Return to Transcripts main page


Vatican Embarrassed by Leaks; Marvel's Newest Superhero; "Diddy's" Son Gets Football Scholarship; Syrian Massacre Kills 103; Franchitti Wins Indy 500 for Third Time; "Military Options Should Be Considered?"

Aired May 28, 2012 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tropical storm Beryl getting a healthy head-start on the Atlantic storm season which begins Friday. Beryl is pounding coastlines in Florida and Georgia with heavy rain and high winds this morning.

The powerful storm slammed ashore overnight, bringing down trees and power lines in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, sparking this electrical fire. Thousands of people in the region are without power this morning.

The storm is expected to bring as much as a foot of rain in some places. A little bit of good news there for areas and long-term drought.

Rob Marciano is tracking this tropical storm for us.

It's a hard way to get a little rain, isn't it?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, they are getting it all at one time. We'll start with the good news here. The rainfall that has fallen over three inches in many spots here in drought-stricken areas over two inches in Jacksonville.

But since this time, they have seen much more rain pile up and there's a flash flood warning in effect for Jacksonville proper.

The latest advisory actually puts it in about 40 miles an hour as far as max winds go, the center of which between Jacksonville and Valdosta, Georgia. So, there you see it's spinning in. And the rainfall continues to spiral in as well.

And now, the rain bands are getting up as far north as Savannah and eventually Charleston.

This is going to be a slow mover. Because of that, we have the flash flood threat even those this is in a drought-stricken area you don't want it all at one time.

We have winds over 70 miles an hour, almost near hurricane strength. This was almost a hurricane. We had sustained winds at 70 miles an hour. That would have been certainly a historic mark, as it stands. This is a remarkable stuff.

Our second tropical storm and one that's making landfall. We haven't seen one make landfall in May since 1959. So, incredibly rare.

Here is your forecast track. It will eventually get back out to sea and hug the Carolina coastline but not really until tomorrow night. So, we've tot some time where this is sitting overland and eventually gain strength as it heads further out to sea. We'll see, it will be interesting to see what happens along the Carolina coastline.

One thing for sure it will rain out quite a bit. And, again, we'll see some flash flooding because of this, even though we're in a drought here for the most part.

So, good news and bad news situation and certainly an early start to this year's hurricane season, which as you mentioned, Christine, doesn't start officially until Friday.

ROMANS: Get your go bag. I know you got it ready. All right. Thanks.

Let's get to Zoraida Sambolin for the rest of today's top stories.

Good morning, Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

New this morning, a commotion breaks out in a British court as former Prime Minister Tony Blair testifies in the U.K. phone hacking scandal. Blair was being grilled about his ties to News Corporation founder Rupert Murdoch. Blair's testimony was interrupted by a protester who accused him much being a war criminal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man should be arrested for war crimes. JPMorgan paid him off for the Iraq war three months after he invaded Iraq! He held up the Iraq bank for $20 billion! It was then paid $6 million every year and still is from JPMorgan, six months after he left office! The man is a war criminal!


SAMBOLIN: I'd call that a commotion. The protester was removed from court.

In the meantime, British officials continue to probe Murdoch's company after his former tabloid "News of the World" admitted to hacking the phones of several high profile people.

An international murder mystery is unfolding right now in Japan. Two American men are held by Tokyo police in connection with the strangling of an Irish exchange victim. Police say the suspects met the female victim at a Nicki Minaj concert in Tokyo last week. She is identified as 21-year-old Nicola Furlong.

Police say she was found unconscious in a hotel room Thursday morning. No word on how the two American men may be involved there.

Later this morning, President Obama will mark Memorial Day by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Then he'll kick off a 13-year project to honor veterans of the Vietnam War. He'll speak at the veterans memorial wall and announce plans of those to serve in Southeast Asia from now through 2025, the 50-year anniversary of the last U.S. troops pulling out of Saigon.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defending the administration's plan to withdraw all U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 2014. He's also taking a swipe at Mitt Romney over his criticism of the president for making that plan public.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Without getting into the campaign rhetoric of what he is asserting, I think you've got 50 nations in NATO that agree to a plan in Afghanistan. It's the Lisbon agreement, an agreement that, you know, others, President Bush, President Obama, everyone has agreed is the direction that we go in, in Afghanistan.


SAMBOLIN: The secretary also warns there will be disastrous consequences if Congress doesn't plan cuts of $50 billion from the Defense budget scheduled for early next year.

And live from New York, it is the first lady. Mrs. Obama will be here in New York City this week to promote her new book on the White House garden. On Saturday, the first lady took daughters Sasha and Malia to Beyonce's first show since giving birth to Blue Ivy in January. Wow, she looks good.

An terrifying footage. An 80-year-old grandmother going sky diving for the first time and almost slipping out of her harness. Take a look at this. Laverne Everett said she wanted to jump out of a plane for 10 years!

But it looks like she changed her mind just before the jump holding on to the plane for dear life. The instructor pushed her out and as they fall, her harness slips off, her partner held on to her tight. They both made it down safely I am so happy to report.

ROMANS: I wonder if she ever does that again.

SAMBOLIN: She said she wanted to.

ROMANS: Oh! She was holding her legs as they were going down. She was upside down. He was holding her legs. She must have been terrified.

SAMBOLIN: I jumped out of a plane. It's a really cool experience but I was harnessed to the Golden Knights who have never lost anybody so I was in pretty good hands.

ROMANS: I did it once before and said I would never do it again and I called my parents and they hung up on me. Thanks so much.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: I want to know how she drives!

ROMANS: Do you think she is a good driving?

FUGELSANG: I hope a better driver than sky diving.

ROMANS: All right. He is always at Pope Benedict's side but now, the pontiff's butler is being accused of extremely disloyal act. Paolo Gabriele has been arrested on suspicion of leaking confidential Vatican material to an Italian journalist. Documents reveal an internal power struggle within the Vatican.

John Allen, CNN senior Vatican analyst, and correspondent for the "National Catholic Reporter", joins us this morning from Denver.

Good morning. This is intrigue at the highest levels of the government. Bring me up to speed here on what these documents show and why this is such a scandal that they were leaked.


Yes, the Vatican is always good for some intrigue and we certainly had a healthy dose of it over the holiday weekend. But he charge is this 46-year-old Italian layman by the name of Paolo Gabriele is the mole at the center of really what has been since January, a metastasizing Vatican leaked scandals in which troves of confidential secret documents have been leaked to the press and created international sensations.

Now, these documents, there's a lot of them and they are highly diverse among themselves. But we're talking about confidential accordance between the pope's ambassador in Washington and his bosses back home about internal policy disputes. Documents from the Vatican bank and elsewhere inside the Vatican documenting alleged corruption and cronyism and Vatican finances and even a document outlining a burg-esque (ph) plot to kill the pope.

The thing is the problem for the Vatican isn't so much the content of these documents because they have been able, as they have rolled out, to provide alternative explanations. The problem is that these are all real internal Vatican documents and quite clearly someone, maybe several someones are leaking.

ROMANS: If it was the butler, what is his motivation? I mean, until now, he has been seen as an ally, you know? One of only seven people very close to the -- you know, to the living quarters of the pope.

ALLEN: First of all, I should say there is real doubt in many quarters whether or not this butler, if, indeed, he is involved, acted alone. In fact, one of the leading Italian dailies has a story this morning admittedly with an anonymous source but an alleged Vatican insider of who is saying there are multiple people who are involved in this effort to bring secrets to the light of day.

But ultimately, I think, the theory would be there are some in the Vatican who believe that Pope Benedict XVI has issued this call to purification and spiritual renewal but it is being obstructed by some of the people around him, in particular, his top aide, the cardinal secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

And so, the leak of these documents would be intended to sort of undercut that figure, Cardinal Bertone, in a sense force the pope's hand to make a regime change.

FUGELSANG: Good morning, sir. John Fugelsang here.

As a subscriber to the "National Catholic Reporter," I thank you for your expertise on this. Does it seem like -- much like WikiLeaks? We're seeing a lot more hype about who is behind the leak than about the scandals detailed within the leak?

ALLEN: Well, I think both things are in play. I mean, look. In terms of the content, the most damaging of these leaks has been the documents about Vatican finances because, right now as we speak, the Vatican is trying to get itself on the white list of countries that comply within international standards of transparency and the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Clearly, these leaks don't help.

At the same time, there is active speculation about who is behind it, in part, because it speaks to internal power struggles within the Vatican and also competing visions about where the church ought to go in the 21st century.

ROMANS: And it's happening at a time when the Vatican is trying to exert more influence, for example, in the United States and with its nuns in particular and how they are spending their time in the United States. How important is it for the Vatican to seem, I guess, not as embroiled in all this chaos as it's trying to exert its influence around the world?

ALLEN: I don't think there ever is a good time to be embroiled in an internal meltdown but you're right, this is probably one of the worst times the Vatican could have picked. I mean, not only do we have high profile controversy in the United States about a Vatican crackdown on the leading organization of nuns in this country, but there is also an unfolding sex abuse crisis in Ireland that has created an internal crisis in that church.

You know, there are 150,000 Christians being killed around the world in places like sub-Saharan Africa and the whole new generation of Christian martyrs. The Vatican would like to move the ball on that issue. And, clearly, its inability to do any of that is compromised by the perception quite simply it doesn't have its own act together.

ROMANS: All right. John Allen, CNN senior Vatican analyst -- thanks for stopping by this morning.

ALLEN: You bet.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, up next, a 4-year-old boy didn't want to wear his hearing aid because none of his beloved super heroes wore them. He said, mom, super heroes don't wear hearing aids. I'm not going to wear one, not mi more. We will tell you about a Marvel hero and Anthony Smith.

And he's the richest man in hip hop, with an estimated 550 million. But Sean Diddy Combs won't be paying for college for his oldest son. Is it fair that his 18-year-old who is getting a $54,000 scholarship?

You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Four-year-old Anthony Smith needed a hearing aid, but he told his mom he didn't want to wear it. He wasn't going to wear it because none of the super heroes he read about wore a hearing aid. Well, that all changed when Marvel Comics got involved. Meet Blue Ear, member of the top secret government agency called Intercom.

His blue hearing device lets him hear an ant hiccup on the other side of the country. Joining us is the real-life superhero. He's modeled after Anthony Smith along with his super hero mom, Christina D'Allesandro. And here with us is Bill Rosemann. He's the editor at Marvel Comics who made all of this happen with some help from his friends.

Welcome, everybody. Christina, first, tell me, what happened here? Your little guy is hearing-impaired. He didn't want to wear his device. Walk us through what happened here.

CHRISTINA D'ALLESANDRO, ANTHONY'S MOM: You know what happened is, one day, we were getting ready. And I said, OK, let's put in your ear piece. And he looked at me in a really sad way, and he said, mommy, super heroes don't wear blue ears, and I was gutted. I thought oh no, not now, you're only four. So, I did what every mother does.

I lied. I said sure they do. And he said, well, which one? And I said Captain America. He said, how do you know? And I said, I'm the mom, I just know. And then, I was worried, you know, what if he asks someone else, and they tell him the truth about Captain America?

So, that's when I started looking around on the internet and just trying to see, and I posted something on my Facebook and a bunch of my friends said, you know, there's Daredevil. There's all these other superheroes. So, I thought, well, maybe there's one that's hearing- impaired, but I couldn't find anything.

So, I was on the Marvel site, and I found an e-mail that, and I just said, well, I'll give it a shot.

ROMANS: That's where Bill comes in. So, you --

D'ALLESANDRO: And I told them a little bit about my guy.

ROMANS: You find out, Bill --


ROMANS: -- tell me, what happened here? This gets to you, this e-mail gets to you.


ROMANS: You hear the story, this little guy who doesn't want to wear his hearing aid. And so, you go back to a Hawkeye cover, right?

ROSEMANN: Right. So, what happens is Christina's e-mail came into our general editorial address. And she didn't know -- even in her e-mail, she said, this may end up in your spam filters, but I'm a fellow parent, and I read her letter, and I said, we got to help Christina out.

ROMANS: Right.

ROSEMANN: We got to help her son. So, I sent the e-mail around to everyone at Marvel, because a lot of us grew up reading the Marvel Comics. And if there's one thing we know is what Stanley and Spiderman taught us. "It's with great power there must also come great responsibility."


ROSEMANN: Which means if we have the ability, we must do whatever we can to help others.

ROMANS: To fix it.

ROSEMANN: So, I sent the e-mail around and said what can we do? Is there any artist we know who can draw a hero that has a hearing aid? Let's do some research. Who in our past may have been wearing a hearing aid?

ROMANS: And you found somebody?

ROSEMANN: Yes. Our executive editor, my boss, Tom (INAUDIBLE) said, hey, Bill, remember, back in the 1980s, Hawkeye damaged his hearing. I said, right. I read that comic when I was younger. Hawkeye hurt his ear in an adventure and he had to wear two hearing aids. And so, I said, I got to send Christina a cover of Hawkeye wearing hearing aid.

ROMANS: But you went even further than that?


ROMANS: With blue ear?

ROSEMANN: So, I sent Christina this Avenger's cover with Hawkeye saying, "now, a new super heroes wearing hearing aid, but an Avenger wears a hearing aid and if Anthony wears his hearing aid, he'll be an honorary Avenger.


ROSEMANN: But, you're right, it went further. Two of our artists, Nelson Rivero (ph) and Manny Madirez (ph) took it upon themselves to go home and draw and create a hero. And, it was Nelson who created the hero called Blue Ear because, as Christina said, Anthony calls his hearing aid the blue ear.

And we sent that to Christina and Anthony. And then, Manny took a step further and drew a young version of blue ear standing with Hawkeye.


ROSEMANN: Both wearing their hearing aids.

ROMANS: So, Christine, he took this to school with him, right? He took with the creative (INAUDIBLE) to school.


ROMANS: What's the response? He's wearing the device, I assume.

D'ALLESANDRO: I mean, it was amazing, because he goes to school, a preschool with hearing impaired children. And they realized, oh, my God, you know, first they saw Hawkeye. He can do it! And then, it was like Spiderman can wear a hearing aid. Everybody can do it.

And then, when Blue Ear came, it was the best. That's a hearing- impaired guy. And then, when Manny is drawing Hawkeye and little Blue Ear, that's when Anthony was said, that's me. That's me! And it was wonderful.

ROMANS: Anthony, did you -- who is your favorite super hero, Anthony?



D'ALLESANDRO: Blue Ear because he loves him.

ROMANS: He loves Blue Ear. That is so sweet. Did you grow up watching, reading comics?

ROSEMANN: No, but I got into it through my four-year-old. And I can't say, without getting over sentimental, I also had a son who had some health problems. He had to wear a body cast at one time, and we drew an Ironman right on the front. I can't tell you how important that was to be able to just kind of lift the spirits and have some fun with what's really a hard situation.

JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: That's a beautiful story. It takes away all the pain of a Daredevil film for me --


ROSEMANN: You always have Avengers.

FUGELSANG: Of course. And will we see more of Blue Ear? Will he ever find a way in the comics?

ROMANS: Do you think he'll make it a way or do you think he's going to be special just for Anthony?

ROSEMANN: Well, right now, we don't have any plans for Blue Ear, but you know, it's the Marvel universe. You never know what's going to happen next.

ROMANS: Bill Rosemann, thank you so much. Christina D'Allesandro, thank you for being such a creative mom. And yes, you're right, all mothers do lie, but it's all for the right reason. I swear. All right. Thanks.

D'ALLESANDRO: And Anthony wanted to say a special thank you. Can you say thank you to Bill?

SMITH: Thank you, Bill!

ROSEMANN: Oh, thank you, Anthony. Hey, you're our hero.


ROMANS: What a great guy. All right. Thank you so much. Nice to see all of you.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, Dario Franchitti (ph) makes history at the Indy 500. We're going to talk to big winner live.

And he's the 18-year-old son of hip-hop mogul, Sean Diddy Combs, who just landed a $54,000 football scholarship, but should his multimillionaire father pick up the tab, anyway? You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Hip-hop mogul, Sean Diddy Combs, expressed his pride last week when his son, Justin, graduated from high school. Sean Combs has reason to be proud of this young man. Justin is a rising football star and signed a full division I scholarship at UCLA to play for its football team, The Bruins.

The scholarship acquired not only athletic prowess but good grades. Even so, with many families across the country feeling the strain of skyrocketing college costs, some might question why a multimillionaire, more than just a multimillionaire, a half a billionaire's child is getting a free ride to the college. Here to talk about scholarships is CNN's education contributor, Steve Perry. Steve, welcome to the program. You know, this is a merit scholarship, right? I mean, this kid for grades and for athletic ability got a merit scholarship to UCLA, but there are some who are saying, wow, this guy has a lot of money.

Shouldn't maybe the taxpayers of California get a break here, and Sean Combs pick up the bill?

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: First, I want to say Happy Memorial Day to all of the families out there who've lost a loved one in the fight for freedom anywhere on this globe. And really, that's what this is about. It is about freedom. And, the freedom of in a country where it's a meritocracy. Justin seems to have earned this.

He's a child who has a 3.7 GPA in elite private school. He's done what he needs to do to be successful. In meritocracy, we have to accept that no matter who your father is, whether he'd be rich, poor, or absent, that you can, in fact, be successful on your own merit, and they don't give athletic scholarships just because of who your father is, it's because of what you're going to do.

There's nothing free about a division I athletic scholarship. It's 40 hours plus of work on campus every single week in order to make sure that you maintain that scholarship. There's nothing free about this. This child will earn this.

ROMANS: When I first heard of this, I think how many people do I know who have very successful parents and the parents said forget it. I'm not paying for school. I paid for my own school, you pay for your own school. You know, it's the same kind of -- you know, the kid is the kid. The kid's merits.

It'd be different if it's a needs based scholarship. This is not a need-based scholarship. It is a merit based scholarship. But still, I mean, UCLA, taxpayers, I mean, I could see how somebody could say, look, maybe that same 54,000 should go to kids who need it.

PERRY: I work with children from historically disadvantaged populations, and God, I want every single one of them who earned it to get access to college and, in fact, pay as little as possible, but that's not where this conversation is. This is about some people feeling that because Sean P. Diddy Combs has, in fact, been successful, that his child should not receive any form of support for his own ability.

And I don't see that that's really the issue here. What's at issue is two things. One, this child has been successful in a place where very few is successful. It's very easy for us to be overwhelmed by the NCAA and think that everyone is just getting scholarships and that's how this things goes.

As somebody who works in a high school, I can tell you very few children actually access to one of these, and as a result, it must mean that he's worked his behind off. So kudos, Justin. Stay focused.

ROMANS: I think he did say he did work his behind off, wasn't exactly the word he used, but he did work really hard. He said his dad was really proud of him. And, you know, you can see, as a parent, on the table, we have all bunch of little boys here having a kid be able to get one of these scholarships would be pretty -- pretty rare and pretty amazing.

FUGELSANG: Indeed. And you know, we're very happy for him and, obviously, he had a pretty good start in life. He had an incredibly wealthy father who was able to provide him with the sort of support that millions of American kids don't have. Now, taking nothing away from his merit, taking nothing away from his hard work and his own achievement, 54,000 is what Diddy spends on a tip to the school book store when he goes to UCLA.

Do you know of any cases in the past where incredibly wealthy families have received scholarships and then donated them to a needy students who could really benefit from this whereas they don't necessarily need that state funds to go to college?

PERRY: I don't know of any. I don't tend to work with children this wealthy.


PERRY: None of my parents are giving away anything because they're struggling to pay to get their child into any state school or other school that they can, so that's not --

ROMANS: Does Diddy self-made, right? Sean Combs is self-made.

PERRY: He earned it! This is a man who's earned it. He's earned it on his own sweat. I mean, we have to begin to celebrate success at some point in this country. We can't, as we say, hate on this brother for his success or his children for being able to be successful, too.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Think about if he did that, what would that -- what message would that send to his son? This guy earned the scholarship. He probably wants to have a sense of accomplishment and a sense of earning his --

PERRY: His own way in life.

LIZZA: His own way in life.

FUGELSANG: Right. Absolutely.

LIZZA: And so, if dad comes in and says, oh, don't worry, I'll take care of that, if I were the kid, I would feel, you know, like undercut by dad.

ROMANS: I have a feeling that Sean Combs somewhere over the next four years could end up making a donate -- I don't know for sure, but, you know, I mean, he's got a lot of money that he's looking forward to spend.

PERRY: And that may be the reason, that may be the reason why UCLA was willing to do it when I'm sorry, but the fact -


ROMANS: No! no, no! Otherwise, you have --

PERRY: You can't take it away from this kid. This kid has earned it.

FUGELSANG: I'm not taking a thing away from him, but I'm saying you can also teach your son a valuable lesson of service to your community, of giving back to those who have less than you and your sacrifice --

PERRY: So, you're not -- if your kid gets a scholarship, you're not taking it, then?

FUGELSANG: If I have $500 million, no, sir, I'm not taking it.

PERRY: So, that's the only way is if you reach 500 million, I would presume?

FUGELSANG: No, he can do what he wants. He can do what he wants, but you're right, Christine, it's all hypothetical, and I'm just saying there is merit to teaching your child that lesson as well.

LIZZA: Would you prefer this kid never did anything to earn a 54,000 scholarship?


ROMANS: All right. Let's leave Justin Combs to his scholarship and his moment, because I will agree with you that we want to be celebrating success, and this is a kid.

PERRY: Absolutely.

ROMANS: This is a kid who did it. So, thanks so much, Steve. Nice to see you. Thanks for coming by, Steve Perry.

PERRY: Nice to see you as well.

FUGELSANG: Steve is mad at me now.



ROMANS: Thanks, guy.

All right. We'll leave that story there for now and move on to some other important news, international news. A deadly rampage in Syria. Dozens of children younger than 10 killed Friday. (INAUDIBLE) military get involved. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff telling us military, it should be an option for Syria.

Plus, Justin Bieber wanted by police after a scuffle with paparazzi?

And Ryan Lizza's playlist, Emmylou Harris, "Wrecking Ball." You're watching STARTING POINT.



ROMANS: Good morning. Let's get to Zoraida Sambolin today for the -- now for today's headlines.

Good morning, Zoraida.


Well, he's confessed to killing Etan Patz 33 years ago. Now a member of Pedro Hernandez's family tell CNN he reported the suspect to police in Camden, New Jersey, in the 1980s but nothing came of it. According to the relative Hernandez admitted killing a boy in New York and dumping the body in the trash. He says police apparently didn't believe the story.

Hernandez is in a New York hospital on suicide watch awaiting a psychiatric exam to determine if he is competent to stand trial for murder.

Lady Gaga canceling a concert in Indonesia next week because of Islamic threats. Earlier this month Jakarta Police refused to issue permits for the show after a group called the Islamic Defenders Front threatened violence if Lady Gaga performed calling her a devil worshiper.

Talks are being held to tone down the show but Gaga's people said she refused to budge. More than 50,000 tickets had been sold for that event.

And a major milestone in the recovery of a Georgia woman battling a flesh-eating bacteria. Twenty-year-old Aimee Copeland spoke her first words in nearly a month. Yesterday, she is also breathing now on her own. Her family has called the special day Aimee Day.

You'll remember, Copeland has had her hands, leg, and remaining foot amputated. She contracted the bacterial disease after a zip lining accident over a river.

Justin Bieber is wanted by police in Los Angeles and not for an autograph. They want to question him about an alleged assault on a photographer after he snapped pictures of Bieber and his girlfriend Selena Gomez. The incident occurred yesterday at a mall in (INAUDIBLE), California.

The photographer was treated at the hospital for chest pains and was released. Police also want to question Selena Gomez. Bieber could be charged with misdemeanor battery.

Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much, Zoraida.

An emergency effort this morning to save a peace plan in Syria but a bloody weekend massacre could destroy all hope. More than 100 Syrians were killed over the weekend including dozens of women and children. Both the U.S. and the U.N. condemn the attacks pinning most of the blame on Syria's government but the government says it's not to blame.

Mohammed Jamjoom joins us now on the phone.

Mohammed, is there any hope that Kofi Annan can do anything to stop the violence there?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, at this state very little hope. Kofi Annan has arrived. He plans to meet with Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. He says that he's shocked and horrified by what transpired this weekend and that there must be a very thorough investigation but the fact of the matter is no matter that there have been U.N. observers on the ground there for sometime now, about 300 in number right now, the violence had not increased and doesn't look like it will decrease any time soon.

Opposition activists they are -- say that they don't believe the Syrian government. They don't believe that the Syrian government was ever serious about ceasing violence, about stopping the crackdown towards them and the Free Syrian Army, the rebel Free Syrian Army yesterday said that Kofi Annan's peace plan was dead.

Opposition activist has continued to point out that in the over two months since this peace plan was agreed upon and since a ceasefire that never really seems to have come to pass were agreed upon -- that over 1600 Syrians have been killed just in that time alone.

So very little hope. Obviously, Kofi Annan hopeful he can do something, hopeful to do something to convince Bashar al-Assad to make sure that the Syrians are implementing the six-point peace plan but at this stage very little hope about what can happen next -- Christine.

ROMANS: Mohammed, just -- 49 of the children under age of 10, I mean the pictures are horrific, we can't -- why -- what is the motivation of this massacre? What is happening there?

JAMJOOM: That is a key question. The activists that we speak with in Homs stated that on Friday first the town of Houla was shelled and then they say that pro Syrian government regime thugs went into the town and started indiscriminately slaughtering men, women, and children. It is something that is beyond comprehension even to a population that is used to this seemingly endless cycle of violence. They can't understand why children would be the target of this kind of violence.

The images that we've seen are so graphic, so gruesome. Mangled bodies of children, some with their heads bashed in absolutely horrifying in every way. International condemnation stepping up their pressure on the Syrian regime. And yet even since this massacre, there's been more violence in Syria and we're hearing reports that yesterday in the city of Hama, that over 30 people were killed as a result of shelling by the Syrian regime.

Now the Syrian regime continues to deny that they are doing this, they blame the violence in Syria on terrorists, on al Qaeda but more more members of the international community saying this is the work of the Syrian regime and that this blood shed must stop -- Christine.

ROMANS: Mohammed Jamjoom -- thank you so much, Mohammed, for keeping us up to date on all of that. And we'll tell you in just a minute what the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say when I asked him whether military options are on the table for dealing with the crisis in Syria.

And up next, Dario Franchitti makes history at the Indy 500. First time, second time, third time's a charm. Third time. Three times. Can you believe it? We're going to talk to the big winner live.

And this is from my playlist. Cold Play, "Viva La Vida."


ROMANS: A dramatic day at the Indianapolis 500 but in the end, Dario Franchitti took the checkered flag, his third win at Indy. The thrill of victory coming after a crash on the final lap. Dario Franchitti is the Indianapolis 500 winner joins us.

Welcome. You are now just the seventh man to win the race three times. Congratulations to you. This race could have ended a lot differently. Takuma Sato went for the lead then crashed on the final lap. Take us through that final moment, will you?

DARIO FRANCHITTI, INDY 500 WINNER: Yes. It was -- it was one of those crazy typical Indianapolis 500 races and coming to the last lap there, I was leading and Takuma got a run and a turn for there and was drafting. I went to inside, I moved down to defend but then realized I was too late with that move so I moved back up and gave Takuma some room.

You know? I could have given him a bit less but I started to move up. I wasn't getting a good feeling about, you know, I didn't want to crowd him too much. And he -- luckily I did that because he lost the back end of the car. He couldn't hold the car down there on a such line. He started to spin and I he hit the side of my car as he was spinning and took me a little bit sideways. So I'm glad I moved up the track and gave him extra room. And after that, out come the caution flag and it's case of bringing the urn for the yard, the bricks to the checkered flag.

ROMANS: It was how out there, 91 degrees. You're going -- on the track it must have, felt, what somebody said 130 degrees. How do do you a 500 like that? FRANCHITTI: You know, it was actually not too bad for us. We had that 220-mile-an-hour air-conditioning going on so it wasn't -- that wasn't too bad. The guys in the pit lane and the crews were all there, the helmets and race suits on to do the pit stops, I really felt for them and the fans in the grandstand. It was tougher for those people than for us in the car.

ROMANS: How does it feel to win the third one? I mean does it feel -- savoring it a little differently than the first one or the second one? Does it feel different to you?

FRANCHITTI: Not really. I've been in this whirlwind since I got out of the car. I haven't had a chance yet to really think about it but I'm very proud of all of them and that feeling of, you know, of achievement is there and all of my guys from the Target team are actually starting to walking past here now to start out photographs on the yard of bricks.

But I see those guys and you see what it means to everybody, that's -- that's a very special feeling for the team and for myself.

ROMANS: You know last year, I interviewed Dan Wheldon on this very day for -- for his win and he's wearing the white glasses. I mean, he was a good -- he was a good friend of yours. I know that you really made sure that this win was about him too.

FRANCHITTI: Yes. It was very ironic yesterday, the three of his closest friends ended up finishing 1, 2, 3 but yesterday it was really about paying tribute to Dan from the whole month really and the fans and the teams and the drivers really got behind that and the emotion of the day was incredible.

But I think it was a fitting tribute to Dan. You know the fans wearing the white glasses, the crew as well and banners in the grandstands. It was -- its I think he would have been very proud. He loved this track like no other and I think the fans have a special connection with him.

So, yes, it was a very bittersweet day yesterday.

ROMANS: Yes it really was. But we want to congratulate you for sure on your third win and thank you. You do that so tastefully. You know the honor to him, too, you know it must tough. That's just a tough -- tough all the way around but you deserve it and thank you so much for coming by. Dario Franchitti -- third time. Thank you.

FRANCHITTI: Thank you.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, should the U.S. get involved after a devastating massacre in Syria? We'll talk about that next.


ROMANS: We've been telling you about that deadly slaughter in Syria over the weekend; 108 people killed. Dozens of women and children. Should the U.S. military get involved in Syria as a result of this massacre, as a result of the deteriorating situation there? Here is what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey told us earlier on the show.


GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: My job is to provide the commander-in-chief with options and I think the military option should be considered. And I think that -- but my -- my preference, of course, always as a -- as the senior military leader would be that the international community could find ways of increasing the pressure on Assad to do the right thing and step aside.

But of course, we always have to provide military options and they should be considered.


ROMANS: So it's interesting. The options before the military options are working so far.


ROMANS: What did you hear him say?

LIZZA: Well he said --

ROMANS: Do you hear him stronger that we've heard him elsewhere?

LIZZA: He's the most senior U.S. official that I've actually heard say out of his mouth that the military option should be considered. You know in the White House, in recent weeks, when you ask administration officials, you know why Libya, why did we intervene in Libya? And where not doing the same in Syria?

It was partly about on the grounds reality. In -- in Libya Gadhafi was sort of mounting a campaign against the city, his army was on the -- on the outside of the city and we could attack his military.

ROMANS: Right.

LIZZA: It was a -- it was a target that we could hit from the air.

Syria, it's much, much more implicated. You've got an urban environment, the military options are much, much more complicated but nobody in the administration has publicly said that the military option should be considered until Dempsey said this morning.

FUGELSANG: But is what we're seeing now in Syria not what was given to us by the administration a year ago is their rationale for having to intervene to stop Gadhafi and now we're seeing exactly what was chosen for intervention.

And congratulations on what may be a significant scoop here with the Chairman of the Joint Chief is saying this. But is not all about Iran and is that not why the administration can't come out and say anything?

LIZZA: You know, it's interesting because in Libya, most of the military establishment in the United States was not in favor of that campaign because, frankly, Libya is not an -- wasn't important for the strategic U.S. interests.

ROMANS: Right.

LIZZA: Syria, of course, is the lynchpin of the whole region, right. You have Hezbollah, Iran and placed into our Middle East policy. And that saying, Dempsey's message this morning was not just pressure, but he wants Assad to know that the U.S. is thinking about military option.

ROMANS: What about Russia? I mean Russia is so important here.

CAIN: When you talk about Iran. I think Russia is the real issue here. Russia doesn't want any kind of international coalition going in and messing around in Syria. And beyond who's for and who's against it, there's basic questions about Syria that has to be asked and answered that had to be asked and answered about Libya that I don't know that ever were but what's the end game? Is it a doable end game? Will we be in Syria for who knows how long. Who are we putting in place? How do we maintain that presence? None of that is answerable in Syria.

LIZZA: You know, one of the options that some Republicans have talked about is arming the opposition. Now we don't know a lot about the opposition. And there's some bad dudes in the opposition that could be worse than Assad.

ROMANS: Could the neighborhoods clean out because they suspect they are with the opposition too. What we saw this weekend was horrific.

FUGELSANG: And already the opposition gave us Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden historically speaking. It's messy from all sides but this is the first time we have heard anyone this high-ranking admit what we all know that, or course, it's being considered.

LIZZA: These humanitarian interventions they always escalate when there is something like what happened recently that pricks the conscience of the international community whether it's (inaudible) in the forms of Yugoslavia or what Milosevic did in Kosovo. Some major atrocity happens and people move from sitting on the sidelines to watching, to saying we may have to intervene.


ROMANS: I know but history tells us it was moved too late? We make a lot of mistakes ahead of time? I mean just because it's such a dangerous game to get involved.

LIZZA: Absolutely.

CAIN: One point Christine. The Syrian government is saying they're not responsible for this atrocity. They are saying that others are responsible for these hundred dead --


ROMANS: Al Qaeda linked terrorist groups, right.

CAIN: But one interesting note in that is that all of the towns around that area controlled by government forces are empty. The towns controlled by the rebel forces, people are flooding to.

ROMANS: Wow. All right, guys. Well, this isn't the last point or the last word certainly on Syria but that interview --


FUGELSANG: I want to see what arrangements are about this, if anything.

ROMANS: Yes. All right. Guys, the "End Point" is coming up next. We're going to leave you with Ryan Lizza's playlist (inaudible), "Jesus Etc".


ROMANS: You're taking a live look at Arlington National Cemetery on this Memorial Day. President Obama headed there this morning to lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknowns. The President will thank and honor all of the men and women who have given their lives to service in this country.

All right. Time for the "End Point". Ryan, we're going to start with you.

LIZZA: Let's go back to the conversation we were just having.

ROMANS: Syria?

LIZZA: Yes, Syria. I feel like we have reached a major development in the story between the atrocities and the sort of outcry in the international community and Dempsey coming out this morning and saying that military option should be considered.

ROMANS: Do you think Russia is going to be -- is going to change its tune a little bit here?

LIZZA: I'd -- you know that -- there's been no evidence of that.

ROMANS: Really?


CAIN: Champion of humanitarian causes.

LIZZA: No. There's been no evidence that. Not in Russia's strategic interest yet to see Assad go but that could change.

ROMANS: What about you? FUGELSANG: It's easy to be cynical about Memorial Day when it seems like it's a day for discounted mattress sales and air- conditioner sales.

ROMANS: I know.

FUGELSANG: And it's easy to be really downhearted about it. But whether you were for these wars or opposed to these wars, there's so much that you can do for the veterans who are still here and to acknowledge the sacrifice of those we have lost.

ROMANS: I know. The people we lost is also -- you know, I grew up putting flags on all soldiers graves. Do you know what I mean? Because it is your whole family's sacrifices when you go to war and you fight for this country.

FUGELSANG: And it's deeper than patriotism. It's deeper than ideology. And you know, young men and women who were sent off by civilians to fight and die and that's historical, that's every culture in every world.

ROMANS: And it's not the beginning of summer sales. You're right.

CAIN: I'm just going to pick up on Memorial Day in this respect. It is about drinking a Coors Lite and barbecue. It is -- you just have to do that.


ROMANS: Does it have to be a Coors Lite?

CAIN: Well, it can be Miller Lite or another American beer.

ROMANS: Ok. But isn't Miller now owned by a Brazilian company?

CAIN: In all seriousness I think Memorial Day sometimes becomes theoretic or symbolic for so many of us because we don't have a family member or friend that perhaps served for this country much less died for this country. But there are many, as General Dempsey said earlier, who had that flag handed to them and I think you have to really search out that emotional connection because this is about individuals.

It's about human beings who died for something that now gets to be theoretical, symbolic and about having fun and beer, barbecue.

ROMANS: And if you're the corner office please, could you please hire some people that are coming home because we're going to have a lot of people who needs jobs. We've got a lot of skills that can be translated into the --

FUGELSANG: Hire a vet, get a tax cut.

ROMANS: Tomorrow on STARTING POINT the Chicago Cubs fan who set out to crack the curse by walking cross-country with his goat. He and his goat will join us live and I hope it worked. As a Chicago Cubs fan, I hope it worked.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello, begins right now. Hi Carol.