Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Budget Cuts Looming; Diamond Heist; Possible Motive for Newtown Massacre; Dow Industrials at 5-Year High; "She Died in My Arms"; Scandal Over "Beef" That's Horse Meat; Syrian Regime Firing Scuds At Aleppo; U.S. Arms For Syrian Rebels?; Alec Baldwin Plus Photographer Equals Trouble
Aired February 19, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much.
Happening now: forced budget cuts just days away. We're going to show you three ways the across-the-board spending reductions could impact you.
Also, a diamond heist right out of the movies, $50 million worth of stolen diamonds from an airplane, how they got away. It might surprise you.
Plus, a horse meat scandal spreads to one of the world's largest food companies.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Congress did it. Congress can undo it. President Obama is warning of dire consequences for all of us if lawmakers don't act quickly. We're talking about those forced budget cuts that take effect March 1, slashing $85 billion from spending across the board this year.
But with just 10 days left, the consequences are become -- and more alarming. President Obama outlined some of them today, told Congress, let's make a deal while there is still some time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My door is open. I have put tough cuts and reforms on the table. I am willing to work with anybody to get this job done. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want.
But nobody should want these cuts to go through, because the last thing our families can afford right now is pain imposed unnecessarily by partisan recklessness and ideological rigidity here in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Visually, the president tried to make that point by having dozens of law enforcement officers standing behind him. Many of them potentially could lose their jobs. Our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, is covering that angle of the different ways the budget cuts could directly impact you. We also have Rene Marsh covering the air travel nightmare potentially in the making. And Erin McPike on how the food we eat could be affected as well.
Let's start with Joe Johns over at the United States Supreme Court -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the courts have been looking at this issue for a long time.
The federal bar association says a quarter of federal court employees might have to be furloughed as well. Jury trials might have to be suspended because there's no money to pay the members of the juries. The justice system is going to be affected across the board, especially the Justice Department. The president has said it's an issue of national security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: For example, the FBI would have to cut something like 2,300 employees, hundreds of agents. Others would be affected as well, including border security agents. Also, correctional officers who work at federal prisons. However, one man I spoke to with the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., told me there is a silver lining.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN MITCHELL, CATO INSTITUTE: It's not asking too much for the government to take a tiny bit of trimming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: We do know there are places at the Justice Department to cut. For example, there was a report that came out just last year from the General Accountability Office that said that there's as much as $33 billion spent since the year 2005 on crime prevention programs that are often duplicative and counterproductive. So certainly some places to cut there.
Now let's go to Rene Marsh at BWI Airport.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joe.
If you're flying out of airports like BWI, you are looking for a tough time if these forced budgets do actually go through. Let's talk about the FAA. They are expecting to see an 8.2 percent budget cut. That translates to $627 million this year. That could mean furloughs for some employees. Let's talk about the TSA. They could also see furloughs and they could also see cuts in overtime. I want to show you what that could mean for you, the travelers. That could very well mean that wait times at security lines will be more than an hour. We also know that wait times at customs could go up by 50 percent. Flight delays. That would be simply because there would be fewer air traffic controllers and it could also just a drag on the economy.
You have business people who are traveling and instead of conducting business, they could be stuck in those long lines. So we spoke to the airport director here at BWI and he paints a very vivid picture of what travel could look like. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL WIEDEFELD, BWI: If you think back to post-9/11, some of the issues that we had when you just didn't have the volume of people to handle all of the passengers, that's what you could be looking at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARSH: OK. Despite that, he sounds pretty confident that things will still remain safe as far as flying, but he made it very clear things will be slow moving.
From here, let's go on over to Erin with more.
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Rene.
These forced budget cuts would also lead to less money for public health problems as well as less research at the National Institutes of Health. Just this morning the president said "Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings."
And the White House also estimates that cuts to mental health funding will leave 373,000 Americans left untreated. Now, that might mean scaling back on youth violence prevention programs that politicians on both sides of the aisle want to see more of after that shooting in Newtown. On top of that, the Agriculture Department also thinks our food supply might be at risk, that all of the food inspectors would have a 15-day furlough, and that would mean no safety check on meat, on poultry, or on eggs.
Stores can't sell unchecked meat. And so for our viewers that would mean a lot less protein in the supermarket for a couple of weeks.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says forced cuts would result in loss production of two billion pounds of meat, about three billion pounds of poultry and about 200 million pounds of eggs. Vilsack is already worried that stores might try to sell some unchecked meat illegally. Don't be just wary of that, but also we will be watching for some higher prices at the supermarket.
But one thing we need to make sure that we remember, Wolf, is that these cuts are just estimates. This morning I spoke to several top Senate officials who say there are some smarter cuts that the White House could be making as far as health care is concerned. There's a $7 billion slush fund in Obamacare. They could use that as opposed to some cuts to the National Institutes of Health -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Erin McPike, thanks very much. Joe Johns and Rene Marsh, thanks to you as well.
Republican Senator Rand Paul, among others, says these forced budget cuts simply don't go far enough. I'm going to be speaking with him later about it later tonight. I'm filling in for Anderson Cooper on "A.C. 360" 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Much more on this story coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.
Meanwhile, a surprise announcement by President Obama. The man who led allied forces in Afghanistan is retiring from the United States military. The Marine Corps General John Allen was on track to become NATO's next supreme commander, but he's stepping down because of health issues in his family. The president calls General Allen one of America's finest military leaders. Now he will retire.
Let's get to one of the most daring robberies we have seen in some time. Thieves dressed as police broke into an airport in Europe, got into a plane's cargo hold, and got away with some $50 million in diamonds.
CNN's Tom Foreman has the details, which sound straight out of a film from Hollywood.
What happened here, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Wolf. This is just like something from a James Bond movie. It's unbelievable.
Here's France and Germany. Here's Belgium in the middle and this is what happened in this case. This airplane was getting ready to leave from the airport there for a short little flight over to Zurich. It was right here. What they didn't know at that time is that two vehicles with eight robbers, and here according to authorities, were cutting a fence down here and getting on to airport property.
They came streaking up, driving right across the airport here, all the way up to the plane, and in three minutes' time with guns drawn, they managed to take away more than 100 packages from this plane and they came streaking back the same way they went and they were back outside.
Now, there are huge questions here about when the alarm sounded and why it wasn't sounded further. We do know this. None of the passengers on the plane -- there were a couple dozen there -- even realized this was happening because it happened very quickly without a single shot fired.
But we know what happened next. After that, out into the city they went. This is where it really gets quite fascinating. Out in the city, if you look at it, once they came out of the airport, somewhere down around here, look at all of the different arteries that they were immediately connected to.
They could have gone any one of these directions in a very, very short order from the dump out point. If you think about it, just driving 30 miles per hour in five minutes they could have been beyond that radius in almost any direction, Wolf.
So, it's just been an extraordinary story of how they were organized, and the whole thing from beginning to end took about 11 minutes and then they were gone without a trace. They found a burned- out vehicle that they think is connected to this, but they don't know if it was the direction they went or anything else.
The bottom line is, the diamonds are gone right now. And if you want a sense of what $50 million in diamonds looks like, just take a look at this, because this is worthwhile. This is a bag that has about half a million small diamonds in it. If you want to have $50 million worth of diamonds, what you have to have is that many bags full of diamonds like that.
So it's an extraordinary robbery but getting rid of it, though, Wolf, will be the real challenge here because the simple truth is, selling diamonds is incredibly difficult when they are stolen, especially in this volume. That may be the bigger challenge for these diamond thieves as they try not to get caught in this large, daring robbery.
BLITZER: Very daring indeed. We're going to go to Brussels later here in THE SITUATION ROOM and speak with our own Dan Rivers. He's on the scene at that airport right now.
Other news we're following, including an Olympic star appearing in court today facing murder charges. Oscar Pistorius tells his version of how his girlfriend was killed.
And the Newtown school shooter said, and I'm quoting now, said to be obsessed with mass murders. Up next, we have chilling new details in this very tragic case.
BLITZER: It's been just over two months since the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. During all that time, we have never really gotten a significant answer to the key question, why?
Today, finally, we're getting the very first clues as to what the gunman might have been thinking.
Here's our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
You know, police say basically we're trying to rebuild history because in this case the shooter is dead. What was going on in Adam Lanza's mind? What drove him to kill so many innocent children, teachers, even his own mother? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Lanza was, quoting here, "obsessed with mass murders," a source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN. And the source adds, there's alleged evidence to back it up.
One of those mass murderers, according to CBS and "The Hartford Courant", is Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik who in 2011 killed 77 people, mainly teenagers, in Oslo and nearby island. Unlike Lanza, Breivik was caught and convicted. One theory is that Lanza idolized Breivik and wanted, as sick as it sounds, to outdo his body count.
Lanza reportedly may have chosen Sandy Hook Elementary because his targets, children and teachers, were in a confined area.
Apparently, there may be some evidence to, in part, back up a possible obsession with Breivik. "The Hartford Courant" says investigators found several news stories about the Norway murders in the Lanza bedroom at the home he shared with his mother. We also know Lanza was into violent video games and he played them in a game room at his house.
Federal agents have also said Lanza and his mother went to several gun ranges. Authorities have said she kept her guns in a lock box but some of those guns were used to kill her and the 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.
CANDIOTTI: "The Hartford Courant" also says Connecticut police went to Washington last week to share their theories with federal authorities. The FBI is still trying to retrieve information from Lanza's hard drive in his computer. He smashed it before launching his massacre.
Will we ever truly know what went on in Lanza's mind? The Connecticut police say wait for their final report in a few months -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they say that it might come out by June. Let's see.
Susan, what are the state police saying, though, right now about the new information that appears to be emerging?
CANDIOTTI: Well, Wolf, last night, police called the reports pure speculation and added that they are looking at everything. Today, media reports, including ours, are not quoting sources by name. And so, police say, therefore, all of these stories they call unsubstantiated.
I did talk to a representative for Lanza's father and brother but they have no comment.
BLITZER: Susan Candiotti, thanks very much. A five-year high on Wall Street today. We're going to have the closing numbers for you and a big reason for today's gains when we come back.
BLITZER: The history making day on Wall Street. Take a look at that.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring the story and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, huge numbers on Wall Street, over 14,000, record high for five years at least. I remember at one point it was 6,500, I believe. A few months after the president took office, 6,500 and now, 14,000.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'm sure a lot of people are happy to see those numbers and there was plenty of clapping when the closing bell rang today and for good reason. As we just mentioned, the Dow Industrials, as well as S&P 500, closed at their highest point in five years.
So, the Dow ended just under 14,036, the highest the average has been since it was 14,017 in October of 2007. It's still about 130 points short of its all-time high. Reports of a possible merger between OfficeMax and Office Depot drove today's gains.
And nobody was in danger but NASA lost contact with the International Space Station for about three hours today. This is something that we all could probably relate to the reason why. It was caused by a computer problem while engineers were uploading and installing some new software. The space station has other computers to plug in and everything has been fixed.
And, attention you 300 million Hotmail users. Your days of seeing this screen are numbered. By the end of summer, your email service will look like this. As of last night, Microsoft officially finished testing Outlook.com. Not only will Hotmail users be moved over, Microsoft plans a splashy ad campaign to lure people away from Google's Gmail, which has as many as three times as many users.
And before we show this next video, imagine that you're a university student who gets free tuition if you or someone you know makes a basket from half-court. So, one student just thought, I'll ask the team's basketball coach. So, was it a good choice?
We'll take a look.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
SYLVESTER: This happened last Friday at Brandon University in Canada. And look at that. Look at that celebration. It was so nice.
So, how about that? Free tuition for that student. Not bad. Not bad at all, Wolf.
BLITZER: Does he step over the line, though?
SYLVESTER: You want to replay it --
BLITZER: Can we take a look at that? I want to check out to see if when he threw the ball, his foot was over the line. Let's see.
SYLVESTER: I thought it was on the line, on the line. I'm going with on the line. I'm sticking with that.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm going to go with the student.
SYLVESTER: I'm going with the student, too. On the line, it counts. It's good. Give that kid free tuition.
BLITZER: I wonder what an NBA ref would have said. Three-point shot, not a three-point shot. Whatever it was, it was a terrific shot --
SYLVESTER: It's good stuff. I love it.
BLITZER: -- from half court. Very impressive. Thanks very much.
Still ahead, another dangerous turn in Syria's civil war. We have new details emerging about a sudden increase in Scud missile attacks.
And up next, the man known as the "Blade Runner" said he didn't intentionally kill his girlfriend. His version of the story, right after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here today as a family. But (INAUDIBLE) Reeva.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's gone from inspirational Olympic athlete to accused killer. South Africa's Oscar Pistorius was in court today for a bail hearing while a funeral was held for the girlfriend he's charged with murdering. Pistorius wept as his version of how she died was revealed for the first time.
CNN's Robyn Curnow is following all of this for us from Johannesburg. She's joining us now live.
What's the latest, Robyn?
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, whatever happened on that bloody Valentine's morning, we're getting some indication, a little bit more information on the story, at least from Oscar Pistorius. We're hearing his versions of the events for the first time. Take a listen to this.
CURNOW (voice-over): As Oscar Pistorius arrived for his bail hearing, his brother and family joined him to give him support.
Journalists jostled to get inside the small courtroom and officials seemed unable to cope with the huge media interest.
And outside, a group of protesters are calling for an end to violence against women. But inside the court, the state argued and persuaded the magistrate that Pistorius should be charged with premeditated murder.
And with our iPhone and snatches of footage taken after the magistrate had left the court, we can show you how startled, scared, and lonely Oscar Pistorius looked. He cried or sobbed throughout the bail hearing, despite the presence of his family.
Pistorius looked so different from this athlete who broke stereotypes to run in the Olympics, despite being a double amputee. He continued, though, to breakdown when his legal team readout an affidavit.
This was a shortened version of Pistorius' version of the story: "I woke up went to the balcony to get the fan and close the sliding doors. I heard a noise in the bathroom. I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There were no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors had left ladders outside. I did not have my prosthetic legs on. I grabbed my 9 millimeter pistol from underneath my bed.
I screamed to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in the bed. I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond. When I reached the bed, I realized Reeva was not in the bed.
That's when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I found the key and opened the bathroom door. Reeva was slumped over but alive."
Later in the affidavit, Pistorius says, "She died in my arms."
REEVA STEENKAMP, MODEL: I love you very, very much.
CURNOW: Reeva's last moments will no doubt be further examined on Wednesday during the second day of the bail hearing, as the state will try to reinforce why they don't believe his version of events and why Oscar Pistorius should be kept in jail until a trial.
CURNOW: And he's in jail again tonight. He's been there since that incident last week, and many people watching that today saw a man who's really struggling with that deed that he did on Valentine's Day morning. And of course many South Africans very sad today as Reeva Steenkamp was laid to rest.
BLITZER: Was there any history, Robyn, of violence between these two?
CURNOW: Well, there was comment. In fact, there was a witness statement put out by the defense team from Reeva's best friend in court today. and in it she said that Reeva had said to her, even though that her and Oscar had only been dating since November, Reeva had told her that if Oscar had asked her to marry him, she would have said yes. So, they were painting the picture of a happy couple, a couple who felt that they had found the one.
And also in the affidavit, this affidavit that Oscar put out today, he tells a story about how the night before Valentine's, they decided not to go out with friends, that they wanted to stay at home alone. She did some yoga, he watched TV. And went to bed early and also, sadly, she is said that she had a Valentine's Day present for him and she made him promise to only open it the next day on Valentine's Day.
Now, be no word on where that present is -- is now, is it in evidence or is it still in the house waiting for Oscar to open it?
BLITZER: Lots of unanswered questions. Thanks very much, Robyn Curnow in Johannesburg.
Let's dig a little bit deeper with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff, does it surprise you to hear Pistorius that this statement, this detailed statement, to the police, so soon, so publicly? What did you make of it?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I thought it was an absolutely crazy thing to do, to commit a defendant in a murder case to a very specific set of stories when he doesn't know what the forensic evidence shows. The autopsy evidence, how the bullets entered her body. And frankly, the story on its face is pretty preposterous, it seems to me. The fact that he never said, Reeva, is that you and just instead just started blasting away in the bathroom, it really does strain frudulity (ph). And there was no reason at this point for him to commit himself to this version of events.
BLITZER: So what are the questions you have in hearing Pistorius' defense because he's now laid out what his defense is going to be.
TOOBIN: Certainly the forensic evidence is going to be the most important. How many times was the gun fired? Where did the bullets hit Reeva? Was she struck only through the door? Was she struck before she went in the door? What were the surrounding circumstances?
I mean, it's all well and good that he says their relationship was wonderful. But as we know from far too many domestic violence homicides, that often is the first reaction. But then you learn more about the relationship. I mean, there is all the forensic evidence, all the relationship evidence. And at this point, all we know is that Reeva's dead and Pistorius has told this story. BLITZER: We also know that Pistorius' actions in court today were dramatic. He was seen sobbing and heaving, all of which potentially could have an impact maybe on the judge but maybe on public as well.
TOOBIN: It could. But you're talking about a trial that is likely months away. Sure. Why was he crying? Is he crying because he's sad that Reeva's dead? Is he crying because he's sorry he's in so much trouble? I think the evidence is going to matter a lot more than his initial reaction in court.
BLITZER: You think he'll get out on bail or will he go to jail?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't want to present myself as an expert on South African law, but the research I've been able to do suggests that it's very unlikely that in a case of premeditated murder, a defendant in South Africa is going to get out on bail. So based on what I know so far, and it's far from complete, I don't think he's going anywhere, at least for the foreseeable future.
BLITZER: The argument I've heard from some South Africans who live in the Johannesburg area where there is a really, really high crime rate, where there are these gated communities with extensive security, he said in that affidavit, in that statement today that had he been threatened before. He had a pistol underneath his bed. He was always worried about his own security, about being robbed.
When he heard these noises, he just jumped into action. Some folks say that makes sense, given the nature of the violence, the potential dangers to him in that area of Johannesburg. What do you make of that defense?
TOOBIN: Well, certainly Johannesburg does have a lot of crime, and there's no doubt that people are very sensitive to it. But I think you need to evaluate step by step what he did. He didn't notice that she wasn't in the bed? That's odd. How dark was the room? I mean, perhaps it was dark, but it doesn't take a lot of light to see someone is not next to you who used to be there.
And then this story of going in the bathroom through one door and then shooting through another without ever asking who's there, without waiting for someone to say, without Reeva saying, don't shoot me? I mean, it just -- it seems implausible to me. But, look, this is why we have trials. This is why police and defense attorneys collect evidence, and we'll see what the evidence shows.
BLITZER: We certainly will. Jeffrey, thanks very much.
It's been just seven weeks since Moscow banned Americans from adopting Russian children starting next year. And a Texas case is likely to make efforts to overturn that ban even harder. CNN's Phil Black has the latest from the Russian capital.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This story is getting huge coverage here, and Russian officials are using very heated language when talking about the circumstances surrounding the death of 3-year-old Max Shadow. They refer to him by his Russian name, Maxim Kusman (ph). The Russian foreign ministry says he died as a result of inhuman treatment in his adoptive family's home. They say he was severely beaten and drugged over a long period of time, and hope whoever is responsible will be punished severely.
In Russia's parliament, the state Duman, there was a moment of silence for this young boy followed by a series of passionate speeches by politicians claiming his death proves they were absolutely justified in passing legislation banning U.S. nationals from adopting any more Russian children.
They did that at the end of last year, partly in response to U.S. legislation, targeting Russian human rights abusers. But also because of concerns held for a long time here by Russian officials who say they are worried about the way Russian orphans are treated in the United States. Supporters of the adoption ban claim since the 1990s, 19 other Russian children have died after being adopted by Americans.
The Russian government says it is very concerned about the welfare of Russian orphans, and it says 60,000 have are been adopted over the last 20 years. The adoption ban is one of the key reasons why relations between the United States and Russia are the frostiest that they have been in a long time. And it doesn't look set to change. A line of politicians here and officials have responded to the death of this 3-year-old boy by effectively saying, we told you so.
Phil Black, CNN, Russia.
BLITZER: A European scandal over mislabeled meat just keeps getting bigger. Stand by for details of the latest recall foods where traces of horse meat turned up in products that are supposed to contain beef.
BLITZER: We don't want to really spoil your dinner, but just imagine what you'd think if the beef ravioli or lasagna you bought at the store did not contain beef but also contained horse meat. That's all you need to know about a meat packing scandal going on in Europe right now. It's only in Europe but new recalls keep being announced. Lisa Sylvester is here. She's got more on what is going on -- what is going on?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, we keep seeing more and more of these headlines from Europe about this. And now it is a major scandal there. Processed meat being sold as beef that tests show was really horse meat. And that is just the beginning.
SYLVESTER: Scientists in Germany are unwrapping these frozen lasagna meals looking for traces of horse meat. The controversy started in the United Kingdom, and now is sweeping across the European Union. European processed meat products marketed as containing only beef actually including some horse meat. Authorities in Ireland last month tested 27 beef patties. Thirty-seven percent of them testing positive for horse DNA.
OWEN PATTERSON, U.K. SECRETARY FOR ENVIRONMENT: It's completely wrong that any consumer should buy a product labeled as processed beef and find it contains something else.
SYLVESTER: And now a household brand is involved in the scandal. Nestle's European operations announced that traces of horse DNA were found in two beef products supplied by a German subcontractor. The company is voluntarily recalling the products.
In a statement, Nestle says, "There is no food safety issue but the mislabeling of products means they fail to meet the very high standards consumers expect from us." The two products, Butoni beef ravioli and beef tortellini are sold in U.S. supermarkets but Nestle says they use different suppliers here in the United States than the one in Europe.
TONY CORBO, FOOD AND WATER WATCH: I think Nestle's going to have to do an education campaign -
SYLVESTER: Tony Corbo is with a national food watchdog group. He says American consumers should rest assured that there's little chance of horse meat ending up in the U.S. food supply because of a ban on European beef.
CORBO: As a matter of fact, we're not getting -- probably not getting any beef at all from Europe because we still ban their beef because of the mad cow outbreak that Europe suffered in the '80s and '90s.
SYLSVESTER: And in 2007, the last horse slaughter house for human consumption in the United States closed down.
But the scandal does point to a larger issue. Europe's beef suppliers have been hoping that U.S. officials lift the ban on the products here in the U.S.
The dialogue was beginning to be able to bring meat into the United States and now people hear this. Is it going to hurt their chances?
CORBO: I think it's going to hurt their chances. I know that President Obama announced during his state of the union address he wants to enter into a free trade agreement with the European Union. This is probably going to come up as an issue, that Europe is probably going to want to export more food into the United States. But this is going to probably put a damper in terms of meat product.
SYLVESTER: Now, the UK and French authorities have launched a criminal investigation. In fact, three British citizens have been arrested at one company and charged with fraud. Authorities saying that the supervisors should have known by the smell, appearance and price that it wasn't beef, that it was actually horse meat that they were using, Wolf. You know, in some places, horse meat is actually considered a delicacy.
BLITZER: Oh, I know.
SYLVESTER: But the key thing is you have to label it. You have to tell people that's what you're eating.
BLITZER: I remember in the early 90s, I was on a trip with then- secretary of state James Baker to Kazakhstan. He was opening up doors there. Was doing a live shot, got back to this little dining room at the Intourist hotel there, and all my colleagues, the other journalists were on the trip eating away, some kind of borsch or goulash or whatever they were eating. And I just asked what kind of meat is that? And they said, just eat it, it's delicious. So, finally, we got a waiter over. He didn't speak English; he spoke Russian. Somebody spoke Russian, and all of these reporters are eating this, delicious, delicious, having a little glass of wine. And then finally they said, what kind of beef -- what kind of meat is this?
And the waiter said, it's horse meat. As soon as it came out, some who spoke Russian started spitting out their food.
SYLVESTER: So you had the horse meat, then?
BLITZER: I didn't eat it. I had learned -- I always ask going to these countries what kind of meat is that and that's not the first time I was told horse meat. Certain places in North Korea where I visited a couple years ago, there was some mysterious stuff going on.
SYLVESTER: That's when you say, thanks but no thanks.
BLITZER: Right. I'm a vegetarian. I'll stick to that. Thanks very much. Not really a vegetarian.
Vice President Joe Biden became pretty animated during a town hall meeting on guns today. Listen to how he answered a question "Parents" magazine readers submitted on Facebook.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kate Earnest has the next question. She asks, do you believe that banning certain weapons and high-capacity magazines will mean that law-abiding citizens will become more of a target to criminals as we will have no way to sufficiently protect ourselves. This comes up again and again.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Is this "Parents" magazine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is.
BIDEN: I have "Parents" magazine. Well, I've never heard anybody in "Parents" magazine ask these questions, but I'm delighted to answer them. First of all, the idea that -- repeat the last part of the question, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So she's asking if a ban goes into effect on certain kinds of weapons and high-capacity magazines.
BIDEN: And what's her name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kate.
BIDEN: Kate, if you want to protect yourself, get a double barrel shotgun, have the shells of a 12-gauge shotgun and I promise you, as I told my wife, I said, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, put that double barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.
I promise you, whoever coming in -- you don't need an AR-15. It's harder to aim. It's harder to use. And, in fact, you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun.
BLITZER: A blunt advice from the vice president of the United States. Asked for objections that gun restrictions violate the constitution, Biden says it's OK for the government to restrict some weapons. Otherwise, people could buy their own military weapons and even tanks.
We're seeing reports that the U.S. may change its policy against giving weapons to the anti-government rebels in Syria. Coming up, one possible reason why. The Syrian regime is firing more scud missiles at its enemies.
BLITZER: A deadly wave of scud missiles fired at Syria's second largest city. Opposition activists say dozens of people have been killed in multiple strikes in Aleppo in recent days.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is working the story for us. So Barbara, what are you hearing about scud missile attacks in Syria?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. officials are telling us eight scud missiles fired from the Damascus area north towards Aleppo since Friday. Eight missiles, the videos tell the stories that are merging from Syria, massive destruction in the city, people being rescued out of the wreckage.
Why are the Syrians doing this, of course? The opposition is now strong enough that Assad's helicopters, his aircraft are at risk of being shot down. This missile activity allows them to attack deep into Northern Syria without the risk of being shot down.
But the real problem, Wolf, besides the deep tragedy for the people of Syria just across the border, Turkey, a NATO ally. U.S. patriot missiles are already on station there, ready to defend Turkey if these scud missiles cross the border and should land inside that country, but certainly stepped up activity in recent days -- Wolf. BLITZER: There was a story in the "New York Times" today, Barbara, I'm sure you read it that President Obama may be rethinking his opposition to arming the rebels? What's going on?
STARR: Well, Wolf, the "New York Times" is quoting that administration officials saying that it's not a closed issue, that they may revisit the issue of arming the rebels.
I've talked to a number of our sources and what they are indicating is that if, if there was some notion that you had a better sense of who the opposition was and that they really weren't able to control whatever weapons they get, that might give you some room to take another look at it.
But remember, Wolf, to all of the recent months, the issue about arming the rebels has always been who are they, who do they really represent and if you were to give them arms, how would you know that those arms wouldn't then go to other elements working inside Syria?
Especially some of the al Qaeda affiliates that have emerged in recent months, could they possibly get their hands on any U.S.- supplied weapons? That's always been the big stopper in all of this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Barbara Starr over at the Pentagon.
Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a feud involving the actor Alec Baldwin and a "New York Post" photographer. There are two very different versions of what happened. That's coming up next.
BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In New York, thousands line the streets to mark the year of the snake at the Outdoor Cultural Festival last Sunday.
In Bali, a traveller captures a beautiful sunset over the water. In California, paragliders come in for a landing over the beach. Send in your photos to cnnireport.com or through Instagram using hashtag cnnireport.
This is more like a script from the Hatfields and the McCoys instead of "30 Rock," but actor Alec Baldwin and a "New York Post" photographer are feuding and things are getting pretty rough.
CNN national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, is joining us from New York. She's got the details. Deb, what happened?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, Alec Baldwin has a history of overreacting to things that upset him and it appears once again that he's crossed the line, this time allegedly verbally assaulting a photographer in offensive and hateful terms.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FEYERICK (voice-over): The NYPD Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the incident summed up the "New York Post" headline, Alec's race rant. Black photog says Baldwin used racist slurs. It happened outside Baldwin's East Village home.
According to the paper, which says it stands by its story, "The Post" reporter and photographer were trying to get a comment on a lawsuit involving Baldwin's pregnant wife.
When Baldwin saw the pair, "The Post" reports Baldwin became aggressive, grabbing the reporter by the arm and then launching into a tirade against the veteran photographer, alleging calling him a crack head, drug dealer, and a racially derogatory word.
The photographer, a former NYPD narcotics detective, apparently tried to calm Baldwin down by showing him his retired cop I.D., which Baldwin called a fake. Taking to his Twitter page saying Ralston claims he is ex-NYPD that can't be.
Ex-NYPD don't become crack head ex-jailhouse paparazzi. Also, quote, "Moments after I tweet about the "Post," Ralston, the ex-crackhead photographer shows up in my door with one of Murdock's nieces in tow."
Baldwin spokesman denies the accusation calling them completely false and describes the alleged racial slur as one of the most outrageous things I've heard in my life. But on a radio program, the actor's "30 Rock" cast mate, Tracy Morgan, says, if true, Baldwin needs to apologize.
TRACY MORGAN, CO-STAR, "30 ROCK" (via telephone): If so, I think he should be dealt with and made to apologize.
FEYERICK: An NYPD spokesman confirms both Baldwin and the photographer, G.N. Miller, filed harassment charges against one another. Baldwin is known for his hot tempered reactions to the paparazzi once using the Twitter hash tag, all paparazzi should be waterboarded.
This photo published in "The Daily News" was taken when Baldwin went to apply for his marriage license last June. Baldwin accused the photographer of bumping him with his lens.
FEYERICK: Now this is not Baldwin's first run-in with a "New York Post" staffer either. He had an ongoing feud with a columnist who really seemed to get to him. Baldwin says his charitable foundation has given to African-American causes in the past. The actor clarifies that Baldwin's issue is not with the paper, but with the photographer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much.