. is -- anybody here from the U.N.? Anybody visiting from the U.N. Yes. They come from around the world. They're leaders of countries all over the world then they come to the United States and they have the diplomatic immunity, so they can do something and get away with it. It's like Lindsay Lohan.

(LAUGHTER) LETTERMAN: And you know who I'm talking about when I say the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Do you know about this guy? He hates Jewish people, he hates gay people, well, he's come to the right place.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Welcome to town, Mahmoud.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: All right.

CHO: Only David Letterman can call him Mahmoud.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

EARLY START continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHO (voice-over): Political football. The candidates try to score points amid fan outrage over the NFL's replacement refs.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And the last word. Iran's president takes the podium for his final U.N. address today. How far will he go this time?

CHO: Caught on camera. Take a look at this. Police officers in Washington State under investigation now after two men say they were roughed up for no good reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO (on-camera): And good morning, everybody. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alina Cho. It's 6:00 in the East.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Yes. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. John will be on in a few hours. He's hosting "STARTING POINT" today.