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Military Mulls Syria Options; Video of Possible Gas Attack; Homeland Security Employee Touts Hate; Affleck as Batman; Bus Crashes with Military Personnel; Charity Helps Refugee Girls; Hogan Wrestles Again

Aired August 23, 2013 - 15:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of news today on Syria. U.S. military officials updating options for a forceful intervention in Syria, one plan even exploring way to take out President Assad's capability to deliver chemical weapons.

And then there's this. It is a rare thing here at CNN for us to come across video that is so graphic, so disturbing and raw that we decide to play it raw, unedited and silent.

We want to give you adequate warning here. You're going to want to get your kids out of the room, and if you can't watch it I urge you to stay with us as we talk about this footage.

ITV News claims that it was obtained from what it says is a credible independent Syrian filmmaker and journalist. Here it is.


KEILAR (voice-over): Rebel fighters say their government did this, claiming more than 1,300 people died, many of them children.

You saw some, allegedly, in this photo in this alleged chemical weapons attack.


KEILAR: And to talk more about this now, Frederik Pleitgen is joining us from Damascus, Syria.

Fred, you met with people on both sides of the fighting. What do you make of what we're seeing here?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is obviously very gruesome video.

As you said, it is something that could potentially be a game changer if, in fact, it does come out that the Syrian government is behind these alleged chemical weapons attacks.

But, of course, there are still a lot of things that are open in all this. One of the things that's very interesting about the video is that what you see there is you see there you see those dead bodies lying there, of course, very gruesome, with in part the women still holding the children in their hands.

The strange thing is that you don't see any damage to the buildings, which could indicate that perhaps some sort of gas fume went through there rather than some sort of explosion.

Also, the bodies that you see don't have any sort of marks, any sort of wounds on them that could come from shrapnel or something like that. So there are telltale signs that it could have been a chemical attack.

However, of course, we don't know whether or not this was actually true. And if it was a chemical attack, who's behind it? Was it the government? Was is the rebels?

Of course, we know that both sides are accusing each other of having carried out purported attacks. We don't even know whether or not chemicals were unleashed.

I was in one neighborhood that's actually very close to where all this allegedly took place. And people there told me they didn't feel anything the morning that this allegedly happened.

They themselves said there was no fumes blowing over. There was no rashes that they had. Nothing that made them feel like they might have been subjected to chemicals.

So it's a very, very difficult situation. Nothing is proven or disproven. But, of course, those images are very, very graphic. And one of the things that is certainly clear is that something terrible happened in Syria on Wednesday morning.

We do know that there was a large scale military operation going on by Syrian forces on that Wednesday morning, but whether or not chemical weapons were used in that is impossible to determinate this point, even though, Brianna, and this is really the crazy thing about all this, there is a team of U.N. weapons inspectors that are only about five miles away from where this allegedly happened, Brianna.

KEILAR: That's right. And this happened as they were there. Very curious.

Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Damascus following the story as he will continue to. Thank you.

Now coming up, an anti-hate group claims that a worker at the Homeland Security Department spends his off time preparing for a race war and promoting anti-gay causes.

We'll tell you about this controversial web site.


KEILAR: A Homeland Security employee is reportedly preparing for a race war in his spare time. A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says, by day, this man, Ayo Kimathi, buys ammunition and weapons for the Homeland Security Department. Off duty, he apparently calls himself "The Irritated Genie." He reportedly pens this hate-filled Web site opposing homosexuality and calling for the mass murder of white people.

Kimathi is black, as you saw, and a former supervisor told the Southern Poverty Law Center, quote, "Everyone in the office is afraid of him."

I want to bring in crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns in Washington. Joe, how is the Homeland Security Department responding to this report?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty clear that they're taking a look at it.

Ayo Kimathi is 39-years-old, senior contract specialist with the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE.

His day job is apparently to encourage small businesses to bid for contracts with the federal government, but it's his moonlighting videos on the Internet that are attracting attention.

That Web site, called "War on the Horizon, says its purpose is preparing black people for an unavoidable, inevitable clash with the white race.

We reached out to Mr. Kimathi by telephone and e-mail. We haven't heard back from him.

The liberal-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center says Mr. Kimathi is the man known on the Internet as "The Irritated Genie." He's seen on video saying race war is imminent. He bashes gays, highly critical of President Obama and people like Nelson Mandela.

ICE put out a statement. They say they do not condone any type of hateful rhetoric of advocacy of violence of any kind against anyone. Every ICE employee is held to the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct.

Accusations of misconduct, they say, are thoroughly investigated, if they're substantiated appropriate actions are taken.

KEILAR: Joe Johns, thanks for that report.

And in just a few minutes, the mayor accused of sexual harassment by 18 different women now may be calling it quits, this as a source tells CNN about Bob Filner's awkward staff meeting this week.

Jake Tapper will join me next to talk about what is sure to be an interesting news conference.


KEILAR: And we are ducking in now to the studio next door to where I was to see Jake Tapper.

TAPPER: Welcome.

KEILAR: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Do you like it?

KEILAR: It's big.

TAPPER: These are our leads.

KEILAR: It's lovely. And this is going to get started here in about 15 minutes. There's a big announcement coming out of San Diego at 4:00. Maybe? Definitely? What do you think?

TAPPER: We believe we're going hear the terms of Mayor Bob Filner's exit from the mayor's office in San Diego. There's still a lot of details we're waiting to hear.

We're waiting to hear about this sticking point that the "Los Angeles Times" reported on. Who pays for Mayor Filner's legal fees? Is it going to be the taxpayers of San Diego or is he going to do that himself?

So there's a lot of details. And we're waiting for this announcement at 4:00, the top of the hour.

KEILAR: All right. We will be checking in. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper, of course, starts at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thank you, Jake.

And we will be right back.


KEILAR: Safe to say by now the folks at Warner Brothers know how many of you feel about its choice of the next Batman.

Take a look at this petition on, a big fat no for actor Ben Affleck playing Batman in the sequel to "Man of Steel." Last hour it had 4,000 online signatures. Now it has over 12,000 and counting.

And tons of folks on Twitter are saying the same. Hash tag "batfleck: was trending last we checked. And some think that Affleck will do well. I will say I'm one of them.

But many say they're baffled by Warner Brothers decision to put him in the role. They just don't think he has what his predecessors had when they starred as the superhero.


ADAM WEST, ACTOR: Hand me down the shark repellant Bat-spray.

MICHAEL KEATON, ACTOR: How much do you weigh? KIM BASINGER, ACTRESS: About 108, I think.

VAL KILMER, ACTOR: A man's got to go his own way. A friend told me that.

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Why are all the gorgeous ones homicidal maniacs? Is it me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enough sweet talk.

CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: You made a serious mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not as serious as yours, I fear.


KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN entertainment editor Abbey Goodman in Los Angeles. And on the phone with us is CNN commentator and senior West Coast editor for "Vanity Fair," Krista Smith.

Abbey, I'm going to start with you. What do you make of this reaction on Twitter?

ABBEY GOODMAN, ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR, CNN.COM: As someone on Twitter said, "Batman jokes are the reason why Twitter was invented."

Everyone is having a good time playing with this. Immediately after the news hit that Ben Affleck was going to play Batman, the hash tag "better batman than ben Affleck" started trending.

And people were having a lot of fun with it, nominating people like Grumpy Cat to be a better fit than Ben Affleck. But everyone's having a good time with it.

KEILAR: OK, and Krista, when you look at Ben Affleck and his recent career, he's been gaining some respect in the film industry as a director. This is very much a different direction.

Do you think it's the right one for him.

KRISTA SMITH, CNN ENTERTAINMENT COMMENTATOR (via telephone): I think it's an interesting one and that's why I think the social stratosphere is blowing up because he was kind of -- his acting career had gone flat.

And then he directed "Gone Baby Gone." Then he directed "The Town." Then he directs "Argo." It wins an Oscar, and suddenly Ben Affleck is back on top.

But I think a lot of people thought he would just continue to direct and I think he's interesting that he's done a sharp right turn and he's gone back to being a movie star.

He's going to star in David Fincher's "Gone Girl" next, and now Batman, which is just huge news to suddenly take on another superhero.

I mean, the last time he did it, it was 10 years ago in "Daredevil," so I think he's going to have a superhero reboot.

And I think Warner Brothers, he's kind of the face of Warner Brothers, so I'm actually not entirely surprised. He did "Argo" with Warner Brothers and, you know, they love him and he fits the suit.

KEILAR: He does fit the suit, the anatomically molded rubber suit.

So, Krista, this to you. You heard Abbey there talking about "Daredevil." That did not do very well, to say the least. I'm think I'm being understated.

With this, you're looking at something so big here. I mean, big -- or sorry. Let me put this to Abbey. You heard Krista talking about "Daredevil."

This is big risk, but it's big reward as well.

GOODMAN: Absolutely. Some people thought that after Ben Affleck played "Daredevil," a role he himself admits he was sort of ashamed of, you thought that he would never go anywhere near this territory again.

But that's been 10 years. He's had time to learn how to act and hone his skill and regain his reputation from the Bennifer and Gigli days and we'll see what he can do. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

For sure, he has had a great career in the past couple of years, and we'll see what he can do.

KEILAR: Krista, what do you think this idea of a big star here? We looked at Superman which did pretty well, had sort of a star that a lot of us hadn't heard of before. This is obviously a big name. We tend to see that with Batman.

Do you think maybe they should have gone with someone that we didn't know of so much.

SMITH (via telephone): No, I think it makes sense. They went with an unknown for Henry Cavill who played Superman. He's a relatively unknown English actor. They had success with that.

I think when you're going to have a Batman versus Superman, it's great to have a kind of matinee idol like Ben Affleck playing Batman. I think it was probably a smart casting choice for them to have one that they broke out and one that's an established star.

But I expect there's going to be more and more controversy in the social media, which is why we love it and why we hate it at the same time.

KEILAR: And they may like -- Warner Brothers may like that as well.

Abbey Goodman, Krista Smith, thanks to both of you.

Get ready for this, Hulk Hogan versus the mayor of Toronto in an arm- wrestling match. Oh, yeah, that happened, and you're about to see the outcome. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: We have some breaking news to tell you about. You're looking at live pictures of what we understand are emergency crews responding there to a bus of U.S. troops returning from Iraq. It has crashed. You can see it turned over there on its side.

This is in Mooresville, North Carolina. This is north of Charlotte, as we understand it, and you can see some of the troops there, presumably, who were on the bus.

They've made this long trip home and, as we understand it, according to our affiliate WBTV, they were coming back from Iraq.

So we know at this point three injuries, the extent of those injuries unknown. We will bring you more as it becomes available.

But before we go, refugee girls in Chicago, some who have witnessed war, torture and death in their homeland, now struggling to learn and fit in at their new high school.

This week's CNN Hero took it upon herself to help them adjust to life in America.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My family came to America because we want a better life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got to Chicago, difficult to migrate. It's really hard the first day. I'm totally lost.

BLAIR BRETTSCHNEIDER, YOUNG WONDER: It's hard enough to be a teenaged girl in the United States, so it's even harder to be a refugee teenage girl.

My name is Blair Brettschneider and I help refugee girls find their place in America.

In my free time after work, I was tutoring different kids. One girl was really struggling.

Hello, how is it going?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good. Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to do more because I'm a girl (inaudible).

BRETTSCHNEIDER: He started going on field trips. We talked about college. Everything started changing.

One of our biggest goals together was for her to graduate from high school and be on a path to going to college. And she did.

I thought this was really important. I'm sure there are other girls.

There are about 50 girls in our different programs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're making great progress. I'm so proud of you, you know?

BRETTSCHNEIDER: My mentorship program matches girls in high school with other mentors who work with them once a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to write an essay, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I want to write about my life.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: In walking down the street, they are just teenagers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to have my own salon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One day, I hope to become a nurse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be a teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to become a doctor or a nurse.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: What I see is what all the girls can accomplish and everything that they can do. That's really why all this exists.


KEILAR: And you can see more at

Now for something completely different, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford versus Hulk Hogan in an arm-wrestling match.


HULK HOGAN, ENTERTAINER: Oh, oh, oh. Oh, big man. Oh, that's all you got, huh?


HOGAN: Oh, brother, you know something? Not only am I going to rip this arm off, I'm going to take your job while I'm at it, brother.


KEILAR: All right. So Hogan agreed to the stunt while he was in Toronto for a fan convention and Ford declared, I own this town, Hogan. Then he easily won. Who says pro wrestling is fake?

It's like when my dad and I used to arm wrestle when I was seven. I also won.

And "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.