Return to Transcripts main page


Assaulted Utah Soccer Referee Dies; Rocket Fired into Syria by Israel; Unbelievable Finishes in Sports; Robotic Pharmacy A Game Changer in Medicine; Senate Voting Today on Internet Sales Tax; 3-D Printer Gun Works.

Aired May 6, 2013 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Portillo had just given the teen a warning for breaking the rules. Family and friends held a vigil in Portillo's memory yesterday in Salt Lake City.

We spoke to the referee's daughter. Her heart wants to forgive but her mind does not.


JOHANA PORTILLO, DAUGHTER OF RICARDO PORTILLO: I will forgive this kid because it's only on God's hands for him to have his punishment, not on mine. But right now, it's too soon for me forgive him.


BLITZER: Police initially charged him with aggravated assault. Now that the ref has died, authorities may upgrade the charges.

CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, said he could still escape a homicide charge.


PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The defense here will be, in striking a single punch, it's obvious the 17-year-old did not intend to kill. So the killing turns out to be an accidental killing, so the defense will claim. So I don't think you get it on an intentional ground.

However, there may be a claim that it was reckless or that it was negligent for him to make this punch. But you would only win on that I think if the 17-year-old was a trained boxer or had martial arts experience. Then one punch maybe could kill somebody.

So I don't think really -- they may charge this as a homicide. I've looked at the statute in Utah, the criminal homicide stature, and it's going to be very hard to prevail as a homicide. I think it's going to be an assault case. But you see he's a juvenile also. If they treat him as a juvenile, essentially facing a slap on the wrist for this crime.


BLITZER: Paul Callan weighing in on the sad story of the Utah soccer referee who has died after being punched by a teenaged player.

In Georgia, police are asking for help with the mysterious case of a missing 19-year-old college student. Police say Jamal Malik Keys (ph) has been missing from the Cochran campus of Middle Georgia State campus for more than a week. He had breakfast with his roommate on April 25th, later, walked out of the dorm and has not been seen or heard from since. They say he left behind all his belonging, his phone, and he does not own a car. Police have searched door to door near the campus and they're looking in Atlanta as well, where Keys (ph) is from.

Let's head overseas right now. Two rockets have hit the Golan Heights, which is a strategically important mountainous region between Israel and Syria. It's controlled by Israel's military. Israel's defense forces say the rockets were fired erroneously as a byproduct of Syria's internal conflict.




WOLF: But it comes amid escalating tensions between the two countries after Syria was hit with massive air strikes over the weekend. A U.S. official confirms the attacks were launched by Israel. It killed 42 Syrian soldiers and left 100 people missing.

Fawaz Gerges joins us now from London. He's an expert on the Middle East. He's the author of the book "Obama and the Middle East: The End of America's Moment," also the author of "The Rise and Fall of al Qaeda."

Professor, thanks very much for coming in.

You write, if the strikes are confirmed to be Israeli attacked -- and we at CNN, we have confirmed this now -- it would show the Syrian conflict has mutated, you say, from a political uprising to an internal arms struggle, but has now mutated into becoming a regional war by proxy. Is that what we're seeing now?

FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR & AUTHOR: Absolutely. I think what we are seeing now is an open-ended war by proxy. It's no longer an implicit war by proxy. On the one hand, you have Israel, regional powers and the western states. On the other hand, you have Iran, Hezbollah and Syria.

I would argue, Wolf, it would take a spark, in this calculation, to ignite a bigger conflict in the region. I would argue also that the main target, the main target of Israeli's alleged attacks against Syria were not just the Assad governments and Assad army but rather Hezbollah and Iran. As a result of the most recent attacks, you will see deepening involvement of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria. They will go to great lengths to prevent the removal of Assad by the opposition. So now, unfortunately, for the Syrian people, the internal struggle, the political uprising, the internal arms struggle has been superseded by multiple proxy wars in Syria.

BLITZER: A lot of people are wondering, especially here in the United States, will this force the U.S. take more direct action. Is the United States going to get involved directly on the ground, in the air, in Syria?

GERGES: Wolf, my reading -- and I could be wrong -- I think President Barack Obama is absolutely correct to be hesitant, to be reluctant to plunge into the killing fields of Syria. Remember, when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, both Hezbollah and Iran were implicitly on the side of the United States. They wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein. If the United States enter militarily in Syria, if the United States basically becomes militarily involved, both Hezbollah and Iran and, ironically, the so-called liberated Iraq, would be battling the United States forces in Syria. If our reading is correct, if this particular conflict has mutated into a war by proxy, I would argue that America's military intervention would be counterproductive because it would complicate exacerbate an already dangerous conflict.

I would like the United States to become more involved politically. I would like the president, the United States and Russia, to really redouble their efforts to reach an understanding, a political settlement, whereby the opposition and elements of the Syrian government talk about a solution to remove Assad from power rather than remove Assad by force. This is not going to happen as long as it is a war by proxy that has been raging for the last two years.

BLITZER: What about the latest suggestion out there, the insinuation not the Syrian military was using chemical weapons sarin gas, but the rebels were using sarin gas. You've heard these conflicting allegations over the past 24 hours.

GERGES: Wolf, what does this tell us? I mean, today, the spokesperson for the United Nations Independence Commission says the evidence, she has concede, concrete evidence that some elements of the rebels used chemical agents in a town outside Aleppo in March. What this tells us, again, is president Barack Obama is correct to insist on establishing custody, to insist on establishing ownership, who and how and where chemical agents were used.

But this also tells you now, which is what we're talking about, Wolf, in fact, the escalation, the recent escalation, has also really superseded the entire discussion about chemical weapons. You have Israel attacking Syria. Now we're talking about missiles being fired through the Golan Heights. The authorities yesterday leaked a report saying the plan to escalate the front, the occupied Golan front, in the same way that southern Lebanon, the southern Lebanese front is escalated, this tells you what I'm talking about, the risk of miscalculation, the spark that could easily trigger a bigger fire, a bigger conflict in the area.

WOLF: Professor Fawaz Gerges, joining us from London.

Thanks for that analysis. We appreciate it very much. We'll have a lot more on these latest developments coming in, in "The Situation Room," later today. Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, and Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS, among others, will be joining us during our 6:00 p.m. eastern hour of "The Situation Room." Stay tuned for that.

What a weekend in sports. From the Kentucky Derby to NASCAR racing to the NBA, some really unbelievable finishes. We'll have details. That's next.


BLITZER: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

In sports, NASCAR saw another huge crash and a close finish and the mud didn't stop the running of the country's most popular horse race. It's all part of today's "Bleacher Report."

Here's Andy Scholes.

ANDY SCHOLES, CORRESPONDENT, BLEACHER REPORT: Good afternoon. The superspeedway at Talladega is known for its crashes, and yesterday did not disappoint. After an over three and a half hour rain delay, HLN's own Robin Meade is on hand. Kicked things off, singing the national anthem. A couple crashes. The big one coming with just six laps to go. Kurt Busch gets hit, barrel roll, ends up on top of Ryan Newman's car. Luckily, everyone would be OK. After the restart, David Ragan passes Carl Edwards to take the checkered flag for his first win of the season.

On Saturday, Orb galloped its way through a muddy Churchill Downs to win the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby. Up next for the colt is the Preakness Stakes on May 18, which is the second leg of the Triple Crown. Orb is trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirm in '78.

The second round of the NBA playoffs kicking off yesterday in the east. The Knicks looking to build on their first round win over the Celtics. Pacers had other ideas. Behind a balanced attack, Indiana built a commanding second half lead and went on to beat New York. The Knicks have never won a playoff series after losing game one at home.

In the west, the top-seeded Thunder in trouble late against the grizzlies. Kevin Durant came to the rescue, knocking down the clutch jump shot here with 11 seconds to go. Thunder going on to win game one, 93 to 91.

Sunday, Lebron James named the league's MVP, making him the youngest player to win the award four timings it the first unanimous MVP selection. But Gary Waston (ph) from the "Boston Globe" voted for Carmelo Anthony. A head scratcher. But Lebron isn't worried about the voting process or winning individual awards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: This really doesn't mean much to me. I'm humbled. I'm happy about it. But I wish there were 15 of these up here because I'm with a great group of guys that allow me to be the MVP each and every night.


SCHOLES: All right, may the force be with you.

The Toledo Mud Hens getting in the spirit of the holiday this weekend. Players wore Chewbacca-like Jerseys and their fans came dressed as their favorite characters. Definitely, some awesome costumes out there at the ballpark. But, Wolf, the force apparently not very strong with the Mud Hens this weekend. They ended up losing both games.

Back to you.

BLITZER: Too bad for the Mud Hens. Congratulations to Lebron.

Thank you.

A game changer in the field of medicine, a robotic pharmacy. How it can eliminate errors and help patients. We'll have details, information you need to know.


BLITZER: Every day, hospitals across the United States, millions of doses of drugs are given to patients. Sometimes they may get the wrong medicine. That can lead to tragic results even death in the worst situations. But one California hospital, they're experimenting. They're trying something new. They're using robots to eliminate errors.

Our Dan Simon is on the story in San Francisco.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Making sure hospital patients, like Jorge Rico, get the right medicine is critical. He's being treated for leukemia at UCSF, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

JORGE RICO, HOSPITAL PATIENT: Taking about five pills in the morning and a couple in the afternoon.

SIMON: How Jorge gets his pills offers a window into the ever- changing world of health care and how technology can eliminate critical life or death errors.

His medicine came from the hospital's so-called robotic pharmacy. A machine instead of humans fills the prescriptions. It plucks pills one by one and packages them.

Dr. Josh Adler says it's been a game changer in the field of medicine. DR. JOSH ADLER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UCSF: The robot gives a huge amount of confidence because we know the pharmacist and pharmacy technicians are incredibly skilled people but they're humans and they will occasionally make mistakes.

SIMON (on camera): Errors are all too common. The Institute of Medicine found, on average, there's at least one medication error per hospital patient per day. That means that no one is immune to an error.

(voice-over): But it also notes that error rates vary widely across facilities.

CNN first covered this emerging trend of robotic pharmacies nearly two years ago. Since it made its debut here in 2011, UCSF has added additional safeguards like bar coding the medicine right up to the point it's administered to the patient.

ADLER: It takes the human element out of picking a drug off the shelf and sending it back to the floor where the patient is. Where even if you got that right 99 percent of the time, you know, we give something like three million doses of drug in three months here. 1 percent error rate is far too high.

SIMON: It might sound like a job killer but the hospital says no. Instead, administrators say they can better leverage pharmacist skills by allowing them to spend more time in the hospital focusing on drug therapies.

Nationwide though, the robots still are not wide spread. The reason? Cost. UCSF paid $7 million for its system. As the price comes down, look for them to eventually become standard.

JONATHAN HUTCHINSON, UCSF HOSPITAL PHARMACIST: I think this is the way that our profession is moving on a nation that will be part of our career.

SIMON: Which, in turn, can save lives from human mistakes and boost confidence in the nation's hospitals.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


BLITZER: So are you a busy online shopper? Well, it could cost you a little bit more for everything you buy. We're going to tell you why a vote in the U.S. Senate later today is aimed potentially right at your wallet.


BLITZER: The Senate is back at work today here in Washington, and one of the first votes could hit you square in the wallet. That vote expected later today on a bill to require online retailers to collect sales tax for purchases made in 45 states.

Zain Asher is joining us from New York.

Zain, how does this bill work?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. It would basically end tax-free shopping online. Right now, as the law stands, you only have to pay online sales tax if the online store has a physical presence in your state. So, for example, a warehouse. If you buy something from, and you live in Washington, where Amazon does have a warehouse, you currently do have to pay sales tax. If you live in Illinois, though, you do not. So if this bill passes, online retailers will be forced to collect sales tax across the board.

By the way, also, shoppers are technically supposed to pay sales tax by declaring their purchases on their tax return, but, of course, most people do not do this. This bill intends to level out the playing field. There are some exemptions. If you're lucky enough to live in a state where that doesn't have sales tax, for example, this will not apply. And businesses making less than $1 million in out of state purchases will also be exempt -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Only five states don't have any sales tax. Some people are saying this could be a tough law to put into place, Zain. Why is it so tricky?

ASHER: Well, it is tricky because there are so many different tax rates. So critics are arguing it would be a huge tax burden -- or a burden on small businesses to figure all of this out. For example, a $1,000 television bought online for someone in New Jersey will have a $70 tax bill. In Maine, that TV will come with a $50 tax bill. And also, it varies based on what you're buying. So clothes in New Jersey, for example, and Connecticut are tax free but not in other states. Some are against this bill because it could cause an administrative nightmare -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Still has to pass the Senate and the House of representatives and it will have a tougher time in the House, I suspect but we'll see what happens.

Zain, thanks very much.

The first-ever gun made with a 3-D printer -- yes, you heard it right -- and it worked. Now the group that created this firearm wants to put the blueprint online.


BLITZER: So imagine a gun coming from a 3-D printer, a real gun, and it fires. A Texas firm has done it. It's called the Liberator. It is plastic and cannot be picked up by metal detectors. As you can imagine, this has law enforcement and gun control activists deeply worried.

Let's bring in Emily Schmidt, who has been looking into this for us.

Emily, how easy is it to get -- should I say, how easy is it to make one of these guns? EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, easy enough that I saw it happen before my eyes a couple of hours ago. Use a $2,000 to $3,000 printer, take about 24 hours, and you can have a plastic gun in the palm of your hand.

We know 3-D printing is here. In fact, a business owner here in Washington, says he's been doing it for a decade, producing building models, sculptures, all sorts of things.

But this weekend, when we saw this, Cody Wilson at that Texas company, using a 3-D printer to make a plastic gun, that was the shot heard around the world.

Wilson posted the video online. He says it is the very first time a gun printed entirely on a 3-D printer has been fired. I talked with him on the phone this morning. He said Friday, one gun was fired remotely, successfully, he says, with a 380 caliber round. Saturday, they upped the game. They fired a second round by hand. That blew the barrel out. He said he retired that particular gun.

But Wilson says this is going to change the very concept of gun control. He's already posted a link to that gun design. Anyone can download and print, and that is what has some lawmakers very worried.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D), NEW YORK: Let's think about this for a second. Now, anyone, a terrorist, someone who is mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon, can essentially open a gun factory in their garage.


SCHMIDT: And this is how it works. Wilson calls his gun the Liberator. It has 15 plastic pieces, one metal firing pin, because, he said, that's as simple as a roofing nail you can buy for a few pennies at any hardware store. It also has some steel in it, so it doesn't violate the Undetectable Firearms Act. But he says this will change the way people think about getting a gun -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Emily Schmidt reporting for us.

Thanks for that report.

I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room." That's it for me. Brooke Baldwin takes it from here.