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Conservatives Press Obama on Oklahoma Murder; Final Week for Bob Filner; Using Drones to Fight Mosquitoes; Kids Hide, Call 911 and Foil Burglaries

Aired August 26, 2013 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, speak out, Mr. President. That's the call from some conservatives who say President Obama needs to address the horrific shooting in Oklahoma that left an Australian baseball player dead.

Plus --


BOB FILNER, FORMER MAYOR OF SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: I started my political career facing lynch mobs. And I think we have just faced one here in San Diego.


COSTELLO: Mayor Bob Filner says a lynch mob just forced him out of office. But will his resignation be enough for the 18 women who say the mayor sexually harassed them? We'll ask attorney Gloria Allred who's representing one of those victims.

There's a new drone campaign underway, and it's against an unusual target. Still to come: why drones could become the new weapon of choice against mosquitoes.

NEWSROOM starts now.


COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me.

Checking our "Top Stories" at 30 minutes past the hour:

Firefighters getting a better handle on that massive wildfire in Yosemite National Park. That's the word from the U.S. Forest Service -- a little comfort, but still such a long way to go. The fire has scorched an area about the size of Chicago. And it's only seven percent contained. It's now threatening a reservoir that supplies San Francisco with water.

The southwest could see more of this today. The threat is for moisture still lingering from the remnants of tropical storm Ivo in the Pacific. Well no one is looking forward to more flooding. All the rain could actually help alleviate wildfire conditions in some areas.

The Syrian government blames terrorists for a sniper attack on a vehicle carrying a team of U.N. inspectors this morning. No one was hurt. The team is in Syria to investigate last week's alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb. The opposition says more than 1,300 people were killed. The Syrian government has denied any involvement.

A murder in Oklahoma has sent shock waves through two continents. The victim was Chris lane, a 23-year-old Australian baseball player who was studying in the United States when he was gunned down while jogging. Lane's killers, allegedly three teenagers, who police say committed the crime out of boredom.

Now the governor of Oklahoma is joining fellow conservatives in asking President Obama to condemn their actions.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: So do you think the President should speak out on this, as well? Particularly given his involvement in the Trayvon Martin case?

GOV. MARY FALLIN (R), OKLAHOMA: I think it would be a nice gesture for him to do that and especially since the country of Australia has expressed their sentiments as to the murder itself.


COSTELLO: Over the weekend, the Obama administration did issue a statement not to an American newspaper but to an Australian newspaper called "The Herald Sun". The statement reads in part, "As the president has expressed on too many tragic occasions, there is an extra measure of evil in an act of violence that cuts a young life short. The President and First Lady's thoughts and prayers are with Chris Lane's family and friends in these trying times."

Here to weigh in, CNN political analyst John Avlon; and HLN contributor and Hiram College political science professor Jason Johnson. Welcome to you both.


COSTELLO: Good morning. So Jason, I'll start with you. Why hasn't -- why hasn't President Obama come out and condemned this killing? You know, to American newspapers, to Americans?

JOHNSON: Because people get killed in this country all the time. And that's really sad to say, but it happens. We have gun violence issues. We have crime issues. And I think a lot of the conservatives -- this is a really disingenuous cry on their behalf to even compare this to Trayvon Martin.

And so the President really doesn't have anything to say. It's a local law enforcement issue. It's not a national security issue. It's just a tragedy, and unfortunately we have to move on because this happens all too often in America.

COSTELLO: But -- but John, the former prime minister of Australia came out and had a warning for his fellow countrymen -- don't come to the United States. There's too much gun violence here.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes and that is a mark on our nation when, you know, a talented young Australian baseball player gets gunned down because the killers say they were bored. But boredom is not an endemic problem in the way that racism is, and it doesn't have the history of violence that racism does in the United States.

Look that is part of the danger of the President of the United States weighing in on criminal cases. It is impossible for the President to weigh in on all of them. The White House gave a statement to the Australian media. That's appropriate. And if a U.S. journalist asks the President about it, I'm sure he will weigh in on this. It's not that he's not aware of it. But the folks who are pushing this line of equivalence saying where is the outrage, ignore a couple of big things. First: history in context.

Second of all: that the system worked in Oklahoma. The perpetrators were arrested. Justice will be done. The outrage over Trayvon Martin's killing was in part because police had not made an arrest. It was that inaction, that procedural dysfunction that created a lot of the outrage. That's a distinction that makes a big difference.

COSTELLO: But one of the accused killers, Jason Johnson, used social media to say something like, "I hate 98 percent of all white people."

JOHNSON: Right. Well look, they're a bunch of obnoxious kids. And kids say obnoxious and racist things. And I think what's important is whether or not this was a racially motivated killing, it is still a problem. One of the kids who was involved in the killing was white. That doesn't actually mean it's not racially motivated. That would be the same as saying a black cop can't necessarily stop and frisk or be discriminatory against a black person.

But again the larger issue is this: the President of the United States is not responsible for speaking about every single terrible case that ends up happening. If he wants to connect this to gun control issues, I think that would make a lot of sense. But the fact that a bunch of little sociopaths took a young man's life, unfortunately that happens all too often in America and he shouldn't speak about it every time.

COSTELLO: And plus, John Avlon if conservatives say the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case had nothing to do with race, then they're kind of undermining their own argument in this instance, aren't they?

AVLON: Well what they're doing is bear baiting right? What they're -- what they're trying to do is play that card to say that the President, there is a double standard and the President is, you know -- remember, in the minds of a lot of these folks, the President came out and gave his conversation about race in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict. They said the President was racist for discussing race in America.

Now that -- that is quite -- that's a pretty fascinating rhetorical two-step. But the reality is that of course the President is going to have insights into being black in America and race that are unique from other presidents.

Now, every crime is horrific. Every crime is a tragedy. And I think conservatives can make a case that the fact that that one perpetrator saying that he hates 98 percent of white people wouldn't -- does not get the same level of outrage as if the -- a white murderer said he hates 98 percent of black people. That's a fair point we can have a smart conversation about.

But what the card that's being played here is actually not about outrage, it's about playing the politics of racial resentment and attacking the President. Let's be honest about that. And it's -- for them it's about ginning up ratings and angering their base.

COSTELLO: Tit for tat in other words. John Avlon -- John Avlon and Jason Johnson thanks so much.

AVLON: Well.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, he is quite possibly the most unpopular man in all of San Diego. And this week, Mayor Bob Filner will walk away. It's what the 18 women who accused him of sexual harassment wants? But will it be enough?


COSTELLO: This coming Friday, Mayor Bob Filner says good-bye to San Diego. That sexual harassment scandal proved to be too much. Facing dwindling support and a recall effort against him, Filner will indeed resign. But he's not going quietly. In announcing his deal with the city, Filner placed the blame for his downfall squarely on us, the media.


FILNER: Those of you in the media and in politics who fed this hysteria, I think need to look at what you helped create because you have unleashed a monster. And I think we'll be paying for this affront to democracy for a long time.


COSTELLO: Gloria Allred is the attorney for Filner's former press secretary who filed a lawsuit against him for sexual harassment. Good morning, Gloria.


COSTELLO: OK, well let's address what Mayor Filner just said on air. He blames the media for this and says the media will pay and democracy will pay. What do you say?

ALLRED: Well, Friday, Carol, was a day of reckoning for Mayor Filner. And it was a day of vindication for his many alleged victims; 18 of whom have come forward. And -- and even though Mayor Filner still continues to live in his own reality and deny responsibility for the conduct which we allege in our lawsuit on behalf of our client, Irene McCormack Jackson, it's still a good day. And the fact is, he has done what was absolutely needed. He resigned, and that is what is most important. You know, Carol, the Mayor in his resignation speech, he took credit for protecting seals during his term as mayor.

Unfortunately, he didn't give as much protection to the women who came into contact with him as he gave to the seals. I mean, women were a risk when they were near the mayor. And so now I think that the city should focus its energy and focus its attention on resolving my client's claims against the city of San Diego and the Mayor so that can it move on.

COSTELLO: So what might that entail? How can they settle?

ALLRED: Well, we are still in an ongoing mediation with former federal judge, Judge Irving. And he is still presiding over this matter as a mediator. So it's still possible. But if not, then we will proceed to vigorously litigate as we have for 37 years, litigated sexual harassment cases successfully. And I might add I want to congratulate my client --


COSTELLO: What kind of damages --

ALLRED: -- because the mediation which resulted in the Mayor's resignation was a mediation of our lawsuit against the mayor and the city. And if Irene hadn't come forward, if we had not filed the lawsuit on her behalf, I think it's fair to say that instead of resigning on Friday that the mayor would still be engaging in the same despicable sexually harassing, sexually inappropriate conduct which led Irene and 17 other women to come forward to complain.

COSTELLO: Well, two questions. What kind of damages are these women expecting? And two, the taxpayers will probably have to pay out those damages if those lawsuits are successful. Is that right?

ALLRED: Well, we're seeking damages according to proof at trial. So we never say exactly the number because that will depend on what we're able to prove at trial because damages continue for her. But you know, the point is that the cost of the wrong, the cost of sexual harassment should never be borne by the victim. It should be borne by the wrongdoer. And in that case, it's the mayor who is the one who should bear the cost of the wrongdoing.

And also in California, an employer, in this case that's the city of San Diego, is strictly liable for any sexual harassment that exists in its workplace.

COSTELLO: All right. Attorney Gloria Allred, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

ALLRED: Thank you, Carol. Bye-bye.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

Still to come to the NEWSROOM feeding the homeless and the city coffers. We'll tell you why a local government is demanding a costly permit for this kind of charity.


COSTELLO: Checking our top stories at 45 minutes past the hour, an American Airlines plane forced to make an emergency landing after one of its engines stopped working after takeoff. Officials say Flight 1111 was heading from Dallas -- heading to Dallas from Charlotte, North Carolina, when it diverted to Little Rock, Arkansas. 135 people were on board. The plane did land safely. No one was hurt. Mechanics are now investigating exactly what caused that engine to malfunction.

Back to school today for Chicago public schools but 30,000 students, mostly minorities, are going to different schools. The board of education closed nearly 50 schools to help pay down a $1 billion deficit. The district says it plans to invest more money in its teach-for-America program and charter schools.

Scientists are designing a bigger, better version of the Hubble space telescope. According to, the new giant Magellan telescope will be ten times sharper than the Hubble. But it won't come cheap. The new telescope is expected to cost a staggering $700 million and be up and running in northern Chile by 2022.

Ever hear that charity nourishes the soul? Well, in Raleigh, North Carolina, it may also drain the collection plate. The city says if you want to feed the homeless, you'd better cough up some big bucks for a permit. CNN's Ashleigh Banfield joins us with "THE LEGAL VIEW" this morning. Good morning -- Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Hi, Carol. Happy Monday to you.

This is a bit of a weird one, right? I mean feeding the homeless, but you have to pay to get a permit? This is exactly the problem. This is a group that's been doing it for six years. They showed up on Saturday with, I don't know, 100 sausage biscuits and gallons of coffee. Guess who else showed up -- the coppers. They said if you keep doing this we're going to not just ticket or fine you, we're going to arrest you.


ASHLEIGH: Imagine -- Carol, I know, I can hear you. You're amazed by think. I think a lot of people were amazed by this. You have to have a permit to do it. They didn't have the permit. Is this a moral outrage or is this a legal outrage?

And by the way, we're going to tell you on the program why the city actually has a pretty good case; surprising to hear that, right?

COSTELLO: Well not because -- I don't know if you heard what happened in Columbia, South Carolina.

BANFIELD: No, what?

COSTELLO: State legislators there say no more homeless people in downtown. They're going to just ship them out. That's it, no more.

BANFIELD: You know that's something Rudy Giuliani did in New York City as well. And a lot of people applauded it. There are a lot of people who say there are all sorts of domino effects when this happens that maybe some people don't think of aside from this very magnanimous charity effort. But we're going to talk about those sides and why they are pressing (ph).

COSTELLO: Fascinating -- Ashleigh Banfield, thanks so much.


COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM -- they're stealthy, they fly high and they could soon be used against mosquitoes. Why officials in Florida say their new weapon of choice against those pesky insects could be a drone.


COSTELLO: If you've spent any time outside this summer, you know mosquito season is far from over. If you're sick of those itchy, annoying (inaudible) mosquito bites, we've got news. Officials in south Florida are planning to test a new drone -- yes, a drone to target those pesky mosquitoes. Chad is here to tell us exactly how this will work.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I wish it was some kind of sexy story where it's going to be flying around with a dragnet, with the little zapper below it. But what this thing's doing, these things will fly over the keys. 95 percent of the Florida Keys are covered in either mangroves, swamp, and not populated by people.

A lot of the Keys, I know you see it as you drive down overseas highway, you see building after building. Away there that, away from that highway, there's an awful lot of mangrove swamps. Actually some areas, the swamps are OK because it's saltwater, but it's the fresh water that they're going to looking for.

So they're going to look from maybe old tires that are laying around. You know how water can lay inside a tire?


MYERS: Oh, that's just a breeding ground. They have so many mosquitoes down here this year that they're going to fly this around looking for pools of water and trying to target the pools of water with an insecticide or something later on.

COSTELLO: The drones are actually going to drop the insecticide --

MYERS: No, no. The drones aren't -- they're not doing anything except flying around -- that's all they're going to do. Now if you go toward Big Pine Key and they sent a picture of it, there's something called the blue hole. If you walk to the west of the blue hole, you will see where army corps or somebody, I don't remember who it was -- dug these huge gouges into the limestone to get the water to run out. Well, that's not working so good anymore. It's still stagnant. And there's little fishes in there too, that eat the larvae. You have to do what you got do.

COSTELLO: That's a pretty good idea. Better uses of drones --

MYERS: Just don't put deet on your kids.

COSTELLO: We won't. Chad thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome Carol.

COSTELLO: Still to come, a 12-year-old boy picks up the phone and dials for help when burglars break in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911. What is your emergency? Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone's trying to break into my house.


COSTELLO: But he's not the only child who helped foil a burglar. The other case more than 1,000 miles away -- that's next.


COSTELLO: WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange is back in the spotlight. This time, well, it's not for leaking U.S. Intelligence secrets.


COSTELLO: Hey, the mullet surprised us, too. That's a song appearing in a spoof video on YouTube to promote his Australian senate campaign. In case you missed it, he's lip-synching to singer John Farnham's hit song, "You're the Voice". This is an Australian singer. The lyrics include lines like "We've got to make things leak so we can get much bolder", and "We're all wiretapped now. We're all being fed lies." We'll tell you if that it works with the voters.

One girl, one boy -- one lives in Florida, the other in Texas. One hid in a closet, the other in a bathroom. The one thing in common: picking up the phone to call 911 when burglars broke into their homes. CNN's Michaela Pereira has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, what is your emergency? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's two people in our house --

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Huddled inside a bathroom, this terrified 13-year-old girl manages to stay calm while two burglars ransack her home in Tamarack, Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you in the home by yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. No, I'm with my sister. Hurry up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen to me, they're on their way, OK?

PEREIRA: Gianna Bryan, hid with her 11-year-old sister while the burglars made off with a laptop and cell phone. Shortly after they fled, she was relieved to hear her father's voice.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad just came home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very proud of them both. Gianna was super for thinking real quick.

GIANNA BRYAN, FOILED BURGLARY: I didn't feel brave. I felt scared because what if they like busted down the door.

PEREIRA: Gianna ultimately gave the dispatcher vital information that led to the arrest of two suspects.

And listen to this chilling 911 call from a brave 12-year-old boy in Port Arthur, Texas; also home alone during a break-in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody is trying to break in to my house. They just broke the window.

PEREIRA: You can hear the fear in Deion's Murdoch's voice as he hides terrified in a closet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to have to whisper now because I think they're coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Just stay there. The officers, I think they're going to catch the guy, OK?

PEREIRA: When officers arrived, they saw two men running out of the house and into the woods. Deion's quick thinking helped police arrest this pair of burglars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is actually the only thing I could think of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're a very, very smart young man. You did a good thing.

PEREIRA: Michaela Pereira, CNN, New York. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: He did indeed. Thank you for joining me today.

I'm Carol Costello. "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.