Return to Transcripts main page
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
"Blade Runner" Free On Bail; Obama Rings Alarm Bells On Spending Cuts; Feds Sue Lance Armstrong
Aired February 22, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the blade runner runs free, at least for now. A judge hands down a decision in the bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius.
Plus, uncovered, Al Qaeda's quick and easy guide to dodging U.S. drone strikes.
And another asteroid warning, look up, look out, and let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Tom Foreman in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, no guns, no alcohol, but no jail either. Tonight, the Olympic blade runner Oscar Pistorius is free.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESMOND NAIR, CHIEF MAGISTRATE: I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: South Africa's chief magistrate told the courtroom early this morning that Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend, is not a flight risk and would not commit more violence if released from jail.
And with that, Pistorius met the requirements for bail, which was set at about $112,000 U.S. Pistorius is now believed to be staying at his uncle's home. He's had to surrender his passports and his guns.
He must also report to police twice a week and refrain from consuming alcohol. The Pistorius family members shook hands after the decision and proclaimed Oscar's innocence. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD PISTORIUS, OSCAR PISTORIUS' UNCLE: We know Oscar's version of what happened at that tragic night. And we know that that is the truth and that will prevail.
(END VIDEO CLIP0
FOREMAN: But will that version of events add up when Pistorius is back in court on June 4? OUTFRONT tonight, former prosecutor, Wendy Murphy, and criminal defense attorney, Anne Bremner.
Ann, let me ask you first, the defense in this case laid out a lot of what they wanted to talk about here. Did their case sound so solid that he could be allowed to go out on bail?
ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The defense -- the whole question of bail is whether or not he would flee or be danger if he's at large. So it was a really strong case or a really weak case that would mitigate against getting the bail.
The judge found some probabilities in it and of course, the lead detective in the case we know is charged with seven counts of attempted murder. That never happens. And that may have undermined a lot of the case all the way around and really led to this release of Oscar Pistorius.
FOREMAN: Well, let's talk about the landscape here that was laid out by the defense in this case because Oscar Pistorius says this really was all about essentially an accident that started in the early hours of Valentine's Day in his bedroom. He was asleep there with his girlfriend next to him.
He says he got up and went out to the balcony to get a fan and to close the window and Nancy Pelosi to him. She got up and went to the restroom. Then he says when he came back in from the balcony, that's when everything went wrong because he said he was sure that she was still in bed as he came inside.
So look at it from his point of view. He basically says he didn't have his prosthetic legs on, low to the ground, the ram was very dark. He heard a noise and turned away from the bed where he believes his girlfriend is asleep. He gets his gun because he thinks there's an intruder.
The gun comes from under the bed. He goes down that hallway and as he turns the corner, he sees an open window and thinks that's where the intruder came in. He hears a noise behind that door. He says he starts for Reeva to protect herself.
He starts shouting for the intruder to reveal himself. He starts shooting through that door. Only when he comes back in to put on his prosthetic legs and he lights up the house that he realizes she's not there. He realizes there's been a terrible, terrible mistake.
Wendy, what's wrong with that story? It sounds probable in some ways, improbable in others.
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: How much time have you got? I mean, to me, it sounds like a comedy. His explanation is so ludicrous. By the way, you know, even the judge said there are a lot of implausibilities here. I think he was being polite. It makes no sense, but it doesn't mean he can't make the allegation.
The question is, will the forensics bear it out? So far, we don't know a lot. We do know that the angle of the gun is reportedly such that he couldn't have been there without his prosthetic legs because it went down and toward what would been a person sitting on the toilet, which is where she was -
FOREMAN: Wasn't that refuted somewhat in court by the defense saying, and didn't the prosecution back off that some saying, well, we haven't really established it all, but that's what we believe?
MURPHY: That's just because they haven't yet had the expert do the careful measurements. But from what it looks like at this point in time, he wasn't walking around on his stumps. That doesn't appear to be the case. But I know why he suggested that that was the truth, which I think won't bear out.
He didn't want it to seem as though he was taking the time to put his prosthetic devices on before he ran down the hallway to shoot, because that would have added to the argument in favor of deliberate premeditation and planning. But it's equally weird that he said he came back after shooting through the door.
Came back into his bedroom, notices that she's not in the bed, thinks to himself, my goodness, I may have just killed my beloved girlfriend, and then he sits down to put his legs on instead of calling 911 and running around on his stumps?
That makes no sense at all and it's not just that it's not what an ordinary person would do. It's not a man worried about the fact that he may have just killed his girlfriend.
FOREMAN: OK, let me get Anne in here. By the way, they don't actually have 911 there. He had to call for help, but they don't have a 911 service there. Anne, let me ask you about the prosecution side because ultimately the magistrate said even though he too, like Wendy just mentioned, had problems with the defense's explanation of what happened here.
He also had problems with the prosecution's explanation. Essentially he said the prosecution did not establish such a strong case that Oscar Pistorius has any reason to flee. He can fight these charges in court and he may win.
BREMNER: He said the case -- it's just circumstantial and he had a lot of problems with the evidence in the case. You know, the fact of the matter is, even with these supposed downward shots the detective didn't say he saw that kind of angle.
What the detective says is, I think they were downward shots. This judge took two hours to give his opinion. It's almost like the arguments in the Leopold and Loeb case as Clarence Darrell that went on for days.
He was very careful and he went on in chapter and verse about the doubts of the case. The center piece of his doubt was this particular detective. They weren't using coverage for their shoes of the case. They fumbled. I think he said the evidence --
MURPHY: That is not true.
BREMNER: They were untruthful about evidence -- MURPHY: That is not true.
FOREMAN: Hold on. Let's walk through what the prosecution is saying because they're saying there was no confusion. It was never dark in the room that the couple was standing in this room or the house having an argument, an argument so loud it could be heard hundreds of yards away.
At some point indeed, Reeva went into the restroom to get away from this and she locked the door. They said they were two cell phones there, maybe she was trying to call for help, in the event he did follow her down the mall with his gun, but not because he thought there was an intruder but because he was angry.
He went in and whether he tried to break the door down or not. At some point, he shot through the door with intent to kill her. Now, let me ask you this, though. Anne, you've been involved with police who have been accused of having problems with investigation before.
Were you shocked at all when the magistrate said, look, you point out there are telephones there, but you never check to see if he tried to call somebody?
BREMNER: Yes, and you know, I defend police all the time. Everything I did just say is true. And the fact is that, look at the Amanda Knox case that prosecutor was indicted, tried and convicted in her case.
When the message is from a messenger that has a problem, the case has a problem. I think the judge pointed that out. I mean, this is center piece of the case. They didn't need to have them respond that night and the case is serious because that's where a lot of the seeds of doubt are coming from.
FOREMAN: Wendy, I can tell you want to jump in here.
MURPHY: Look, that's just wrong. The judge even said, although I think he did a far too lengthy analysis, which suggests to me he knew he was wrong and he was trying to protest a bit too much.
But the judge specifically said, the lead detective, although he's off the case and needs made some mess ups during his testimony, nothing he said that was incorrect has anything to do with the strength of the prosecution's case. He went out of his way to say --
FOREMAN: Wendy, I agree with you. Wendy, I agree with you that he said that this is not the state's entire case, that there's more to it than just this one person. But certainly it doesn't help if you have a prosecutor who says, one of our ear witnesses, somebody who heard something, was 600 yards away.
And then in the same testimony, you say, well, I guess it was more like 300 yards away, well, maybe it was closer than that. That suggests an investigation that has problems.
MURPHY: No. I disagree. It only matters if you take a tiny bit of information and blow it out of proportion. Look, the guy's popular. He's a hero. People love him. They feel bad for him because he doesn't have legs. I don't. I think if you can kill somebody without wedge, you should go to jail without your legs.
I think he should not have been released today. The strength of this case is not going to be destroyed by a PR machine that wants this guy to look innocent because we think we love him. You know, that is not justice. Because we feel bad for him, he should get a pass?
Where is that -- there's no constitutional right to get a pass or to be let out of jail on bail when nobody else would have been released because we feel pad for you. We think you're great because you're an Olympic hero who had hardships and you overcame them. That's what we're seeing. We're seeing a story, not the truth.
FOREMAN: But Anne, I want you to jump in here because the simple truth is there is a presumption of innocence and to say on the flip side that that's the only reason he's going free, the magistrate, he spent an hour and a half trying to explain why that wasn't the only reason.
BREMNER: Right. Well, exactly. In fact, this has been a lynch mob. This has been a press lynch mob. This has been a case like, this isn't true. We can't believe him. We don't believe him. We don't want to give him bail, et cetera, et cetera. The reality is he has a right to a fair hearing and he got one. Now the question is he has a right to a fair trial and he'll get one.
FOREMAN: Anne and Wendy, thank you both for being here. I know this trial is going to go on for quite some time. Thanks so much.
OUTFRONT next, is the sky really falling? Washington is playing Chicken Little over the four spending cuts.
It turns out there's more to that strange story of that hotel where a woman's body was found in the water tank.
How a very little guy has broken some very big hearts out in Hollywood and he'll probably strike again this weekend. Stay with us.
FOREMAN: Our second story, OUTFRONT, the sky is falling or it is if you believe everything that you hear out of Washington. Today, again, President Obama rang the alarm bells on the four spending cuts that are set to take effect just seven days from now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I've been very clear that these kinds of arbitrary automatic cuts would have an adverse impact on families, on teachers, on parents who are reliant on head start programs, on our military readiness, on mental health services on medical search.
(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: You heard a bit of it there, especially from Democrats here. You're hearing that we'll have trouble fighting wildfires, airplanes, security lines will be long, all sorts of things. The question is though, how much of that is true? How much of it is politics? How do we react to that?
OUTFRONT tonight, Daniel Altman, economics professor at NYU. John Avlon, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast" and Reihan Salam, CNN contributor and writer for the "National Review."
Daniel, let me start with you. You listened to all this talk today about all these dire implications. You study this sort of thing, is it real or is it scare tactics?
DANIEL ALTMAN, ADJUNCT ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NYU'S STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Some of it is definitely real. I mean, if you just look at the figures we're looking at maybe 70,000 kids getting kicked out of head start programs. We're looking at a $1.6 billion cut in funding for the National Institutes of Health, which does research into life- saving medical procedures and drugs.
You know, it's going to be $1.1 trillion in cuts over a decade. We're looking at maybe 4 percent of the federal budget overall. That's serious. When you think about the unemployment rate, 7.9 percent, well, 92 percent of people are employed, cut out 4 percent of the federal budget. That's actually going to have a big effect on the economy.
FOREMAN: All right, the Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood spoke at the White House briefing today. All of you listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: There has to be some impact in order to save $1 billion, $1 billion is a lot of money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be clear, it's less than 2 percent of your budget --
LAHOOD: It's a lot of money, Jonathan. Where I come from, which is Central Illinois, $1 billion is a lot of money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: All right, John, jump in here. Because this is the tricky part, I think, you know, $1 billion is a lot of money and I think Daniel had a good point there. On the other hand, there are all sorts of businesses, all sorts of families, all sorts of states that have had to suck up bigger cuts and they haven't screamed that everything is falling apart at the hinges. Is there political opportunism here? What do you think?
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There's definitely some political theatre. That said, this whole plan was supposed to be so stupid, so brutal, so blunt, that it would compel the two parties to come together. There is an alternative. It's called the grant bargain, but the parties can't seem to reason together.
But what you're hearing it from a lot of folks especially on the Democratic side of the aisle is the Washington Monument gambit. They highlight the most painful things that could possibly be cut. Saying we're going to shut the Washington monument that freaks people out, it makes the impacts seem exaggerated to folks at home.
There is some theatre to this, there's a lot of fear mongering in Washington. I don't want to shock anyone at home, but the fact that we're here and we're trying to get their attentions, they come back from vacation and start doing something, is itself pathetic and outrageous.
FOREMAN: Reihan, let me have you jump in here because there is a political side to this, no matter what either party says. They are playing a lot of politics on this because they see an advantage here. The Republicans look like they're very much on the losing side of that equation right now.
Look at this poll from Pew Research Center, "USA Today," who would you blame if spending cuts take effect, President Obama, 31 percent and the GOP in Congress, 49 percent. Tell me about that, Reihan, how much do you think the GOP will pay the price on that, or is it a temporary price they'll pay?
REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the issue is, I mean, in politics what's really relevant is what happens come 2014. And between and now then, there are a lot of things happening, in fact, at the end of March, we also have the debate over the continuing resolution.
And what I think is happening now is that a lot of Republicans are saying, look, you're right. These cuts are distributed in a way that's very problematic. Perhaps the president should have more authority over how those cuts are distributed.
So for example, if a cut has to happen at the level of a tiny project or program or activity then it's a lot harder to make cuts that are coherent than if they happen at the level of say the entire Pentagon.
So the more discretion you give the White House then the easier these cuts might go and so Senate Republicans said, we're willing to give you that discretion. In fact, House Republicans next week are gearing up to pass legislation along those lines as well.
The thing is that Senate Democrats are not going to go along with it and the president doesn't want to go along with it. Why, because if the president has that discretion to see to it that those cuts don't have such disastrous effects then the president actually owns the cuts that he actually has to make. So partly there's a pass the buck dynamic going on here as well.
FOREMAN: Let me jump through this really quickly and try to get you all back in very quickly on one quick question. Reihan, back to you, if, in fact, this does not -- "The Sequester" comes through and the economy gets into trouble, next year we go to the midterm votes.
Do you think voters will look back and say, it was the Republicans' fault, they pushed us into it or do you think by then it will be the usual equation of, you're the party in charge, Democrats, the economy's failing again, it's your fault, you pay? What do you think?
SALAM: I think the real fight is going to be over the continuing resolution. If there's a government shutdown, and if then there is an economic weakness, then I think it's very hard to tell. Republicans might take a lot of blame for that.
FOREMAN: Daniel, jump in with one last quick question here. If this happens, is it enough to push us substantially toward recession?
ALTMAN: I don't think it's going to be recession. But we could lose between 700,000 and 1 million jobs according to estimates published in "Washington Post" today. That is a big chunk out of the job creation that we're expecting over the next two years, maybe 25 percent of it.
FOREMAN: OK, Daniel, John, Reihan, thanks so much for being here. This story is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Still to come, the Justice Department says Lance Armstrong defrauded the government out of millions of dollars and now they want it back.
Plus a top scientist says the earth is on a collision course with an asteroid equal to 20,000 atomic bombs. That would be a bad day.
A monster winter storm is blanketing 20 states in snow. We'll have the first pictures.
FOREMAN: Our third story OUTFRONT, suing Lance Armstrong. The Justice Department announced today its joining a lawsuit accusing the cyclist and his former team managers of defrauding the federal government out of millions to finance the U.S. State's Postal Service cycling team.
The case was filed in 2010 by former teammate, Floyd Landis. The question is, do the feds have a case? OUTFRONT tonight, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan. Paul, how important is it that the feds are jumping in on this thing?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is very, very big. Because what it indicates is that the federal government, Justice Department, have faith that there's a legitimate suit here.
You know, this false claims act was started back in the civil war when the U.S. government was being defrauded by contractors and it said, basically, if you're a worker and you see fraud and you start a lawsuit, we're going to reward you with 15 percent to 30 percent of what you recover. Now this could be a huge lawsuit, $100 million lawsuit so a lot of money at stake for the government and Floyd Landis, Armstrong's teammate.
FOREMAN: Let me ask you about the law and math because here's a statement from Armstrong's attorney. He said Lance and his representatives worked constructively over the last few weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly. But those talks failed because we disagree whether the Postal Service was damaged.
The Postal Service's own studies show that the service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship, benefits totalling more than $100 million. We know the Postal Service put in about $31 million. So they're $70 million to the good. Does that make a difference legally?
CALLAN: Well, it does. You know, Lance Armstrong may have been foolish enough to be caught blood doping, but he's worth $100 million and he's hired a good lawyer who has come up with the defense is. And what's the defense, the defense is although the U.S. Postal Service spent $30 million on the endorsement contract, they made $100 million.
And the measure of damages is, how much money did the government lose? So Armstrong's lawyers are saying, you not only did not lose money, you made money on my crimes. So you have no basis for this lawsuit. That's what the negotiations are about. The government saying, you owe us a lot of money. They're saying, no, we might have done something wrong, but you've incurred no damages.
FOREMAN: All right, Paul Callan, thanks so much.
Still OUTFRONT, al Qaeda has a guide to avoiding drone strikes by U.S. forces and now we know what's in it.
And a hotel of horrors, a body found in the water tank is just one of the creepy stories that are now coming to light.
FOREMAN: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.
That massive winter storm barreling across 20 states has caused a mess. Amanda Laviana, a viewer in Wichita, Kansas, shot this footage of her office building and posted it on CNN's iReport. Look at that. And said workers thought they were going through an earthquake but they found snow falling off the roof.
Wichita has seen its second highest storm snowfall on record, 14.2 inches over two days. But many took advantage of the snowfall, like this dog in Kansas City, Missouri. Karen Blue and her 75-pound English bulldog, Duke, went sledding, a lovely time had by all.
For more on the storm, you can go to CNN.com, or you can track the latest winter weather. A lot of you are shoveling out there. We hope you can shovel out.
U.S. military announced today it's grounding its fleet of F-35 fighter jets after an engine problem was discovered. The defense program is the most expensive in history and has been riddled with problems.
And because it's still in the developmental stage, Winslow Wheeler of the investigative nonprofit Project on Government Oversight tells us we should expect more groundings. Sadly, he says, this will probably mean the program is not canceled, it will keep going. He says the Pentagon just refuses to admit that this thing is a failure. The Pentagon says it's too early to assess the overall impact.
A law that would require gun owners to get liability insurance is gaining traction in several states. Just yesterday, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy that asked his Sandy Hook advisory council look into whether owners of firearms should be required to carry additional insurance. Some believe this law would hamper Second Amendment rights, while others say it could prevent a number of gun-related tragedies like accidental shootings.
But Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, tells us there are holes in the legislative language that could make it very hard to decide exactly how much people should be charged and whether or not it would have that impact.
There's some breaking news. A major development tonight that could halt the effort to bring peace to Syria. That country's key opposition group has said that it's boycotting an important meeting in Rome with the U.S. and other world powers.
The goal is to find a way to end the crisis in Syria. A senior U.S. official tells CNN the group had not notified the United States of its decision.
Foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is at the State Department.
Elise, answer this for me. The U.S. was really caught off-guard by this tonight. How significant is this?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, symbolically, Tom, I think it's very significant. Not only is this group not coming to Rome, but they were also invited, is my understanding, to the White House sometime in March. They were trying to get a meeting together with possibly even President Obama.
And now what they're saying is, listen, you see what's going on in Aleppo right now, our people are being killed. And what they really think, as according to what they've been saying the last few months is, what the international community is doing is really window dressing, and they can't keep talking about the day after when people are being killed on the ground and they want a much more robust response from the international community.
So I think right now, the U.S. and its partners in this so-called "Friends of Syria" group have a little bit of egg on their face right now.
FOREMAN: So if this group does not get help from the U.S., then who are they going to turn to?
LABOTT: Well, there are some other countries outside of the U.S., particularly in the Gulf, who are giving them arms and money. But right now, their biggest friend in the area, particularly in Syria, is this group al Nusra, which is an extremist radical group, the U.S. and its allies say they have ties to al Qaeda. They are believed to be responsible for a lot of the more violent attacks including this bombing that was on one of the Syrian facilities.
So, I think, right now, there's been all this concern, if we do more on the ground, it's going to just radicalize the population and bring them closer to these terrorist groups and maybe they would even get the weapons. That is really what's going to be happening. The longer that the international community does not do anything, it's going to further radicalize the population, Tom.
FOREMAN: All right. Elise, thanks for bringing us up to date on this breaking news tonight. Pretty big development there.
Our fourth story OUTFRONT: duck and cover.
Remember these public service announcements during the Cold War, showing Americans how to protect themselves during nuclear attack? A newly discovered secret al Qaeda handbook offers some duck and cover tips for terrorists looking to avoid drones.
Our Brian Todd is OUTFRONT on that story.
CHUCK TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't use your wireless device, hide under thick trees -- for al Qaeda fighters on the battlefield, words literally to live by. Those are among 22 tips from militants on how to avoid drone strikes.
"The Associated Press" recently discovered a document with those suggestions in a building in Mali were Islamist militants are battling French forces. The document had also been posted on Jihadist Web sites.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: We have evidence to suggest that the drone strikes have been psychologically traumatic to al Qaeda. It's induced a high degree of paranoia in their ranks. They are fearful that they've been infiltrated by spies.
TODD: Osama Bin Laden, shortly before his death, had written letters to other al Qaeda leaders with similar suggestions, saying their fighters shouldn't meet on road highways and move too much in their cars because many of them got targeted while they were meeting on the road.
Bin Laden also told every militant, quote, "He should move only when the clouds are heavy." As for this other list of suggestions --
(on camera): One of the tips, if you're in a car and you learn there's a drone after you, leave the vehicle immediately and all of the passengers should scatter in different directions.
Another one, set up fake gatherings of people using dummies to throw the drones off the trail.
(voice-over): Similar tactics have already been deployed in war time. The allies used inflatable tank and truck decoys to fool German aircraft in World War II.
Other suggestions from Al Qaeda: use whatever technology you can to jam the drone's electronics.
Could these tactics really work against drones?
We ask Colonel Cedric Leighton, a former top official at the National Security Agency who helped develop American drones.
COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RETIRED), FORMER NSA DEPUTY TRAINING DIRECTOR: In general terms, I mean, they are good for people who are in a desert environment trying to avoid drones, but there are a lot of limitations to them.
TODD: The advantage, Leighton says, is still with the drone operators.
LEIGHTON: If they can differentiate between what's in a shadow, what's supposed to be in a shadow and what's not supposed in the shadow, natural light conditions, then they have a good chance of being able to flush out the guerrillas.
FOREMAN: Hey, Brian, these seem sort of low tech and common sense. You think they work at all?
TODD: Well, some of the experts, Tom, who we spoke to say, actually, some of it is pretty practical and useful. I mean, one of the tips is use smoke as cover by burning tires. You can see the logic in that. It could throw a drone off rare off-course a little bit.
The one tip in our piece where they suggest you set up fake meetings using mannequins and things like that, experts say that could confuse a drone operator. A lot of it is, of course, very obvious, you know? If you're being tracked by a drone in your car, and you know you're being tracked by a drone, yes, you might want to leave the car. Things like that.
But as we spoke to Colonel Cedric Leighton there in the piece, he said, really, the advantage still remains with the drone operators overall. But some of these things could help them on the battlefield, especially now in Mali, where, you know, they're going to be under attack by the U.S. drones, the U.S. had just deployed some troops and intelligence people to nearby Niger and we're told they're going to be operating drones from there.
FOREMAN: All right. Brian, thanks so much. Good reporting on that.
FOREMAN: A decomposing body found stewing in the main water supply of a California hotel. It sounds like things could not get worse for the Cecil Hotel in downtown L.A. But now, we learn that's just one of several grisly incidents in the hotel's dark past.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT with that story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like not far. It's in downtown, so it's close to the city and the price was quite good for us.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's why these Czechoslovakian tourists booked a room at the Cecil Hotel. It advertises itself as a beautiful, vintage, European-style hotel, catering to young international travelers, like Elisa Lam from Vancouver, Canada. Her body found in one of the hotel's four water towers that feeds into the hotel's taps. She may have been there for weeks.
As hundreds of hotel guests unknowingly continued to drink and use the water. The hotel would not speak to CNN despite repeated attempts.
But this is the latest chapter in the hotel's dark storied history, says L.A. crime novelist and journalist Denise Hamilton.
DENISE HAMILTON, L.A. CRIME NOVELIST: In so many ways, the Cecil is like, you know, a metaphor for the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood. It's all facade. It's all glitz on the outside and it's got this romantic, turbulent, sinister history.
LAH: The hotel was built during the Roaring '20s, but was crushed under the economic weight of the depression. In the 1940s, the Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short, is rumored to have stayed here before she was killed and dismembered. In the '50s and '60s, it was a place where the desperate ended it all.
HAMILTON: They rented a room, went up to the room, and then jumped out the window. And there was one woman who committed suicide and she ended up landing on a pedestrian who was walking by and killed the pedestrian as well.
LAH: The hotel's folklore grew. It served as a backdrop in TV series like "Baretta."
But as downtown L.A. descended into crime in the '80s, so did the guests, like serial killer Richard Ramirez, the night stalker, who killed 13 as he lived on the 14th floor. Serial killer Jack Unterweger, who preyed on prostitutes, some just blocks away from the Cecil.
HAMILTON: Everyone who comes with hopes and dreams and stars in their eyes. It's the noir side of the city. (END VIDEOTAPE)
FOREMAN: Kyung, this is just such an odd, odd story. Let me go to the most serious part of it right now.
What else do we know about this 21-year-old woman who found -- who wound up dead there?
LAH: We are learning a little bit more about Elisa Lam. She was a student as recently as August at the University of British Columbia. She wasn't currently enrolled there but the university says she was once a student.
We also know that, you know, you're post-college. She was traveling. She had stopped in Toronto in early December and stayed at a hostel. The people there say she was simply very friendly, very outgoing, and talked to everyone there. They remember her as someone who was very warm.
FOREMAN: No real clue yet as to how she wound up inside this tank?
LAH: No, it's still quite a mystery. The LAPD still trying to figure out exactly how that happened. The autopsy report is right now still ongoing. They have to wait for toxicology. Remember, she was submerged in that water, Tom, for potentially 2 1/2, 3 weeks. So, it's not going to be a simple cause of death determination.
FOREMAN: Good gracious. You talked to that Czech couple that was there. Are people still checking in? I'm not trying to wreck on the Cecil. But are people still checking into this hotel right now?
LAH: Strangely enough, you know, we've been there a few days. We are seeing a lot of the foot traffic. These are mainly international tourists, some of them don't speak English, almost none have seen American television. They don't find out about what happened until they get to the hotel.
FOREMAN: Wow. And the public health department in L.A. has ordered the hotel to clear out this whole system. How soon will it be before the water there is useable again? I don't take --
FOREMAN: Such a creepy question.
LAH: It is. It's very distasteful. It does take several days to flush this whole system out. They say they're going to sanitize everything. Remember, when the health department did do checks, they say there wasn't enough bacteria where the people who did ingest this water over that time, that they're at any risk, there wasn't any harmful bacteria.
But they still need to flush it out. It's going to take several days.
FOREMAN: What a strange, strange story. Thanks so much, Kyung.
Still OUTFRONT: there is a major development in Iran's ability to enrich uranium. In the meantime, President Ahmadinejad is posing with U.S. wrestlers. It's also strange news.
And a warning that an asteroid powerful enough to destroy nations is on a collision course with earth. Is that true? I don't think so.
FOREMAN: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle", where we reach out to resources around the world for more news.
To Iran where government has begun installing advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment facility, they can enrich uranium three to five types faster than current equipment. U.S. officials warned that this could jeopardize negotiations to slow Iran's nuclear weapons capability. The stalemate continues in a diplomatic arena. It was a different story today in the sports arena of all places.
Reza Sayah is in Tehran.
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Tehran's Azadeh Arena, under the gaze of Iran's Supreme Leader, the showdown fans were waiting for, Iran taking on the U.S., two countries whose governments are bitter rivals locking horns in the wrestling world cup.
(on camera): The atmosphere is electric here. But here is what's remarkable. Despite the fierce competition on the mat, there's no sign of bad blood between Iranians and Americans. And here is how you know -- right after their own wrestlers, these Iranian fans are cheering loudest for this man, American gold medal winner Jordan Burroughs.
JORDAN BURROUGHS, USA WRESTLING: It was pretty cool. You know, every time I step out there, once they see me, they're excited to see me, you know, cheering my name, screaming my name and give me praise. It's pretty cool.
SAYAH (voice-over): True to form, Burroughs dominates his match. But in the end, Team Iran is king. Final score: Iran, 6, U.S., 1.
This was Team USA's tenth visit to Iran. Each visit stirs speculation that sports might help build bridges between the two countries.
ZEKE JONES, FREESTYLE HEAD COACH, U.S. WRESTLING: When we got here, they had their arms wide open to our wrestling program and to Americans because they realized that it's a better world with us together.
NOEL THOMPSON, USA WRESTLING: If wrestlers can get together, anyone can get together.
SAYAH: So far the exception it to that wrestler's rule has been Washington and Tehran.
Reza Sayah, CNN, Tehran.
FOREMAN: Now, let's check in with Jake Tapper, in for Anderson Cooper with a look at what's ahead on "A.C. 360."
Hey, Jake. What's up?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Tom. How are you, friend?
An emotional interview with Kim Martin, the cousin of Reeva Steenkamp, that's the girlfriend shot by the "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, of course. On the day that the magistrate granted Pistorius Bail, Martin shares with me the question she is desperate to ask Pistorius about what happened that night and why.
Plus, Tom, something much, much lighter on a Friday night. I'm told by the staff that my dog Winston will somehow be in the show tonight. We'll see how that happens.
Back to you.
FOREMAN: I'll stick around and find out too. Thanks, Jake.
Our fifth story OUTFRONT: asteroid apocalypse. Again? Didn't we just do this?
That was the warning today from physicist Michio Kaku who writes an asteroid powerful enough to destroy nations is on a collision course with earth. A much smaller one last week over Russia just last week. Its power was equal to about 20 Hiroshima bombs. Listen.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
FOREMAN: Yes. Well, Kaku says the nation-busting asteroid headed our way won't arrive until 2036 but it could make a direct hit with 1,000 times more power.
OUTFRONT tonight, Bill Nye, the science guy, and former astronaut Rusty Schweickart.
My guess, gentlemen, is that both of you do not buy this.
Bill, jump in first.
BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: Yes, it's going to miss. Apophis, which is named after the Greek god of anxiety, will come by 2029, then again in 2036. Now, my understanding, and, Rusty, you know this exactly, it's 1 in 100 million chance of hitting the Earth. It will miss the Earth. But it's a lesson to be learned, that's all. We know of Apophis. We know about that one.
But there are about 100,000 more out there that we don't know about. And I remind you, what a crazy coincidence that the one over Chelyabinsk happened sort the night before 2012 DA14, another larger object came between us and our geosynchronous satellites. So we're going to get hit by an asteroid sooner or later.
And I think Dr. Kaku was just trying to draw attention to that. But Apophis, 2029, 2036, it's not our worry. Instead we should be worrying about the other 99,999 of them.
FOREMAN: Now, Rusty, you have been out in space. And one of your goals in all this is to say, in fact, we should get much more serious about finding those other ones out there and tracking them in some fashion. Tell me about that.
RUSTY SCHWEICKART, FORMER ASTRONAUT; FLEW APOLLO 9 MISSION: Yes, the fact of the matter is we have only found about 1 percent of the asteroids that cross the Earth's orbit, what we call near-Earth asteroids that can do serious damage on earth if they hit.
The other 99 percent, and by the way Bill, it's really about a million objects, not 100,000 of them, and the other 99 percent, we don't know where they are. And so, what we're doing with our foundation which is a nonprofit, we're launching an infrared telescope that we'll put into orbit around the sun and it will look outward at the Earth and it will map all of these asteroids that can do serious harm that we don't know about yet.
So our goal is to track, to discover and track the other 99 percent and give enough early warning so that we can deflect them.
FOREMAN: You brought up the golden part here, which I'm fascinated about.
Bill, how do we deflect them? We all watch science fiction movies and imagine blasting them out of the why sky. What would we really do?
NYE: Well, there's three things and Dr. Schweickart can give us this. By the way, Rusty, there's a million Earth-crossing asteroids or there are million? Well, I just -- in other words, the problem is more serious than even 100,000.
NYE: So here's the idea. If you can find the thing soon enough, 10 years, 20 years in advance, then you go out there and give it a little tug. We're talking about changing its speed a few millimeters a second. So the couple of ideas are you make a spacecraft massive enough that its own gravity can help change the velocity just that little bit. We at the Planetary Society -- by the way, the Planetary Society funded the guys in Spain who found the asteroid --
FOREMAN: Found this one.
NYE: -- DA14 that came so close last week. Yes.
But before the B612 Foundation gets its Sentinel spacecraft up there, we're going to fight the good fight and keep looking for these things.
FOREMAN: And, Rusty --
NYE: After that, but then the other thing is we have this laser system. But then this laser system, the Laser B's, which might cause the surface of the asteroid to volatize enough to be like a little jet (ph) change its speed. And the worst case, you go out there and blow something up. But the easiest thing is to run into it many years in advance.
FOREMAN: And the point is, Rusty, if I understand it correctly, you don't have to change it a lot. For example, if I had two specks that were coming together and they were all going to arrive at the same point in space at the right moment, all I have to do is slow down or speed up one just the slightest amount and it will miss.
SCHWEICKART: Right. That's exactly right. What we do is we go up and essentially with technology we have available today, by the way. We don't have to go into a big development program. We haven't tested it, but we know how to deflect asteroids if we have enough warning.
And you're exactly right, Tom, what we do is we go up about 10 or 15 years before an impact and we slow down or speed up the asteroid just enough so that 10 or 15 years later, instead of being in the intersection when the Earth is there and hitting it, it will go through the intersection before the earth gets there or it will let the Earth go through the intersection and then the asteroid will do it.
In other words, we screw up the rendezvous by having just a few minutes change in the arrival time of the asteroid.
FOREMAN: All right, I got to jump out here. Bill and Rusty, I'm glad we have you on the case. It will keep us all safe. Thanks for being here.
We're just days away from the Academy Awards. Why it doesn't matter if you win or lose. That's coming up next.
FOREMAN: Oscar night is almost here, a night when stars congratulate themselves on films well done. A win can turn someone into a global superstar overnight. But not winning one doesn't necessarily mean much. After all, many of the biggest film stars of all time have never bagged an Oscar. Marilyn Monroe, Peter O'Toole, James Dean, Richard Burton, Cary Grant -- look at all these people -- unbelievable. Fred Astaire, even the venerable Alfred Hitchcock, none of them ever won a competitive Oscar. They got some later awards, honorary, lifetime things on them.
More recently, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, look at these people -- it's unbelievable. There's Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, say what again, and John Malkovich failed to take home the small man. None are nominated this year.
But one person who can end her winless streak, producer Kathleen Kennedy. Over the years, she's picked up eight best picture nominations, the most ever for films like "The Color Purple," "The Sixth Sense" and "Seabiscuit," big friend of Stephen Spielberg, as you see there.
But she's never won. She's nominated again this year, though, for "Lincoln", exactly 30 years after her first nomination for a little guy named "E.T." We'll see if she wins on Sunday night.
Thanks so much for joining us.
"A.C. 360" with Jake Tapper sitting in starts right now.