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THE SITUATION ROOM
Libyan Rebel Forces Fighting in Gadhafi Home Town; Swiss Providing Indirect Diplomatic Communication between U.S. and Iran; President Sends Military Advisers to Uganda; Thousands of Shoulder Mounted Rocket Launcher Weapons Missing in Libya; Congress Continues to Investigate Solyndra Bankruptcy; Rick Perry Seeks Rebound; Air Traffic Controller Errors; Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Journey in Frat Brother's Eyes
Aired October 14, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers here in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now, it could be the final battle for control of Moammar Gadhafi's hometown. This hour new video of the fighting in Libya up close an intense. Gadhafi's loyal forces maybe cornered right now. We're going there.
Republican Rick Perry tries to pump new energy into his presidential bid. His wife describes the campaign as being brutalized. What would it take to put Perry back on top of the polls?
And air traffic controllers in the United States are making twice as many mistakes as they used to. Stand by for a frightening new aviation safety report.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But let's get to breaking news right now. The United States about to deploy troops to Africa at a time when U.S. forces are already strained. So is the Pentagon's budget. A brand new U.S. military mission is unfolding right now in a very, very dangerous part of the world. We're talking about central Africa where some U.S. ground forces have already landed in Uganda. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us with more on what's going on. A lot of people are surprised to see the Obama administration make this major decision. Barbara, what's going on?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a very dangerous new mission for U.S. special forces in this part of Africa. The Pentagon says they are going to be fully equipped to take on whatever comes their way.
STARR: President Obama is sending 100 combat equipped troops to central Africa to advise local forces on getting rid of one of the continent's most vicious operatives, Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord's Resistance Army, a group responsible for atrocities across the region. It's the first open deployment of U.S. ground combat power to Africa since the black hawk down incident in Somalia in the 1990s that killed 18 troops. U.S. troops may wind up now in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. It's part of the growing military effort to engage in Africa.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: And so our presence on the African continent is part of our network of building partners, of gaining intelligence.
Still, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns current budget cuts could risk it all at a time when the threat to Americans is rising. General Carter Ham oversees all operations on the continent. His major worry, Al Qaeda in Africa's threat to Americans. Right now, he says, Al Qaeda groups in Somalia as well as Algeria, Mali, and Nigeria are trying to join forces.
GENERAL CARTER HAM, U.S. AFRICA COMMANDER: At least the stated intent for those organizations to collaborate and synchronize, which if they are able to do so, would establish an extremist link network, if you will, that would extend from Somalia across the north into the Sahel and then into west Africa. And that network would be very dangerous not only to us as Americans but clearly to the Africans as well.
STARR: General Ham, along with the Central Intelligence Agency, is focused on targeting the militant al Shabaab group in Somalia, which is recruiting American Somalis for terrorist training.
HAMM: There are clearly some smaller number camps where there is the presence of foreign fighters. I believe there is an intent to train foreign fighters for external operations, both in Africa and in Europe and potentially back to the United States.
STARR: Now, Wolf, these troops on their way to central Africa that the White House announced, the White House is adamant they are military advisers only, advising African military forces on how to hunt down this man. But you and I know, military advisory operations, Wolf, can suddenly take any turn at any point.
BLITZER: This is one of the most dangerous parts of Africa right now, and a lot of Americans are going to be asking the question, why is the United States sending these ground combat forces to advise these Africans in this long running battle. Why aren't other Africans doing it? Or why aren't Europeans coming in to try to get the job done? Why does the United States always have to send in its own ground forces to deal with the very dangerous situation like this?
STARR: Well, you know, Wolf, the U.S. Special Forces, especially U.S. Green Berets, have a very long standing effort in Africa -- actually, along with the French forces -- to train African military forces and get them up to speed to do this sort of thing.
But it has gotten to the point where this man who heads this militant movement in Africa is responsible for thousands of atrocities against African civilians. There has been a decision to go after him, but it will depend on many African nations being willing to accept these U.S. forces and accept the help. Make no mistake, it is a very dangerous, very sensitive mission that they are undertaking.
BLITZER: it reminds me of some of the most dangerous missions, black hawk down in Somalia. A lot of our viewers will remember that. We're going stay on top of this story. We're getting reaction. Spoke to Senator John McCain a little while ago, the ranking member of the Senate armed services committee. He's got his own reservations that he's expressing already. Barbara, thank you.
Let's get to the battle for Libya right now. CNN has now obtained some really remarkable video of the fighting in Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte. Troops with the transitional government say they're in the final stages of rooting out Gadhafi's loyalists. Look at this video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to go right now, man. We'll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Really amazing video. Let's go to Libya now. Our senior international correspondent Dan Rivers is joining us. He's in Misrata not far from Sirte. Dan, you've shot your own video as well. Tell us what's going on, because it looks brutal.
DAN RIVERS, CNN Senior INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've been here for the last four days in Sirte, Wolf, and it has been brutal. That's the only word to describe it really. They have been pummeling Sirte, the revolutionary forces, trying to clear out the last vestiges of Colonel Gadhafi's regime effectively before they can declare that Libya is liberated. But those Gadhafi forces are putting up very stiff resistance, and there is no sign at the moment they are managing to get them out of district two, which is the last area that they hold.
We've seen today the NTC forces being pushed back by sniper fire, but explosions. It's not clear if those were coming from the Gadhafi side or if it's sort of friendly fire, their own mortars falling short. But they have taken a lot of casualties today as they have done every day this week. And I think it's just showing how difficult this is going to be to get the last of these forces.
On top of all that, Wolf, there have been disturbances this evening in Tripoli as well, about a handful of pro-Gadhafi forces coming out and engaging NTC fighters there. So I think it's a little premature to say this is all over. It's certainly not over yet.
BLITZER: And Moammar Gadhafi, he's still on the run someplace. No one seems to know where. What about his sons?
RIVERS: Yes, we have this rumor yesterday that one of his sons had been captured in Sirte. Since then, the NTC has rode back from that, another example of false information coming out through one means or another. That now seems to be very doubtful that he has been captured.
As for Colonel Gadhafi himself, you're right. No one knows for sure where he is. Some people coming out of Sirte claim that they had seen him in the last few days, but frankly, you know, there's so many rumors and council rumors in this war. It's very difficult to pin it down.
But one thing's for sure. The pro Gadhafi forces in Sirte are dug in and are fiercely resisting, and that's causing some of the NTC commanders on the ground to think there must be some high valued targets there they're protecting.
BLITZER: Dan Rivers on the scene for us. We'll check back with you. Thank you.
The United States is launching a new operation inside Libya to try to track down hundreds of those shoulder fired missiles that are still missing and could fall into the hands of terrorists. Brian Todd is following this part of the story, some disturbing new developments. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. officials tell us some of these weapons were destroyed by airstrikes, but clearly not enough to make anyone comfortable. American teams now on the ground in Libya to track what's missing, and considering the track record of these missiles, they've got to move fast.
TODD: It's every pilot and passenger's nightmare. November, 2003 a DHL cargo jet is struck by a missile as it flies over Iraq. With fire and fuel spewing out of the wing, the plane was able to return safely to Baghdad. But over the past 35 years, more than 800 people on commercial flights have been killed after being hit by heat seeking, shoulder fired missiles. In Libya today they've been everywhere. U.S. officials say Gadhafi stockpiled 20,000 of them. Rebels got their hands on many of those. And now there's a big concern.
GEN. CARTER HAM, COMMANDER, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: There are some worrying indicators, not hard evidence, but certainly enough indicators to cause me to be concerned that some of these portable air defense systems have left Libya.
TODD: U.S. officials won't give numbers, but weapons experts say hundreds, possibly thousands of shoulder fired missiles, have vanished from Libya. Now U.S. officials are stepping up and operation mission to track down and destroy these killers. They're sending in more than a dozen experts to work with the National Transitional Council, the former rebels.
ANDREW SHAPIRO, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: They are working on the ground in Libya, visiting ammunition sites to identify and inventory what exists, what may be missing, and to help destroy and disable whatever they find. TODD: For now, Andrew Shapiro says, these teams are staying inside Libya.
(on camera) Former U.N. weapons inspectors I spoke with say that and other issues could really hinder those teams. They say to really track and recover the missiles, they've got to have more people on the job and have got to venture outside Libya, maybe even deal with underworld traffickers. The State Department says they're working with neighboring countries to do the tracking. Part of that effort is distribute these fliers to border guards in those countries so they can recognize what to look for.
(voice-over) Matt Schroeder tracks shoulder fired missiles for the Federation of American Scientists.
(on camera) Why are these weapons so attractive to terrorists?
MATTHEW SCHROEDER, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: The missiles are guided, which means that after the missile leaves the launch tube, it guides itself to the target, requiring no additional action on the part of the user. They're lightweight, 35 to 40 pounds generally.
TODD: They can also fit in the trunk of a car. And when you pop them out, experts say you've got instant, deadly range. These missiles can hit planes flying as high as 15,000 feet. They can hit them from up to three miles away, and they move at twice the speed of sound.
BLITZER: A lot of officials have expressed deep concern about the black market because these are pretty valuable and they could fetch a good dollar.
TODD: That's what really scares you. That weapons expert Matt Schroeder says one type of shoulder fired missile, it's called the SA- 7. He says it's the most commonly tracked weapons system in the world, the fastest spreading weapon system on the black market. He says it's the most common hi found weapon outside government control. Translation, it is all over the black market. Everybody's got these things. That's what makes it so scary.
BLITZER: The great fear is terrorists are going to buy some.
BLITZER: Thanks, Brian, for that report.
The Obama administration is complaining directly to Iran about an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. We're getting a look at how the U.S. is getting its message across. New information coming in.
And Republicans ask some angry questions about a possible cover up in the Solyndra loan controversy. Was someone trying to protect the energy secretary of the United States Steven Chu? Stand by. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Let's get some more on the breaking news we're following right now. President Obama has announced he's notified Congress formally that he's authorized the deployment of 100 ground U.S. troops to central Africa to deal with a bloody, bloody battle that's unfolding. The so-called Lord's Resistance Army, which the Obama administration is accused of killing tens of thousands of people throughout central Africa, 100 U.S. ground forces already now in Uganda. I spoke about in this last hour with the ranking Republican member of the Senate arms service committee, Senator John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: So, I think that actions need to be taken to help these countries combat particularly Uganda and its neighbors to combat this LRA. But I also want to be very careful we don't get into another Lebanon or another Somalia. And I'm not saying we will, but we've got to be very careful.
And I think it requires more consultation with Congress and the American people again. You don't want to get into something that you can't get out of.
And so, I certainly applaud the goal. I would like to know more and I think the American people should know more as to exactly how we're going to do it. Remember we sent peace keepers into places before that ended in tragedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Lot of people remembering black hawk down in Mogadishu, Somalia about 20 years ago.
Other news we're following, just days after learning about the alleged Iranian plot in Washington, we're getting surprising new details about a direct meeting between the United States and Iran.
Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is joining us now. She's just out of a meeting with the person who represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran. Jill, what's going on?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that happens to be the Swiss ambassador, and her name is Livia Leu Agosti. Why the Swiss ambassador? Well, the United States and Iran, as we know, do not have diplomatic relations. They broke them off in 1980 after the Iran hostage crisis. And the Swiss are what's called the protecting power. In other words, Ambassador Leu is really the confidential channel between two countries that don't talk to each other.
DOUGHERTY: The Iranians called in your charges de affair. What is it like? What happens when they call you?
LIVIA LEU AGOSTI, SWISS AMBASSADOR TO IRAN: Well, they call you, the embassy. They ask us to come to the foreign ministry, which we do rather quickly normally and we have received by the person responsible for American affairs who gives us whatever he wants to give us to pass on.
DOUGHERTY: Is it verbal or a letter? Yell if they're not happy.
AGOSTI: It can be either way. Normally, they don't yell at us.
DOUGHERTY: What's it like to be in the middle because you are the Swiss ambassador, but also representing the interest of the United States?
AGOSTI: Well, as you said, Jill first and foremost, I am the Swiss ambassador and have to come with this. That makes it only possible to represent the American interest, a country that does not have diplomatic relations.
DOUGHERTY: Now, being in the middle, do you ever feel any type of tension between your role as the Swiss ambassador and representing interests of the United States?
AGOSTI: That's certainly part of the trick of my job, to be able to maintain relations on a Swiss level if you will, with the authorities in order to be able to represent the American interests.
DOUGHERTY: And you played a major role, of course, with the American hikers. You visited them a number of times. What do you do when you visit them? You're in the prison. What happens?
AGOSTI: Well, I -- first of all, it's not so easy to get to that point. I had to make many, many requests. And was not always granted access, but I could visit them several times. And it was very important, these meetings, I must say, and they have confirmed it to me now. I have seen them back in freedom. You go -- you bring them some kind of hope, to make sure, are you OK, how are they treated? We have to ask a number of questions, how they're doing, and also, bring them a little bit of the outside world into the prison.
DOUGHERTY: Yes, so it's not an easy job and the interesting thing is, you've got two things. One positive, which was the hikers, and then right after that, this assassination plot. So she's earning her money as a diplomat.
BLITZER: She certainly is. Jill, speaking about another diplomat, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, she had a direct meeting with her Iranian counterpart at the United Nations over this alleged plot to kill Adel al Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador in Washington. What happened?
DOUGHERTY: Well, that's a pretty rare thing. Usually, the United States is not talking with the Iranian. Occasionally maybe they bump each other directly in a hallway or something. But this is something where the United States really wanted to send a message. And here's how Victoria Nuland, the press secretary here at the State Department, explained it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKES WOMAN: It was to have a face to face meeting to say to them this is absolutely unacceptable and we will hold you to account.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGHERTY: So, very curt, "hold you to account." Obviously, it was not negotiations, anything like that. It was to deliver that message, Wolf.
BLITZER: And no word yet from Saudi Arabia whether they're severing diplomatic relations, taking any punitive economic or commercial actions against Iran for allegedly trying to kill Ambassador Adel al Jubeir?
DOUGHERTY: So far not. But, Wolf, I think you have to say they are prepared to do something. Now, what exactly they will do and when they do it -- but it is a serious thing they are looking at. They evaluate it as being very serious. Stay tuned. We'll see.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jill, for that.
Some Republicans are raising serious questions about a possible cover up by the Obama administration in the so-called Solyndra loan scandal. We're going to tell you what a new Congressional hearing has uncovered.
Plus, after some dramatic stumbles on the road to the White House, can Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry reset his campaign? Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Here in Washington, Congress is taking another look today at the Solyndra loan controversy that's looming over the Obama administration. One of the most combustible words in Washington politics surfaced when Republicans raised the specter of a cover up.
Lisa Sylvester has been following the story very closely for us.
So what happened today, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of twists and turns with this one, Wolf. Republicans want to know who at the department of energy signed out of on a half-a-billion-dollar loan to Solyndra that filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. And they have been combing through tens of thousands of e-mails and documents. And now, some GOP lawmakers want Secretary Chu to testify.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Angry Republicans didn't mince words questioning whether there was an attempt to protect Energy Secretary Steven Chu as it became apparent the government would likely lose $535 million in the Solyndra deal. In a key February 2011 memo, the Department of Energy's chief counsel offered what she believed was a legal justification for restructuring the Solyndra loan.
But there are two versions of the memo, one obtained by subpoena, which is a draft entitled "Memorandum for the secretary," the other a final version from DOE where reference to Secretary Chu was removed. Republicans played this up in a House subcommittee hearing.
REP. LEE TERRY (R), NEBRASKA: Why in a subsequent one they felt it was necessary to erase his name out there and to try and hide the original January memo. I think those are important questions to ask because it looks like there's a cover up to protect Dr. Chu.
SYLVESTER: Ranking Democrats angrily accused Republicans of trying to create a false scandal.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) COLORADO: I think these allegations flying around about cover up are exactly the problem with this investigation.
SYLVESTER: The original focus of the hearing was whether the Department of Energy followed the law when it agreed to the longer restructuring, including a subordination clause that meant taxpayers would be paid after investors if Solyndra filed for bankruptcy. Republicans say that was illegal.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Well, you can't ignore the law. The law is very clear. This is the law on subordination. It's just one sentence. It says you can't do it, and yet they went and got a legal opinion anyway?
SYLVESTER: The Energy Department says restructuring the loan was the best chance of taxpayers recouping the initial $530 million invested in Solyndra, and that the law allows the energy secretary to act in the best interest of the taxpayer. It "-- provides that the loan guarantee agreement shall contain such detailed terms and conditions as the Secretary determines appropriate to protect the United States in a default."
But newly released e-mails show Treasury officials expressed skepticism with this legal argument. One e-mail saying, "I think they may have stretched this definition beyond its limits."
SYLVESTER: Democrats on the committee though, they are arguing what this is all about, they say, is that it's Republicans trying to gut clean energy investments in favor of coal and nuclear technology. Several Democratic lawmakers made the point that green jobs are the industries of the future, and that it is important for the government to put its resources behind these types of companies, even though we have -- and we saw what happened with Solyndra. They still say it's very important that we proceed down this road.
BLITZER: Yes, there's going to be a lot more investigation, I'm sure, Lisa. Thank you. Now to the Republican presidential race.
Rick Perry is looking to reignite his campaign today with a new energy plan. The Texas governor delivered his first major policy address since joining the race in August. Speaking in Pennsylvania, Governor Perry vowed to expand domestic oil and gas exploration and create jobs in the process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, today I offer a plan that will create more than a million good-paying American jobs across every sector of the economy and enhance our national security. And the best news is it can be set in motion in the first 100 days of my administration. And my plan is based on this simple premise: make what Americans buy, buy what Americans make, and sell it to the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Governor Perry's hoping to rebound from a significant slide in the polls and some stumbles in the debates. His wife claiming his campaign has been "brutalized" in recent weeks.
Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
They're really trying to reset, Gloria, the campaign right now.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. They believe in the campaign that, in a way, they need to reintroduce Rick Perry to American voters.
So he went on a media blitz this morning, appearing on all the morning shows. He gave this speech on energy. But the truth is, Wolf, we've heard this from him about energy in the past.
He promised in the last debate that he was going to come up with a jobs program, and his campaign said this is just one prong of a multi- pronged bill, measure that he would like to use to create jobs. But Perry has been complaining that he's new to the race, he hasn't had a lot of time. And he says, look, Romney's been running for four years, that's why he has a 59-point plan, you've got to give me more time.
My question would be, if you don't have the ideas, why are you getting into race? You shouldn't need that much time to come up with ideas and generate ideas. Ideas are why people ideally become presidential candidates.
BLITZER: Because he had said at the debate the other night he was going to come up this week with his employment, his jobs creation plan, but he came up with an energy plan to create some jobs.
BORGER: Right. And he says this is one part of it, right, and there will be more. But the question is, why isn't it all coming out now? Because you should have the ideas before you run.
BLITZER: Because that chock is clearly ticking. There's not much time left when you think about it.
BLITZER: It's still pretty unsettled, this whole Republican contest.
BORGER: Very unsettled, except for one person -- Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is the only person who seems to be at a certain percentage and can't get off of it. Take a look at this.
We looked at the unfavorable rating numbers in "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC polls between June and October, and you see here, Mitt Romney doesn't budge much -- 26 percent in June, 20 percent in October unfavorable. Rick Perry 15 percent unfavorable in June, and look at that number in October, 36 percent, more than doubled.
And I guarantee you, Wolf, that that decline has an awful lot to do with what people expected to see from Rick Perry and what they actually got in those presidential debates. That's why on Tuesday, it will be really interesting to see how he performs in Vegas.
BLITZER: At our CNN Republican presidential debate in Vegas.
He's got to though at some point get above, let's say, 30 percent in these national polls among registered Republicans.
BORGER: Yes, he does. He has to kind of break through. And Romney has a problem there.
What he's got to do is break through with those Tea Party voters, the conservatives who are very, very skeptical about him. This week, we spoke with Mark Skoda, who's the Memphis Tea Party chairman, and there seemed to be a lot of give there, and here's what he told us.
He said, "The last perfect person I recall is Jesus. We have had the rhetoric. Now we want some steadiness."
If Tea Partiers like Mark Skoda are coming along and saying look, folks, we need to get behind a candidate because we need to endorse somebody who can beat Barack Obama, give up on the purity, then I think you'll see Mitt Romney's numbers going up.
BLITZER: And at some point, if he selects as a running mate -- assuming he gets the Republican nomination -- someone like Marco Rubio, the very popular conservative senator from Florida, that would certainly help with a lot of those Tea Party supporters.
BORGER: You bet. You bet.
BLITZER: All right, Gloria. Thank you.
President Obama went to the battleground state of Michigan today to focus on issue number one in the election, jobs. He visited a General Motors assembly plant, along with the South Korean president, to talk about jobs created by a new trade deal with South Korea and by the auto industry bailout. The White House says more than 17,000 jobs at the assembly plant were saved on the president's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of politicians who said it wasn't worth the time and wasn't worth the money. In fact, there are some politicians who still say that.
Well, they should come tell that to the workers here at Orion, because two years ago, it looked like this plant was going to have to shut its doors. All these jobs would have been lost, the entire community would have been devastated. And the same was true for communities all across the Midwest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: South Korean President Lee borrowed a page from American politicians, showing up at the Michigan event wearing a Detroit Tigers cap.
A fighter jet nose-dives into a ball of flames. We're going to have the horrifying footage and the latest on what happened.
And a startling number of close calls. What's behind the increase in mistakes made by U.S. air traffic controllers?
BLITZER: A Catholic bishop indicted. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what happened?
SYLVESTER: That's right, Wolf.
Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph have been indicted on a charge of failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest, according to prosecutors. The misdemeanor carries a sentence up to one year in jail, as well as a potential thousand- dollar fine for the bishop. The diocese may also be fined. Both are pleading not guilty to the allegations.
And horrifying footage of a fighter jet nose-diving into a ball of flames. It happened during an air show in northwest China.
A local official says one pilot was injured and another is now missing. State run news is quoting witnesses who say one pilot ejected from that plane, but the parachute failed to fully open due to a low altitude. An investigation is now under way.
And humans are not the only ones being plagued by the deadly floods battering Thailand. A number of elephants are stranded. They climbed on top of a building last week, but they're now going hungry because food can only be provided in smaller amounts. Elephants can swim, but the younger ones could drown in an attempted escape.
And actor Steven Seagal is starring in a new role, but not on the big screen. "The San Antonio Express" reports he has been sworn in as a deputy with the sheriff's office in Texas, where he'll be helping secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
Seagal's previous work as a reserve deputy in Louisiana was once captured on a TV program. The sheriff's office, they are insisting that this new gig, that it is not for publicity, that it is the real deal.
But it sounds a little bit -- what do they say, art imitating life, or life imitating art?
BLITZER: You don't want to mess around with Steven Seagal, period.
SYLVESTER: Yes, I know.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
New evidence that air traffic controllers are making a lot of mistakes. So stand by to find out why there's been such a jump in the number of close calls.
BLITZER: A new report is revealing frightening findings about the number of errors air traffic controllers are making on the ground and in the skies right here in the United States.
Mary Snow is working the story for us.
What do we now know, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this increase is steep, and the FAA and air traffic controllers say they expected reported mishaps to spike. And that's because of the new reporting system designed to make flying safer.
One of the congressmen who requested this study told us today that it's a wake-up call for be better technology and better policy.
SNOW (voice-over): It is this kind of close call on JFK's runway in June that's on the radar of a government watchdog reporting an increase in mishaps. The Lufthansa jet about to take off was forced to come to an abrupt halt to avoid colliding with another plane approaching the runway.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Cancel takeoff plans.
PILOT: Lufthansa 411 heavy is rejecting takeoff.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: All traffic is stopped right now.
SNOW: There were no injuries, but while congressional overseers point out that U.S. air space is among the safest in the world, they report a steep increase in air safety incidents.
(on camera): The Government Accountability Office says the rate of errors by air traffic controllers has more than doubled in the last three years when it comes to airborne incidents. It counts five in the second quarter of 2008 compared to 14 of the same time period this year. Among the biggest increases, the GAO counts a 53 percent increase in the tower area, which is normally within five miles of the airport, and a 166 percent jump in the approach area, which is within 40 miles of the airport.
(voice-over): The head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the increase is due to a new reporting system in which controllers aren't punished for reporting errors.
STEVE HANSEN, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOC.: I believe it shows that there's a healthy system out there where employees are comfortable and willing to report safety issues to management in order to address them. I think it shows it's very healthy.
SNOW: The FAA also points to the reporting system for the jump, saying, "More information will help us find problems and take action before an accident happens, which will help us build an even safer aviation system."
But a former air traffic controller is skeptical.
BILL VOSS, FLIGHT SAFETY FOUNDATION: A jump is inevitable as you change your reporting systems. You worry if you don't have a jump because you feel something hasn't worked.
You should see more reports occur, but when you look underneath these numbers, as GAO has done very carefully, you just can't explain everything away by a change of reporting. If it looks like there's some substance to it, too, then it has to be dealt with.
SNOW: Now, in this report, the GAO did make a number of recommendations, including that the FAA extend its oversight of terminal area safety. The FAA says it is now focusing on five areas, and that changes in both procedure and training are in the works -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow on the scene for us.
As always, thank you.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s rise to the helm of the civil rights movement is seen through the eyes of someone who knew him long before the rest of world. That and much more coming.
BLITZER: Dozens of new arrests in those Occupy Wall Street protests across the country. The demonstrations appear to be gaining steam even late in the day, and that's adding to suggestions that the movement is the left's version of the Tea Party. A Tea Party leader does say she does see some parallels, but there are clear differences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY KREMER, CHAIRWOMAN, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Well, everybody wants to compare these two movements, and we do agree that we're all mad as heck about the bailouts. But aside from that, I don't see that we have a lot in common.
I respect their First Amendment rights, their right to be there. I certainly respect that. But what is their objective? That's the difference in the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street. We have a clear and defined objective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Earlier today in New York the firm that owns the park where the protesters are staged backed off on its promise to clean the park which would have forced the protesters to leave, at least temporarily.
Just two days from now the world will pay tribute to legendary civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. right here in Washington when his monument on the National Mall is officially dedicated.
One of those behind it, a man who knew him before many of us did.
Here's our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Long before Martin Luther King, Jr. was carved in stone in the nation's capital, the foundation of his civil rights legacy began taking shape in Boston --
HERMAN HEMINGWAY, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.'S FRATERNITY BROTHER: That itself was an experience.
LOTHIAN: -- where Herman Hemingway, the only surviving member of Dr. King's pledge class in the historic black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha remembers a quiet, unassuming man whose intellect towered well above his height.
HEMINGWAY: We did have some degree of awe, but from the perspective of intellectuality. We knew he was going to go somewhere, he was going to be someplace.
LOTHIAN: Hemingway was a sophomore at Brandeis University in the fall of 1951, the first black male to enroll. King was pursuing his Ph.D. at Boston University. The young pledges combined from area schools would meet at Hemingway's home, where King, a few years older, had a way of making sure things got done.
HEMINGWAY: If there was an extra task that needed to be done, he would say in his notable voice, "Brother Hemingway will do it," that type of thing.
LOTHIAN: The determination Hemingway witnessed in their chaplain never faded as the marches and speeches began making headlines.
HEMINGWAY: This is a man that had his mind on doing a particular task to help others. You couldn't turn him around for any reason whatsoever, because that's what he was supposed to do.
LOTHIAN (on camera): To change history, to make it possible for black man to become president, and another, a Republican, to become a top- tier contender to challenge him.
HEMINGWAY: That's the exciting part of the civil rights movement and its accomplishment, and basically it's a hope that Martin Luther King generated.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): As Hemingway honors an old friend, he'll be sharing the moment with his family's next generation.
AMARACHI IWUH, HERMAN HEMINGWAY'S GRANDDAUGHTER: It's going to be breathtaking experience.
LOTHIAN: -- granddaughter Amarachi Iwuh, a sophomore at Howard University.
IWUH: My generation, we still have a lot of work to do. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he started the whole movement, but the movement is not done. We still need to be in the streets. We still need to be protesting.
LOTHIAN: A movement in motion and now set in stone.
HEMINGWAY: He's still here and the spirit is still there, and the determination also is still there.
LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: Sunday morning you'll see it all live here on CNN.
When we come back, biker versus antelope, video you're going to have to
BLITZER: Jeanne Moos has the story of biker versus antelope.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Biker, zero; antelope, one. Imagine the story this South African mountain bike racer will have to tell, run over by an antelope.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy cow.
MOOS: The only thing is, it's hard to tell a story when you don't remember what happened. EVAN VAN DER SPUY, TEAM JEEP SOUTH AFRICA: As the buck hit me, I was knocked unconscious, so I actually don't remember the actual experience myself.
MOOS: But we won't forget the moaning of 17-year-old Evan Van Der Spuy.
(on camera): What was that noise coming out of you?
SPUY: I didn't even know I could make those noises.
MOOS: For a minute I thought that that was the antelope.
(voice-over): Though Evan managed to stand up, he doesn't remember a thing until he was in an ambulance headed for an overnight stay in the hospital.
(on camera): Evan suffered whiplash and a concussion. Meanwhile, the buck was later spotted grazing as if nothing had happened.
(voice-over): The good news for Evan -- hey, it could have been a rhino.
The video was shot by a camera attached to his teammate's bike.
(on camera): How many times have you looked at the video?
SPUY: Hundreds. I'm still trying to make sense of it myself. It's just -- every time I look at it, it's one big shock.
MOOS: Maybe it's just payback. After all, we hit them all the time. Just last year I hit a deer.
(voice-over): And I had the deer hair stuck in my car's front grill to prove it.
That was traumatic enough, but this Colorado man was biking down a hill and hit a bear back in 2008.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This gigantic bear head with huge teeth was surprised to see me, and I was surprised to see him. I think it was almost like cartoon. We both screamed.
MOOS: Evan didn't have time to scream. He says his helmet, which was almost split apart by the impact, saved his life, and he expects the helmet maker to make a commercial.
(on camera): We can see it now.
BLITZER: Sorry about that, but we'll get that right the next time.
Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.