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THE SITUATION ROOM
Turkey Devastated by Large Earthquake; Moammar Gadhafi's Body to be Buried in Desert; President Criticizes Congress for Inaction; White House Announcing Executive Programs to Help Economy; Herman Cain Makes Seeming Pro-Choice Comments on Abortion; President Obama 'Can't Wait' for Congress; Mom Killed Shielding Kids From Bullets; One Man's Search for Family Identity
Aired October 24, 2011 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, escalating threats against the United States ambassador make America's deteriorating relationship with Syria even worse. This hour one diplomat recalled, and the embattled Assad regime under fire.
Plus, survivors are freed from earthquake rubble with shovels and even bare hands. In Turkey, the living face another kind of danger while the death toll climbs.
And a dramatic new misstep for Herman Cain on sacred ground for a lot of social conservatives. Will his remark about abortion drag him down from the top tier of the Republican presidential candidates?
We want to welcome our viewers from United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Obama administration is warning the Syrian government to stop a smear campaign against the U.S. ambassador to Damascus that could lead to new violence against him. Robert Ford has been called back it Washington to protect his safety just weeks after he was attacked by an armed mob in Syria. The Assad regime appears to be responding by recalling its ambassador to the United States. Tensions between these two countries rising higher and higher as Syria's bloody uprising goes on.
Let's go to the Middle East. Our own Arwa Damon is standing by in Beirut, watching what's happening in nearby Syria. What do we know, Arwa, about the latest threats against the United States ambassador Robert Ford?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we don't know details. All we do know is that there have been what the U.S. is calling credible threats geared specifically against him. The U.S. was saying that these are personal threats. They were personally worried about the ambassador's safety.
The embassy itself is still open, still functioning. Other staff have not been withdrawn alongside the ambassador, rather taken out of country alongside the ambassador. But this has been coming up for quite some time now. There's been a lot of concern about the ambassador security because he has become such a controversial figure inside Syria and a number of his actions and his statements have absolutely enraged the Syrian government and enraged the government supporters.
BLITZER: He's been really on forefront, when you say courageous, courageous indeed in going to some of the areas where there have been violent disturbances protests against Bashar al Assad regime. But he has been willing to risk his own life in doing that and willing to do it. But the Syrian government, I think it's fair to say, hates him.
DAMON: Well, they pretty much do appear to. In fact, all of this is stemming from statements that were being made, accusations made, on Syrian state television, saying that ambassador was running Iraq style death squads inside Syria.
The animosity towards Ambassador Ford really stems from his trip to Hama over the summer. He went there at the time when demonstrations were fairly large and the Syrian government was saying that terrorist armed gangs were about it enter the city. The ambassador went there. He was greeted with flowers, the demonstrators really showering him with gratitude and affection.
After that trip, a lot of the activists say that they believe that on that specific day he saved lives because he prevented, his presence there, prevent the Syrian military from entering the city at that specific point in time.
There have been a number of other occurrences too where he has gone out and gone to the funeral of prominent activist, but he has also come under fire not just in the state-run television, but also there have been times when his convoy, for example, has been attacked or he has been surrounded during meetings. So it is becoming a fairly precarious situation there.
BLITZER: And he is playing a very useful role especially because the Syrian government has not allowed the international news media to come in and get firsthand eyewitness accounts. He's been doing that to a large degree because he can move around. He has diplomatic immunity. But now he is back in Washington because of these threats.
So what do you make of the Syrian government's decision to recall its ambassador, long time ambassador here in Washington, Imad Moustapha, to come back to Damascus?
DAMON: It seems as if the Syrians themselves are also trying to make some sort of a statement. There's no clear indication right now that that action by the government is directly linked to what the U.S. decided to do. But that is most naturally the presumption.
The Syrians are in a very tricky situation. They are trying to maneuver themselves out of this uprising, out of this crisis. And they appear to be unable to figure out exactly what the proper strategy to put forward would be. And so at this point in time it seems as if their decision to recall their ambassador for consultations is just another play in the very intricate game happening right now.
BLITZER: Arwa Damon on the scene for us in Beirut. Arwa, thanks very much as usual.
Getting new details coming into THE SITUATION ROOM out of the Libya right now. New reports that Moammar Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi is in a desert near the borders with Niger and Algeria. Reuters is quoting a transitional government officials as saying that Saif al Islam Gadhafi is carrying a forged Libyan passport. Reuter's also reporting Gadhafi himself will be buried tomorrow in a simple ceremony in a secret location with Muslim clerics in attendance out in the desert at an undisclosed location.
Our senior international correspondent, Dan Rivers, is joining us now from Tripoli. First of all, Dan, we have no independent confirmation that any of these statements from this transitional official to Reuters are necessarily true. What are we hearing?
DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we got a similar call, first of all, about Saif al Islam being down in south of the country. Frankly, Wolf, there have been so many different reports that he is captured, he had his arm blown off, that he was in hospital, he was in custody, that he was surrounded, it is very difficult to take any of this seriously until we see proof. It may well turn to be out true, but until we see proof I think we have to be very, very cautious about these rumors about Saif al Islam.
In terms of the burial of Moammar Gadhafi himself, we were there today. The body is still there. People were still going in to see it. But they were trying to wrap it up, this bizarre public spectacle. They were trying to shut the gates. They were trying to close it down. That gave me the impression that there was something afoot in terms of moving the body to either bury it or hand it over to his tribal family.
Again, nothing concrete, no phone confirmation. But that Reuters report would tie in with what we see on the ground suggesting something was about to happen.
BLITZER: Because the official telling Reuters that the body decomposed to the point where the corpse cannot last much longer. So there's been a speculation now for several days that at some point they would have to bury the body. But they don't want a sign on it where people could congregation or whatever. They will just try to make the thing disappear. Is that right?
RIVERS: Yes. I imagine what they will do is drive hundreds of kilometers into the desert and literally bury him in the sand with no markings at all. They are hoping that will make this whole controversy go away. Of course it won't. We've got everyone from the U.N. to Human Rights Watch to Amnesty asking questions about the circumstances of his death.
I spoke to someone again today who claimed he saw the execution of Moammar Gadhafi, which is what he said it was, and his son. Again, I have no proof of what he is saying is right. But there is a lot of circumstantial evidence emerging suggesting that they weren't killed in crossfire.
But the strongest piece of evidence is the video of this, seen clearly in custody, clearly well enough to sit up and talk, and then somehow he winds up dead. There's been no explanation as to how that happened.
BLITZER: All right, Dan, we will stay on top of this story together with you, Dan Rivers on the scene with us in Tripoli.
In eastern Turkey, right now, a desperate scramble to find survivors in the earthquake wreckage, the death toll climbing after yesterday's powerful 7.2 earthquake. Turkey's semi-official news agency reporting 279 people dead, another 1,300 injured as of right now. CNN's Diana Magnay is joining us now from the disaster zone with more. It sounds awful, Diana, but give us the latest.
DIANA MAGNAY: Hi, Wolf. Well, I spent most of the day in one of the most affected towns in this very poor rural remote part of eastern Turkey, a town called Argeus. And this is what I saw there. A huge ongoing rescue operation to try and find the survivors of that quake. Let's take a look.
MAGNAY: Rescue workers picked through what's left of people's homes, hoping they are not too late to save lives. And there are some miraculous moments, a man pulled free after 24 hours, a toddler found soon after.
But for many, hope is already lost. Relatives bring their dead to a makeshift morgue. This man carrying the coffin of his nephew whose body he dug out from beneath a coffee house. "I have eight relatives missing," he says. It's a very sad day. I don't know what to do."
Survivors find shelter in tent cities set up by the Red Crescent, a canvas roof for people too squared to sleep under bricks and mortar, given the numerous aftershocks. A family had just come from a family wedding when the earthquake struck. "I have no house or furniture left," she says. "I only just managed to save my children's lives. I came outside and saw I had nothing left."
She spent Sunday night in freezing cold. Now at last she can keep her family warm and fed, though she is still waiting it hear the fate of many of her friends.
MAGNAY: Wolf, you are now seeing pictures. We have the camera trained on one of the search and rescue operations. And the head of the team here has told us that he has indications that there are two people still alive buried beneath that rubble. And bear in mind, we are now a good 36 hours from the time that quake struck. They brought in sniffer dogs and are using this censor technology to try and find those people. They have heavy machinery. They're been digging, and they're going to carry on despite the fact there are freezing temperatures. They are using flood lights, because interestingly, they don't want to restart the electricity for any of the affected areas where people are still working on the rescue efforts to protect the people working and protect the possible people inside. So we have -- we will be waiting to see whether anything does come of that. And obviously they won't give up until they found those people, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do they have any estimates, credible estimates, Diana, the numbers you've heard, of how many people they believe are still missing at this point? We know how many are officially dead and how many are officially injured, but how many are missing?
MAGNAY: There isn't a number that they have been circulating. I think it's partially because the quake struck on a Sunday afternoon when people were out and about, schools obviously out. And in a way, that was a blessing, Wolf because if it struck in the middle of the night when people were asleep under their roofs and bricks and mortar, the casualties might have been much higher. But it has been difficult, really, out of their home at a specific time.
That said, these are quite small community, especially the town I was in earlier. And everybody there knows each other. You really get a sense that everybody is missing friends, everybody is missing family. And therefore even if it is just a sort of organic way of counting and assessing who is around and who's not, they've been able to do it. But as far as official figures, that's not something we have, Wolf.
BLITZER: And one thing we have to worry about are aftershocks, as well. Be careful over there, Diana. Thanks very much. We will stay in close touch with you, Diana Magnay on the scene.
And this important note to all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world, it find out how can you help all of these devastated by the earthquake and turkey. Visit our "Impact your World" page at CNN.com/impact. You'll do important work if you do.
Republican Herman Cain on damage control over remarks he made right here on CNN about abortion. His rivals are pouncing and likening his position to President Obama's.
And the president is in Las Vegas right now hoping to earn some quick cash for his campaign. We will tell you where he hopes to strike gold out west.
And stand by to find out how long the fire from an oil rig blowout could keep on burning and burning and burning.
BLITZER: The president of the United States is speaking in Las Vegas right now. We're monitoring what he is saying. We're going to check in -- actually, let's listen in briefly.
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here to say to all of you and to say to the people of Nevada and the people of Las Vegas, we can't wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won't act I will.
In recent weeks we decided to stop waiting for Congress to fix No Child Left Behind and decided to give states the flexibility they need to help our children meet higher standards. We took steps on our own to reduce the time it takes for small businesses to get paid when they have a contract with the federal government. And without any help from Congress, we eliminated outdated regulations that will save hospitals and patients billions of dollars.
Now these steps aren't substitutes for the bold action that we need to create jobs and grow the economy, but they will make a difference. So we're not going to wait for Congress. I've told my administration to keep looking every single day for actions we can take without Congress, steps that can save consumers money, make government more efficient and responsive, and help heal the economy. And we're going to be announcing these executive actions on a regular basis.
Now today, what I want to focus on --
BLITZER: All right, so the president of the United States making it clear he can't wait any longer. Those are key words "We can't wait." He says if Congress can't get its act together and approve what he wants, the Obama administration will take unilateral action and engage in some executive orders taking action on housing, student loans, other issues. We'll keep watching the president.
But let's go to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. He's traveling with the president in Las Vegas right now. The president making remarks at this event but also at a campaign event, a fundraising event a little while ago. Set the scene for us, Dan. What's going on in Vegas?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And that's just one of six fundraisers that the president will be attending across three states. According to a Democratic official he is expected to haul in more than $4.2 million over the next three days. And that event you were talking about at Bellagio hotel, the president speaking to some 300 supporters, saying that he needs their help, point out that not only has there been an economic crisis, but that also there is a political crisis in Washington, and the president is making it very clear that understands their frustrations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Things are tough right now. But I want everybody to remember what we have accomplished, because of you, what we have accomplished because of you.
As tough as things are right now, we were able to stabilize this economy and make sure it didn't go into a great depression, because of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LOTHIAN: Now Republicans are targeting the president's robust fundraising effort releasing the RNC web ad, a new web ad in which they criticize the president for spending more time trying to protect his own job rather than get jobs for the millions of unemployed Americans. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nearly 14 million Americans are still out of work. For each new campaign office President Obama opens, there are over 15,000 new foreclosures. And for every million dollars Obama raises, $6.4 billion are added to our national debt. Don't you wish we had a president who cared about your job, not just his own?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Now, Wolf, to be fair, this is a balancing act that every president must deal with, Republicans and Democrat. They have to govern and fundraise for their next presidential election. And so that's why you see the president here as we were hearing about a few minutes ago, the president dealing with the issue of foreclosures here in Nevada, visiting a home of a family that had been dealing with the foreclosure issue, trying to show what his administration can do to help those who are trying to get into lower interest loans.
And later in the week the president trying to provide relief as well for college student or weighed down by college loans.
BLITZER: I expect we will see a lot more of these kinds of executives orders coming forward especially if the face of Congressional gridlock. Dan Lothian traveling with the president in Las Vegas, thank you.
In the Republican presidential rate, a new controversy for the rising star who says he has a bull's eye on his back. We are talking about Herman Cain. He is being accused of flip-flopping on an issue that so many social conservative's won't budge on, abortion. CNN's Joe Johns is here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" taking a closer look at this. All right, give us the background and tell us what is going on.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Herman Cain has been a strong advocate of anti-abortion positions for years, which is why it was worth noting when he appeared it make a distinction between his personal beliefs and what he would do if he ever gets to the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: The talk about abortion between the CNN's Piers Morgan and Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain started out pretty predictably.
HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that life begins at conception. And abortion under no circumstances --
JOHNS: But then Cain, who usually sounds like a conservative, adds that as president would he not impose his beliefs on families.
CAIN: So what I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make, not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family, and whatever they decide, they decide.
JOHNS: Reaction among social conservatives was not pretty. The word "choice" is code for almost everything the anti-abortion movement opposes. Bob Vanderplotz the powerful president of the Family Leader Christian Policy Organization in Iowa, said Cain had taken a pro- choice position. The competition on the campaign trail pounced, too.
RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision. If that is your view, you are not pro-life. You are pro having your cake and eating it too.
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can't be for -- be pro-life and then say people have a choice to do whatever they want.
JOHNS: Michele Bachmann pointed out that Cain's position sounded a lot like the Democrat now in the White House, which is true.
MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama also believes that the government should not intervene when it comes to the issue of abortion. I believe that the government must intervene.
JOHNS: Cain tried to change course, appearing on FOX News, announcing that abortion should not be legal. Meanwhile on the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said if elected president would he sign a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Problem is, presidential signatures are not required on constitutional amendments. One Republican strategist said Cain's best damage control may be to admit the mistake but blame it on being a new-comer to politics.
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What I would say is, look, that is exactly why I should be your nominee. I am not a politician. I just speak for my heart and speak from my knowledge. I speak from my head.
JOHNS: And Herman Cain certainly does seem it speak from his heart. He has said he believes the uproar over abortion was actually created by the way his comments have been edited. Wolf?
BLITZER: We will see about that. All right, thanks very much. Tough words indeed, Joe Johns, thank you.
America's deteriorating relationship with Syria gets even worse. I will ask the White House communications director about reports of death threats against the U.S. ambassador in Damascus.
And the tragic story after mother who was shot and killed as she tried to shield children from bullets. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: In Las Vegas just a little while ago, President Obama raising the stakes in a battle with Republican lawmakers over his jobs bill. You are looking at live pictures. He just wrapped up speaking. He is shaking his hands, working the rope line out in Vegas right now. He is now suggesting there are ways for the president to act without waiting for Congress.
Let's bring in White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. He is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Dan, thanks very much for coming.
DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Is this a way to go around Congress, sign executive orders, do what you can by yourself?
PFEIFFER: Well, in order to really solve our economic problems, we need these sort of bold, bipartisan solutions like the American jobs act. But if Congress is unwilling to act, this president will do what he can to help middle class families, grow the economy, and creates jobs. He will do what we can to press Congress to pass the American jobs act.
BLITZER: So we're going to see a whole series now -- because the gridlock is going to continue up on Capitol Hill. So I assume we will see a whole bunch of small and big issues that the president can take on his own.
PFEIFFER: Everything we can do to help this economy, the president will take the steps and we'll continue this as long as possible.
BLITZER: It is housing. It will take steps now on housing? Student aid later in the week, then what?
PFEIFFER: Some steps to help veterans get jobs when they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, efforts to make our government more efficient and effective to save money, help small business with research and development. Everything we can do, we are going to do.
BLITZER: But you won't create the enormous kinds of jobs you need to create with these relatively small bore initiatives you can do with executives orders.
PFEIFFER: Right, absolutely. This is not a substitute for the American jobs act. We still have to pass that so we can put money in the pockets of middle class families, create millions of jobs. But we can't wait, as this president said. So we're going to take every step we can, he's going to continue to push Congress every day, to do what they know they have to do which is take real steps to help this economy.
BLITZER: Because the Republicans and a few Democrats -- a handful of Democrats -- they rejected the president's jobs bill, at least so far. I want you to listen to what Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, the Minority Leader in the Senate, told our Candy Crowley yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION" about the president's overall, nearly $500 billion jobs bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: These bills are designed on purpose not to pass. I mean, the president is deliberately trying to create an issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Those are strong words. You don't really -- the president put forward this knowing it had no chance of getting, for example, those 60 votes, procedural votes in the Senate.
PFEIFFER: Well, I would say a couple things.
One, the bill has gotten a majority of the Senate. So, if it were not for Republican procedural tactics to filibuster this bill, then this bill could move forward.
BLITZER: Barely. You got 51, 50. But you need 60 in the Senate. That's the nature of business.
PFEIFFER: Well, we got 90 percent of Democrats and zero percent of Republicans. So -- even though all of the elements in this bill are things that Republicans have supported in the past. And so we designed the bill that we thought was exactly what this economy needed. It was all ideas or common sense, things supported by Republicans and Democrats in the past, and independent economists say it would create millions of jobs.
BLITZER: Has the president invited the Minority Leader in the Senate, or the Speaker, or Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader, to come to the White House and start talking about where you can agree. If you can't agree on all of it, maybe there are some pieces of it where you can agree.
PFEIFFER: Well, I think what they need to do first is decide whether they're going to do anything at all to help this economy. Today, the House of Representatives has, under the guise of some sort of jobs plans, has eliminated regulations from the EPA to further protect clean air and clean water. They spent time last week on a divisive abortion bill.
The question is, when are they going to get serious about --
BLITZER: Has there been any communication between the president and the Republican leadership?
PFEIFFER: We are always in contact with them. We work with --
BLITZER: Has the president personally been in contact with them?
PFEIFFER: He has been in contact with them. We work very closely --
BLITZER: Consulting (ph) with John Boehner's schedule or anything like that?
PFEIFFER: Nothing yet, but it could happen again. You never know. But we worked closely with Republican leadership to pass the free trade agreements.
BLITZER: There was cooperation on that.
BLITZER: Why was that signed in sort of secret instead of a big gala event? What happened there?
PFEIFFER: Well, we signed all three of them in front of the press, and the president had a reception for members of Congress.
BLITZER: That was behind the scenes. Why wasn't there a big East Room or Rose Garden signing ceremony?
PFEIFFER: Well, that ended up being, as you remember, the day in which the president spoke to Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq and had a major announcement to make to the American people, and that was important to do.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some other foreign policy issues while I have you right now.
This notion that the U.S. has withdrawn, brought back its ambassador from Damascus, Robert Ford, because of fears for his life, literally, by simply doing his job in Syria -- now he is back in Washington -- were you afraid they were going to try to kill him there?
PFEIFFER: Well, I think it is important to understand the overall situation here. Ambassador Ford is back here for regular scheduled meetings. As has been discussed, there have been threats. We're analyzing --
BLITZER: Threats on his life?
PFEIFFER: Threats on the ambassador, yes. And we are analyzing those threats to see what is credible. And our expectation is that he will return to Damascus in an appropriate time.
And I think it's important to note what a courageous and effective job he has done there, standing up for the rights of the Syrian people and standing up against the violence of that regime.
BLITZER: You expect him to go back at some point?
PFEIFFER: That is the expectation. We are looking at it. As we would with any threat, we're looking at this. BLITZER: Because he is a courageous diplomat, and he's really gone out on the forefront. He deserves a lot of credit. But if it's dangerous, you don't want to take any chances.
PFEIFFER: Of course not. We're going to make sure that his safety is protected, and we're going to look at all the threats. But as you say, he has been tremendously courageous. And he has been the example of what American diplomacy around the world is.
BLITZER: At what point do you expect the U.S. to raise the ante with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
PFEIFFER: We're going to continue to put pressure on them to do the right thing, and Ambassador Ford has been a huge part of that.
BLITZER: I understand sanctions and stuff like that, but what does that mean, continue to take steps? What are you going to do?
PFEIFFER: Well, we're going to continue to work with the international community to put pressure on them.
BLITZER: Through the United Nations Security Council?
PFEIFFER: Through every means we possibly can.
BLITZER: Because that's the way it started with Libya. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution, then NATO got involved and some of the Arab countries got involved. Would you expect a similar scenario to unfold as far as Syria is concerned?
PFEIFFER: I don't think you can compare every single -- treat each one of these nations the exact same way. But what we have done -- and this president has been very strong, and this administration is very strong condemning what's been happening in Syria, putting pressure on that regime. We're going to continue doing that and monitor what's going on there.
BLITZER: Dan Pfeiffer is the White House Communications Director.
Thanks for coming in.
PFEIFFER: Absolutely. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to update you on a massive oil rig fire in Texas that officials say could burn for a week.
And a New York City mother makes herself into a human shield, protecting children from hail of bullets. We're going to give you the tragic details when we come back.
BLITZER: Outrage in New York City after a woman is shot and killed trying to shield children from gang violence, and now community leaders are saying it's time to take a stand.
CNN's Mary Snow is following this tragic story for us.
Mary, a lot of people are hailing this woman as a hero. Tell us what happened.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a really heartbreaking story, Wolf.
This was an innocent bystander, a mother of 12, murdered across the street from an elementary school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Had it not been for her actions, the children she protected could have been the ones killed.
SNOW (voice-over): In neighborhood where gun violence is commonplace, this shooting, residents say, is where they draw the line: a mother of 12 killed in broad daylight trying to protect children from gunfire. The victim's mother is now pleading for help.
DENISE PEACE, MOTHER OF ZURANA HORTON: I'm hoping -- this is the third child I lost from gunshots.
SNOW (on camera): Zurana Horton had just picked up some of her children from that school over there Friday afternoon, when just minutes later, she was found dead.
(voice-over): She had been trying to shield several children from bullets. Police believe those bullets came from a gunman on a nearby rooftop possibly targeting a group of teens. A second woman was also shot and hospitalized. A bullet grazed an 11-year-old girl's cheek.
A grateful aunt remains stunned.
XIMIMIA HERNANDEZ, AUNT OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I don't even know how to thank that woman and her family. She sacrificed her life to save others. I mean, that's so sad. It's hard. It's horrible.
SNOW: Now the community is banding together.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Stop the violence! Stop the violence!
SNOW: Despite the fact that the shooting was daylight, on a busy street, community leaders say one of the biggest problems is the silence, people not willing to speak up.
BISHOP WILLIE BILLIPS, COMMUNITY LEADER: This no-snitch epidemic that's going around, you see something but you don't say nothing, it's just spread like a cancer. It's a disease.
SNOW: Police hope a $12,000 reward will bring leads.
Dee Zimmerman says she moved several years ago to a safer neighborhood, but she says her anger over Friday's shooting brought her back.
DEE ZIMMERMAN, FMR. RESIDENT: I left work to come down here to see what I can do to help out.
SNOW (on camera): Are you scared?
ZIMMERMAN: No. I'm not going to walk in fear. I am not going to walk in fear.
SNOW: But several people we did speak with say they do live in fear of constant shootings. They say they hope something will finally be done about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a tragic, tragic story.
Mary Snow, reporting from New York.
The man accused of trying to hire Mexican drug cartel hit men to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States appears in a New York courtroom. We're going to tell you what we are learning about there case.
And new polls gauge attitudes toward Wall Street and the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: New polling shows most Americans don't trust Wall Street bankers and brokers, but they're not quite sure what to make of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Lisa Sylvester is taking a closer look. She's got that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What's going on?
SYLVESTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf. There is a new CNN/ORC survey. It says about a thousand people, a majority of those folks, say Wall Street cannot be trusted to do what's right for the economy. But when it comes to the anti-Wall Street protests, only 32 percent of those surveyed have a favorable opinion. Just under 30 percent of those surveyed have an unfavorable opinion, and about four in 10 don't know one way or the other.
The prosecution has finished presenting its case in the involuntary manslaughter trial of Michael Jackson's doctor. Defense lawyers for Dr. Conrad Murray are expected to use the next three or four calling witnesses to challenge the allegations that Murray was reckless in administering the drug that caused Jackson's death. Closing arguments could come as soon as Friday.
And the man accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States has pleaded not guilty in a federal court in New York. Mansour Arbabsiar is accused of trying to hire hit men linked to a Mexican drug cartel to carry out that plot. Prosecutors say he has ties to the Iranian military.
And an oil rig fire in southeastern Texas has been contained, but officials say it could be up to a week until it's entirely out. The huge fire erupted after a blowout on the rig over the weekend. There are no reported injuries, and damages are being estimated at several million dollars -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
A new first in the Arab Spring uprising. Stand by for a live report on the election results in Tunisia just months after its long-time dictator was ousted.
And a new chapter for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in her recovery from a gunshot to her head.
BLITZER: It's a truly compelling story about one man's attempt to understand and accept his complicated interracial family. The new book, "My Long Trip Home," is written by Mark Whitaker, our CNN managing editor, executive vice president of CNN worldwide. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
It really is an amazing book, Mark. Congratulations on writing it.
I don't say it because I know you and you're a friend, but it really is a powerful book.
But tell our viewers who are not familiar with you or your family or your history why you wrote this book.
MARK WHITAKER, MANAGING EDITOR, CNN: Well, Wolf, I grew up with a lot of secrets in my family. My parents, who were an interracial couple in the 1950s, had to carry on in secret before they got married. There were a lot of secrets involved with their divorce seven years later. My father became an alcoholic, and there was a lot of secrecy around that. And probably, in some ways, that was what kind of unconsciously motivated me to become a journalist.
But I spent 30 years really focusing all my efforts on reporting everybody else's story, and a year after my father died, I decided that I wanted to use some of the very same techniques that I had learned in my career in journalism to actually go back and piece together the story of their lives.
BLITZER: Yes. And you do it in an amazing way. Jonathan Yardley's book review in "The Washington Post" notes that you're a journalist, and you write about all these personal aspects of your life, as a journalist would. You really went and did the documentation, the fact-checking, and all of this.
Somebody who reads this book, what do you hope they will emerge with?
WHITAKER: Well, there is a fascinating family story not just of my own family, but in the families of both of my parents.
So, my father grew up in black Pittsburgh. Both of his parents were undertakers. My grandfather had actually come from a farm in Texas. His father had been born a slave, started in the steel industry, and encountered a lot of racism there before he became an undertaker.
My mother's father was a French Protestant minister who, during World War II, helped hide thousands of Jews from Nazis.
So there's this very kind of multi-generational romantic part of the story leading up to their marriage and our early adventures as a family, but then there is also a more tragic and sad part, which is what happened after they got divorced. My dad, with his drinking to the point where he lost jobs, I had to nurse him through the DTs. My mother, so poor at one point, that she couldn't even afford Christmas gifts for my brother and me.
But it's a story, ultimately, about how we went through all that but survived it, and ultimately got to a point of reconciliation and forgiveness. And I think that's the journey that I take people on.
BLITZER: You know, when I read this book -- anyone who reads this book, anyone who read President Obama's book, "Dreams From My Father," they see parallels here -- black father who sort of disappears, white mother. Then you go on. You're raised under difficult circumstances, and you wind up going to Harvard.
BLITZER: And President Obama winds up going to Harvard. You see the similarities. You're not president of the United States --
WHITAKER: That's true. That's a big difference.
BLITZER: -- but you eventually became the editor of "Newsweek" magazine, the Washington bureau chief for NBC News.
BLITZER: Now you're a big shot here at CNN. You see some of the parallels.
WHITAKER: Well, look, I mean, I think they're for other people to point out. But there is one major difference, which is that Obama really never knew his father. His father left and went back to Africa when he was a small child. He saw him a couple of times. So his story is about sort of coming to terms with the absence of a father.
My father was in and out of my life in a pretty dramatic way for 50 years, but I had the example, the direct example, both of the best things about him, his brilliance, a lot of advice he gave me along the way, but also the negative parts, too. So it's really a story of a real relationship, as opposed to a kind of imagined father in Obama's book.
BLITZER: And what inspired you when he died to go ahead -- because this was an enormous amount of research you had to do, and you learned a lot in the process. What inspired to you say, you know what, I want to reopen all of that and learn about this?
WHITAKER: Well, Wolf, it still is a little bit mysterious to me, because people had said for years who knew some of the interesting parts of the story, that could be a book some day. I thought about it, but I was very busy with my career. I wasn't sure that I really wanted to revisit some of the episodes.
Then my father died, and I figured, well, that's it. He died just shortly after Thanksgiving, 2008.
A year later, the same day, in the middle of the night, I woke up in the middle of the night and I said, "I want to try to write this story." And it just sort of became an obsession after that.
BLITZER: What did your wife say, your family? Were they encouraging you?
WHITAKER: Well, you know, I had to approach it gingerly. And again, that's where I think the training as a reporter came in handy.
I told people that I wanted to talk to them. I always made sure, because a lot of the sources of the book were quite elderly, that I would meet with them early in the day so that they would be wide awake and would have plenty of time. And I just gently introduced some of the subjects.
And then, often, I would ask them for letters that they had written at the time or other documents. And once I read those, they offered clues to some of the more sensitive things, and I was able to come back and say, you know, you say this in this letter, what exactly did that mean?
BLITZER: We've got a picture. I want to wrap this up.
Take a look at this picture over here. We'll put it up on the screen.
Look at -- you can see it right there. This is when you graduated from Harvard, summa cum laude, back in 1979. I love the afro, Mark.
WHITAKER: Yes. They called me "Eraserhead." Do you remember that movie, "Eraserhead"?
BLITZER: I do.
WHITAKER: That's what my friends called me when I had that look.
BLITZER: And that's your dad.
WHITAKER: That's my dad, yes.
BLITZER: He must have been very proud knowing you finished Harvard and --
WHITAKER: Yes, but I couldn't bother to get a haircut. BLITZER: Congratulations on the book.
The book is entitled "My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir." It's a really fabulous read.
I think in this new world of ours, a lot of biracial families, interracial, people are going to want to read this. They're going to learn something, and you'll inspire a whole new generation.
WHITAKER: Yes. Well, I hope so.
BLITZER: Good work. Thanks very much.
WHITAKER: OK. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Military parents separated from their children now have a most unusual way of helping to put their kids to bed or, in one case, helping a wife give birth.
Our own Jeanne Moos explains, next.
BLITZER: How does a military dad deployed overseas read to his child? CNN's Jeanne Moos has the story of a most unusual bedtime ritual.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's read "Farmer Mickey."
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's like reading a bedtime story --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Farmer Mickey wakes at dawn. Time to work the whole day long."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MOOS: -- only daddy seems to live inside a screen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The hens lay eggs. The cows munch hay."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MOOS: The wife of an airman away from home for basic training posted this video of her prerecorded husband reading to his 2-year-old daughter. It's got everybody talking about how cute it is. The only one who isn't talking is dad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Daddy?
MOOS: She was trying to say, "Silly kitty," because mom tells CNN the cat just knocked something off a shelf.
Someone posted, "The dad better get back home soon, or that kid is going to be nearsighted." The adorability factor goes through the roof as the bedtime story ends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have a hug?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Thank you.
MOOS: Talk about a screen grab.
Every time her daughter asks to see daddy, mom would play one of several prerecorded videos. This is similar to the United Through Reading program. Parents separated from their children, especially military parents, record themselves reading aloud and send DVDs home to the kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What sound does a lion make?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Roar.
MOOS (on camera): Now, prerecorded storytelling isn't as high-tech as, say, a soldier watching the birth of his first child live, via Skype.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, babe. Let's go.
MOOS (voice-over): Since Army Corporal Greg Bacon (ph) was in Iraq when his son was born, Skype was the next best thing to being there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just so scared.
CORP. GREG BACON (ph), U.S. ARMY: I know, honey. Just keep talking to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the moment.
BACON: Hang on, honey. Hang on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lots of pressure. Lots of pressure. It's going to feel really funny.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you see him?
BACON: I can see him.
MOOS: He finally saw him in person three months later.
BACON: Hey, buddy.
MOOS: You may think of cyberspace as cold, but this inspired us --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have a hug?
MOOS: -- to have a group hug.
(on camera): Thank you.
MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, Audra (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye-bye. Bye-bye.
MOOS: -- New York.
BLITZER: Very nice.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.