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Battle for Syria; New Unemployment Numbers; Wildfire Outside Oklahoma City; New Massacres Reported In Syria; Can Bill Clinton Save Obama's Presidency?; Same Sex "Kiss-In" At Chick-Fil-A; Ernesto Threatens Caribbean; Two Tropical Cyclones Strike China; Roller Coaster Diplomacy; Ripken: Help Find My Mom's Kidnapper

Aired August 3, 2012 - 16:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a new unemployment report and the race for the White House -- some surprising numbers and what they mean for the candidates.

Also, condemnation and grave concern for Syria at the United Nations, as dozens more die in civil war fighting.

And roller-coaster diplomacy. We now know the identity of this mystery man spotted at an amusement park with North Korea's leader.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's part economic snapshot, part political football, and there's only three more jobs reports coming out before the November election. The latest one released today has something for everybody. The Labor Department reports better-than-expected job gains in July, good news for President Obama. But the unemployment rate still ticked up a notch, playing right into Mitt Romney's hands.

CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian has details.

Dan, so how does all this play out on the campaign trail?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, for Mitt Romney, it allows him to say, see, I told you so, unemployment still going up. It's still above 8 percent, so what the president is doing is not working. The president on the other hand was putting the spotlight on what he says is working, even though he admitted there's still a lot of pain.



LOTHIAN (voice-over): Surrounded by a handpicked group of middle- class families and workers, President Obama defended his economic policies and emphasized gains in a still struggling economy, 163,000 jobs created in July, 1.1 million so far this year, 4.5 million over the last 29 months.

OBAMA: Those are our neighbors and family members finding work and the security that comes with work. But let's acknowledge we have still got too many folks out there who are looking for work.

LOTHIAN: The jobs growth was greater than economists had expected. But the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent. And the president's opponent, Mitt Romney, said that was more evidence of the administration's failed policies.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: it's another hammer blow to the struggling middle-class families of America, because the president has not had policies that put American families back to work.

LOTHIAN: Romney promised voters his economic plan would create 12 million new jobs by the end of his first term and bring the economy -- quote -- "roaring back."

He's finding believers, but in Los Angeles, CNN's Kyung Lah found a skeptic of Romney's promise.

ERNIE CASILLAS, UNEMPLOYED FOR FOUR YEARS: I don't think that he's with the people.

LOTHIAN: Ernie Casillas lost his job as a mortgage broker right before President Obama took office.

CASILLAS: But I'm so tired of collecting unemployment.

LOTHIAN: A desperate Craigslist posting recently landed him work after almost four years as a cleaning company supervisor at the Los Angeles Airport. He's not satisfied with the president, but thinks he deserves more time to fix the economy.

It's an appeal President Obama has been making on the campaign trail.

OBAMA: We recognize there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to all the problems we face.

LOTHIAN: But Republicans call that an excuse, and say in Mitt Romney's business experience lies the solution to put Americans back to work.


LOTHIAN: Now, as you saw, the president was surrounded by those middle-class families, a way for him to emphasize that campaign theme that he's looking out for the middle class, that his tax policies will benefit the middle class, as opposed to what Mitt Romney is offering, which he says will benefit the very wealthy and what the president describes as "upside-down economics."

CROWLEY: Dan Lothian at the White House, thanks so much.

We want to talk more about jobs and the presidential race with our chief another, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, I look at these numbers, I listen to the analysis, here is what I hear, pretty much what I have heard for the past many months. The economy is creating jobs, not enough jobs. Does anything change in the political dynamic?


As we have seen from recent polls, the American public is sort of getting set on the fact that they are pessimistic about the way the economy is trending. If you look at this chart, it's very interesting because it shows you that if you at the job numbers, the creation numbers for the past half-year, go back to January, things were going pretty well.

And then look at that trend line up until July. You see over the last seven months things have been heading in the wrong direction, and the American public, it is beginning to kind of sink in. That's really a problem for the president, because the public is so pessimistic.

CROWLEY: And let me ask you. When both of these politically, these guys are both Mr. Fix-It. I'm going to fix it or I'm going to continue to fix it depending on who you are.

We look at the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" report and here is what we see. Here's the question. Who has good ideas for how to improve the economy? Romney, 43 percent, Obama, 36 percent. It seems like a key question, except for that doesn't match what we see in the overall numbers, which are essentially tied.

BORGER: Right.

Well, first of all, this is clearly Mitt Romney's strong suit, which is why you hear him talk about the economy over and over and over again, because he's presenting himself as Mr. Fix-It. If people were to vote on that single issue alone, that would be really good for Mitt Romney. But there are other factors here that people take into consideration when they vote for president.

Number one, who is more likable? Number two, who is somebody who understands their problems? Who is somebody who cares about the middle class? And by all of those measures, the president does a lot better.

And that's why you see the president trying to dismantle and disqualify Mitt Romney on the economic issue, because they know they do better along all those other measures.

But this is the one area they have to take him down on. And they have to say he's really not qualified. He really was not a job creator when he was over at Bain. He was a job killer. And that -- Romney has to counter that. But he also has to show the rest of himself to the American public.

That's what conventions are about, where he says there's another part of me. You can like me. I really do care about the middle class. Those are the points he really has to kind of focus on right now.

CROWLEY: Right. So when we say it's all about the economy, we mean it's all about the economy and a couple other things.

BORGER: And a couple other things. People vote their pocketbook, but they also vote who they like.


BORGER: They also look at other things.

CROWLEY: Rick Perry told CNN that he doesn't think whoever Mitt Romney picks as vice president will dramatically change the equation. Do you agree?

BORGER: Yes. I think that's probably right.

I think we saw Sarah Palin was sort of the big game-changer, if you will. And even she didn't end up changing the equation. McCain did not win. I think Mitt Romney's choices are kind of solid. And what he may look at is somebody who can bring him a state. And then it would change the equation, if you had Rob Portman of Ohio or Marco Rubio of Florida. If either of those men could deliver a state, that might be a game-changer. But I'm not so sure.

CROWLEY: That's key, if they could.

BORGER: If they could.

And I think that's really a big if. So in the end, I think Mitt Romney's going to end up going with somebody he believes has the experience and whom he's comfortable with. And they're going to make sort of an anti-Palin choice. And I think they probably agree with the vice president, the former vice president, that Sarah Palin was a mistake.

And so maybe they will pick someone like Tim Pawlenty, who can't deliver a state, but who's run for president before and Mitt Romney's quite comfortable with. We will have to see.

CROWLEY: Chief political analyst, I bet we will talk about this again.

BORGER: You think?

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Gloria. Good to see you.

Romney finds himself engaged in a very public battle with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The senator says he's been told by a former Romney associate that the candidate has not paid taxes in a decade. So far, Reid has offered no proof. And now Romney is telling him to "put up or shut up."

CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash has the details -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, the latest just came over my inbox, and I printed it out just minutes before coming here.

This is an e-mail, fund raising e-mail sent out by Harry Reid to his supporters asking for money, specifically because he says he is not backing down when it comes to pushing Romney on this unsubstantiated claim.


BASH (voice-over): Mitt Romney didn't even try to hide his disgust with Harry Reid.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Harry Reid really has to put up or shut up, all right? So, Harry, who are your sources?

BASH: What Romney wants Reid to put up -- or more likely shut up about -- is this unsubstantiated claim.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn't.

BASH: Let's be clear. That word is out because Reid himself put it out there, multiple times.

He says he got the information from an investor at Bain Capital, Romney's former firm. Reid refuses to say more than that and also refuses to back down, saying in a statement, "As I said before, I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years. People who make as much money as Romney have many tricks at their disposal to avoid paying taxes."

Reid won't reveal his source, and Romney won't release his tax records. He insists, however, he paid his taxes.

ROMNEY: Now, let me also say categorically, I have paid taxes every year, and a lot of taxes, a lot of taxes. So Harry is simply wrong.

BASH: The Senate Democratic leader is known for verbal gaffes that make his aides wince, like complaining about smelly tourists.

REID: Because of the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol.


BASH: But Reid's attack on Romney is different. Multiple sources close to Reid tell CNN it is a calculated strategy to lure Romney into responding and getting the "What's he hiding?" tax issue back in the headlines.

A trip half-a-dozen years ago to Reid's hometown of Searchlight, Nevada, explained a lot. He grew up in a trailer with no running water and literally fought his way out of poverty as a boxer. As a politician, he's not afraid to punch below the belt, like when he called President Bush a loser and a liar and told CNN this about then- Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

REID: I think he's one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington.

BASH: When Reid personally dislikes someone, it often fuels his political attacks, like when he said this about John McCain in 2008.

REID: John has bad temperament. He's wrong on the war and wrong on the economy.

BASH: This week, McCain used the Romney tax controversy to say, back at you, Harry.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have known Senator Reid for many, many years. And, occasionally, he displays some rather erratic behavior.


BASH: Now, Candy, we have to underscore that Harry Reid isn't some backbencher trying to get attention. He's the Senate's top Democrat making an unsubstantiated accusation at the presumed Republican presidential nominee.

Now, it is really easy to see why Republicans especially and even some Democrats are saying that this is just irresponsible of Harry Reid to do. But, again, I have talked to lots of sources close to Reid. And he simply, to be frank, doesn't care. In fact, he relishes this, says he is eager to be the guy who gets out there and throws some punches, to keep the metaphor going. And he understands he's going to get hit back. And he is eager to do so.

CROWLEY: I suspect none of the Democrats who are complaining actually work for the reelection team for the president. They're just as happy to have Harry Reid out there doing this.

BASH: That's a very safe bet.

CROWLEY: Great. Dana Bash, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

There is a wildfire burning out of control, forcing people nearby to flee their homes. We are following breaking news.

Also, the picture that launched 1,000 questions -- now we know who's riding roller coasters with the North Korean leader.

Plus, he was bitten by a great white shark and lived to tell the tale. Now he is. We will hear it in his own words.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was really only one option, which was swim, swim towards shore.



CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we're bringing you in some dramatic pictures of a wildfire burning near Oklahoma City.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is standing by in the CNN severe weather center.

Chad, it's already brutally hot and really windy there.


CROWLEY: And now this.

MYERS: Yes, right. The temperature today is going to get to 111 degrees. And then you're a firefighter and standing next to this fire trying to put it out, that must be 120 to 130 degrees.

I've seen some helicopters in the sky. Here's Oklahoma City itself. Let's drive down I-35 down toward Noble. Little farther off to the southeast, Slaughterville.

And this is where the fire is. Kind of in a wild land area. Not a lot of homes. No subdivisions out here. But the problem is if the wind continues to blow from the southwest at 20 to 30 like it is right now, it could blow this fire into pink, maybe toward Tecumseh or Shawnee.

The rule of thumb is: if you smell smoke, you are in the way of the embers that could be coming down from the fire. We're going to keep you up to date on this. This is not an unusual situation for Oklahoma. There are hundreds if not thousands of wildfires in Oklahoma every year. You typically don't get them very close to houses like this is. And that's why this has become a story, Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes, but as far as we know so far nobody injured and no forced evacuations, correct?

PINSKY: No. Exactly. This is not blowing toward Noble or Moore or Norman. This is not blowing toward those big cities. It's blowing away from the cities actually.

And eventually if it keeps going -- I hope not, but up toward I-40 near Tecumseh and Shawnee, that'd be a long way. That would be hours and hours away.

Hope they can get a handle on it, as soon as the wind dies down the fire stops leaping so quickly.

CROWLEY: Chad Myers, thanks. I know you'll keep an eye on it for us.

MYERS: You're welcome.

CROWLEY: At the United Nations, sharp criticism by the general assembly for all sides in the Syrian civil war. A resolution condemns the violence that's killed as many as 17,000 people. It also slams the Security Council's failure to reach consensus on tough resolutions against Syria.

We want to get the latest with CNN's Mohamed Jamjoom. He's following developments from Abu Dhabi.

Mohamed, there are reports of another massacre today as well as more violence in Damascus. Tell us what you know.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, opposition activists have been telling us about disturbing details that have been emerging. The Arbaeen neighborhood in the city of Hama, we're told that another government massacre happened there today according to opposition activists, at least 70 people were killed there earlier today. This coming on the heels of news that emerged yesterday about a massacre that happened in the Damascus suburb of Jdeidet Artouz. This would have happened late Wednesday according to opposition activists.

Amateur video posted online yesterday showed very disturbing and graphic scenes. One of which you're seeing right now purports to show a mass burial site. Dozens of bodies wrapped in sheets awaiting burial -- a very chaotic scene as residents in the town and loved ones very, very distraught about what happened there.

For its part the Syrian government said what happened in Jdeidet Artouz was that terrorist elements were vanquished, that many terrorists were killed and captured because of their activities in that town. But also today we're hearing about renewed and more intense clashes in the capital of Damascus in several neighborhoods. One in particular we saw amateur video earlier today showing rebel Free Syrian Army fighters as they swept through the streets of a Damascus neighborhood. And you could hear gunfire in the background, the results of clashes there with regime forces -- Candy.

CROWLEY: What about Aleppo? We've heard so much over the past couple days of massacre in Aleppo and we keep saying the fighting is getting worse, the fighting is getting worse. Has it reached a peak? Or is the worst still yet to come?

JAMJOOM: What's so worrying, Candy, is that officials that we've been speaking with and residents of Aleppo and activists there are all saying that they believe the worst of the violence has not yet been seen in Aleppo. The U.N. peacekeeping chief also said earlier today that the main battle for Aleppo had not yet started.

The activists that I've been speaking with there the past few days have said that there's a humanitarian crisis going on there, that military reinforcements are still arriving there. The tanks are still arriving. They believe the battle for Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub, is still to come. And we're hearing about families that are huddling in public buildings, in makeshift shelters, in schools trying to take shelter from the shelling -- the constant shelling going on in neighborhoods there.

We've heard of war planes attacking different neighborhoods there. It's a very, very dire situation -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Sounds like the worst is yet to come. CNN's Mohamed Jamjoom coming from a lot of different places. Thank you so much, Mohamed. I really appreciate it.

Bitten by a great white shark. This man lived to tell the tale. He shares his story of a too close encounter with a real life jaws. Plus, the war of words between Mitt Romney and Harry Reid. We'll talk about that and more with Paul Begala and Alice Stewart in strategy session.


CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley.

Here's some stories we're working on:

No long lines this time, but same sex couples head to Chick-fil-A to make a point.

In our next hour, engineers prepare to hold their breath as NASA attempts its riskiest-ever Mars landing.

And the important projects Congress left undone when lawmakers head home until football season.

Standby. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


CROWLEY: In Nevada today, Mitt Romney insisted again that senator harry Reid is simply wrong in accusing Romney of paying no taxes for 10 years. Romney told reporters, "I have paid taxes every year and a lot of taxes."

Joining me for today's strategy session are Democratic strategist Paul Begala, along with Republican strategist Alice Stewart who is a spokesperson for the Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum presidential campaigns.

You were busy in the primary season.

Mitt Romney came out swinging today against Harry Reid, calling his claims a diversion from the economy.

Let's take a quick listen to Romney.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Harry Reid really has to put up or shut up, all right? So, Harry, who are your sources? Let's have Harry explain who that is.

By the way, Harry, I understand what you're trying to do. You're trying to deflect the fact that jobs numbers are bad, that Americans are out of work. And you're trying to throw anything up on the screen that will grab attention away from the fact that the policies of the White House haven't worked to put Americans to work. And the policies of the Senate haven't even got a budget in place for three years.


CROWLEY: Let's set aside the whole question of whether Mitt Romney should release his taxes. Let me ask you this question as a strategist, is Romney exactly right? That that's precisely what Harry Reid is doing?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's certainly the effect. What's odd, it's got to be maddening to the Romney team, Romney is feeding the distraction. In other words, you don't help the other side.

First of all, I know you know this. Our viewers need to know, I advise the pro-Obama super PAC. I've got a dog in this hunt, OK? Nothing makes me happier than to see Mitt Romney on TV yammering about taxes, about Harry Reid.

Set aside I believe every major presidential candidate should release his or her taxes. Set that aside. He's helping my cause here. That's not his message. What we saw in that sound bite is not Mitt Romney's message.

ALICE STEWART. FORMER SPOKESWOMAN FOR SANTORUM AND BACHMANN CAMPAIGNS: His message is outline more of his economic plan, tax plan, that's what he's (AUDIO GAP) members of the media and the Obama campaign continuing to feed this. He's spoken at length yesterday and today about his economic plan. And he's asked repeatedly about these income taxes.

BEGALA: Right.

STEWART: Now for Harry Reid to go out there and throw out this baseless, unnamed source, false allegations, it's simply wrong. The Romney --

CROWLEY: Politics ain't bean ball, as we all know. And he is (AUDIO GAP) a distraction.

BEGALA: It's become the focus.

CROWLEY: You know, because that's -- look, if the Democratic leader of the Senate is engaging the Republican nominee -- presumed nominee, that's just news. So how does Romney get this off without releasing his taxes?

STEWART: He does what he's been doing. He's been talking about jobs and the economy. Today, we have here once again another month of unemployment above 8 percent. We've had that for 42 months. Romney's doing exactly what he should do.

You've been on the campaign trail. People are not talking about what kind of income taxes the candidates are filing. They're talking about who's going to create jobs and turn the economy around. That's what people care about.

The people are not sitting there whining -- Democrats and Obama administration may be whining about show us more. He's right not to release anymore documents. If he released two more years, they would want four or five or six. He's right to stand firm and talk about what people are concerned about, that's jobs and the economy.

This is nothing more than a distraction.


BEGALA: OK, my mom is watching this, OK? It says --

CROWLEY: Your mom is watching this, but a lot of people at home -- you know, she's looking to se you.

BEGALA: Of course. He loves me. But as an old speech writer, and I'm sort of -- I have crafted a lot of sound bites in my day. That sound bite hurts Romney because people look at that put up or shut up, yes, he just put up his tax returns or shut up.

Actually, that's what he should do. He should put up the tax returns or shut up and stop fighting with Harry Reid. Harry Reid is kicking his butt all across America right now and I'm loving it.

STEWART: In the next scroll across the bottom will be unemployment at 8.3 percent. And that's what people are going to pay attention to. They're getting to look at, it's getting worse. There are still more people without jobs. That's what people are concerned about.

And also, you know, certainly with the Obamacare. Those are the issues people are concerned about. This is nothing more than a distraction.

The economy is in the toilet. It's not getting any better. And the Obama campaign wants to continue to focus ton this as opposed to the fact that his policies have failed to make things better for the American people.

CROWLEY: So you would agree that Mitt Romney is right in his analysis but he might be -- you think he's wrong in how he's responding to it.

BEGALA: Right.

CROWLEY: Is there a point where he just has to shut this -- go talk to Harry Reid, sort of slam it shut.

STEWART: That's what he was doing. I can assure you, when I was working with Governor Huckabee, in the governor's office, the media would constantly ask for more and more and more. The Romney family has complied with the law. As a candidate, he's complied with everything he's supposed to do. He's operated within the law and the context of a candidate, period.


BEGALA: What's your guess? Here's my guess, I believe he's not releasing his taxes because there are some years where he paid little or nothing. What's your theory? Why is he hiding his taxes? Come on.

STEWART: Because he's done everything he's supposed to. He's not hiding everything.

BEGALA: Of course he is.

STEWART: He's been fully compliant with what he's supposed to do as a candidate. This is not an issue.

BEGALA: We all know that he avoided taxes legally. I would never accuse him of illegality. Never.

STEWART: You can't make up something about somebody and throw it out there.

CROWLEY: Except they did, right? That's the problem, right? I mean, we don't know he made it up. He says he got it from a source. I'm sure he did.

Let me turn you to a different subject. One of your favorite subjects -- former President Bill Clinton, Peggy Noonan, a speech writer for Ronald Reagan wrote this in the "Wall Street Journal" today.

"The White House," meaning the Obama White House, "and the campaign have not been able to make a case for their guy. They're just trying to make a case against the other guy, but Mr. Clinton might actually be able to make the case and he just may do it by making a case for the Democratic Party."

So he's going to have a big prominent role at the convention. I'm sure you think this is great. But is there some concern that you got to haul in, you know, a retro president to boost up the one?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No. I mean, my party right now has an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent, oratorical talent at the convention where the president --

CROWLEY: They're not crazy about each other.

BEGALA: No, that's right.

CROWLEY: The fact they asked him to come and do this tells you something about this state that President Obama's campaign is in.

BEGALA: They both spoke at the '08 convention, which is an enormous success and nobody thought that Barack Obama was overshadowed by anybody. I'm very close to President Clinton. He strongly supports President Obama. This is just great.

The interesting thing is why the Republicans who actually have a lot of talent, will they hide their talent? Will Sarah Palin have -- she's a great speaker. I don't agree with her or anything. She's an electrifying speaker.

Will Rick Santorum speak? He should. You guys won 11 primaries. Romney has a lot of real talent in his party, I bet he's too chicken to tap that talent and Obama is not.

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We still have some time to decide who's going to speak at the convention. It's going to be a great convention as it was in '08. Here's my take on the Clinton thing. Clearly the Obama campaign is in trouble. They need someone that's going to help rally the base and get people fired up. The problem is Clinton will go in there and I covered him as a journalist, he's going to go in there and talk about himself. That's great.

He's going to rally the base and get people fired up. But you cannot deny the fact he's going to remind people during his time as president we had economic prosperity and we have just the opposite now.

There's going to be the comparison of, yes, he's good and firing people up, but we are far from the Clinton years in terms of the economy.

CROWLEY: Alice Stewart, Paul Begala, we'll have you back. Thank you guys so much.

Something new is feeding the media frenzy over at Chick-Fil-A. Standby for an update on the nationwide counter demonstration by same sex couples.

Also, people are asking who's the western looking man having fun with North Korea's new leader? We'll clear up the mystery.


CROWLEY: Gay rights activists launch a kissing crusade against Chick- Fil-A. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. Mary, what do you have?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Candy. Well, supporters of same sex marriage are holding a kiss-in today asking same sex couples to kiss in front of Chick-Fil-A restaurants nationwide.

They're protesting the company's president who recently expressed his support of traditional marriage only. Now, today's protest follows Chick-Fil-A's Appreciation Day on Wednesday. Tons of supporters lined up to eat at the restaurant resulting in what the company says are record sales.

Tropical Storm Ernesto is now moving through the Caribbean. The National Hurricane Center says it could become a hurricane by the end of the weekend and pass near or just south of Jamaica. The storm is packing winds up to 50 miles an hour and it's expected to bring up to three inches of rain.

And a one-two punch for China. Two tropical cyclones have slammed the country one after the other dumping heavy rain. One hit the eastern part of the country, the other farther north. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate coastal areas -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Mary.

We have more strange images coming out of North Korea. They sparked a new mystery about who has the ear of the country's new leader. Now that mystery's been solved. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, what did you find out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, we could turn this into a game show and at this point, we can call it who's with Kim. The images from North Korea so bizarre that you would think it was some kind of Hollywood parody if they didn't come from North Korea.

Take this latest one. Last week, this picture released of North Korea's new young leader Kim Jong-Un on a roller coaster at an amusement park in Pyongyang.

But wait a minute, who in the world is this guy? Look at this guy right here. We were all abuzz when we saw a mysterious westerner, the only one among a group of howling and laughing North Koreans.

It was later revealed that the man is Barnaby Jones. He is an official with the British embassy in Pyongyang. Not the Barnaby Jones who is a TV detective played by Buddy Epson in the '70s.

This Barnaby Jones works at the British embassy in Pyongyang. Britain and North Korea have had a softening of relations recently. This photo seemingly designed to illustrate that the young Kim is opening up his country a little bit and is a little bit less militaristic than his father.

Now, this all -- move these pictures aside. This all follows pictures we saw about a month ago, Kim with a mysterious young woman. There was speculation that she was the lead singer of a North Korean pop band.

But last week a South Korean lawmaker who had been briefed by intelligence officials said, it's not the singer, but a woman named Ri Sol that he married about three years ago. The woman was with Kim at an event that gave us another terrific image from North Korea.

This was a Disney-themed musical production. It turns out the Walt Disney company said the North Koreans should not have been using those outfits and characters and did so without the company's permission. Candy, I guess, any litigation that might come from that won't go well for either side.

CROWLEY: I've got a great idea for a reality show here. You're inspiring me. Listen, there's some family history here. Strange images that get blasted out from North Korea to the world on occasion?

TODD: Absolutely are. We're going to go back about three years. Who can forget this image, Bill Clinton in August of 2009 traveled to North Korea to help secure the release of two jailed American journalists, that brought out this picture of a smiling Kim Jong-Il, the current leader's late father, next to a Bill Clinton clearly not smiling.

Now, Bill Clinton, as we all know, smiles about every photo opportunity he gets. But at the time, analysts told us of a kind of code among western officials.

That it doesn't make you look so good if you're seen in a publicly released photograph smiling next to a repressive dictator who has a reputation for torture and killing his own people.

CROWLEY: Yes. That's not a good photo-op, but even these are sort of humorous looking pictures, the ones on the rides. But there's some substance to them, yes.

TODD: There is substance. It has to do with actually the images of Kim Jong-Un and just kind of the overall story about him that emanates from all of this.

You know, Kim Jong-Un as we know took power in recent months. Analysts say all of these images that we're seeing here are part of an effort by Kim Jong-Un to portray himself and his country in a better light to show a more opening and friendly side.

But experts say it's still a huge question whether this 29-year-old leader -- he's only 29 -- whether he's really going to be able to accomplish that kind of reform or whether the old guard from his family's regime is going to win out and keep North Korea a very hostile, closed and of course as always a very strange place -- Candy.

CROWLEY: In the meantime the pictures are worth talking about. Thanks so much, Brian Todd, appreciate it.

TODD: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: It's not just Chick-Fil-A. Other major companies also take a religious stand, sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly.

And a baseball legend asks the public to help find the man who kidnapped his mother.


CROWLEY: A famous former athlete is asking for public help in solving a kidnapping mystery that hit close to home. Baseball star, Cal Ripken, looking for clues in the bizarre abduction of his mother.

Our CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns has more. We should say, first of all, his mother is safe and has been at home for some time, but what's the latest on this?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, from the start, Candy, this has really been a story fit for a detective novel. Today, a new chapter opened when police started the star power of baseball legend and hall of famer Cal Ripken to try to catch the bad guy.


JOHNS (voice-over): Former Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken, Jr., is asking the public to help find the man who abducted his mother last week.

CAL RIPKEN JR., MLB HALL OF FAMER: I would encourage all of you to call in and report what you know. JOHNS: Ripken and authorities are looking for this unnamed suspect captured by a security camera at a suburban Maryland Wal-Mart hours after he allegedly forced 74-year-old Vy Ripken from her home at gunpoint and drove her around in her own car for almost 24 hours.

She was found tied up in the back of her car a few hundred yards from her house. But so far that video along with around 60 tips given to authorities has not been enough to track him down, which is why police are looking for more information.

They've circulated a wanted poster complete with a sketch of the suspect, put up billboards and offered a $2,000 reward for tips. It's clear police are searching for answers.

DEPUTY CHIEF STEVE SMITH, ABARDEEN, MARYLAND POLICE: It's bizarre. It doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason to it. Most abductions are parent or child or some kind of a family relationship or somebody knows somebody and something going on there, but this is just bizarre.

JOHNS: One of the things we do know or at least we think we know is that the guy who did this seemingly came prepared to tie somebody up.

RIPKEN: The materials used to bind her were brought there. So there was -- there's a lot of evidence that shows there was somewhat of a plan or plan and had to be premeditated.

JOHNS: Even after being restrained for almost a day, Ripken's mother did not have any physical injuries. But she's so rattled from the experience she's been staying away from her home, the place where it started and the place where Cal Ripken grew up.

RIPKEN: She's affected. No doubt about it. So don't know when she will go back. But certainly right now she's not back in her house yet.


JOHNS: And we still don't know whether Vy Ripken was targeted because of who she is or if the suspect had been planning to ask for ransom. Police say he never did that, by the way.

Police said that during the 24 hours she was missing they're not sure where Vy Ripken was taken and wouldn't answer questions about the suspect's alleged use of the victim's credit cards along the way. So A lot of information we still got to get yet.

CROWLEY: Just a wild story and locally here obviously we've been paying a lot of attention to it.

JOHNS: Everybody's sort of glued to this one, strange.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Well, hopefully they'll get to the bottom of it at some point. Thanks, Joe.

Just about everyone has a cell phone or a smartphonem, but is anyone out there happy with them? Stay tuned, somebody is finally asking. But next, we'll hear from a man whose legs were sampled by a hungry shark.


CROWLEY: More new pictures from that massive wildfire in Oklahoma. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories. Mary, what's the latest?

SNOW: Well, Candy, in Oklahoma today they're enduring brutal heat, high winds and now a wildfire. There are already evacuations and anticipating more. Red Cross crews are setting up shelter right now at the city hall in Noble, Oklahoma. That's just outside Oklahoma City.

A man who narrowly escaped a shark attack is out of the hospital. Chris Myers says he's lucky to be alive. He was swimming off the shores of Cape Cod Monday when he felt something in the water.


CHRIS MYERS, SHARK ATTACK SURVIVOR: We were having trouble getting to the sand bar, so we decided to turn around and swim back. Just after we decided to do that I felt a huge bite on my leg and I was quite sure it was a shark, that was my first thought.

I felt like my leg was caught in a vice. And I kicked very hard with my free leg, with my right leg, and I was able to -- or the shark decided I wasn't tasty or something good happened and he let me go.

And I guess J.J. heard me scream. About then the shark surfaced right between the two of us. So we were probably five or six feet apart and the shark came up right between us. And we could see his whole back, his dorsal fin.

He looked kind of dark brown. To me he looked kind of dark blue or dark black to my son. My first thought was he's probably not a great white.

But from all we've heard, we've been talking to some shark experts and their best guess seems to be it was a great white shark and they're white on the bottom, but not on the top.


SNOW: Incredible. Myers has several puncture wounds in his legs and 47 stitches. He's the first person to be attacked by a great white shark in Massachusetts waters in 76 years.

And does your smartphone drop calls? Is the internet slow? Well, you're not alone. A new survey says many of us are frustrated with cell service.

More than 70 percent reported having dropped calls occasionally. Almost the same amount complained about unwanted calls or spam or slow download speeds, but we can't live without our smartphones. Nearly nine out of ten adults in the U.S. have one.

CROWLEY: Can we just go back to the shark for a second?

SNOW: How incredible is that?

CROWLEY: This guy gets bit by a shark, it surfaces between him and his son, he knows he's been bitten by the shark. And my first thought he says is, well, it's not a great white. I just don't think that would have been my first thought, but, you know, brave guy.

SNOW: And he seemed so calm even re-telling that story.

CROWLEY: That's pretty amazing. It just scares me listening to it.

SNOW: Yes.

CROWLEY: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

Coming up in our next hour, heavy weapons seized from the regime by Syrian rebels. Will they tip the balance of the country's civil war?

Plus, a rover's dangerous decent to Mars. Years of work could end in what NASA calls seven minutes of terror.


CROWLEY: The government has declared more than half the counties in the U.S. to be disaster zones because of the drought. But the people who sell irrigation systems are flooded with orders -- pardon us for that pun. CNN's Martin Savidge tracked down some of them.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Peach County, Georgia, they are plucking the last peaches off the trees. They've been in his family for close to 100 years. He grows 300 acres selling to the likes of public, Whole Foods and Wal-Marts.

(on camera): How is the peach crop looking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All things considered, I think the peaches look good.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The peaches themselves may be smaller due to the drought, but the demand is still high, which is why wholesale prices are up by almost 50 percent over last year and they taste better.

DUKE LANE JR., LANE SOUTHERN ORCHARDS: So when these peaches are rotten, we don't have the rains to come in here and take the sugar away. So that's a plus is being able to have this fruit at its highest maximum amount of sugar, which is a good thing.

SAVIDGE (on camera): So if I understand you, then the less rain means that a peach like this could be smaller, but is going to be sweeter and tastier. LANE: That's right.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Peach fans aren't the only ones smiling about the drought. In nearby Marshalville, Georgia, there is something else growing in this harvest field.

(on camera): Is that going good for you?


SAVIDGE (voice-over): A massive collection of pipes, spigots and sprayers that when finished, will become a crop-size sprinkling system.

They rotate ever so slowly in a giant arc around a central pump tied to an underground well, hence the name pivots. Elton Sharp's been selling pivots since the '70s. Recently thanks to the drought business has doubled.

ELTON SHARP, SHARP IRRIGATION SYSTEMS: We have put in a lot of pivots in the last five years for people that never did have it before.

SAVIDGE: Systems like these can easily cost more than $100,000 each. Even so, Jim Reid says, these days farmers would have a better chance gambling in Las Vegas than betting on nature.

JIM REID, REID BROS IRRIGATION: The cost of production has gone up and the risk or the amount of money you had invested in an acre of land is increased, then the necessity of irrigation became greater.

SAVIDGE: Which is why Reid has crews working close to 12 hours a day, six days a week just to keep up with demand. Thanks to the worst drought in half a century, whether it's peaches or pivots, both are finding business pretty sweet.


SAVIDGE: Turning back to peaches for the moment, it is the peach state after all, this season here is wrapping up about two to three weeks early because the growing season started two to three weeks earlier due to the mild winter.

Even so, these peaches maybe smaller, but it's going to be a pretty delicious harvest -- Candy.