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Oscar Pistorius Granted Bail; Airport Delays Looming?; Most Expensive Weapon Ever Grounded; Northeast Braces for Up to 18 Inches; Millionaire Funding Mission to Mars; Film Critic Evaluates Oscar Chances; A Hug That Helped Change Medicine

Aired February 22, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Olympic track star and alleged murder Oscar Pistorius freed on bail, so what is next for the Blade Runner?

Control towers at more than 100 airports across America may close, and we will tell you why.

Humans could get very close to Mars sooner than you might think. We will talk to a man planning a historic mission.

And stand by for the last-minute buzz of the Academy Awards and the favorites and a snub that hits close to home.

And we will also catch up with two tiny babies, sisters who proved the power of touch. Wait until you see them now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The defendant in one of the most sensational murder cases in the world right now is a free man, at least temporarily. Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius was released from jail today after being granted bail. The decision is raising some new questions about the case against Pistorius in the killing of his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

CNN's Robyn Curnow is joining us now live from South Africa. She's been watching all of this unfold.

What is the latest, Robyn?


Well, indeed, Oscar Pistorius is spending tonight in the house of a family -- a family member. But I think I was thinking. I was looking through the notes here, basically, and as you can see, I have got a rather large notebook and I have taken lot of notes over the past few days.

I was just trying to page through these to think what sums up this case, what was defining all of this? I think there was a statement made by the prosecution who said -- just got to find it for me. "We have a woman who in the early hours of the morning locked herself in the toilet. Why?" And will that question ever really be answered? And then you have this line from Oscar Pistorius saying, "I didn't intend to kill my girlfriend." Those two things have never really been measured up in the past few days. You know, this will be a sensational trial when it does come to trial. We wonder if those questions will ever be answered and if the truth will ever really come out, but in terms of what happened today, at least at the beginning of one process, so take a look at this.


CURNOW (voice-over): A media frenzy on a Pretoria road at rush hour. Cameras trying to see what's behind the tinted window of the silver Land Rover, a glimpse of Oscar Pistorius sitting quietly in the back seat.

(on camera): That over there is Oscar Pistorius driving to freedom. He's just got bail and he's driving off down this Pretoria street.

(voice-over): In court this morning, the gold medal winner accused of killing his girlfriend was gaunt, motionless, with no idea whether or not he would be granted bail. Following final arguments, Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair allowed live audio transmission of his ruling, a ruling that meticulously detailed the evidence of the case and the history of the laws relating to it.

Through the almost two-hour presentation, the magistrate criticized the media and alternatively chastised the prosecution and picked at the case for the defense for not presenting definitive evidence, not giving any clue which way he would rule until he finally presented enough evidence to grant bail.

DESMOND NAIR, CHIEF MAGISTRATE: The accused has made a case to be released on bail.


CURNOW: A short burst of joy from the courtroom, but Pistorius was still silent, no reaction, just drained. Outside, a court that was hanging on each development were generally mixed about Pistorius' freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An innocent woman was prematurely murdered. And if we justice for her, we don't believe that bail was sufficient at this point in time. I believe that Oscar should have been kept behind bars to serve time for the hideous murder that he committed, whether or not it was premeditated.

CURNOW: Others are sympathetic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm quite happy that he's been given bail. The nation is already divided, and I think that more of the younger generation feel a bit of sympathy towards Oscar and it's more the older generation that feel that, no, he should go to jail, he should be put to the sword. CURNOW: Pistorius is out on bail of one million rand, about $112,000. There are other conditions, including he must give up his passport, so he cannot leave the country. He must report to police twice a week, and he can't drink alcohol, which didn't bother his attorney much after the hearing.

QUESTION: How concerned are you about the issue of alcohol? How concerned are you about...


BARRY ROUX, ATTORNEY FOR OSCAR PISTORIUS: No, he doesn't drink, so that's fine.

CURNOW: But Pistorius is also barred from going to the scene of the crime. So, as he was driven off this afternoon, he knew he could not go home and would be staying with his family, the family telling CNN they will be watching him closely during this time.

Now, this was just a bail hearing filled with emotion, conflict, and overwhelming public interest here, setting the scene for the trial of a revered home country athlete who is charged with the premeditated murder of a young, beautiful model, both with a promising life in front of them. No trial date has been set.


CURNOW: And the magistrate said in court that really what it boils down to, only one person knows what happened that Valentine's Day morning, and that is Oscar Pistorius, and will the pieces of that puzzle ever be put together?

BLITZER: And, Robyn, I think you told me earlier it could be, what, a year before the actual trial begins?

CURNOW: Absolutely.

I mean, best-case scenario, Wolf, that it starts at end of the year, and another six to eight months, and, you know, is a likely kind of early court date possibility. And then it can take a year, you know, for the entire trial to be finalized.

So, I mean, we are looking at here at least two years before we get any perhaps verdict. I mean, this is a trial that is obviously going to be huge, and it is going to overwhelm not just these families involved, but of course this country who has had quite an emotional reaction to this murder.

BLITZER: Robyn Curnow on the scene for us watching this story unfold, thank you, Robyn, very much.

South Africa, by the way, is a much more violent country than the United States. Even though its population is only one-sixth the size, the most recent figures show it averages 44 murders a day compared to 40 in the United States. Taking into account the difference in population, South Africa's murder rate is more than 6.5 times greater murder rate than that of the United States.

It may soon be more difficult and possibly more dangerous the fly in and out of many American cities. The transportation secretary says that control towers may close at more than 100 smaller airports across the nation in all of those cities that you will see scrolling behind me. It is part of a new warning by the Obama administration about the impact of those forced budget cuts. They go into effect in one week, one week, unless Congress steps in.

Let's bring in our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's over at the White House with the latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the secretary of transportation used the word calamity to describe how these automatic spending cuts will create air travel chaos across the country, and it's another example of how the president is ratcheting up the pressure on Congress to win this budget battle.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Sitting down with the Japanese prime minister, President Obama was all but saying so long to Congress when it comes to the forced spending cuts that are now just one week away.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will just keep on making my case not only to Congress, but more importantly to the American people.

ACOSTA: To make his case, the president is spending more time going over the heads of GOP leaders, appearing on talk radio.

OBAMA: So what I need listeners to do more than anything is just put a little bit of pressure on the Congress, as usual, to get their act together and do the right thing.

ACOSTA: The White House sent out Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to warn how the cuts will impact air travel; 47,000 federal aviation employees would face furloughs. That means fewer air traffic controllers in the towers and more delays. In smaller communities, air traffic control towers could be closed altogether.

RAY LAHOOD, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours.

ACOSTA: LaHood urged Republicans in Congress to see the movie "Lincoln" to learn how to work together.


ACOSTA (on camera): This might get called an acting performance, because you are scaring -- you're going to be scaring the public today. This is going to be scaring the public about their travel plans.

LAHOOD: Well, we will see what the reaction of the public is. What I'm trying to do is to wake up members of the Congress on the Republican side to the idea that they need to come to the table, offer a proposal so that we don't have to have this kind of calamity in air service in America.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But on Twitter, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and his counterpart in the speaker's office traded tweets over who is to blame, with Carney noting a recent poll showing Americans support the president's approach to deficit reduction.

It is a sign administration officials are confident public opinion is on their side.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The fact of the matter is that we can't get anything done without a bill passing the House of Representatives.

ACOSTA: But some Republicans say hold on. Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma sent a letter to the White House asking why some officials are spending money traveling the country advising communities on how to secure federal dollars, saying, "It is important that we as public officials lead by example."

But that won't stop Washington's latest game of budget chicken, one the president seems comfortable playing.

OBAMA: Unlike issues like the debt ceiling, the sequester going into effect will not threaten the world financial system.


ACOSTA: Administration officials say that they are still open to some of short-term deal to avert the budget cuts, but in meantime, the president is still planning to travel down to the Tidewater area of Virginia later next week in order to drive the message home that the automatic budget cuts will hurt naval shipbuilders down in that part of the country.

Wolf, it's a signal that the pending budget crisis may not be averted at least until then.

BLITZER: Still got a few days to go, and thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

A lot more news coming up.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot more news.

Still ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM: Al Qaeda terrorists may be learning how to avoid America's most effective weapon, drones. We will tell you how.

And two premature babies, one helped save another's life with a simple thing, a hug -- ahead, two sisters who changed medicine and now they are all grown up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We have heard about terrorists learning new ways to kill on the Internet. Well, now they may be going online to save their own lives. It is a how-to manual for avoiding drone strikes.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this.

It is quite a list, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is quite a list, Kate and Wolf.

One of the tips is to use smoke as cover by burning tires. So, keep that in mind. Al Qaeda fighters in Africa they may need to do some of that soon. Today, President Obama informed Congress that a small U.S. deployment of troops to Niger was complete. CNN has reported that Niger's government has agreed to let U.S. drones operate from its territory, so those drones could put a lot of pressure on al Qaeda militants in nearby Mali who are battling French forces.

To counter them, this tip sheet has suggestions ranging the clever to the obvious.


TODD (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, a high degree of paranoia in their ranks. They are fearful that they've been infiltrated by spy.

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 to much in their cars because many of them got targeted while they were meeting on the road.

Bin Laden also suggested, 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 or not, natural light conditions, then they have a good chance of being able to flush out the guerrillas.


TODD: And despite al Qaeda's evasive tactics, drones are still as deadly as ever. Figures are closely held, but experts have put the number of people killed in drone strikes during the war on terror at between about 2,000 and 4,700. Of those, at least 250 have been civilians -- Wolf, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And separate from this list, al Qaeda militants have already gotten pretty creative in how they are hiding in Mali from French warplanes.

TODD: That's right, from the French warplanes.

These militants have placed grass mats and to mats on top of their cars when a warplane is hovering over and you can't tell whether it is a mat on the ground or whether there is something under it. They have also covered their cars in mud, things like that. And they are using all sorts of creative tactics and experts say these could be used against drones as well. So we will see. It's cat and mouse, as usual.

BOLDUAN: It is the future of warfare, it seems.


BLITZER: The war goes on.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you.


BLITZER: We are following the manhunt after a deadly shooting and crash out there on the Las Vegas Strip.

And the most expensive weapon ever built has now been grounded. That is next.



BLITZER: Coming up, we're learning more about a potential nightmare at American airports and concerns about delays, possible danger because of those forced budget cuts.

And the most expensive weapon ever built, guess what? It has now been grounded. We will explain.


BLITZER: All right, this just coming in.

The Syrian opposition group, the main one, has turned down invitations to meet with international leaders in Rome. They are doing it as a protest for the recent bombardment of the Syrian city of Aleppo by the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The group says the meetings are counterproductive. They say they're getting -- not getting enough physical help fighting the Syrian army, including military aid and training. The secretary of state, John Kerry, was scheduled to attend that meeting in Rome. We will stay on top of that story for you.

Today, we also got a dire warning to expect some nightmares at the nation's airports.

BOLDUAN: That's true, Wolf.

It is all because of forced spending cuts that we have been talking so much about scheduled to hit every level of federal government one week from today.

CNN's Rene Marsh has been looking into this, and really the direct impact on Americans, on consumers, on anyone that wants to get on a plane.


You know, Kate and Wolf, today, we got the most information we have gotten so far from the federal government. We now know more about what kind of impact consumers can expect to see, $600 million slashed from the FAA's budget. And the head of the Department of Transportation paints a doom-and-gloom picture for flyers.


MARSH (voice-over): A gummed-up transportation system could be just weeks away.

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Flights to major cities, like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and others could experience delays up to 90 minutes. MARSH: It's all part of how the Transportation Department says they will have to deal with the looming budget cuts.

LAHOOD: To likely close more than 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year.

MARSH: That means smaller airports across the nation, places like Boca Raton, Florida, Joplin, Missouri, will see their air traffic control towers shut down.

(on camera): So what does this mean for you? Well, if they have fewer people in these towers, they can't keep up the same pace of takeoffs or landings and that could mean delays or fewer flights. And fewer flights could mean higher ticket prices.

(voice-over): And that's not all. A representative for those air traffic controllers worries about the impact.

SPENCER DICKERSON, U.S. CONTRACT TOWER ASSOCIATION: It's hard to see how that's not going impact safety in terms of the efficiency and safe of the system. So we are very concerned how that's going to play out.

MARSH: But the Transportation Department insists these cuts will not impact safety after the furloughs kick in around April 1.


MARSH: And the government also says that they would have to eliminate midnight shifts at towers, too, so lots of goods that we depend on, like pharmaceuticals, electronics, car parts, those deliveries could be delayed. As for the security lines, expect those to be substantially longer.

But I asked one of the representatives for the control towers, and I said, you know, are there any upsides to this? And he said, look, the truth of the matter is that we do need to trim. We do need the cut, but what could happen on March 1 is not quite the best way to do it.

BLITZER: Yes, we can trim and cut, but this is an ugly way, and the least effective way, of course, to do it. Really do it.

BOLDUAN: Looks like we're heading in that direction for sure.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And now a new setback for the United States military, and the most expensive weapon system ever built. The F-35 fighter jet is now grounded. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has more on the plane and its latest problems.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're sleek, deadly and very expensive. The F-35 fighter jet. Supporters say think of it as a Swiss army knife for 21st century warfare. So good that the Air Force, the Navy and the Marines all wanted it.

The Pentagon plans to buy nearly 2,500 planes. The entire program, $400 billion, the most expensive in Pentagon history. The trouble it's already years behind schedule because of technical problems, and the price tag keeps going up.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: My department is committed to the development of the F-35. It's absolutely critical, absolutely critical that we get it right.

STARR: Now comes news of even more problems. The F-35s, which are being tested at three bases, are being grounded, because one jet developed a crack in its engine blade.

Critics say the planes actually are relics, designed to fight the last century's Cold War instead of this century's war on terrorism, where much less expensive unmanned drones often patrol the front lines.


STARR: And of course, the timing could not be more sensitive for both the Defense Department and the plane's builder, Lockheed Martin. With Washington talking about trying to trim federal spending, that $400 million price tag might be a new target -- Wolf, Kate.

BLITZER: Will be indeed. Thank very much, Barbara, for that.

BOLDUAN: Parts of the northeast could get up to 18 inches of snow. It seems that it just keeps coming. People in 20 states already are shivering and shoveling. Lisa Sylvester is showing us some of the places that are snowed under.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This guy knows what to do with all of the snow. Duke from Kansas City, Missouri.

The winter storm brought a mix of laughs and giggles -- and headaches and worry -- as it marched across the heartland.

In Chicago, multiple crashes on the road. Here's one, and another, and another.

And take a listen for a moment to this wind from North Dakota.

The weather system dumped 14 inches of snow on Wichita, Kansas, the second highest total ever. Missouri saw about a foot of snow. Tennessee, 18 inches.

The driver of this bus in Kansas City thought he could make this turn, but oh, look what happens here.

In Indiana, the problem wasn't snow, but ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just really slippery out here, and really trying to be hard to maneuver and drive. So if you don't have to be out here, I just recommend, don't come out here.

SYLVESTER: Getting around streets wasn't the only problem. This plane in Wichita got stuck after the pilot made a wrong turn on an unplowed taxiway.

And in Cleveland, Ohio, this United jet skidded off the runway at Hopkins International Airport. Everyone on board was OK.

The fierce storm brought lots of shoveling and...


SYLVESTER: ... more sledding.

But the storm also left behind a little bit of nature's artwork, from the Sonoran Desert in Tucson, this one called ice on cactus.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN.


BOLDUAN: I know what you're going to say, though. You grew up in Buffalo. It snows there.

BLITZER: You grew up in Indiana. It snows in Indiana. That's what happens.

BOLDUAN: Twenty states are going to be snowed in.

BLITZER: And it still snows.

BOLDUAN: I know, but it still something that we have to talk about.

BLITZER: The world's first space tourist sets his eyes on Mars. Up next, we have details of his ambitious plan.

Plus, the buzz, the politics and the predictions. We're talking about the Oscars with the top film critics. Please stand by.


BLITZER: While NASA is downsizing, other people are dreaming big about future space missions. One is the world's first space tourist, and he wants to send a mission to Mars before the end of the decade. CNN's John Zarrella has more on his proposal.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Dennis Tito has been involved in aerospace most of his life. In fact, he was a tourist on the International Space Station.

Now he is involved in what could be one of the greatest adventures humans have ever undertaken. ZARRELLA (voice-over): Mars. We should have been there already. Just ask the head of the Mars Society, who decades ago worked on concepts for human missions.

ROBERT ZUBRIN, THE MARS SOCIETY: If the Apollo program had not been orphaned and abandoned, the first children born on Mars would be probably be entering high school right about now.

ZARRELLA: Just ask the last man to walk on the moon.

GENE CERNAN, APOLLO 17 ASTRONAUT: We're going to be on our way to Mars by the turn of the century. I said that in 1973. It gave me 27 -- over 27 years to be proven wrong. I won't live to see humans on Mars. I thought I would.

ZARRELLA: But there's a chance, a long shot, that Cernan will at least see humans fly by the red planet. Millionaire Dennis Tito is leading a privately-funded venture to Mars called "Mission for America."

The jaw-dropping, seemingly outrageous undertaking would lift off in 2018, just five years from now, when Mars would be in spitting distance of Earth, about as close as it ever gets: roughly 36 million miles.

Tito is no stranger to space flight. He was a NASA engineer, and in 2001, became the first space tourist, flying on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station.

DENNIS TITO, PLANNING MISSION TO MARS: It goes well beyond anything that I would have ever dreamed.

ZARRELLA: Plans for the Mars mission will be unveiled next week in Washington.

(on camera): While Tito hasn't said it's a human mission, that seems pretty clear. Some of the principle players involved are experts in space medicine and life support. The mission would be what's called a, quote, fast-free return and lasts 501 days.

(voice-over): That's nothing like what NASA wants to eventually do. Have humans land and work on Mars before returning.

Sources close to the Mars mission tell CNN this is just a, quote, "really very simple fly around Mars." Talk about an understatement.

What we don't know is who's going and how many, how much it will cost or how they will get there, what rocket and spacecraft. Sources tell us, quote, "It's an open field with a wide range of solutions."

There are many millionaires and billionaires out there talking about mining asteroids, space hotels, and moon bases, but all that's way down the road.

Pulling off a Mars mission in five years, well, that's shooting for the moon.

(on camera): Even if they get past the technical issues, the crew is going to face psychological issues from 500 days in space, as well as radiation exposure.

So next week in Washington, D.C., we'll find out from Tito, and those involved in the project with him, just how they plan to pull this off. I won't be easy -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Certainly not. John Zarrella reporting. He knows a lot about this.

BOLDUAN: He does know a lot about it. Very interesting. We will continue to watch it.

Still ahead, the drama. Can you feel it!

BLITZER: I can feel it.

BOLDUAN: It's building. Who will win Oscar gold come Sunday? Up next, we'll get the buzz from the top film critics. And I know this guy sitting next to me is pretty interested in the competition.

BLITZER: Love the Oscars. I'd like to win one.


BOLDUAN: So the Academy Awards. I know what you're doing this weekend.

BLITZER: I love the Academy Awards.

BOLDUAN: They're coming up this weekend. Big names, big movies, and it has everyone wondering who's in, who's out, and most importantly, who is winning.


BOLDUAN: So for more on this, let's bring in.

BLITZER: Winning is good.

BOLDUAN: Winning is good. David Edelstein, film critic with "New York" magazine and "CBS Sunday Morning." Thanks for coming in, David.

DAVID EDELSTEIN, FILM CRITIC: My pleasure, my pleasure. It's great to talk about the Oscars that don't have anything to do with tragic killings.

BOLDUAN: Well, that is one thing I want to ask you about, though, David. From "Argo" to "Lincoln" to "Zero Dark Thirty," it seems that Hollywood is getting a lot of its ideas this year from Washington. Why do you suppose that is?

EDELSTEIN: Well, it was a very exciting year politically, and I think that there's been a lot of -- you know, we're very interested now in the machinations of power and what happens behind the scene. There's so much that we don't know.

And you know what? I'm not just talking about the movies, themselves. I'm not talking about "Argo" and all the legislative Machiavellian maneuvers in "Lincoln" and all the CIA top secret black sites in "Zero Dark Thirty." I'm talking about the Oscar campaigning. Now that's the campaigning, that's the politics that I would like to be a fly on the wall for.

BOLDUAN: David, talk to me about some of the movies, though, because there are always big themes. So Washington is one theme that we're seeing in some the nominations this year. What are some of the other big themes you're seeing in nominations?

EDELSTEIN: Well, you know, I think that everybody was very excited for "Les Miserables" to come out, because a gigantic, a ginormous three-hour musical, maybe it would bring back the Broadway musical as viable entertainment.


ANNE HATHAWAY, ACTRESS (singing): I dreamed a dream in time gone by...


EDELSTEIN: Except for Anne Hathaway, it's kind of, you know, died in terms of its Oscar prospects.

"Django" sort of threw a lot of people. You know, it was a -- it was a great word-of-mouth populist hit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name?

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: Django. The "D" is silent.


EDELSTEIN: You know, we love seeing racists get, you know, riddled with bullets. And then all of the sudden, then the Academy said, "OK, you know, we'll nominate it." It's not going to win anything.

The big surprise, of course, was Ben Affleck getting snubbed. But paradoxically, "Argo" is probably going to win as a sort of sympathy vote for Ben Affleck not getting the nomination. So his loss is going to be the movie's gain.

BLITZER: Yes, he was snubbed. He wasn't -- he wasn't nominated for best director. But his film was nominated for best film, "Argo." Are you predicting that "Argo" is actually going to win as best film of the year?

EDELSTEIN: That's what I hear. Oddly enough, that is what I hear. And even though it can't win for best director, it will win, I hear, for "Argo."

How do I know? Do I know anybody in the academy? No, it's kind of osmosis. You know, you read the columnists who are spun by publicists, just like in war rooms for politics. You know, they have Oscar consultants working around the clock and spinning people. And the word now is "Argo."

Early favorite, "Zero Dark Thirty," the torture thing kind of blew that out of the water. If nothing else, we've proven that torture doesn't work, because Kathryn Bigelow didn't get a director nomination.

So you know. And "Lincoln," you know, everybody likes "Lincoln." It seems as if there's a paucity of enthusiasm for it out there. I don't know why; I think it's great. And so that's sort of going, bloop, bloop, bloop.

But Steven Spielberg brought in Bill Clinton to say a word for it, you know, and talk about how true-to-life politically it is. So who knows? Who knows how many -- you know, what kind of flesh Clinton pressed, so to speak?

BOLDUAN: David, I've got to ask you about another snub, Best Supporting Actor category. And a performance that I would say is the performance of the year got nada, zippo. Look at this clip.


BLITZER: ... in the heart of London. No one has yet claimed responsibility for what sources are calling a possible cyber terrorist assault on the British Secret Service. Early reports from the scene indicate at least six dead, many more injured, with victims being evacuated to local hospitals within minutes of the explosion.


BOLDUAN: David, you just saw the performance.

EDELSTEIN: Did you both see that? Yes?

BOLDUAN: Wolf Blitzer. Outrage! I cannot believe this. There is a write-in campaign, correct? There has to be.

EDELSTEIN: You know, there -- there really ought to be a special award, an honorary Oscar.

BLITZER: It was a critical moment in that film too, in "Skyfall," a film that grossed over $1 billion at the box office. And I had a major contributing little role over there, didn't I?

EDELSTEIN: You know, and I agree, and I think you see Daniel Craig's expression when he hears that.


EDELSTEIN: That was off you. BOLDUAN: Exactly.

EDELSTEIN: That was off you. It was because of your contradiction.

BLITZER: This is a role...

EDELSTEIN: Daniel Craig -- Daniel Craig, pretty great. Not a performance that gets nomination. His wife, Rachel Weisz, gave my favorite performance of the year in a movie nobody saw called "The Deep Blue Sea." So again, the Oscars are not about artistic merit; they're about politics. There is a little...

BLITZER: Clearly.

EDELSTEIN: We're excited anyway.

BLITZER: I want you to know, and you're the film critic, this is a role. When I played Wolf Blitzer in "Skyfall," this is a role I've been preparing my whole life for, really getting into that character. You see it up on the big screen.

BOLDUAN: Sunday's going to be a night of tears for Wolf Blitzer.

EDELSTEIN: Now that I think you've established your persona in movies. I think, you know, the sky is the limit.

BLITZER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: All right, we'll see how it all pans out.

EDELSTEIN: You're welcome.

BLITZER: I'm coming back next year.

BOLDUAN: You're coming back. You can do it.


BOLDUAN: Hollywood loves a comeback story. David Edelstein, great to see you.

EDELSTEIN: My pleasure. Bye.

BLITZER: Loved "Skyfall." Should have been nominated for best picture of the year, but it wasn't.

BOLDUAN: It wasn't.

BLITZER: Celebrate Hollywood's biggest night with CNN's Piers Morgan. He'll be covering the Oscars live from the red carpet. You can catch the stars, the fashions, all the Oscar frenzy on Hollywood's biggest night. "The Road to Gold," Sunday night, 6 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. We'll be watching. You know I will.

BOLDUAN: I'm definitely watching now. BLITZER: Yes, Piers Morgan.

BOLDUAN: Piers Morgan.

All right. It was a picture that went viral before that term even existed in its current context. Remember -- we remember the famous picture dubbed the rescuing hug. And we'll speak with the girls, the girls now 17 years after their famous moment.


BLITZER: We have a really remarkable story about premature twins who helped change modern medicine.

BOLDUAN: It all began with a hug. Now 17 years later, those tiny, tiny babies are all grown up. Here's CNN's Lisa Sylvester.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Something very special happened inside the neonatal intensive care unit at this hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. October 17, 1995, twin girls were born here, 12 weeks premature.

DR. STUART WEISBERGER, UMASS MEMORIAL: When you see little girls with their dolls, one of the tiny dolls, imagine that, maybe just a little bit smaller.

SYLVESTER: Each weighing only about two pounds. This is the twins' father, Paul Jackson.

PAUL JACKSON, FATHER: The nurses in the NICU were -- they're very honest. And they say it. They told me up front that "Things look pretty good now, but to be honest with you, that the next 48, 72 hours," they said, "things can turn very quickly."

SYLVESTER: And turn it did. When they were only 3 weeks old, one of the twins was struggling to breathe. Her heart rate was soaring, her oxygen level dropping quickly. And she was turning blue.

WEISBERGER: Not only was she having spells, but they were severe.

SYLVESTER: A nurse had the novel idea of taking the stronger twin and putting her in the same incubator as her sister, a procedure that at the time had never been done before in the U.S.

JACKSON: It was one of those things that was -- it happened very quickly. And they really couldn't move that much. But there was a little bit of a squirm, and the arm kind of just went up.

SYLVESTER: The healthier sister, tiny Kyrie Jackson, put her arm around her sister, Brielle. Her breathing and vital signs instantly stabilized. The image, captured by a newspaper photographer who happened to be at the hospital. This heartwarming picture, dubbed "The Rescuing Hug," was seen in newspapers around the world; in "Life" and "Reader's Digest." It highlighted the amazing healing power of touch. That was 17 years ago. And the girls now all grown up.

JACKSON: The one on the bottom there is when the girls went to -- I believe it was York Beach up in Maine. You know, in one way it seems like it's taken a long time. And sometimes it seems like, you know, just a couple of days ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what you're doing, right?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before leaping out of his bed or his chair and run for cover...

SYLVESTER: Taking honors classes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The end of the story.

SYLVESTER: Juniors in high school.


SYLVESTER: Closer than ever. And in sync.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes we speak at the same time, or one person's thinking like, "Oh, are you thinking of a song?" We're like, "Yes."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The same exact part.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of the same exact song.

SYLVESTER: And of their early fame?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes we'll just Google it, "rescue hug," and then it's like, oh, God.

SYLVESTER: Like typical teenagers, they roll their eyes at the attention this has received.

But it was a moment that wasn't just sweet; it was also historic. It showed the medical profession the profound impact a simple touch can have. Skin to skin contact. And what's known as kangaroo care. Even for very young babies in the NICU.

WEISBERGER: A lot of those things we just weren't doing. We thought these kids were too fragile, that you wouldn't be able to do these things. And now we do it not only with babies, 28-weekers, we do it with 23-, 24-, 25-weekers, even when they're connected on the ventilator, on the breathing machine.

SYLVESTER: The twins are now looking at colleges. They may choose to go on to separate universities. But that twin bond, that will always be there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If one's sad, then the other gives a hug.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's kind of my output, I guess, as well as like input, as far as, like, giving me hugs and giving me support.

SYLVESTER: An endless hug that began here.


SYLVESTER: And it's one of those stories that just makes you -- brings tears to my eyes. But I actually have the magazine. This is "Life" magazine.

BLITZER: The actual magazine.

SYLVESTER: This was the actual magazine.

BOLDUAN: Amazing that there was a photographer there at that moment.

SYLVESTER: It's just one of those real heartwarming stories. Because it emphasizes that, you know, this is something a lot of parents can relate to, just how important it is to hold your child, to have that touch, whether you have a newborn baby, whether you have an older child.

One thing the doctors will say is, you know, these twins, they were being closely monitored at the time. They had, you know, oxygen, and so forth. So it's one of those things. You don't want to try this necessarily at home in terms of putting the two babies together because of the risk of SIDS, but certainly, hold your baby. Put your baby directly on your chest and hold them.

BLITZER: They're identical twins, and they're fine right now? They're totally healthy?

SYLVESTER: They're taking AP classes. They are typical teenagers. They're doing really well in school. And they're at that stage, you know. They're juniors. And I know you have a daughter, so you can relate. They're at that point where they're figuring out, what happens next?

BLITZER: Good work.

BOLDUAN: Great story.

BLITZER: Love the story.

Hey, guys, thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.