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THE SITUATION ROOM
Battle Raging For Syria's Commercial Capital; "Closer To The Edge Of Collapse"; Interview with Israeli President Shimon Peres; Nuclear Plants Feeling the Drought; Chicago Murder
Aired July 31, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a population almost double the size of the U.S. in the dark in sweltering heat. India hit by a crippling power outage for the second day in a row.
Also, concern about possible blackouts in the U.S. The relentless drought has nuclear power plants growing increasingly thirsty.
And, Hillary Clinton speaks out for the first time about a top aide targeted by Republican lawmakers questioning whether she has ties to radical Islam.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Joe Johns. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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JOHNS: We begin this hour in Syria where the battle for Aleppo, the country's commercial capital, is unfolding. The rebel free Syrian army is making incremental gains according to an opposition group seizing control of two police stations, including this one in a central part of the city with at least 40 police officers said to be killed in the battle. Nearby rebel forces have captured dozens of regime fighters.
CNN's Ivan Watson is on the ground in Northern Syria and got an exclusive look at the world's newest prisoners of war. A warning, his report has some graphic images.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're in a rebel- controlled makeshift prison in a school where they're keeping 112 prisoners. They're going to show us the prisoners' conditions right now.
(voice-over) Instead of school children, this crowded classroom holds at least 40 prisoners. We won't show their faces because most of them clearly don't want to be filmed, perhaps, fearing retribution against their families. The prison warden accuses these men of being members of the shabiha, Syria's much-feared pro-government militia.
He orders one to stand up for the camera and take of his shirt. He limps, unable to stand flat on his feet. This prisoner has the face of the Syrian regime tattooed on his chest. Portraits of the family that's ruled Syria for more than 40 years, former president, Hafez al- Assad, his long dead son, Basil, and the current president, Bashar al- Assad.
On his back, a greeting in Arabic to Hezbollah, a Shiite movement in Lebanon. But someone has cut deep gashes into tattoos showing Bashar al-Assad's face. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) "God is great" is all the prisoner says. This prisoner is a shabiha member who used to beat protesters at demonstrations says the warden, a former employee in the agricultural ministry who asks only to be called Abu Hatem (ph).
It looked to me like someone had deliberately cut him on those tattoos of the Assad family. "This man confessed to committing crimes," Abu Hatem (ph) tells me. So, he cut himself because he wanted to donate blood to the rebels. It seems an unlikely account. The warden shows us the food his men feed the prisoners. Jailers bring us another suspected shabiha member.
The man trembles glancing terrified at his captors every time he speaks. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) He says he worked as a bureaucrat in the state finance office in Aleppo until rebels blew it up. Desperate for money to pay for his pregnant wife's cesarean section, the man took a job as a guard at in check point for about $190 a month.
He says he'd only been on the job for five days when rebels captured him. The top enforcer at this facility is a hulking man nicknamed "Jumbo." He says he endured days of torture in government prisons. In another room, he seems to treat captured soldiers and army officers with more respect.
Just days ago, these were men in uniform fighting for the Syrian government. Now, they are captives of an increasingly confident rebel movement that's determined to destroy the Syrian regime.
Ivan Watson, CNN reporting from Northern Syria.
JOHNS: Ivan Watson joins us live. And Ivan, we're not going to identify exactly where you are except to say that you're in Syria. Can you give us some sense of how you got access to these people in the piece?
WATSON (on-camera): We were invited by the rebels. The warden who is named Abu Hatem (ph), he said, we want the whole world to come in here. We'll welcome the international community or the Red Cross, journalists from any country around the world, because the whole world has stood by and ignored what has happened in Syria for the last 17 months.
And we want the world to see the mess that you all have left us in. JOHNS: And pretty remarkable. Talk about, if you will, from your experience just how bad is this?
WATSON: Well, I spent much of the last 17 months covering allegations of systematic human rights abuses in Syrian prisons, government-run prisons by Syrian security forces, horrific stories that will stay with me for some time that I've heard from many former inmates as well as former security officers.
And now, here, we've seen a rebel-run institution improvised and certainly in the case of that one heavily tattooed man who seems to be a fanatic loyalist to the Syrian regime, those gashes in his chest, his defaced -- painfully defaced torso very much look like they had not been self-inflicted despite the denials of the captors there.
We did see a couple other people who were pretty bruised and appeared to have been beaten in the two cells that we were shown. And one man who was brought out to me was not only trembling, at one point, one of the captors said, why doesn't he lift his shirt to show that he has no signs? Signs of what? Well, I would assume that means kind of marks of torture.
And then this terrified man looked at this big fellow, Jumbo, and whispered to him, no, I do have marks. He was terrified that we would show this on camera. So, it suggests that these people are terrified of the men who are holding them. And that war is a very, very ugly thing. And that, perhaps, the rebels are not treating their captives up to international standards.
JOHNS: Ivan Watson, you've been doing some simply incredible reporting from there. Our hearts are with you. Stay safe.
A power outage on a massive scale for the second day in a row. Hundreds of millions of people in India lost electricity, bringing life for more than half a billion people to a grinding and sweltering halt. CNN's Brian Todd has details. Brian, what's happened?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, Indian officials say it's likely that the demand for power in India went way up in a very short period of time possibly because farmers in the northern part of the country with a lack of rainfall there spiked their use of electric water pimps.
Now, Indian officials say power there has largely been restored, but this blackout has caused huge problems in India and left many on this side of the world to wonder could it happen here?
TODD (voice-over): In a word, crippling. Two massive cascading power failures in India over the course of two days leave up to 600 million people without electricity, almost double the entire U.S. population. Road and rail traffic brought to a halt, millions sweating it out in searing heat. Could the U.S. experience a similar catastrophe where half the population is out of power once at once?
PROF. MASSOUD AMIN, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: We have the system that's operating closer and closer to the edge of collapse.
TODD: Massoud Amin, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, says the kind of calamitous blackout that India experienced is unlikely in the U.S. but possible. America, he says, has undergone a similar breakneck expansion of people who rely on power.
AMIN: The demand for electricity continues to increase. Even with the slow economy, just tweeting, use of video streaming, use of digitization of data and records, it's part of the growth. We're experiencing about one percent growth of load in the U.S. a year. The infrastructure expansion has not kept up with demand.
TODD: Amin says the American power grid once called the greatest engineering achievement of the last century is wearing out. Policymakers and power companies, he says, have not been able to agree on plans to spend more money to upgrade the grid. He points out no one wants a new power station in their neighborhood, so America hasn't been able to add capability and redundancy to the system.
As a result, Amin says, backup systems, shock absorbers he calls them, have been shaved down, leaving the U.S. more vulnerable to over usage episodes. Extreme weather events like the recent storm in the mid- Atlantic and to cyber attack. Amin says the number of large scale outages affecting 50,000 or more customers at a time doubled in the U.S. between 2000 and 2005.
I posed all that to David Owens from a group representing power compaies.
What about the argument that the grid is antiquated, that it has -- we have not spent the money to upgrade it, and that it's more and more vulnerable to severe weather, cyber attacks, you know, just over usage.
DAVID OWENS, EDISON ELECTRIC INSTITUTE: Well, let's deal with the first issue. We are spending the money. In 2004 -- just by way of example, from 2001 to 2010, we have spent over $77 billion in upgrading our overall energy delivery system. That's very significant.
TODD (on-camera): Owen says the U.S. will spend an additional $50 billion over the next three years to improve America's power grid. Joe, he says the investment is there.
JOHNS: Right. And a lot of people know the U.S. has a power grid.
JOHNS: And the big question for us is, is it different from India's or part and parcel the same thing?
TODD: There are significant differences. And David Owens points out that, you know, in India, the five grids there are not all interconnected. I think four of the five are, but there's one that's not connected. So, that's a key difference. In the U.S., there are three main power grids. They're all closely connected today each other.
He says in India, they don't have the supply, the consistency of supply to the grids that they have in the United States. And a key difference also, in India, they do not have the policing and monitoring agencies kind of connected to the government that exists in the U.S. Here, they have an agency that does that and can really kind of keep close tabs on where the trouble spots are.
JOHNS: Brian Todd, thanks so much for that.
JOHNS: Hillary Clinton is speaking out for the first time about the controversy swirling around one of her top aides, Huma Abedin. She's been the target of a small group of Republican lawmakers questioning whether she has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. CNN senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is working the story for us. Dana, what's the latest?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, you know it's really hard to overstate how close Huma Abedin is to Hillary Clinton. She was literally by her side from the time that she was first lady in the White House to her time here in the United States Senate, to her run for president, and then, now at the state department.
So, for Hillary Clinton, what she considers attacks on Huma are not just, according to state department sources, a problem for U.S. foreign policy, it's also personal.
BASH (voice-over): The question to secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, was about charges from five GOP congressmen that her aide and confidant, Huma Abedin, may have ties to radical Islam. Ever the diplomat, Clinton was careful to say what she meant without saying it directly.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We saw Republicans stepping up and standing up against the kind of assaults that really have no place in our politics.
BASH: A backhanded slap at the Republicans raising questions about Abedin by thanking their GOP colleagues who have defended her.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: These attacks have no logic, no basis, and no merit. And they need to stop. They need to stop now.
BASH: It was the first time Clinton spoke out about this controversy, which for weeks has been brewing and at times bubbling over. At issue, a series of letters written by former presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, and four other GOP lawmakers to inspectors general across the government asking whether the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group, has infiltrated the federal government.
One letter singled out Abedin, suggesting an organization her late father ran had the support of a man who may have had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Loose ties and flimsy facts led to a rare rebuke from the House speaker.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: And I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.
BASH: But this week, former speaker, Newt Gingrich, weighed in with a robust defense writing an op-ed dubbing the GOP congressman the national security five.
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It is legitimate to ask security questions, and it is legitimate to ask questions about who is influencing our foreign policy.
BASH: Bachmann, the both high profile (INAUDIBLE) has refused to answer our questions about it all.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: I can't do it right now.
BASH: She did find time to talk to a supporter, radio host Glenn Beck, and questioned Abedin's security clearance.
BACHMANN: Did she have to go through the same sort of process that anyone else has to go to. Did they check the boxes?
BASH: Publicly, other GOP congressmen are also standing by their letter pointing the finger at Abedin. But CNN has learned that privately, one, Trent Franks of Arizona, has told colleagues he has regrets.
Sources tell CNN Franks stood up at a meeting of conservative Republicans last week and admitted that singling out Abedin was probably a tactical mistake, because the controversy it ignited overshadowed their larger questions about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
BASH (on-camera): Now, to be clear, most Republican congressmen, according to many sources we've talked to on Capitol Hill, think that this was a big blunder by their five colleagues.
In fact, I talked to one conservative Republican House member who said that he is conservative as (INAUDIBLE) but thinks that they're, quote, "idiots" for making this mistake, because in the words of this congressman I talked to, there's no reason to attack somebody like Huma Abedin, especially if you don't have the evidence.
So, what sources here are saying, though, is that for these five congressmen, Joe, they have a very specific audience that they're trying to reach. And it is paying off for at least one, and that is Michele Bachmann. Her campaign for re-election in Congress released a statement today saying that she raised a million dollars just in the last 25 days.
That is a lot of money for a re-election campaign for Congress. And there is really little question that it was helped by the fact that this controversy is brewing. And a lot of people out there want to hit the so-called mainstream media.
JOHNS: Dana Bash on Capitol Hill, thanks so much for that.
A CNN exclusive, Israeli president, Shimon Peres, tells Wolf Blitzer what he thinks of President Obama, meeting Mitt Romney, and much, much more.
And straight ahead for the first time, a Democratic National Convention, a Latino chosen to give the keynote speech. We'll talk about it with James Carville.
JOHNS: It's a first for the Democratic National Convention, a Latino chosen to deliver the keynote address, San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro. He says he's well-aware that the keynote spotlight is especially bright.
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MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: Being the keynote speaker at the convention this year is an honor I don't take lightly. I know I've got some big shoes to fill. Two conventions ago, the keynote speaker was a guy named Barack Obama.
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JOHNS: Let's get more now with CNN political contributor and Democratic Strategist, James Carville. So, who is Julian Castro? Do you think he could be the next Barack Obama, the breakout star from the Democratic convention, James?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I'll tell you what, when you read his story, you don't just automatically dismiss the possibility. I mean, he and his twin brother undergraduates of Stanford, both graduated the same time at Harvard law. He wins re- election in San Antonio, which, by the way, I think is like the seventh or eighth largest city in the United States by something like 83 percent of the vote.
I mean, this guy looks like the real thing. I mean, from everything I hear from people in Texas, very, very highly regarded. I think the Obama campaign made a really inspired choice here.
JOHNS: Well, the interesting thing, though, is they're certainly reaching out to Latinos as they always would in election. Here's a president who's very popular with Latino voters right now. Nonetheless, his record is attackable, if you will. For one thing, he did not enact immigration reform as he promised.
And he's been hit many times for the fact that he deported more Latinos, perhaps, than any other president. Does he have a problem potentially somewhere down the road and has to make up for that?
CARVILLE: Well, I mean, he didn't enact immigration reform. Why didn't he enact it? Because the Republicans blocked him. So, Latinos are pretty smart to say, hey, you're the guy that tried. The other party blocked you. So, we're not going to sort of reward you, if you will. I think he has a pretty inspired position on immigration.
I'm sure that Mayor Castro is going to talk about that. But, look, anybody -- you run for president, you attackable on any number of subjects. And, you know, it's not just I think he'll do very fine with the Latino vote, but it's also a matter of enthusiasm. It's also important to the Democratic Party that we have this kind of pioneer speakers, if you will.
Remember Barbara Jordan, I guess, it was 1976, you know, was the first African-American to deliver a keynote address. So, that's a pretty remarkable thing, but it looks like this guy from everything that I hear and read is the real thing. Now, he will have this problem, expectations of him are going to be sky high.
He looks like the kind of man that can meet those expectations, but no one is coming into this thing expecting just an OK speech.
JOHNS: Speaking of the Democratic National Convention, you do know that -- and we've been reporting that Democrats are working on a plank that they want to include relating to same-sex marriage and supporting it. Now, this sounds like a good idea for a lot of liberal Democrats, but for some conservative Democrats even there in the state of North Carolina.
There've been a lot of people who say they're opposed to the same-sex marriage. What's the Democratic Party going to do when they're sort of on both sides of this issue right now?
CARVILLE: Look, as I recall and that was a long time ago when I was in law school, an expression of res judicata. In Latin, it means "it is decided." I think, in my recall, it is decided. The Democratic Party from now to the rest of its existence however it is is going to be a party that is going to be for gay marriage.
And, sure there's some people that are against this, but everyday, there are fewer and fewer of them. The ascendency of this issue in Poland has really been something remarkable. And it just -- you know what, you can't be a Democrat in 2012 and -- well, you can, but basically most Democrats favor this.
They think it's the correct -- as I do too, the correct position of the party that were on the right side of the history. And, the question is not when will the Democratic Party not endorse gay marriage. The question is in what year will the Republican Party come around and endorse gay marriage? And that's the only thing in speculation here.
JOHNS: James Carville, thanks for that. Always good to see you.
CARVILLE: Well, thank you. Appreciate it. Appreciate the opportunity to visit with you.
JOHNS: A new strain of bird flu is killing baby seals and could potentially pose a threat to humans. We'll tell you just how serious it is.
Plus, a mass swarm of bees when exterminators stumble on a hive almost ten feet high. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
JOHNS: Deadly twin blasts rocked the Iraqi capital. Our Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Mary, what do you have?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Joe. Well, at least 15 people were killed and 47 others wounded in the Baghdad explosions, including some police officers. So far, there's been no claim of responsibility. The violence comes just over a week after the country's deadliest day this year when more than 100 people were killed in a string of coordinated attacks across the region.
Scientists reveal today that a new strain of avian flu which jumps from birds to mammals is responsible for the deaths of more than 160 baby seals off the coast of New England last year. This is the same type of seals you're seeing here, harbor seals.
Now, researchers say most of them are less than six months old and began showing signs of severe pneumonia and skin lesions before they died. They also warned the new virus could pose a threat to human health.
And it's being called a Texas-sized beehive. Take a look at this. Pest controllers drilling into the side wall of a home where engulfed a new swarm of bees before reaching a hive almost, get this, ten feet high. The extermination was a free service for the man living next door.
His wife is allergic to bees and his daughter suffers from epilepsy. And that bee wrangler was quoted as saying, Joe, that it was a "mountain of hell." Imagine that job.
JOHNS: I do not like those things. I'm allergic. A lot of people are.
SNOW: A lot of people are.
JOHNS: Yes. All right. Thanks so much, Mary.
JOHNS: They rely on hundreds of millions of gallons of water each day. Now, many of America's nuclear power plants are feeling the impact of the relentless drought.
Plus, Wolf Blitzer's interview with the Israeli president. He asked Shimon Peres what he made of his meeting with Mitt Romney. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JOHNS: The critical bond between the United States and Israel front and center this week with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney including a stop in Jerusalem as part of his overseas trip. Our own Wolf Blitzer not only sat down with Mitt Romney while he was there, he also spoke exclusively with Israel's president, Shimon Peres.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: In a word or two how is the state of U.S./Israeli relations as you and I meet right now?
PRES. SHIMON PERES, ISRAEL: Basically profound and right. (INAUDIBLE) time of elections usually is enjoyed by partisan support. I think we were lucky by having it and enjoying it. It shall remain the same way.
BLITZER: Would you say the relationship today is as good as it's ever been, not as good, strained, how would you describe it?
PERES: I think generally as good as it could have been, as it should have been. You know, I learn from my boss (INAUDIBLE) that you have to judge a (INAUDIBLE) person in the right way, which is on his record. Not what he says, not what he -- (INAUDIBLE) right, but what did do. When I look at the record of President Obama concerning the major issue security I think it's a highly satisfactory record from Israeli point of view.
BLITZER: Because his supporters back in Washington say U.S./Israeli military-to-military, intelligence-to-intelligence cooperation is stronger now than it's ever been. Are they right?
PERES: Yes. And because (INAUDIBLE) else is becoming our major concern with the new weapons in the Middle East, the new (INAUDIBLE) in the Middle East, we are surrounded by many dangers and many menaces. And security is really the top issue in our existence. And here the president is true to his words. What he pledged, he did.
BLITZER: Is there any issue that is a source of real problem now between the U.S. and Israel?
PERES: The -- in the press they emphasize very much the Iranian story. But on that too there is a basic agreement which says let's try and stop the development of the nuclear weapon first of all by nonmilitary means, namely economic sanctions, political pressure. But telling the Iranians, look, if it won't fly, there are other options on the table. Maybe difference in timing or appreciation, well, it may happen, but basically there's an agreement (ph).
BLITZER: When you say on timing, that's a sensitive issue --
BLITZER: -- because you, the government of Israel, you don't think there's a whole lot of time left.
PERES: Yes, but the difference is what, a month? How can you measure it? The sanctions are functioning, are beginning (INAUDIBLE) they have impacted Iran. We have to wait a bit more and see if this impact is sufficient enough to convince the Iranians to stop it. This will be the best way. None of us would like to see blood shed.
BLITZER: When you say months, how much time really is there given what's going on right now?
PERES: Look, if the Iranians (INAUDIBLE) right away, it can be tomorrow. But it doesn't look like for the time being (INAUDIBLE). So right now there is a parallel effort, one by negotiating with them, that didn't bear our fruits and other by increasing the sanctions, so we have to wait. I think it's a matter of months.
BLITZER: A few months? Six months? Ten months?
PERES: I can't tell it. I can't tell it --
BLITZER: But it's not years.
PERES: I don't think so. I don't think that anybody can hold it for such a long time. It's such a hot potato that your hand begin to burn.
BLITZER: I interviewed Mitt Romney here in Jerusalem, the Republican presidential candidate. Not only did he say that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, but he also said that if he were elected president, he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem following consultations with the government of Israel depending on what the government of Israel said. The question to you, Mr. President, would you want the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
PERES: I don't think there is any Israeli that would say no to such a proposal. But we have some other problems and that is what will happen about (INAUDIBLE) Jerusalem and there are other claims, but basically would say yes.
BLITZER: So if he was elected and said to you, the president of Israel should the U.S. move the embassy, you would say yes?
PERES: I don't want to introduce any doubt, but it's not the first time that presidents in the past have promised it the same thing and they found it difficult to fulfill it. (INAUDIBLE) to answer you with a little bit of reserve.
BLITZER: Because other U.S. candidates have made that commitment --
BLITZER: Only when they took office they didn't live up to it.
PERES: When they took over they saw that it's a little bit more complicated. But basically I believe it is possible and I am for it. BLITZER: Is there any hope that the Israeli/Palestinian peace process can be revived?
BLITZER: Because I don't see anything happening right now that would give me that kind of hope, so tell us what you're seeing.
PERES: (INAUDIBLE) I know it's a long time and it remains a long way the fact is there is a Palestinian Authority that exists. For the first time the Palestinians have a legal (INAUDIBLE). Secondly, they made the many -- they built many parts of governments. They (INAUDIBLE) government. They revived a little bit of their economy. They introduced laws.
They have a voice (ph) to guarantee law and order. All this never existed. And the daily life is a little bit better than it's being described in the papers. When you come to Jerusalem, you don't feel (INAUDIBLE) and every morning the Jewish people praying in their way and the Muslims in their way and so the Christians -- in fact, there is a pragmatic co-existence.
BLITZER: You met with Mitt Romney. This was not the first time you met with Mitt Romney, right?
BLITZER: You've met with him over a few times. So here's the question, what do you think of this man?
PERES: Well, look, it's election time. I have the highest respect for all candidates without making too many engagements (INAUDIBLE) on it. He is the candidate of the Republican Party. There are two parties, two candidates. I respect him very much.
BLITZER: Because you obviously respect President Obama as well. Earlier you described the U.S./Israeli relationship under his administration as being very strong.
PERES: Yes. He's the actual (ph) president and I have the highest regard for what he did as president.
BLITZER: President Obama?
PERES: President Obama, right.
BLITZER: Would you want to compare him? Because you've worked -- and you go back to 1948 when Harry Truman recognized Israel's independence.
BLITZER: You've worked with every American president over the years.
BLITZER: How would you -- where would you put President Obama because you've worked with all of them.
PERES: On a high mark. Look, I worked with American Republican presidents and Democratic presidents, all of them, and each of them has shown a deep and profound friendship to Israel, you know? I can't remember anybody who was in that sense negative as far as Israel is concerned.
JOHNS: A growing thirst in a brutal dry spell. It's not just American farms feeling the impact. Critical nuclear power plants are also feeling the drought, plus a young man on the verge of a new life when a fight changed everything.
JOHNS: The drought gripping much of the U.S. is taking a toll far beyond parched farms. Nuclear power plants that provide electricity to millions of Americans require huge amounts of water to run and increasingly the plants are finding water harder to come by. CNN's Sandra Endo has details. Sandra, just how big of a problem is this?
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Joe, the problem is really regulating water temperature and this is a problem that affects both conventional and nuclear power plants alike. And while the majority are up and running just fine all of them have to be mindful of just how hot their operations get.
ENDO (voice-over): When you think of the widespread drought, you may think of this and this. But consider this, nuclear power plants, thirsty for water to help generate electricity. Water is drawn from lakes and rivers and is eventually released back. But by law for environmental reasons it cannot be more than 10 degrees warmer than its freshwater source.
JOHN ROGERS, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: We have water in a Jacuzzi and it gets too hot, we have the option of getting out of a hot tub. If you're a fish and you run into water like that, your options are a lot more limited.
ENDO: But this summer's heat wave and drought are making it difficult for some nuclear power plants to meet those water temperature requirements. In one case the nuclear plant in Quad Cities (ph), Illinois, had to ask for a waiver allowing it to discharge hotter water. The excessive heat also forced plants in Vermont and Illinois to reduce power. A third plant in New York had to mist its entire building to cool it down. The Nuclear Energy Institute says it's not a problem unique to nuclear plants.
STEVE KEREKES, NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE: We put a lot of attention into our preparation and actually bring additional manpower on when the heat really starts to get in place so we can be sure we stay online and produce the electricity and power those air conditioners that folks rely on. ROGERS: The question is, if power plants are getting the water they need and there's not enough water in general, so who else is losing out? What does that mean for how much water farmers are getting? What does that mean for what kind of cuts we're going to be asking for from our cities and towns?
ENDO: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says despite the drought, plants continue to operate safely and do have the water they need. They say what they're seeing now is consistent to what they've seen in the past during heat waves -- Joe.
JOHNS: Well, at least that's good to know. Thank you so much for that Sandra.
JOHNS: All right. A high school basketball star on the verge of a new life now among the latest murder statistics in Chicago's soaring violent crimes and more embarrassing headlines for Mitt Romney overseas after a top aide curses at reporters asking questions. Will he be forced to do damage control once he's back in the U.S.?
JOHNS: The murder rate in America's third largest city is soaring this year. Homicides are up 30 percent in Chicago. Among the latest victims, a young man who was on the verge of a new life. CNN's Ted Rowlands has the story -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, this is another heartbreaking story out of the city of Chicago this summer. So many young people have died because of the violence. This young man had a promising future as a basketball player and more importantly as a young man going to college.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): Instead of preparing for his departure for college, Michael Haynes' (ph) family is now preparing for his funeral.
KANDICE BLOUIN, MICHAEL HAYNES' COUSIN: I was just hoping that if I did fall asleep, that I'd wake up and it would be a dream. And it's not. And it hurts.
ROWLANDS: A former high school basketball star Haynes was getting ready to get off the streets of Chicago and onto the basketball court in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a Division One basketball player when he was fatally shot and killed near his home.
ROBERT KIMBROUGH, MICHAEL HAYNES' COUSIN: Gentle giant, 6'6", physical specimen, been a star since he was in 7th grade as far as his athletic ability. Man, genuine.
ROWLANDS: Not only did Haynes have athletic ability, but he was also someone in the neighborhood who kids looked up to.
JOHN WILLIAMS, MICHAEL HAYNES' FRIEND: They would often play ball, shoot around with them, you know what I'm saying. If Mike had a few extra dollars on him, he probably helped kids get some Icee (ph). He'd go to the candy store. He just helped everybody.
ROWLANDS: According to his family, Haynes was trying to break up a fight over a stolen necklace when he was shot. He later died at a hospital. It was one of five fatal shootings in the city over an especially violent 12-hour stretch.
BLOUIN: The guy doesn't make any mistakes and maybe Michael served his purpose here and maybe this will make people stop.
ROWLANDS: Friends and family of Michael Haynes say that he was the type of guy that would intercede to try to help people, and they point to the fact that he did exactly that when he died getting involved with that accident. The bottom line here, Joe, another heartbreaking story of a young person dying for no reason, because of the violence this summer in Chicago -- Joe.
JOHNS: Ted Rowlands reporting from Chicago.
A major drug ring busted overseas, just ahead the U.S. tip that led authorities to more than $500 million worth of heroin and methamphetamine.
And good news for fans anxiously awaiting the new "Hobbit" movie series. Why you may be about to get much more than you bargained for.
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JOHNS: World health officials are desperately trying to contain a deadly Ebola outbreak in Uganda. Mary Snow is monitoring that and other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Mary, what do you have?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Joe so far 14 people have died from the highly contagious virus and 36 suspected cases have been reported. Officials say nine of those deaths occurred in one household. The president of the country is urging residents to be cautious. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins an 11-day trip across Africa tomorrow. Uganda one of the scheduled stops on that tour.
Australian police have announced a record drug bust, seizing more than 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine and heroin worth more than $500 million stuffed in terra cotta pots. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration tipped off officials that an international crime syndicate was planning to import the drugs to the country. Seven suspects were arrested.
Good news for fans anticipating Peter Jackson's (ph) plan to film "Hobbit" adaptation. It will now be a trilogy. The renowned director of "The Lord of the Rings" made the announcement on his Facebook page saying it allows more of the story to be told. The first film installment is due out in December, the second in December of 2013. Expect the final installment to hit theaters in the summer of 2014.
And the Consumer Federation of America is out with its annual list of the top 10 consumer complaints. Some of them may sound familiar. At number five, dealing with utility companies, cable, phone, or Internet. Four, retail sales issues, including false advertising or defective merchandise. Number three, complaints about home improvements or construction. Number two, credit card billing and fees. And the number one complaint -- autos, not a big surprise there, Joe.
JOHNS: Not at all. I got to tell you I got a complaint right now.
Thanks so much for that, Mary Snow.
JOHNS: The news continues, coming up next.