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Let the Debate Begin!; Americans Airlines Looking for Loose Seats; HS Football Hazing With A Noose?; More Complaints About Apple's IPhone 5

Aired October 3, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Countdown to debate night. Just hours to go before Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's first head-to-head primetime face-off.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, man. Disaster, but it's not accident. Crash cameras capture what it might be like aboard a doomed jetliner.

SAMBOLIN: And hitching a ride to trouble. Take a look, a Florida woman's close encounter with a protected mammal. You know this could land her in jail?

BERMAN: That's a costly picture right there.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. All righty.

Good morning to you. Thanks for being with us. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

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

The big story this morning, it is go time. In just 16 hours, all eyes will be on Denver for the first presidential debate. President Obama will be making his case for four more years and Mitt Romney trying to convince the country he is the better man for the job.

Now, right now, it looks like voters need convincing on both sides because in a brand new CNN poll of polls, it shows a very close race. The president maintaining a razor-thin three-point lead with about a month to go at this point.

Our CNN political director Mark Preston joins us live from Denver this morning, right in the middle of it all.

And, Mark, you have new details about what we have to expect tonight.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, John, yes. You know, there's no arguing, this is the most important moment of this presidential debate. In just a few hours as you said, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama squaring off here in Denver.

It's going to be a 90-minute debate. It's going to cover six different segments. Most of it, though, John, is going to be on the economy. There's going to be three segments to focus on the economy. There'll be one segment on foreign policy, one segment on the role of governing and one segment on the role of government in people's lives, John.

So how this is going to be set up is that the candidates will be sitting at podiums. If you're looking at your TV, Mitt Romney will be on your left, President Obama will be on your right.

The first question tonight, John, goes to Barack Obama.

BERMAN: Well, will they have a chance to mix it up? Will they have a chance to rebut each other in a kind of free-flowing way?

PRESTON: Well, John, what we're told by the organizers, in fact, that they hope to have a free-flowing discussion. This is the kind discussion we as journalists and certainly our viewers like to see because it allows the two candidates to discuss it amongst themselves. If there are questions about each other's plans, they can directly ask each other that.

We have not seen that in this campaign and we'll see it tonight.

BERMAN: You told us before. The economy will likely be the big subject in the debate tonight. We have some new numbers, some new polling which gives a sense of what voters are saying about this right now.

PRESTON: It is, John. And no surprise, people are very downtrodden about the economy.

Let's look at this new CNN/ORC poll just released as we came on the air right now. It shows, right now, that 73 percent of Americans believe that there is poor economic conditions right now. Only 27 percent believe it is good.

You know something, John? You have to ask yourself, who is that 27 percent who thinks that the economy right now is doing well.

BERMAN: And we have been talking about this all week, who do voters think will win this debate before it even starts?

PRESTON: Well, John, again, a lot of expectations and games being played by both campaigns. Mitt Romney downplaying it, Barack Obama downplaying it, but the American public, according to this new CNN poll, again just released, shows that they believe Barack Obama will have the edge tonight.

Of course, we can say what we want to about the poll numbers and what the American public will see, but we won't know the answer until 11:00 this evening.

BERMAN: All right. Mark Preston down in Denver -- can you feel the electricity already?

PRESTON: Absolutely. I mean, it's early here, John, but it is starting to ramp up, no doubt. BERMAN: All right. Fantastic. Great to see you this morning. We'll talk to you again.

So, in tonight's debate, you should look for a couple corks for the candidates beyond what they just say. Delivery tone and body language are as important to voters as the substance of what the candidate is saying, at least some voters.

So, here's what to watch for, some body language experts tell us. When Mitt Romney is agitated, his arms flail around a bit. Also, President Obama has a tendency to go on and on. Even his own staff says he's long-winded. And both candidates do well apparently when they are standing at podiums.

Now, in the next half hour of EARLY START, we'll break down the debate and what each candidate has to do to accomplish with Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, and Erick Erickson, who is the editor-in-chief of

And, of course, keep it on CNN for the best political coverage on television, the Internet, anywhere on Earth.

Our live debate coverage begins tonight at 7:00 Eastern, on CNN and

SAMBOLIN: You know, I'm a little nervous for them.


BERMAN: It is a big day. This is the Super Bowl right now.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it is.

Four minutes past the hour here.

A Pennsylvania judge has temporarily blocked a key component of that state's new voter ID law. Voter will not have to show a state- approved photo ID in order to cast a ballot in next months vote. Supporters of the law say it is designed to prevent fraud at the polls. But opponents say it is a chance to suppress the traditionally Democratic minority vote.

BERMAN: Former Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary has filed a whistleblower suit against the university. In a lawsuit, McQueary claims he was the only assistant football coach not invited to interview for employment under new Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien. This in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. McQueary was a key prosecution witness in the Sandusky case, who said he witnessed an apparent sexual encounter between Sandusky and a boy.

A Florida woman could face a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail for hitching a ride on top of a manatee. She turned herself into sheriffs near Tampa after this photograph was released to the public. Now, manatees are protected from alleged abuse by Florida law. So this picture could get her in serious trouble. SAMBOLIN: Wow.

Well, the fog has settled over New York City this morning. This is a live picture -- do we have it there? -- of Columbus Circle. Oh, yes, it is very foggy and thunderstorms kept Air Force Two from landing two different times yesterday.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano joins us live from Atlanta. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Zoraida. It is a little soupy, isn't it?

New York is not the only spot, but around the metro area and some of the airports, a half mile to quarter-mile visibility. So, right there off the bat, if you have any travel plans this morning, that is certainly is going to limit them. Dense fog advisory out for the tri- state area until 10:00 a.m.

So, with that, a little bit of sprinkles and some light showers as well. A couple embedded heavier showers from here across the Delmarva through the Carolinas and down across Florida, which by the way, Miami and Fort Myers and Tampa, they have seen a tremendous amount of rain going down as one of the wettest on record before this fall season is done.

Very slow moving system that's moving up the Eastern Seaboard. With the fog, it is very warm outside. You have this warm sector right here between the fronts. Because of that, it will be well above average, but that's going to keep the fog around until we clear things out with the front behind it, much dryer weather.

Another front dropping across the northern tier, and with that, will come some snow. But before that, 83 in Denver, before the chilly air. Maybe in the 80s in D.C. as well. Seventy-five but no bargain with that fog and showers across this morning near New York City.

Back to you, guys, in New York.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Bob, thank you very much.

Seven minutes past the hour. Dozens of planes are now being inspected after the discovery of an unsettling safety flaw onboard. Cabin seats that actually came loose.

BERMAN: Yes, that's upsetting.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, very. What's the airline saying about that? We're going to let you know, coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Ten minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman. Glad you are with us.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, and I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy with us. I changed tops, can everybody tell? I was clashing with you and your pink tie. So, that was a quick change for everyone.

All right. Not a great week for already struggling American Airlines. The airline is now saying it will inspect 47 of its Boeing 757s after seats came loose in-flight on two of its planes within days of each other.

So far they have checked 36 planes. Six had seats that were not properly secured. American says not all the seats were loose but they had potential to become so. The apparent culprit, improperly installed clamps.

George Howell is following all of the developments from Atlanta. What can you tell us, George?


For some passengers, that meant starting the flight on one row of seats and then ending the flight a row or two back. No doubt, this is a public relations problem for the airline, but more importantly, it's an issue of safety that American Airlines promises to fix.


HOWELL (voice-over): It's happened on three separate flights with passengers onboard, twice on the same plane. Entire rows of seats came loose on American Airlines 757s.

And according to this passenger who did not want to be identified --

PASSENGER: The seats flipped backwards. It was actually a complete nightmare. And so people were essentially on the laps of the passengers behind them.

HOWELL: American Airlines says the root cause of the problem came down to clamps that were installed backwards. It's the latest in a series of setbacks for the airline, which filed for bankruptcy nearly a year ago and has been battling recently with its major unions over contract terms.

The union points the finger to outsource maintenance work as the reason for the problem.

David Campbell with American Airlines says crews are getting to the bottom of it.

DAVID CAMPBELL, VICE PRESIDENT OF SAFETY, AMERICAN AIRLINES: The guys who work with us every single day, they are engineers. They are technical chiefs. They have gone in to determine what they believe is the potential failure. But beyond the failure, we are focusing our attention on making sure that they are properly installed.

HOWELL: The problem prompted an inspection on the seats of nearly half of American Airlines 757s. Seats that were first pulled out and reinstalled in a plan to give passengers more leg room. Workers have already inspected 36 planes with 11 yet to be inspected. So far, they have discovered a total of six planes that all had the same problem.

Campbell dismissed the idea that the loose seats could somehow be linked to the ongoing labor dispute.

CAMPBELL: I really have a difficult time believing that -- I just don't believe that it is.

HOWELL: As American Airlines promises to fix the problem, many passengers we spoke with say that while the issue with loose seats is troubling, it doesn't necessarily shake their confidence in the airline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems kind of trivial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a frequent flyer. So it would be hard to change. But I would have to look into it to say if they took care of it.

HOWELL: Instead, passengers say it's the flight delays and cancellations. About 12,000 flights delayed just in the past month and more than 1,000 flights canceled that could make loyal customers like Carl Geuther think twice.

CARL GEUTHER, CUSTOMER: If the current labor process drags own and there are apparent flight delays, that could change my mind.


HOWELL: So, as American Airlines came forward to talk about this issue, another issue came to light. We learned that the pilots union agreed to resume contract negotiations with the airline. American Airlines says that it is committed to working with the APA to find a solution that works for everyone, Zoraida.

Well, there's a little good news. Thank you very much, George Howell.

BERMAN: I can't believe the rows of seats flipped back several rows.

SAMBOLIN: What did she say, two rows flip back, they ended up on somebody's lap? That would concern me, I have to say, right?

BERMAN: That would concern me, absolutely.

It is 14 minutes after the hour right now. I want to get you up to speed on all the top stories.

Of course, it is time to debate. President Obama and Mitt Romney square of in Denver in less than 16 hours now. Domestic policy and the economy will be the main topics in the first of three presidential debates. The latest CNN poll of polls has the president leading the Republican challenger 49 percent to 46 percent. CNN's live debate coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight.

SAMBOLIN: Philadelphia police, they are hoping this surveillance video leads them to the group that beat up and robbed a 47-year-old man at a Passmark (ph) grocery store. Take a look. Investigators are now saying someone in the group posted their own video bragging about the attack on YouTube.

You can see the group passed the man at the frozen food aisle Saturday night and suddenly turned back and surround him. Words were exchanged before the man was punched, kicked and struck with a glass bottle. One of the suspects took the man's money clip with $100 in cash. Police say the man went to the hospital with a broken nose and cut on the cheek.

BERMAN: All right. This is incredible, frightening and very real video of a huge 727 passenger jet goes down in the desert. It is all caught on tape from dozens of angles.

Why? They did this on purpose. This is part of the Discovery Channel's new "Curiosity" series. This controlled experiment was pulled off to give researchers and you a closer look at what happens during a crash landing. And they found it may not be a death sentence.


DR. TOM BARTH, SURVIVABILITY EXPERT: Several different studies from different sources has confirmed that, you know, if you're involved in a plane crash, and most accidents are by the majority very survivable.

DR. CINDY BIR, BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER: I think our experiment gave us more information and great research data that now we can feed in to make planes even more simpler. I feel very confident when I get in the air that, you know, I'm going to be safe.


BERMAN: Those are incredible pictures. Coming up at 6:00, we'll hear from the people who had to do all the hard work. You can say they were the ones who had to pick up all the pieces and collect the data.

SAMBOLIN: Accident investigator and survivability expert, Dr. Tom Barth, and biomedical engineering professor, Dr. Cindy Bir will be talking to us about that. I'm really looking for that. This is such a coordinated effort to pull this off. It's really interesting.

BERMAN: The video is unbelievable, unbelievable. Another really great story, a big-league dream come true.

The Miami Marlins' Adam Greenburg making his return seven years after he got drilled in the head with a fastball. Here's the deal, that was his only other Major League play appearance. This time, he struck out swinging as a pinch-hitter, but it was all about the moment this time.

Greenburg magically signed a one-day contract with the Marlins before the game. Because he got to the playing struck out, he hasn't officially at-bat, because he was hit by a pitch that first time seven years ago, it never registered in officially at-bat. So, according to the stats, he never played in a game. Now you can say that he played in a Major League.

SAMBOLIN: So, that's great. Great moment for him. BERMAN: It is 17 minutes after the hour right now. Time for "Early Read," your local news making national news.

This is a doozy. A Utah principal apologizing after turning away dozens of teens, including the homecoming queen, from their homecoming dance because their dresses were too short. "The Salt Lake City Tribune" reports that Stansbury High School principal Kendall Topham told students that the school's dress code policy was too big to be properly enforced. And he promised to hold a free dance to make up for it.


BERMAN: The school's dress code says the dresses for formal events should be at or near knee-length.

SAMBOLIN: That's at or knee-length to me. A little faraway. I can't see it that well.

Anyway, (INAUDIBLE) this is from "The Orlando Sentinel." A school district in Florida may install trash cams to watch what students are throwing away. Lake County school board officials are considering the move, since new federal school lunch rules forced kids to put health produce on their trash. The only problem is they devour their pizza and they toss the pears.

Oh, my goodness. The critics are saying it's a total waste of taxpayer money and they don't see how this will get kids to eat their fruits and vegetables.

BERMAN: Eat your fruits and veggies, kids. They will make you big and strong.

SAMBOLIN: Hollywood has the Oscars, the Detroit has the Car of the Year. We have all the nominees coming up for you.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back.

We're minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are pointing to a lower open. Some disappointing economic data out of China and Australia pushing markets lower worldwide.

BERMAN: Australia dragging us down? What's up with that?

So, there are two more days until the big September jobs report.

But, Christine, you have our own CNN Money survey of what economists are saying?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And they are looking for 110,000 jobs to be created in the month. You know, it's not great but it's showing you there's this consistent slow and steady job creation. If you look at a chart that we put together for you, it sort of shows you the way it's gone. From September a year ago, you were doing 202,000 jobs. This year, you're doing almost half that with the unemployment rate 8.1 percent.

Will it sway the election? A lot of folks don't think the jobs report will sway the election and here's why. There are two more, they're probably going to show kind of -- this kind of no big surprise one way or the other. This kind of jobs growth is kind of baked into the conversation, isn't it? It's slow and steady, not as much as you'd like. That's what we keep saying.

BERMAN: So, really bad number, unexpected number. That might matter.

ROMANS: Yes, it might matter. We're going to get something called the ADP, private payroll report later this morning that's one private sector gauge. We'll be closely watching that one expected at 133,000. Sometimes the ADP report is right on, previewing the jobs report, sometimes it is totally off.

BERMAN: Great. Well, that's awful.

There's some phenomenal news, though, about car sales.

ROMANS: Yes, car sales really did well in the most recent month. In fact, I mean, even doing better than early 19 -- 2008 -- 19, oh my gosh. General Motors up 1.5 percent. Ford down 0.1 percent, but Chrysler had a great month, up 12 percent.

SAMBOLIN: Is it because of low interest rates? We talked about that a couple of days ago.

ROMANS: Yes, it's pent up demand. It's a lot of incentives. It's very low interest rates and easier financing. And if you look at the foreign automakers. They did really well -- Toyota up more than 41 percent. Honda, Volkswagen, Hyundai -- I mean, watch as these reveal on your screen that people are buying cars again. That's a sign of a resurgent American consumer, no question.

And related, the North American Car and Truck of the Year nominees are in. Would you like to see what they are?


SAMBOLIN: Drum roll.

ROMANS: Here's the drum roll. We have a "Fortune" reporter that's a juror who helps vote for the best car. His eyes are in here, Cadillac ATS, 3-1, he says that's going to win Car of the Year. Ford Fusion -- I hear a lot about the Ford Fusion, a lot of people like the design of this one. Also, you got the Subaru BRZ.

SAMBOLIN: That looks cool.

ROMANS: Yes, the BMW 3 Series, BMWs always populate this list. And over the few years have been populated it a lot. So we'll see. BERMAN: Interesting list. Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So, coming up, the hunt for the real Mona Lisa. What archaeologists found under a compound in Italy.

SAMBOLIN: Another dig?

BERMAN: If you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desk top or mobile phone. Just go to


BERMAN: Showdown in Denver, shall we say throw-down. The first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney just hours away.

SAMBOLIN: Innocent bystander? Why an eighth grade who never threw a punch was suspended after this fight, that fight you just saw, in his school.

BERMAN: And what's wrong with this picture? The potential iPhone 5 problem that has some people seeing purple. Really?

SAMBOLIN: I got my new iPhone 5. I have not seen purple yet.

BERMAN: I look purple to you every day.

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

SAMBOLIN: You look many things to me every day. This morning, very handsome. Good morning, everyone. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 29 minutes past the hour.

So tonight is a big night, a battle months or years in the making.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney finally on the stage for the very first debate. The advantage goes to the president in the brand new poll just out this morning, of likely voters, that is.

Fifty-six percent betting on Obama to win tonight, only 32 percent picking Mitt Romney. I want to bring in Richard Socarides. He's a Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Erick Erickson, editor-in- chief of

Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us this morning. And I got to say, you were calling it fight night in America, right?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. It's like fight night. It's like the big fight.

SAMBOLIN: All right. But Erick, I'd like to start with you, you heard those poll numbers. What does Romney have to do tonight in order to overcome those expectations? Low expectations? ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Apparently not much. You know, I always hate these expectation games with debates. You know, these guys are both competent professionals. The spin that they try to put out that, oh, Mitt Romney is better than me or Barack Obama is better than me, he just -- one, needs to give up just trying to look pleasant and likable.

He's been trying to do this now for a year, and he hasn't worked -- be likable. So, show up, be competent, show you can do the job, and be nice to the president the same way the president needs to be nice to you. And by the way, I have my iPhone and I haven't seen purple yet.


SAMBOLIN: I'm going to continue checking on that. So, Richard, would you agree with that, because in an article in "USA Today," it actually says that Obama's really at the disadvantage here, right, because he has a set record, and you know, Romney's going to go after him and that they traditionally don't do well in those first debates, the sitting presidents.

SOCARIDES: Well, you know, I think it is a very important night for both of these men. You know, the challenge for President Obama is very much like the challenge he's had at all the crucial moments in the campaign.

You know, much the same challenge he faced at the convention, and that is he's got to defend his record robustly and take credit for the things he's accomplished, but yet, at the same time, acknowledge that the country -- that he hasn't done enough to change the country. And that's a tough challenged, but I think he'll do well tonight as I think Governor Romney will.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Charlie Cook, an independent, highly respected political analyst and a prognosticator spoke to Howard Kurtz yesterday, seems to think the election is a lack for Obama. This is what he said. "It will require a massive screw-up by President Obama or some international event that just shakes everything up. Romney's got a week to turn this thing around."

If something doesn't happen soon, Republicans will panic. How much is riding on tonight's debate? I want to go back out to Erick.

ERICKSON: You know, I wouldn't say that is a complete lie, but yes, I tend to think that Mitt Romney has about a week left to really building things. Remember, people are already voting around the country and that's just the reality. Republicans can be mad at me for pointing it out, but it is.

Romney has about a week left. The debates are something has to happen. Although, you know, I really am hesitant of locking these things in with a month to go overall, because as Charlie even points out in his prognostication, events do change things, and events can change things rapidly even towards an election.

SAMBOLIN: But how about the stories that were circulating yesterday that the donors are so worried that they're moving their money to the Congressional races, Richard.

SOCARIDES: Well, I think you'll see some of that on the Republican side. A lot of money, though, still in this race, right? So, I don't think either side is going to worry about money. But I would agree with Erick that I think that Governor Romney really needs to do something and probably do it tonight. That's why the -- you've got to take some risks tonight.

Otherwise, the narrative is not going to change, and he's the underdog. He has to change the narrative. So, it's a harder challenge for him tonight, I think.

SAMBOLIN: I want to switch gears here. The Romney camp is seizing on something that Joe Biden said yesterday. Let's play it and then talk about it.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is deadly earnest. How they can justify, how they can justify raising taxes in the middle class has been buried the last four years. How in Lord's name can they justify raising our taxes with these tax cuts?


SAMBOLIN: All right. So, here's how Paul Ryan responded.


VOICE OF PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought he was taking my speech. I mean, you know what? We agreed. The middle class has been buried over the last four years. They've been buried -- they're being buried by Obamacare. They're being buried by borrowing, by taxes, by spending, by regulations, by all these uncertainties that is plaguing businesses, and the way to fix this is to stop digging and elect Mitt Romney.


SAMBOLIN: All right. So, the middle class has been buried for the last four years. Who's to blame?

SOCARIDES: Well, that is, in fact -- you know, that little exchange we saw encapsulates the challenges for President Obama tonight, and that is, as we said, he's got to defend his record. He's got to, you know, take credit for the good things that have happened.

I do think the country is headed in the right direction as I think most Americans do, but he's got to acknowledge that he hasn't been able to change the experience of real Americans, you know, enough. Not only on economic issues, but he hasn't been able to change the tone in Washington, which is what he set out to do.

So, I think the president also has to say what he's going to do differently in this next four years. How is it going to be different? I think, each of these men have to make a case for themselves. They have to articulate the vision they have for the next four years, otherwise, they won't have a successful evening.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Erick, there's trouble for Biden in a new poll that I want share here. It's a CNN/ORC poll, if we can put that up for everyone. Sixteen percent of likely voters think he's going to lose to Ryan. Is Biden a liability?


SAMBOLIN: Don't laugh.

ERICKSON: He's the gift that keeps on giving for my -- you know, let's go back to the prior point, though, that one of the major criticisms for Republicans have had of the Romney campaign is that they haven't seemed aggressive enough.

I think the real test is if they don't have in the next 24 hours in add out juxtaposing Barack Obama's line about shovel-ready projects and Joe Biden saying the middle class has been buried under it. I think there really is a problem there on the aggressiveness, and Joe Biden, God bless him, I love him as vice president.


SOCARIDES: You know --


SOCARIDES: What do you say to that? I mean, I think it's the Ryan/Biden debate is going to be very interesting, right? I mean, just because the contrast, they have won, you know, has been around for a while. One is kind of newer, fresher. I think that the Republicans are probably a little disappointed in the fact that Mr. Ryan has not really been able to enliven the ticket.

ERICKSON: He hasn't been utilized.

SOCARIDES: He hasn't been utilized that, and that's very interesting. Like, why are they not utilizing him? I mean, you know, I think that there was a lot of -- the Republicans said, well, this is going to be our -- this is going to be a new ball game now with Paul Ryan, but then, they kind of put him in the closet.

ERICKSON: Yes. Surprised a lot of us.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I want to move on here. Conservative outlets pushing a tape of Obama from 2007. It contrasts Katrina's response with the 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew responses. Listen to this, gentlemen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's happening down in New Orleans? Where's your dollar? Where's your Stafford Act money? It makes no sense. It tells me the bullet hasn't been taken out.


OBAMA: It tells me that, somehow, the people down in New Orleans, they don't care about as much.


SAMBOLIN: So, CNN has the entire archive of this tape. This was not a closed event. We and another organizations also covered it, but Richard, is this damaging right before the debates do you think?

SOCARIDES: You know, I don't think so. I think that there are elements within the Republican Party who are desperate to change the narrative or try to change the narrative in any way they can. And, you know, a tape from the last campaign that has been, you know, played and heard before. I mean, I don't think there's anything new here. And I think it looks kind of desperate to me.

SAMBOLIN: Erick, I'm going to let you weigh in on this.

ERICKSON: You know, I think this is actually more damaging towards the media than Barack Obama. The reason I say that is because the tape has been out since 2007. President Obama told a black audience that the Bush administration considered New Yorkers and Floridians part of the American community but didn't consider Blacks in New Orleans part of the American community.

Had a white politician, had a Republican politician said that, we'd be on day five now of hammering in in the media about race in America in a way that Barack Obama can say this in the media is now saying, this is old news and never even focused on that in 2007.

SAMBOLIN: So, you're suggesting that it was just because he was a black man that was talking that he got away with it?

ERICKSON: No, I think the media is letting him get away with and in saying what they would never let another politician get away with, telling the minority community, with lies as well, the statements you made about what was going on in New Orleans, that the Bush administration considered them not part of America.

You know, as Louisianan, first of all, I'm a little bit offended with that given what happened with Hurricane Katrina and then to conflate it with 9/11 as well. I've got a real problem with the media saying, oh, this is old news when --

SAMBOLIN: But it is old news. We covered it at the time. All of --


ERICKSON: You didn't cover that. You didn't cover Barack Obama telling a large black audience that the Bush administration didn't think black people were part of the United States.

SAMBOLIN: First of all, that's not what he said, but --

ERICKSON: Yes it was absolutely what he said. He told a large black audience that Bush administration considered New Yorkers part of the American community and Floridians part of the American community, but he didn't consider them in New Orleans part of the American community.

That's telling a black audience who clearly understood what he was saying, by the way, with the entire analogy of the bullet in the baby's arm that somehow they weren't part of the American community.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Gentlemen, unfortunately, I'm going to have to leave it there. Richard Socarides, Democratic analyst, and Erick Erickson, CNN contributor, I thank you both for being with us this morning. Although, Erick, I wish you would have been in studio.

ERICKSON: Yes. Me, too.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I think it would have been a lot more fun. So, next time.

SOCARIDES: Well, we had fun.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we did, but we can have more --


SOCARIDES: We're going to have more fun in the next hour.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-nine minutes past the hour.

It is go-time. The first presidential debate takes place tonight. Watch it live at 7:00 Eastern on CNN and on

BERMAN: You guys have too much fun, what are you talking about?


BERMAN: I want to turn now to a serious story at 39 minutes after the hour. Members of an Arkansas high school football team could face expulsion over an allegedly racially charge hazing incident involving a noose. School officials say at the seven white members of the win high school junior varsity team allegedly placed a noose around the neck of a 14-year-old African-American player inside their locker room.

And an eighth grade Georgia student suspended for five days because he videotaped a fight in a school bus between two other students. Jason Bigby also had his cell phone confiscated and was told he'd have to sign a discipline report and delete the video if he wanted the phone back. His family contacted a local news station in Atlanta, and when they got involved, officials at the Conyers Middle School returned Jason's phone and removed the incident from his disciplinary record.

SAMBOLIN: That's a head scratch.

BERMAN: Head scratch here to say the least.

SAMBOLIN: More unhappy iPhone 5 customers. Many new owners are complaining about a burst of purple showing off in their photos. An e-mail from Apple support team published by the tech blog, Gizmodo, suggests users angle the camera away from bright light sources in order to prevent the problem. Seriously.

BERMAN: Here's the thing. You hear about problem after problem with the iPhone 5 and still, everyone is jealous if they don't have one.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I was tackling somebody for mine. So, I totally get it.

BERMAN: All right. Now, 41 minutes after the hour. Here's something you don't hear every day. A rising star who actually credits the government for helping him succeed. Coming up, one man's story out of poverty and onto the opera stage. Listen to that voice!

SAMBOLIN: That will wake you up.


BERMAN: All right. Pay attention to this, because it is a lovely, lovely story. Soloman Howard witnessed his first murder when he was seven years old, growing up on the streets of Southeast Washington, D.C. Determination, pride, and some much-needed help from the government lifted him out of that neighborhood and onto the stage.

And today, wow! He is an opera star. Wait until you hear him. Barbara Starr live in Washington with much more on this remarkable man.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know, you hear all the talk about the 47 percent of Americans too dependent on the government. I think we're probably going to hear a lot about that in tonight's debate. I want you all to meet a young man who you might think fits that easy label, but really, is a powerhouse of his own.



STARR (voice-over): Thirty-one-year-old Soloman Howard sings to the rich and powerful. His basso profundo has brought him here to the Kennedy Center sing in Mozart's Don Giovanni with a National Washington Opera.


STARR: It's his far away as you can get from this, one of Washington, D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods where Soloman grew up, the eldest of seven children.

SOLOMAN HOWARD, BASS, WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA: We lost our home, then stayed with families, different families. We, sometimes, walk, you know, until we could find something, you know, somewhere to stay.

STARR: His family, part of the 47 percent referred to by Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, in that controversial video addressing wealthy Republican donors. But Soloman says his mother and step-father never thought it was the government's job to take care of them.

HOWARD: They always, you know, instilled great values and morals in us and to, you know, just never to give up and to keep pursuing.

STARR: After a life of food stamps and no health care, finally, a teacher heard Soloman sing.

HOWARD: She said, I want you to try this. I want you to be serious about it and, you know, see what you have.

STARR: There was a college scholarship and audition before opera legend, Placido Domingo. The help was needed, but Soloman says, don't put him and his family in some category of easy labels.

As a family that's been through it, when you see this debate in the country, the whole 47 percent question, you know?

HOWARD: Right.

STARR: What do you want people to really begin to understand about that?

HOWARD: Assistance is very important. I remember a few times where we ate often the Salvation Army food truck, you know? So, that was something that -- you know, had the Salvation Army not been there, maybe I would have missed a meal that night or those few nights. But what the government does for us here is very helpful. At the same time, we do have to take responsibility for ourselves.

STARR: Oh, by the way, this opera singer would also like to do other things.

HOWARD: Voice-overs. This is CNN.


STARR (on-camera): Soloman Howard will tell you that music and opera have set him free from the time he was just three years old and his mother stood him on a table in church to sing. And no surprise, he's a huge advocate of music education for children, even if it's funded by the government.

He says help is vital for so many, and you never know what gifts a young child has to offer, unless, they get the bit of help if they need it.

BERMAN: Barbara, that was great. We can't get over his voice. We can't get over how low his voice was. We're sitting here going like, no, that can't be real.

STARR: OK. I have to tell you, then. When he went loose with, "Lord, what a morning," I stepped back. I thought I would be blown over by the sheer power of this young man's voice. It is him. It is just unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: You have to share more of that tape. (LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Snippets on our website. That was just really incredible. And a powerful story coming from him as well. We appreciate it.

STARR: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Barbara. Thank you.

STARR: Thank you so much.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-eight minutes past the hour. A moment of triumph quickly turns a bit scary at the hockey rink. Oh!


SAMBOLIN: Goodness! More of that video and the story behind the video coming up.


BERMAN: It is 52 minutes after the hour. John Berman along with Zoraida Sambolin. We're taking a look at what is trending on the internet this morning.

SAMBOLIN: A news anchor in La Crosse, Wisconsin took on a viewer who personally attacked her in an e-mail and used it as an opportunity to call attention to bullying. The viewer accused Jennifer Livingston of being a poor example to young girls. Why? Because she's overweight. She said that while the e-mail was hurtful to her, she's more concerned about children who are bullied.


JENNIFER LIVINGSTON, WKBT NEWS ANCHOR: If you are at home and you were talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach our kids how to be kind, not critical, and we need to do that by example.


SAMBOLIN: Atta girl!

BERMAN: Yes, absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: That was fantastic. Livingston also said she was comforted that so many people reached out to support her with very kind words once that e-mail was made public.

BERMAN: Don't mess with news anchors.

SAMBOLIN: That's right.

BERMAN: All right. Now, time to take you down, down to Toon Town. The Cartoon Network, our corporate cousin, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a video showing you the evolution of Toon. Take a look.





BERMAN: Now, the network launched in 1992 and turned to (ph) broadcasting $320 million purchase of the Hannah-Barbera Library, plus NGM Film Library, which that includes Tom and Jerry. And there you see it, Mr. Fred Flinstone.


BERMAN: -- by the likes of Peter Griffin over the years. Awesome!

SAMBOLIN: And in sports, anything can happen on field or in the rink and shown by a youth hockey player in New Jersey. He was so excited about scoring a goal that he celebrated by throwing himself into the glass on the side of the rink which shattered into a million pieces. Here's the good news -- no one was hurt

BERMAN: Oh, thank goodness.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up, a crash test, a different kind of crash test, to the ultimate extreme - I'm pausing. That's why. Look at that. Amazing! A 727 with crash test dummies, 40 cameras and a crew of daring pilots crashes on purpose. What did the expert learn? You could survive, could you?

Does bracing for the impact help? Next hour, we'll hear from two team leaders on this, accident investigator and survivor ability expert, Dr. Tom Barth and biomedical engineer and professor, Dr. Cindy Bir.

Plus, bullies prank a school for the deaf, and it all backfires big time when Taylor Swift comes to the rescue. That story also ahead. EARLY START back after the break.


BERMAN: We are counting down to tonight's Obama/Romney face-off. And last night, we got a late night debate preview.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Yes, it's a big deal. I understand they're going to have fact checkers standing by in case either candidate happens to say something factual. You know, I don't think it's going to happen.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Everyone is looking for some kind of sign as to who will win the debate. In fact, one group of researchers is saying that presidential candidates who blink less during a debate are more likely to win the election. Or as Michele Bachmann put it, maybe I can get back in this thing?


FALLON: Hey! There you go.

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": The presidential debates will be streamed live on YouTube. Anyone going to watch it on YouTube? Yes. As a result, both candidates have been busy learning how to dance Gangnam Style.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Mitt Romney and Snooki are back in the news today. Mitt Romney was asked live with Kelly and Michael who he liked better, Snooki or Honey Boo Boo. He picked Snooki.

And apparently, Snooki heard about it, and she told "The Daily News" it was awesome, but she said she still hasn't decided who she's voting for. Before she makes up her mind, she wants to stick a few more facts into her head hole and rattle them around.


KIMMEL: But I didn't realize Snooki was tall enough to vote, to be honest.


KIMMEL: You should be allowed to vote or be on "Jersey Shore," not both of them.


KIMMEL: You have to figure she's going to vote for Obama, right? I mean, she might be the only person in America who really is better off now than she was four years ago.




BERMAN: Even Snooki should watch the debates tonight on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: All right. EARLY START continues right now.