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Massive Wildfire in Idaho Forces Thousands Out of Homes; Scotland Yard Investigates New Information About Princess Diana's Death; St. Louis Attempts to Attract More Immigrants

Aired August 18, 2013 - 18:00   ET


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I am Pamela Brown, filling in for Don Lemon. Nice to have you here with us.

A massive wildfire in Idaho is forcing thousands of families to pack up and leave their homes. We have some new photos of the huge wildfire we want to show you right here. Take a look at this. This is from i-reporter John Koth of Hailey, Idaho. Strong winds once again are stoking flames, creating huge clouds of smoke as we've seen in these pictures. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze as we speak. Evacuation orders now cover 2,200 homes and six communities. The Beaver Creek wildfire has burned more than 100,000 acres and is only 9 percent contained.

Paul Vercammen is covering this story from Los Angeles for us, and Paul, we learned that snow guns are being used to protect some areas from the fire. Tell us how that works.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, Pam, the Sun Valley resort, scene of the fire, could be getting too close, dangerously close but not right up to (inaudible), decided that it would use these snow guns to lay, if you will, a soggy perimeter around the resort. Earlier today, I spoke with someone from the resort and here is what they had to say about that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have the largest snow-making system in the world, computerized snow-making system in the world. And we can turn it on in the summertime to put some humidity in the air and wet some of the areas in Bald Mountain just in case of spot fires. We are really working in coordination with the fire team that's here. They're doing an amazing job.


VERCAMMEN: Firefighters being praised on the ground. We understand 1,200 firefighters now on the Beaver Creek fire. We also have 88, engines, 20 water tankers, 11 helicopters. Fortunate stroke of good timing. The Elk fire also raging in Idaho, about 150,000 acres, well, it is almost completely out, and they've been able to shift resources from some of these other Idaho fires to the Beaver Creek fire. In all, more than 400,000 acres have burned in Idaho on nine major fires. There is also 39 major fires burning in the west. Tough times here, especially in Idaho, Pam.

BROWN: Those strong winds are certainly not helping the situation out there. Paul Vercammen, thank you.

And now let's talk to an Idaho man who evacuated his home as the fire got closer. i-reporter John Koth took these dramatic photos of the massive flames, and John Koth joins me now on the phone from Hailey, Idaho.

John, tell us, looks like you were pretty close to the fire when you took those photos. Tell us about that.

JOHN KOTH, IREPORTER: We are located in the subdivision right about a quarter mile from the ridge that you're seeing there. And my family evacuated. I came back to check on the neighbor's house, watch ours, and I suddenly found myself with several firefighters, and they were looking for a better view. We wound up on the roof. And that's where those photos came from. And some dramatic fire-fighting. Can't really praise the firefighters enough for their super-human efforts to stop what you see there when it got down to the river just below it.

BROWN: What was it like to see it and to be there in person? It's just unbelievable looking at your pictures. But I can't imagine actually being there.

KOTH: I think -- I've never been in a war zone, but I guess that would be a good description of it. There were four helicopters with hoses that were sucking up water out of ponds nearby to go drop, and they were flying directly over the house. There was fire coming from both ends at that point. There was a fire out (inaudible) north of there at Deer Creek and another one -- excuse me, south was Deer Creek and north was Greenhorn. And they pretty much converged in that region you're looking at there.

BROWN: I know, John, you had to pack up all your belongings, evacuate your home. What was that feeling like?

KOTH: It's a sickening feeling. We've been through this before in 2007. Was the Castle Rock fire that hit the same area. And actually, it's working as a buffer to protect Ketchum right now. But you have to look around quickly, and say what things mean the most to you. And typically, it's not the things you think. You grab your photos and you grab in this day and age your laptops with all your photos in them. You grab your special certificates and your insurance papers, and load up and get out.

BROWN: Well, John Koth, I'm glad you and your family are OK. And thank you so much for sharing those pictures with us. We appreciate it.

KOTH: Pamela, pleasure. Thank you.

BROWN: A small plane crash in Missouri killed two people today. Our affiliate KCTV reports a single-engine aircraft went down shortly after take-off. Take a look at these pictures we have here. Fire official says the two victims were the only people on the plane. It happened this afternoon at the Charles B. Wheeler downtown airport, that is in Kansas City. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

An attorney for one of the former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's abuse victims says that his client has settled his civil suit against the university. Sandusky, you may remember, was convicted last year on multiple child sex abuse charges. Attorney Tom Klein (ph) tells CNN that his client, known as victim number 5, is the first Sandusky victim to settle with the university.

Recall organizers in San Diego are kicking off their effort to throw Mayor Bob Filner out of office. A marching rally was set to begin last hour. Earlier, volunteers spread out in a road race, gathering signatures to force a new election. Filner is facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment. And at last count, 16 women have gone public with accusations against him.

Now some new claims about the death of Princess Diana nearly 16 years ago. Relatives of a British special forces sniper reportedly claim a member of the British military killed her. Now Scotland Yard is assessing the credibility of the claim. Our Atika Shubert has more.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A brutal car crash in a dark tunnel, chased by paparazzi. Princess Diana's death in 1997 was a violent tragedy. Conspiracy theories abounded, including an allegation that she and her companion, Dodi Al-Fayed, were murdered by a member of the British military. But multiple investigations by both French and British police dismissed that. A judge-led inquiry in the UK concluded that her death was an unlawful killing, caused by the gross negligence of the driver of her car and the vehicles chasing her.

But now Britain's Scotland Yard says they are scoping new information on her death, assessing its relevance and credibility. According to the British Press Association, the information allegedly comes from the parents-in-law of a former British soldier. This comes just weeks after the birth of Prince George, Princess Diana's grandson, third in line to the British throne, the son of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

For many in Britain, the image of the young family brought back warm memories of Princess Diana with the newborn Prince William in her arms.

August 31st will be exactly 16 years since the death of Princess Diana. Now, this new information, whatever it may be, will almost certainly reignite controversy around her and speculation about how she died.

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: We want to pass along this programming note. Diana's son, Prince William, talks to CNN's Max Foster about his life as a father. You can see parts of that interview tomorrow morning on New Day with Kate Bolduan and Chris Cuomo, beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time, only here on CNN.

He's accused of murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day, but he says he mistook her for a home invader. More on Olympian Oscar Pistorius' upcoming day in court. Right after this break.


BROWN: Parts of the southeast feeling more like the Pacific Northwest these days. That's because constant rain is hitting several Gulf Coast states hard. Take a look at this video. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for example, has gotten 11 more inches of rain than it's used to since June. And more rain is in the forecast. That's increasing fears of flooding since the water has nowhere to go.

Olympian runner Oscar Pistorius is expected to be indicted tomorrow, charged with murdering his girlfriend on Valentine's Day. Pistorius says he thought she was an intruder when he killed her. His attorney says the trial will start next March, and will likely last many months due to motions and postponements.

And we may see scenes like this again before long. Korean family members from both sides of the DMZ reunited, at least for a short time. Officials from both North and South Korea have agreed to restart the reunion program, possibly next month. The last family reunions happened in 2010, before the current North Korean leader came to power.

Tear gas, riots and an attempt to free prisoners. Details on the deadly confrontation in Egypt up next. But first --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This week on the "Next List," journey to the rooftops with urban bee keeper, Andrew Kote (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have my hand in many hives. I help run the New York City Beekeepers Association. I help run Bees Without Borders. I am a paid consultant by restaurants and hotels. I have my own private hives from which I extract and bottle honey and sell at Union Square.

You need to kiss the beekeeper.

I sleep from time to time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the heights of Manhattan to the far reaches of the African bush, he is spreading his love of these remarkable creatures to people throughout the entire world.

And a pint-sized robot that has them rolling in the aisles.

ROBOTIC VOICE: You guys are looking good out there. Ready for some jokes?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How programmer Heather Knight (ph) is using social robotics to transform our future. Their stories on "The Next List," this Saturday, 2:30 Eastern.


BROWN: In Egypt today, 36 people died in one violent incident in Cairo. Take a look here. This truck was carrying members of the now opposition Muslim Brotherhood from one prison to another when militants reportedly attacked it trying to free the people inside. Now official word yet on who was killed, the prisoners or the men trying to free them. It's nighttime now in Cairo, and a strict curfew is now in effect. There are protesters who have been filling the streets ever since Wednesday, demanding ousted President Mohammed Morsy be returned to office.

All right, and let's talk about what the U.S. can or should be doing in Egypt. With LZ Granderson and Amy Holmes. LZ is a CNN commentator and a senior writer for ESPN. And Amy is an anchor for Good to see you both.


AMY HOLMES, THEBLAZE.COM: Thanks for having us.

BROWN: I want to start with comments made this morning by John McCain on CNN. He told our Candy Crowley that the U.S. has lost credibility in Egypt and the U.S. should cut off aid altogether. And then Candy asked him to describe the Obama administration's overall policy toward the Middle East.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZONA: There is no policy and there is no strategy. And therefore, we react, and we react poorly.


BROWN: Obviously some harsh words there from Senator McCain. Amy, what do you think? Does he have a point?

HOLMES: I think even Obama advisers would be hard pressed to tell you what is the Obama doctrine when it comes to the Middle East? Is it whack-a-mole via drone policy? Is it speak loudly, carry a twig, or is it most infamously, as one of his advisers said to "The New Yorker," lead from behind? I think up to this point, we've seen just a patchwork of approaches that are internally contradictory. For example, we helped lead the strikes in Libya, although we led from behind; we let the French lead that -- to try to liberate Libyans from Gadhafi's rule. We did that in order to protect Benghazi. As we know, Benghazi became a killing ground and a death trap for our American ambassador and three other Americans. And the perpetrators still haven't been brought to justice. So I don't think anyone can pinpoint exactly what is Obama's end game here, what his strategy is for U.S. policy and U.S. interest vis a vis the Middle East.

BROWN: But he does have to walk a fine line here. This is a delicate balance. Egypt of course is America's strongest Arab ally. So it's a fine line to walk. What do you think, LZ?

GRANDERSON: I think if you want to look at our foreign policy over the last five years, you could do that, or you could be more intelligent about it and look at the way we've been handling foreign policies for the last five decades. And that is, we tried a strategy of buying support. We tried a strategy of putting in leaders who have become dictators in order to support U.S. interests.

I strongly disagree with Senator McCain. We did not lose our influence or credibility in Egypt over the past couple of weeks. We lost it years ago as we continued to prop up Mubarak, and the Egyptian people knew that he was a dictator. That's when we lost our credibility. So in terms of what Obama is doing, I do agree that it seems to be a haphazard sort of policy, sort of approach towards the Middle East. But to say this is something that's inherent to the Obama administration is just disingenuous and it seems to forget U.S. history.

HOLMES: But let's remember, it was President Obama who made a great show of going on his first trip to the Middle East in June of 2009, within a few months being inaugurated, kicking off his trip in Cairo, at Cairo University, where he said that we would unclench our fists and extend our hands. Well, here we are, and President Obama, in his own press conference at Martha's Vineyard last week, said both sides in this Egyptian conflict are blaming the United States. So we seem to have not even gotten anything positive out of the president's approach.


GRANDERSON: Senator McCain went to Syria. He gets back talking about we need to support the good guys, and we find out he's taking pictures with kidnappers. He doesn't know who the good guys and the bad guys are. It is very difficult to do this. And I think simply saying Obama hasn't been doing anything or that we have a clear picture overall in terms of just the government period and dealing with this region, again I think is disingenuous.

HOLMES: I think it's a very fair critique of this administration. And their, as you say, haphazard approach.

BROWN: Do you think that, as McCain said, that Obama should have taken that extra step and cut off the $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt?

HOLMES: While I agree with the senator's critique of the administration's policy, I don't agree with his solution. Unfortunately, there are not really great sides to be picking here. President Obama has sort of made a fetish of democratically-elected governments, particularly when it comes to Morsy, giving him a phone call right after his win. But you know what? Hamas was democratically elected, and they are a tyrannical, thuggish group in the Gaza Strip. Hitler was democratically elected. At this point, I think we need to look more squarely at U.S. interests, part of which is protecting Israel. So if Egypt descents into chaos and instability, that relationship, which, yes, LZ, we did buy our relationship with Egypt with all this military aid, but for a very good aim, and that was to keep Israel safe and to keep that peace accord in place.

BROWN: All right, LZ Granderson --

GRANDERSON: With that being said--

BROWN: Go ahead, LZ, final word here and then we have to go.

GRANDERSON: All right. I was just going to say, yes, sure, you can say we bought support out of aid (ph), but what happened to the Egyptian people? I go back to Senator McCain's statements about the U.S. losing credible. We lost credibility because we continued to support a dictator who was killing his own people,and who stepped on their back for decades. So that's what our aid got us, and here we are today.

BROWN: OK. Thank you to both for sharing your opinions. We appreciate it. And do not forget, CNN's "CROSSFIRE" returns next month. The program hosted by Newt Gingrich, Van Jones, Stephanie Cutter and SE Cupp, debuts September 16th at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Well, an American city is telling immigrants, move here. Up next, the city, why the city of St. Louis plans to attract new residents. And could it be really good for business? We're going to tell you about this story right after the break.


BROWN: In today's "American Journey," one city's plan to try to attract more immigrants. St. Louis has far fewer immigrants than any other U.S. city of its size, but a program called the Mosaic Project is trying to change that. Tom Foreman reports.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frozen yogurt is a hot commodity amid the summer heat of St. Louis. And nobody is happier about that than Jason Jan. When he came from Malaysia 15 years ago, he hoped to open a business, and now he has a string of places like this. And nothing but praise for his adopted home.

JASON JAN, BUSINESS OWNER: Great city to raise my kids. And most importantly, has been very immigrant-friendly.

FOREMAN: That is a message local leaders are desperate to get out ever since a study found this area lags far behind other cities in attracting immigrants. The nonprofit International Institute here serves 7,000 a year, but that's half as many as expected in a town this size. The institute is now a key component in the Mosaic Project, an ambitious plan to make this area much more inviting to immigrants.

CHARLIE DOOLEY, ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE: St. Louis wants to be an open and welcoming community, and that's what we are going to do.

FOREMAN: So the city is helping immigrant groups connect with loans, opportunities, education. This is not just a feel-good measure. A study found immigrants are more likely to open businesses, create jobs, raise wages, and pursue higher degrees than the general population.

As for Jason Jan, well, the jobs he's created may be permanent. He's applied to become a U.S. citizen.

Tom Foreman, CNN, St. Louis.


BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown at the Time Warner Center in New York filling in for Don Lemon. Thank you so much for keeping us company on this Sunday. Anderson Cooper's special report, "Kidnapped: The Rescue of Hannah Anderson," is next.