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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. Weighs Arming Syrian Rebels; 25,000 Missing In Mexican Drug War; Who Will Be CNN's Hero Of The Year?; Train Derails, Spilling Toxins In New Jersey; "Overkill" In Oakland; Jackson's "Thriller" Album Turns 30; Music Legend's Last Show Tonight

Aired November 30, 2012 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Half past the hour, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. I want you to think about this one. What is worse, knowing what is going on in Syria or not knowing what is happening there?

That's the question now at hand as much of the nation is in its second day of an internet blackout. Look at this table from a worldwide internet concept provider, it's Acamai. It shows activity has literally flatlined in Syria. That's online.

And on the ground, though -- there has been intense movement as seen in video distributed through satellite phone connections. Anti- government fighters are now better armed with explosives and weapons to bring down regime aircraft.

They also made a serious grab for the Damascus airport. And activists say they now have control of an oil field in this city. But the deaths continue to mount, 31 Syrians killed today. As many as 40,000 since Syrians began rising up against President Bashar Al Assad, 20 months ago. That is according to activists.

Want to bring in now CNN's Jim Clancy from CNN International. Jim, how are the events on the ground changing the game in Syria now?

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL: I think when we look this week at the downing of two aircraft, one helicopter, by surface to air missiles, missiles that were obtained by the rebels, by raiding, looting government stockpiles, inside military bases. We see something that could, could be a game changer here.

Because up until this point, the regime of Bashar Al-Assad has ruled the skies and the rebels have only been able to run and scatter to prevent being decimated by these air strikes. Villages and towns still paying a huge price, but this is one of the big changes that has taken place.

The rebels themselves changing strategies to go after exactly those kinds of military bases, closing in, if you will, and you mentioned they're on Damascus. That has got to cause a lot of concern for the regime.

We're hearing the reports today, fierce fighting, across several cities, Aleppo, Arwa Damon is there. It is hardly recognizable from the last time she was there. And we know that fighting continues in the suburbs of Damascus as well.

LEMON: Interesting now. The internet is -- has a big role in war right now who is responsible for the internet going down. Syria's government blames terrorists.

CLANCY: Well, a lot of people that are internet experts say it is very unlikely because the internet comes in to Syria from four different sources. Three of them are undersea cables. It is unlikely that the rebels would know where the cables were or how to cut them.

And they say that the evidence that they have shows that they were taken out in rapid succession indicating they might have been switched off by the regime. To what end, we don't know.

Is that to prevent people from knowing things inside Syria? Is it to prevent the rebels from having communications via the internet? Is it to try to stop the videotape from getting out to the world?

We have seen that. Coming out still today, the rebels are able to get out because they have satellite telephone.

LEMON: Let's talk about here, the United States, the U.S., is the U.S. weighing, you know, the option of arming the anti-government forces? Listen and we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT FORD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: We're providing arms to the opposition. Convince the people who support Bashar Al-Assad, in many cases because they're afraid of their own existence, or will it simply lead to more fighting. That is the question that we are considering.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So it seems that we are weighing that option and does this mean the end is near for Bashar Al-Assad?

CLANCY: I don't think anybody can say the end is near for Bashar Al- Assad. He's still got a lot of tanks, a lot of aircraft, a lot of firepower. But you know what? I think what we're seeing from the United States is more of a concern that events are moving very swiftly on the ground.

The U.S. wants to be able, at the end of all of this to have some influence. Some input into what comes next there. Not having supplied any arms up to this point, they don't have much influence. They're beginning to wonder, do we need to have more and how do we get it?

They're still very concerned who are the rebels, who do they represent, are these al Qaeda forces, we don't want our arms falling into the wrong hands. That's a paramount concern for Washington.

LEMON: This guy's the best. Thank you, Jim Clancy. Appreciate it, sir. Some shocking numbers now to tell you about, 25,000 people missing in Mexico. Up next, details on how these missing person cases are being linked to the drug cartels there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Just today, before Mexico's president leaves office, a staggering new figure has emerged, 25,000, that's how many people have gone missing in Mexico in just the past six years. And most of these mysterious disappearances are linked to the Mexican drug war.

Want to bring in now our senior Latin affairs correspondent, Rafael Romo, men, women, children, some reportedly taken while walking near their homes, others arrested by uniformed men and never seen again. Why are the cartels taking them?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Let me describe a couple of situations I've been able to witness in last few years. Number one, I had an opportunity to be at the city morgue in Acapulco last year and what they were telling me is that a lot of the victims that they get there are unidentified and remain so for years and years and years.

Because it may be a young man who was recruited in Northern Mexico, fighting for a cartel in Southern Mexico, he dies, the family doesn't know, and so he goes to the list of the missing.

The second case that I want to tell you about is the case of two young cousins, two girls, age 14, who were kidnapped in the central part of Mexico, they were sold to a pimp who sold them to a brothel.

In the meantime, the families are looking for these two girls and they don't know where they are. You find people like those and those lists of missing. Also, the list is not including those Central American migrants that go to Mexico and disappear because they're robbed, kidnapped or killed.

LEMON: If Felipe Calderon had promised to make this database public online and that never happened and now this list is released. So has the government lost control of this situation here?

ROMO: It really seems to. At least in the -- when it comes to missing people, and you very well said at the beginning, this is Calderon's last day in office. So there is really no incentive for him to be clear about this information and make a public statement to the nation as a whole. So this situation is not very likely to be cleared up anytime soon.

LEMON: Rafael Romo, as usual, thank you very much.

LEMON: This weekend is our annual tribute to "CNN Heroes," everyday folks who have impacted thousands of lives. Up next, we take you behind the scenes with the director of this weekend's event.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Everyday people changing the world. Who will be "CNN's Hero of the Year?" Find out Sunday night when Anderson Cooper hosts "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute" live at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

The winner will get a $250,000 grant to continue his or her work. Nischelle Turner joins us now, live, with the show's director, Hamish Hamilton live at L.A. Shrine Auditorim.

Hi, Nischelle. Tell us about the superstars, who will be performing Sunday night like the Grammy-Award winner, Neo.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, can I throw out a couple of names? I don't mean to name drop, I'm not that type of person, Don Lemon, but I'm going to throw out a couple of names to impress you.

How about Susan Sarandon? How about Oscar-nominated actress, Viola Davis? How about 50 Cent? How about people like that, that will be here at heroes on Sunday night?

You're nodding your head, like I'm directing this thing, so, yes, that's a pretty good feat. Don just talked about Neo performing on the stage tonight. You have done a bunch of huge productions, namely Super Bowl halftimes, things like that.

How does directing CNN Heroes, how does that differ and how does it -- it is such a special night, how is it so special?

HAMISH HAMILTON, DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, you know, Super Bowl halftime, Madonna was an amazing experience, and in many ways, "Heroes" is very similar but very different. The core of "Heroes" you have ten absolutely inspirational characters who daily get up and put love and positivity and an incredible human spirit into the world often in kind of the most desperate situations.

So, you know, Madonna is an amazing character. The people at the Oscars who make these incredible films or amazing characters, but what do we know about those people, they're part of the daily life, the daily fabric.

The "Ten Heroes" that we are going to meet on Sunday aren't yet. They're just as powerful, kind of personalities, internally. They truly inspire.

TURNER: Even more so because they're everyday people doing extraordinary things and changing the world person by person. That's what I so love about this.

HAMILTON: And sometimes they see in the most simple of things they see incredible opportunity. You know, the Kenneth Congo story from last year he walked into a hotel, he was a refugee in Kenya, came to America. He threw away a bar of soap in his hotel room.

And from that bar of soap he created an organization, he became a CNN Hero, and just the kind of -- just the depth of spirit he showed and it is inspiring. I feel cleansed having done the show. TURNER: I think that was first tissue I threw away. I had about four tissues. I call it the four-tissue show because you do shed a lot of tears, but tears of joy because the stories are so inspirational.

Don, we'll send it back to you. If you're wondering why Hamish and I are so close, it is because he's 857-feet tall and I'm a midget. I have to have him sit here. We have to get close.

LEMON: I was wondering actually -- one of the producers said, she's really close. I'm, like, yes, what's going on there. I thought maybe it was a love connection.

TURNER: It's like an Olin Mills poster, you know when you pose for the pictures when you were 7, it is an Olin Mills pose.

LEMON: There are worse things than being that close to Nischelle Turner. Nischelle and Hamish, thank you very much. Make sure you tune in Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute" hosted by Anderson Cooper. It's live from Los Angeles. It's an evening that is sure to inspire and as Nischelle said, four tissues.

Two girls in Oakland, California, best friends actually, their families say they were inseparable and did everything together. And they were together when they died. Up next, details on the girls' final moments as investigators search for clues in their brutal murders.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Another story to tell you about for weary New Jersey residents. Look at this wreckage, a freight train carrying toxic chemicals that derailed in Southern New Jersey in the town of Paulsboro.

We're told that the railroad bridge collapsed and the train crashed into a creek near the Delaware River, toxic chemical, vinyl chloride had spilled. Listen to New Jersey officials explain the threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY HAJNA, NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: Vinyl chloride is a chemical that can create, like it can cause headaches and respiratory issues, nausea, things like that, on short-term exposure. In this particular incident it appears all the vinyl chloride in the particular car has dissipated. There is no more release going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, no serious injuries have been reported, but more than two dozen people sought treatment for respiratory issues. New Jersey officials say it could be days before they get a crane large enough to remove the derailed train cars.

I want to tell you about two girls, just teenagers, lifelong best friends, who should be texting and trying on dresses and going on first dates. Instead, their last moments were spent in the arms of strangers, neighbors who heard round after round of gunfire and rushed outside to find one girl lying in the street and the other crawling and crying for help.

Dozens of bullets were fired at the teens by a mystery gunman who calmly walked away from what police in Oakland, California, call a case of overkill. More now from Kristen Ayers of CNN affiliate, KPIX.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRISTEN AYERS, KPIX REPORTER (voice-over): Tonight, it is quiet on this block of mini street, a teddy bear, some flowers and the flicker of candlelight the only sign that something tragic happened here just days ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These girls did not deserve to be like this, laid in the street, gunned down.

AYERS: The girls were best friends, 15-year-old Raquel and 16-year- old Bobbi. No one knows what they were doing here in East Oakland early Sunday morning, but just before 6:00 a.m., bursts of gunfire, round after round, unloaded, hitting the girls and riddling nearby cars. A friend of Raquel's family who did not want to be identified said neighbors comforted the teens as they lay dying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Covering them with blankets to make sure Raquel was OK. Holding her hand until the paramedics got here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was my best friend.

AYERS: Bobbi's mother was still grieving her son's suicide, which happened a few months ago when she found out her daughter was murdered this weekend. She says Bobbi, a sophomore at Oakland High, left home Saturday night and lied before where she was going. The next time she saw her is when she identified her body.

BAMBI SARTAIN, TEENAGE VICTIM'S MOTHER: I wonder why she lied to me. I wonder how it got so out of control that they had to shoot my daughter and her friend. That's not going to do any good now. Not going to bring them back. If you have children out there, be sure you know where they're at.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Kristen Ayers of KPIX reporting. The girls are among the latest victims of a crime wave in Oakland, 116 killings so far this year, six more than a year ago. Burglary and robbery also suffering amid police shortage that is approaching crisis levels.

Four years ago, Oakland had more than 800 officers. The number projected for next February, 605. Two city council members proposed a beefed up to the force, but it will be January before it goes to the full council.

Alzheimer's is a devastating disease, one that is so hard on families. And tonight one of its victims will perform his last show. We spoke with music legend Glen Campbell in an emotional interview.

Plus, I'm going to speak live with the CEO President Obama visited just a short time ago and find out whether he's a fan of President Obama's fiscal cliff plan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: You know I want to dance, right? But I don't want to embarrass myself. I love that song. Feels like just yesterday, but it was 30 years ago today that a 24-year-old Michael Jackson released a new album called "Thriller."

Seven of the nine tracks went on to become top ten hits, won three Grammys and three decades later, "Thriller" is still the best-selling album in the world.

Speaking of music legends, want to talk about an American legend in music as well. He calls it, you know, a career. Glen Campbell suffering from Alzheimer's, sits down with CNN for an emotional interview as he gets ready for his final show tonight. Here's Miguel Marquez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ (voice-over): Last year, the Rhinestone cowboy made a stunning announcement.

GLEN CAMPBELL: What did they diagnose me as?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alzheimer's.

CAMPBELL: Alzheimer's. What's Alzheimer's? How do you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You start losing your memory and your ability to reason.

MARQUEZ: This isn't Glen Campbell's first major challenge. He weathered career ups and downs, and successfully battled drug and alcohol addiction.

CAMPBELL: I was forgiven for being a dummy, literally.

MARQUEZ: But now after five decades as a music icon, the 76-year-old entertainer is taking his final bow.

Campbell released his final album "Ghost on the Canvas," now he is wrapping up his farewell tour with a backing band that features three of his children, including daughter, Ashley.

ASHLEY CAMPBELL, GLEN'S DAUGHTER: He looks at me sometimes, confused, and I'll just smile at him. I just try and make him feel like he's surrounded by people that love him on stage.

MARQUEZ: Campbell may be stepping of the public stage, but his guitar will never be far from his sight.

CAMPBELL: All I wanted to do, ever since I could remember, was play my guitar and sing.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Getting close to the top of the hour, I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us. I want to keep you in the loop right now because at any minute we could get a statement from the nation's highest court about whether the justices will consider cases concerning same sex marriage. It is a very big deal and we're waiting for word.

But first this, fiscal cliff talks hit a huge road bump. Zinger and verbal jabs are flying while actual talks are at a standstill. President Barack Obama says Republicans must agree to preserve a middle class tax cut as the first part of any deal and he likened Republicans to scrooge today, while touring a Pennsylvania toy factory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1. Every family, everybody here, you will see your taxes go up on January 1.

I mean, I'm assuming that doesn't sound too good to you. That's sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That's a Scrooge Christmas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)