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City Broke, Mayor Takes Drastic Action; Bin Laden Driver Released From Gitmo; Outsourcing Jobs; Abortion Clinic; NASCAR Sponsor Split; Olympic Athletes

Aired July 11, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My name is Joe Biden. And as strange as it sounds, everything important to my life that I learned, I learned here in Scranton.


BLITZER: It could be any cash-strapped United States city, but this is the hometown of the vice president of the United States. Joe Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, right now is in turmoil with city coffers down to their last dime. The mayor is taking unprecedented action slashing the pay of city workers to minimum wage sparking a bitter battle that's now in court.

CNN's Brian Todd is here in the SITUATION ROOM. He's following all of this for us, at the scene for us. Brian, what is going on in Scranton?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a lot of turmoil, Wolf. The mayor of Scranton now facing two lawsuits from the unions, for firefighters, police, and other public servants. They feel caught in the middle between city leaders who've had to borrow to stay afloat and cannot agree on how to recover.


TODD (voice-over): John Judge is a 10-year veteran of the Scranton fire department. When he opened his paycheck recently, he was upset, but not surprised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $7.25 an hour.

TODD: Minimum wage. A sudden 80 percent pay cut for Judge, his fellow firefighters, police, and other public servants in Scranton.

JOHN JUDGE IV, INTL. ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 60: I have members in our bargaining unit whose sons and daughters who are out for the summer in high school that are working at pools as lifeguards or working at a small part-time job, they're making $8.50, $9 an hour. And their father is running into burning buildings for $7.25 an hour, and it's just -- it's absolutely ridiculous.

TODD: Judge places most of the blame on this man, Scranton mayor, Chris Doherty. Recently, Doherty went against a court order and unilaterally cut the paychecks of nearly 400 city workers, including his own to minimum wage. Doherty says he has no choice that his city can't pay its bills.

MAYOR CHRISTOPHER DOHERTY, SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA: Right now, we have a $60 million deficit. And what I'm trying to do is keep the city operational. You know, not only paying employees, but also keeping the garbage trucks running, keeping the fire trucks running, keeping the police cars running, being able to pave streets, take care of our parks, so it's a challenge for us.

TODD: One local financial analyst calculated that Scranton had only $5,000 cash in the bank last week that it's now up to about $130,000. It's a result of decades of financial troubles for one of Pennsylvania's biggest cities. Unpaid bills have forced Scranton to borrow to stay afloat.

Now, lenders are spooked because the city didn't pay a debt issued by its parking authority and because Mayor Doherty and the city council can't agree on a recovery plan. The mayor wants to raise taxes drastically. The council wants to find other sources of revenue. Analysts say this kind of financial turmoil is all too common place in America's cities.


TODD (on-camera): Two other cities, San Bernardino and Stockton, California, recently opted for bankruptcy. But analysts say even in this climate, Scranton's problems are pretty rare. One analyst who tracks city's cash supply says last year, less than two percent of American cities found themselves without enough cash to cover more than a month's worth of expenses.

In recent days, Scranton's averaged only about enough money for one day. Scranton is just scraping along day by day, Wolf, trying to pay its bills.

BLITZER: So sad, especially for those of us who have been to Scranton and seen that beautiful community. So, how drastic was the mayor's proposals for tax cuts?

TODD: Well, he was -- there was some pretty drastic measures. He proposed a 78 percent hike just on property taxes alone. The city council's obviously balking at that. They're not going to come to an agreement any time soon, it doesn't look like. But, again, some kind of revenue generation is going to be necessary for that city. It's a matter of them coming to an agreement on how to do it.

BLITZER: 400 city employees, firefighters, police officers, teachers, workers, minimum wage $7.25.

TODD: Almost unthinkable, but it's happening in Scranton.

BLITZER: It's amazing in the United States of America this is going on. Brian, thanks very much.

Ron Alongi is a police officer in Scranton with 20 years on the police force. He's also a single parent raising a 15-year-old son, and he's now making $7.25 an hour. That's minimum wage. Thanks so much for coming in, Ron. First of all, is Scranton safe right now?


BLITZER: Yes, is it safe? Is the community safe based on your eyewitness account?

ALONGI: Absolutely. The police officers, the firefighters come to work every day. They were sworn to do a job. We're very proud of what we do. Regardless of what our paychecks are, we're going to come to work and do what we have to do until this blows over.

BLITZER: So, in your personal case, your paycheck has gone from what to what?

ALONGI: My paycheck as of last Friday was less 80 percent. I took home $600 for two weeks of work.

BLITZER: And it used to be, what, around $2,000? Is that right?

ALONGI: With overtime, and you know, extra duty working days off or whatever, you can get up to $2,400 or $2,500.

BLITZER: So, now, you're down to that. So, how are you doing? How are you making do? I know you're raising a son by yourself. You've got a lot of expenses and you're trying to save money to send him to college one of these days.

ALONGI: I do. We suffered for ten years trying to get a contract. And as of last October, through the state Supreme Court, we received a cost of living increase, a family sustaining wage. And for the ten years that we suffered, I thought now is an opportunity to start fixing the ten years that we lost. And we lasted a couple of months and now we have this.

BLITZER: So, give us your feelings. How do you feel about what's going on in Scranton right now? I don't think it's ever happened before where a community has forced everyone who works in that community all the city workers to go down to minimum wage.

ALONGI: It's tough. I mean, that's all you think about. Instead of going to work and thinking about how to serve the people and staying safe and keeping the community safe, it's always in the back of your mind. And the worst part of the job isn't the bad calls you go on or the burning buildings that the firemen go into, it's you don't know what tomorrow brings.

You don't know -- there may not be a paycheck at all next pay. We don't know.

BLITZER: So, how are you going to make ends meet? What kind of strategy game plan do you have? ALONGI: Other than for right now praying, there's local banks that have offered unsecured loans for a short amount of time. A lot of people are afraid to even go do that, because they don't know if they would be able to repay that. So, other than a small savings that I have to try and get by, it's a matter of a week or two and I don't know. We'll have to go from there.

BLITZER: Could this crisis have been averted, do you think, if taxes would have been increased in the city?

ALONGI: I'm sure. I mean, it's the in-fighting between a mayor and council, and somehow, we got drawn in. And we're the pawns in this until somebody flinches. It's not a position any of us want to be in. We just want to go to work and do the job that we were sworn to do and put in a full day's work -- a full day's pay and provide for our families.

But instead, somehow, we became the targets between the in-fighting between council and the mayor.

BLITZER: It's hard to believe this is actually taking place. As I say, I'm shocked by what's going on. And you know, it's not only going on in your community of Scranton, it's going on in other communities as well. And I think what's happening in Scranton could happen down the road. So, here's a question, what do you say to state leaders in Pennsylvania? What do you say to federal leaders here in Washington about this crisis?

ALONGI: We just hope somebody can come in and help. I don't know what that help is, whether it's the mayor and council getting together and trying to work together to solve the problems. And if not, if somebody else comes in and, you know, offers their help, we'd much appreciate it.

BLITZER: Ron, good luck to you. Good luck to your son. Good luck to everyone in Scranton and the other communities that are on the verge of going through what you're going through as well. Appreciate you joining us today.

ALONGI: Thank you, wolf.

BLITZER: Other news we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM, the Pentagon saying the man who was once Osama Bin Laden's cook and driver has been released from the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and he's been sent to Sudan. In 2010, Ibrahim al-Qosi was sentenced to 14 years on conspiracy and terror charges, but in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors, he had to serve only two years.

Let's talk about it with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security advisor to the last president, George W. Bush. She also serves on the external advisory committees of both the CIA and the Homeland Security Department. Fran, first of all, tell us about this individual. Why did the United States release him?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, he had been in custody for about six years prior to his taking a plea in July of 2010. That plea was taken as a result of his agreement to cooperate with the government. And clearly, the 14-year sentence he received all but two years was suspended.

And so, now, we're two years later, and he has fulfilled his commitment under the cooperation agreement presumably because the government is honoring and releasing him at the end of those two years. We should tell our viewers though, again, he had been in custody about six years. So, total time is at least eight years, probably a little bit more before he's being released. The government has agreed to return him to Sudan.

That is where he's a national of Sudan. So, he will be returned to Sudan. And there is an arrangement made between the U.S. government and the Sudanese government for him to his conditions of confinement until he completed the two years. None of this is unusual, Wolf. When an individual agrees to plead guilty and cooperate with the government, if they keep up their end of the bargain, this is sort of par for the course.

I think what's unusual here, this was Bin Laden's driver. This is a man that intelligence and law enforcement and the U.S. military understood had a close and operational relationship with Bin Laden personally and with al Qaeda. He trained in the camps in Afghanistan. He had received military training.

He was close to the operational leadership at the time of the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998. He fled Tora Bora in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks when many fled the camps. And that's when he was caught by Pakistani authorities and ultimately turned over to the U.S.

BLITZER: So you, personally, Fran, you don't have a problem with this? Because as you know, there have been a whole bunch of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay that have been released and sent back to various countries and have simply turned around and gone back into the terror business.

TOWNSEND: Wolf, I have grave concern. This is not appeared to be an individual to express any sort of remorse. He has been held captive a long time. The issue, though, is having pled guilty and served his sentence, the U.S. -- this administration -- no administration could have handled it differently.

Once he pled guilty and served the sentence required by the judge, that is the two years and cooperated in compliance with his agreement, there's -- the U.S. has no authority now to continue to hold him. And so, his release, frankly, is -- was inevitable and was consistent with law.

BLITZER: Let me change subjects. A couple other things I want to go through with you. The president speaking at a Spanish language TV station in Miami. He was asked about Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. He's got very close ties not only with Cuba but also with Iran with Ahmadinejad.

He's supporting Syria right now in his own battle over there, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. This is what the president said to the Spanish language TV station.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe, but overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.


BLITZER: Now, Mitt Romney was asked about that. Republicans are pouncing big-time, as you can imagine. Romney saying, I was stunned by his comments. This is Hugo Chavez who has invited Iran in, who has invited Hezbollaah, and then he goes on with a whole litany of what Chavez has done.

You've studied this closely, the situation Hugo Chavez, Venezuela, its impact. Is the president right when he says that Hugo Chavez has not had a serious national security impact on the United States?

TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, I think the key here is the president used very ambiguous language. He looked like he was struggling for an answer, frankly. I think when you look at Hugo Chavez, one, he may have been thinking Chavez is very, very ill, likely dying, has a terminal illness. He has been very destabilizing sort of along the border with Colombia to Colombia's security.

His relationship, you mentioned, with Fidel Castro. There are terror groups like Hezbollah who have a strong presence in the western hemisphere. The reason that Chavez is a threat to our national security is because what you don't want to see is him to permit Iran to have a foothold in the western hemisphere, you know, right close to the United States and then project themselves throughout the western hemisphere using Venezuela as a foothold. That's the concern.

I think it's a legitimate concern. And of course, you know, we have to presume the U.S. intelligence community working with others in the region very carefully monitors Iran's activity in Venezuela and around the world because of the potential for them to be destabilizing. Let's remember, you know, it was in Buenos Aires, Argentina where Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, blew up the Israeli cultural center and a synagogue.

And so, we know Hezbollah working with Iran's resources has had conducted terrorist activity in the western hemisphere. And so, for all those reasons, of course, Chavez must be considered a concern and a threat.

BLITZER: Fran Townsend, thanks very much for that analysis.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.

BLITZER: Growing calls for Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. to come clean about his health. He's on medical leave right now from Congress, but he's not providing details. Standby. And new developments in the effort to shut down the only clinic in Mississippi that does abortions. Is the state of Mississippi trying to skirt Roe versus Wade?

Also, the surprising reality of many U.S. Olympic athletes. They're struggling to make ends meet. Some, actually, are living in near- poverty.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, it's a little discouraging. It turns out the American dream may not be for everyone. A new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that a family's race, economic background, and neighborhood all play a role in economic mobility. The study finds that while 84 percent of Americans have higher incomes than their parents did at the same age, those born at the top and bottom of the economic scale are likely to stay there.

When it comes to race, African-Americans are less likely to top their parents' income and wealth than Whites are. And blacks are more likely to be stuck at the bottom of the ladder or fall out of the middle. The study couldn't even measure Black mobility at the upper income levels because the number was too small.

Meanwhile, another piece to the wealth inequality puzzle is this, recent Census Bureau Data shows that White Americans have 22 times more wealth than Blacks. Twenty-two times. In 2010, the median household net worth for Whites about $111,000 compared to less than $5,000 for Blacks. Whites also have 15 times more wealth than Hispanics.

This wealth inequality is due to a lot of factors, including the implosion of the real estate market along with higher unemployment rates among minority groups. Statistics like these are one of the many reasons that President Obama is such an historic figure.

He's America's first-ever African-American president and certainly has a background that was far from privileged. But Mr. Obama is the exception, not the rule. The rule is this, if you're born poor, you're probably going to stay that way.

Here's the question, what does race have to do with achieving the American dream? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

There's a medical mystery swirling around a well-known United States congressman, Jesse Jackson Jr. He's been on medical leave from the capitol for weeks, but he won't say what's wrong with him. And now, even some of his fellow Democrats are asking what's going on. They want details. CNN's Ted Rowlands is joining us now from Chicago. Ted, what do we know about Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.? TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, not much. Basically, the congressman and his family have chosen not to share details about why he has taken this medical leave. But the bottom line is, the pressure for them to give details is building.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): Jesse Jackson Jr.'s mystery illness and the speculation it's fueling has a lot of people including members of Congress from his own party saying the public deserves answers.

REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MINORITY WHIP: People get sick. And when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that, but I think the family would be well-advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: His health is the number one priority. As a public official though, there reaches a point where you have a responsibility to tell people what you're facing and how things are going.

ROWLANDS: Jackson, who's serving his ninth term in the House, has been out more than a month with what his office describes as exhaustion saying in a statement he's suffering from both, quote, "physical and emotional ailments." The lack of any real information coming out from the Jackson camp is fueling the rumor mill.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FATHER: Rumors have been flying, but without the facts. The fact is -- medical supervision and he's regaining his strength.

ROWLANDS: This afternoon, Jesse Jackson Sr. avoided the media using a back entrance to attend the rainbow push coalition annual meeting in Chicago, but former senator Roland Burris was there, and he was more than happy to blast both Democrats and the media for applying pressure on Jackson.

ROLAND BURRIS, (D) FORMER ILLINOIS SENATOR: (INAUDIBLE) all to back off Jesse Jackson Jr. (INAUDIBLE) what will come forward at the proper time.

ROWLANDS: Don't people have a right to know what's wrong?

BURRIS: He is a public servant. At the proper time, they will know. And I'm asking you all to give him some space. The young man has evidently some problems.


ROWLANDS (on-camera): Wolf, Sandy Jackson, Jesse Jackson Jr.'s wife is an older person here in the city of Chicago. She's recently, within the last few hours, did release a statement to "The Chicago Tribune" and it reads in part that she's hopeful that "my husband's doctors will be able to release something soon. I'm in constant talks with them about Jesse's condition and his medical prognosis going forward." So, we may learn something in the next few hours or days from the doctors that are treating Jesse Jackson Jr. But at this point, the family has not released any information on their own.

BLITZER: Whatever condition he does have, medical condition, we hope he does have a very, very speedy recovery. Ted Rowlands reporting for us from Chicago.

Violent protests rocked Spain's capitol. Dozens of people are injured. We're going to tell you why they're so furious at Spain's government.

Plus, a train carrying a dangerous chemical derails right in the heart of Ohio's capital setting off a fiery explosion.


BLITZER: A high-ranking Syrian diplomat has reportedly defected. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What do we know, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Two members of the Syrian national council opposition group say Syria's ambassador to Iraq is making his way to a safe area. The defection comes against the backdrop of relentless violence in Syria. The opposition reports at least 34 people were killed across the country today.

And in Spain, protesters are venting their fury at budget-slashing cuts. Demonstrations turned violent in Madrid. At least 76 people were injured in those clashes. Spain's prime minister says his government plans to cut more than $79 billion in the next three years by slashing red tape and raising taxes.

And smoke and flames shot high into the air after part of a freight train derailed before dawn in Columbus, Ohio, today. A mile-wide area of the city had to be evacuated. Eleven cars went off the tracks and several of them caught fire.

The train was carrying ethanol, and crews are now letting that alcohol burn off. The NTSB is sending a so-called go team to the scene to investigate what happened.

And a newly identified blood-sucking parasite has been named after Bob Marley. The marine biologist who discovered the creature said he named it for Marley because he like the late reggae singer's music and because this species is uniquely Caribbean and so as Marley. The tiny crustacean attaches itself to fish that inhabit the coral reef. So, nice little tribute there to Bob Marley. Not sure if he ever envisioned that, but --


BLITZER: A crustacean. I'm sure he never thought there would be a crustacean named after him.

SYLVESTER: That's right. BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.

Sending American jobs overseas, President Obama, Mitt Romney each, they're accusing the other. So, who's right? We're checking the facts. Our own Brianna Keilar is here.

Also, Mississippi tries to close the only abortion clinic in the state. Now, a judge's ruling has just come out. What it means for this closely watched case.

Plus, the U.S. military severing ties with NASCAR. Is there more to this split than meets the eye?


BLITZER: It's the newest hot button issue in the presidential campaign, outsourcing. President Obama and Mitt Romney each are accusing the other of sending American jobs overseas. So who's right? Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar, she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM, did a little fact check for us. All right, Brianna, what are you finding out?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're both kind of wrong here, Wolf. And I say kind of because this is a very complicated issue. One stimulus program which the RNC has really taken aim at which gave grants for renewable power projects, it created between 52,000 and 75,000 jobs according to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (ph), but jobs were no doubt created overseas as well.


KEILAR (voice-over): The Obama campaign has been lobbying these arguably questionable attacks for weeks.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney has experienced owning companies that were called pioneers in the business of outsourcing.

KEILAR: Now the Romney camp is firing back with its own.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there's an outsourcer in chief, it's the president of the United States, not the guy who's running to replace him.

KEILAR: The RNC launched a new website with examples of how it says Obama outsourced jobs. One of the biggest claims, that $8.5 billion in wind farm grants have gone overseas is not entirely true and oversimplified.

RUSS CHOMA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: And a lot of that money has flowed overseas, but not all of that money has gone overseas, but even some of the foreign manufactures we're building in the U.S. and so it's very tough to put an exact --

KEILAR (on camera): Wind farm developers purchased turbines here in the U.S. General Electric for instance is one of the world's largest suppliers, but its Germans and Danish companies that lead the industry and billions of dollars were spent purchasing turbines from foreign companies. That did create jobs overseas, experts say. But it also created jobs in the U.S. including many construction jobs because all of the wind farm projects funded by these grants were built here in the United States.

(voice-over): Some experts don't consider that outsourcing. But others like Robert Scott of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute say it is.

ROBERT SCOTT, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: It's outsourcing and that's one of the problems we have is that some of the stimulus dollars and some of the other government spending for example the Department of Energy, has what we call leaked offshore.

KEILAR: Confusing, right? Well, that's the point.

STUART ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: It does muddy the waters. And secondarily, it muddies the waters in a say so that voters I think at the end of the day after six months of this argument say I don't know who's right. Let's -- let me focus on other things. What's the unemployment rate? How many jobs were created last month?


KEILAR: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was pressed about this very topic today by my colleague Dan Lothian and Carney emphasized the domestic jobs that were created even if it doesn't meet the strict definition of outsourcing, Wolf, it might not be palatable to voters to know that their taxpayer dollars substantially enriched foreign companies.

BLITZER: What about now? Is this program continuing? Are they still doing the same thing or is that over with?

KEILAR: Well a lot of these -- a lot of this has actually sort of gone away and you're seeing that the solar industry, renewable energy industry is kind of dealing with the fact that some of these dollars have dried up. In fact, a lot of the jobs that were created arguably were somewhat temporary construction jobs for the assembly, for instance in the case of wind turbines, the assembly of those wind farms, but then ultimately there's not that many jobs that are needed to keep those plants going.

BLITZER: Brianna thanks very much for that report. Brianna Keilar is our White House correspondent.

Other news we're following, we're watching a controversial case in Mississippi right now that could wind up closing the only clinic in the state that provides women with abortions. CNN's David Mattingly is joining us now from Jackson, Mississippi. David, a judge's decision has just come down. Tell us what happened.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, essentially nothing has happened, the judge merely deciding to extend a temporary restraining order that's in place until he gets some more information in. In the meantime it appears that this abortion clinic, the only abortion clinic remaining in the state of Mississippi is in a real bind right now. This new state law requires all the doctors there to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. That may not sound like a big deal, but they're from out of state.

They did not have these privileges. And now it took -- it's taken weeks for them to get applications for them. And so far they've applied to all hospitals in the city of Jackson where they're located. And so far they have not been accepted or turned down at any of those hospitals. So it's taken a long time for that to happen.

In the meantime they're asking the court to keep this restraining order in place. And afterward we heard some very familiar arguments now, first from the state telling us that this is about protecting women's health. And of course the operators of that abortion clinic saying it's about shutting them down. Listen.


SAM MIMS (R), MISSISSIPPI STATE SENATE: We still believe that women who are receiving the abortions need to have a certified OBGYN and they need to have physicians follow them in a local hospital. So it's still a health care issue for us.

MICHELLE MOVAHED, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS ATTY.: The clinic is going to be in the position if the law goes into effect of choosing between risking serious penalties and continuing to perform a legal medical procedure. And what we explained to the court is it's that risk that creates an impossible situation for the clinic. And that's the threat to the women's rights that will flow out of that. And the difficult choice it will put the plaintiffs in is really the irreparable injury here.


MATTINGLY: Now the judge in this case is mulling over the question of whether or not this clinic will suffer irreparable harm by having this law go into effect. That's what he's considering right now. The issue of whether or not this law is constitutional, whether or not it's affecting abortion rights, affecting what's guaranteed by the Constitution, that the judge says is an issue for another day and may be handled some time down the road -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So women assuming that this goes into effect, let's say women in Mississippi would have to go to Louisiana or some other state in order to get an abortion? Is that the practical impact of this?

MATTINGLY: Well, the problem with this clinic is the clinic owners are arguing that they would have to shut down if their doctors don't get the certification that the law demands. If that doesn't happen, they're the only clinic not only in town but in the state of Mississippi. Other doctors can perform abortions, but it will be harder to get to them. Also there are other clinics out of state which a patient may have to travel maybe 200 miles to get to another clinic. So this clinic arguing in court that this is irreparable harm not just to them but to the women that they serve as patients there at that clinic.

BLITZER: David Mattingly on the scene for us in Jackson, Mississippi. Keep us posted on what's going on.

So what's killing Cambodia's children? Doctors may finally know the answer. But can they stop the deadly illness from spreading across the globe? We'll have details. We're going to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's on the scene for us. That's in our new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

And the U.S. Army drops its long-time NASCAR sponsorship. What does it say about the state of the U.S. military?


BLITZER: U.S. Army is putting the brakes on its decades' long partnership with NASCAR. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us now from the Pentagon. Fill us in, Barbara. What do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf it's a big surprise, but the Pentagon thinks NASCAR is now for the old folks.


STARR (voice-over): NASCAR has some 75 million fans. The Army says they're just too old. So after 10 years of sponsoring a NASCAR Sprint Cup team, the Army is ending it all stopping its $8.5 million sponsorship of Ryan Newman's number "39" car. Nowadays the Army insists only five percent of NASCAR fans are men aged 18 to 34, the target audience for Army recruiters.

MARK DAVIS, U.S. ARMY MARKETING: It was a good investment, not a great investment. And so we made a change.

STARR: The military has long used sporting events to advertise and encourage young people to sign up for military service. When I visited the Daytona 500 preps in 2010, I spoke to Newman about his main sponsor.

(on camera): What is it about representing the U.S. Army? What's different here?

RYAN NEWMAN, NASCAR DRIVER: I'm representing people and it's an honor to represent people that are not just people, they're people that are fighting for our freedom or have fought for our freedom or will fight for our freedom.

STARR (voice-over): Now NASCAR fans at a Florida hangout have a mixed reaction to the Army's decision.

JASON FILBY, NASCAR SUPPORTER: Counting (ph) the Army or any military branch sponsoring a car is one way to help instill pride in our country.

CAROL SANTOS, SPONSORING OPPONENT: Men and women on the front line, I would rather see it go to them and their families rather than to a sports car driver.

STARR: Some in Congress think it's high time to get out of NASCAR in the face of the federal deficit.

REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM (D), MINNESOTA: I started looking at ways in which we could trim the military budget and found out that the sports sponsorship is not an effective recruitment tool. In fact, we've spent millions and millions, tens of millions of dollars and recruited no one.


STARR: You know, Wolf, even the Army says they're not sure how many people they really can count as recruits from these sporting events. So many young people of course are online today. That's where they see advertising. But they're not totally getting off the track. The Army is going to stick with hot rods. Apparently that's the racing where most of the young people are. So, Wolf, you've got to get out to the drexter (ph) track I guess.

BLITZER: I guess we do, so what does all of this mean for Dale Earnhardt?

STARR: Well that's a great question because that's the person that so many people follow of course. And the National Guard, not the Army, the National Guard says it will continue its NASCAR sponsorship of the very legendary Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Barbara, for that.

The mayor of Washington, D.C. is now under fire. He's on the defensive. We're digging deeper in our brand new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. Mayor Vincent Gray (ph) insisting he is staying put even as he faces some growing calls to resign.

And a CNN iReporter takes a trip to what you could call the strangest vacation spot in the world.


BLITZER: A suicide bomber striking in Yemen. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at least 10 people are dead after a suicide bomber set off an explosion outside a police academy in Yemen's capital. Officials say the bomber targeted police officers and cadets as a crowd of people departed through the academy's main gates. At least 19 people were injured. One official blames the attack on al Qaeda as those militants are trying to scare people from being police officers.

A shocking story out of Tennessee. Police say a woman who left her mentally disabled daughter by the side of the road outside a bar cannot be charged with a crime. They say that's because the daughter is 19 years old and is not assigned to a guardian. The woman allegedly stopped at the bar last month when her daughter needed to use the restroom. The woman then went home alone. Authorities took the daughter to a hospital and only discovered her identity this week thanks to an anonymous tip.

And on a lighter note, CNN iReporter is telling us all the about a trip to one of the strangest vacation destinations on earth. We're talking about North Korea. She and a friend headed to the reclusive nation in April for Kim Il Sung's (ph) 100th birthday anniversary. He is revered as the father of the communist nation. His birthday anniversary is North Korea's biggest holiday, so huge crowds poured into the streets. They also turned out to celebrate a rocket launch, which the government initially did not tell them had failed. And Wolf, I understand yes, you've been to North Korea too, haven't you?

BLITZER: I was there in December 2010, six days in Pyongyang. There you see some pictures of Bill Richardson --

SYLVESTER: Great picture, yes --

BLITZER: -- the former U.N. ambassador, the former governor of New Mexico. He was on a mission there. I was talking to some military cadets. They were learning English. I spoke slowly, but some of their English was actually pretty good. Driving around taking pictures. It was a pretty strange trip for me as well. It wasn't a vacation, but it was very, very interesting and I hope one of these days I'll go back. Maybe Kim Jong Un (ph) would like to do a sit-down interview for THE SITUATION ROOM. Lisa, what do you think the new leader --


BLITZER: -- young leader.

SYLVESTER: That would be pretty neat to see. I remember that when you did that trip back in 2009 you also filed some great reports.


SYLVESTER: I remember seeing a number of those. I'm sure many of our viewers do as well, so we'll see. We'll see if the leader wants to do a sit-down. Certainly welcome. I'm sure --


BLITZER: If he wants to do it, I'm there. December 2010 that's actually when I was there for six days. Pretty good trip, I must say. All right. Lisa, thank you.

Jack Cafferty is joining us right now. Jack, North Korea not your everyday vacation spot.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Disney World (INAUDIBLE). I remember when you went over there and it was kind of a cold and hostile and --

BLITZER: Very --

CAFFERTY: -- and foreboding (ph) looking environment. I don't think I'd want to go there.


CAFFERTY: Question this hour is what does race have to do with achieving the American dream. Some studies by the Pew Research Trust (ph) have found that it you start out in this life poor, you're likely to remain that way.

C. disagrees, says "nothing stands in the way, work hard, go to school and don't stop until you get what you want. There are no excuses."

Bryant says "race has everything to do with achieving anything resembling the American dream. Opportunities are not abundant and with any opportunity we've always had to be three or four times as good as our white counterparts just to be considered."

Rick in Ohio writes "it may be related to how many children are being raised in two-parent families. That has a direct correlation to educational success which in turn is related to economic prosperity."

Michelle in San Francisco "the dream has nothing to do with starting out poor. The ones who have the will to lift themselves up and out of poverty are succeeding and have found the dream. That's all there is to it. You have to want it badly enough. Sadly, a lot of people feel it's too much work."

Gail in Texas writes "race has everything to do with achieving the American dream. We, the white race, have made it literally almost impossible for a black man to succeed. You're correct in that the president's an anomaly and rust me you won't see the likes of him again. The GOP will be sure of that."

Bernard writes from Georgia "race is a hindrance to achieving the American dream, but it's not a prevention."

Danny on Facebook writes "it's called the American dream for a reason. Reality tells you an entirely different story of racism, hatred and inequality."

And Jerry in Colorado writes "President Obama had a working white mother and working white grandparents who loved, supported and nurtured him throughout his sometimes chaotic life. And what do most black kids have? And whose fault is that?"

If you want to read more about this, go to the blog or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. We've got a long way to go yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly do. Jack, thank you.

Coming up lots more news including an explosive interview with the actor Robert Blake (ph). Our own Piers Morgan asks him about his wife's murder. Stand by for that.

And they're reaching for gold, but guess what, many U.S. Olympic athletes are broke. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here is something you want to see later tonight, CNN's Piers Morgan and the actor, Robert Blake.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: You were a huge Hollywood star and a great actor, no one can take that away from you. But in 2001, you were accused of killing your wife. You were acquitted. You spent a year in a prison cell, a cement box as you call it. But after you were acquitted, the family of your dead wife sued you in a civil case --

ROBERT BLAKE, ACTOR: Do you know --

MORGAN: -- and you were found liable --

BLAKE: Do you know why --

MORGAN: Weren't you?

BLAKE: -- I was arrested? Do you know why I was arrested?

MORGAN: Tell me.

BLAKE: Well, before you start asking questions, you should do some (EXPLETIVE DELETED) research.

MORGAN: Well why don't you tell me --

BLAKE: I begged for a grand jury hearing because they'd have thrown the whole (EXPLETIVE DELETED) thing out. There was no evidence. I was found liable in a civil suit. They didn't win it. I lost it. I went up there suicidally (ph) to lose that. I'm lucky I didn't lose my life. That's why I left town and stayed away for a long time.


BLITZER: Wow. What an exchange. You're going to want to see this, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN. That's only just the beginning.

We're only two weeks away from start of the Olympic Games in London. The games can't get here soon enough for some U.S. athletes because they're nearly broke. They've gone nearly broke simply trying to get there. Lisa Sylvester is joining us now. She has this story. Lisa, what do we know here?

SYLVESTER: Well Wolf, you know when we watch the Olympics, we see the final results of years of training, but what we don't see is that the sacrifice that these athletes have had to make along the way. They put incredible hours into their sports, but very few actually have a big pay day.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): They train for months, and it comes down to a few seconds. The blood, sweat and money all on the line. Adam Nelson is a three time Olympian, his long time training partner is Reese Hoffa (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're working class athletes. We're working class people.

SYLVESTER: Sometimes behind the pomp and pageantry of the Olympics are world class athletes living in poverty. These two men both are married. Nelson also has two children. They both struggle to pay the bills, even as they strive to continue training.

ADAM NELSON, U.S. SHORT PUTTER: It becomes a true labor of love and as someone once said it's a vow of poverty to pursue the Olympic Games.

SYLVESTER: For athletes who are household names, the lucrative contracts come rolling in, but they are in the upper, upper tier. Most Olympians work part-time jobs and hustle for sports contracts. A survey by the U.S. Track and Field Athletic Association found that of the top 10 U.S. ranking athletes in their events, about half of them made less than $15,000 annually from the sport. Nelson even after he won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics was dropped by his athletic company sponsor, so he came up with a novel way to raise money.

NELSON: I jokingly, said why don't I sell myself on eBay and my agent and who is also a good friend of mine and I were talking (INAUDIBLE) said let's do it, so we set up the page and we started pushing it out. We ended up selling -- closing on a deal for $12,000 for one month sponsorship with a company and Metabox RX (ph) and while $12,000 doesn't sound like a whole lot, it was enough to cover my first year -- first six months worth of expenses.

SYLVESTER: Unlike other athletes in most other countries, American athletes don't get financial aid from the government. And even being great is not always good enough.

REESE HOFFA, U.S. SHOT PUTTER: In the U.S. we have very high standards. They're basically saying if you're not good enough to get a medal, then you're really not that good. There are lots of athletes in other countries. The simple fact that they're an Olympian and they -- they make it to the final, that's huge, they'll be supported for the next four years. And for me for the next four years it was a struggle. Like I had to fight every single year to kind of validate like hey, listen, I'm still good. You know you can still hold onto me.

SYLVESTER: Both Nelson and Hoffa are lucky to have found corporate sponsors this year, but Nelson did not make the Olympic team, putting his financial future in limbo. Hoffa did and now heads to London.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right buddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't get too good while I'm gone.


SYLVESTER: So what is the answer? Well the Olympics rakes in tens of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships, but Nelson and Hoffa say that doesn't filter down to the athletes. Both men would like to see more prize money for successful Olympians. The winners of Wimbledon, for example, they walked away each with a $1.8 million check. A U.S. Gold Medalist in London will get a $25,000 check -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good report. Lisa, thank you.

Happening now, Mitt Romney upstages President Obama in the campaign for African-American votes.

Washington, D.C.'s top official on the defensive in a growing corruption scandal.

And a wealthy heir under arrest after his American wife's mysterious death.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.