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CNN NEWSROOM

Yosemite Fire Grows As Big As Chicago; Syrian Government Blames Terrorists for attack on U.N. weapons inspectors; Anniversary Of Washington March; Miley Cyrus Dirty Dances; Jury Weighs Death For Fort Hood Killer; Second Arrest In WWII Vet's Death; Sandusky Victims Reach Settlement; Dog-Fighting Ring Gets Busted; 8-Year-Old Shoots Elderly Caregiver; Interview with Rep. John Lewis

Aired August 26, 2013 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

The fire at Yosemite National Park so large it can be seen from space. How some camps are now being evacuated. We're going to tell you why this wildfire is also threatening San Francisco's water supply.

And snipers firing at U.N. inspectors who are looking for evidence of an alleged chemical attack that killed hundreds in Syria. The Pentagon sending four warships armed with cruise missiles.

Hundreds of dogs are seized. This is in the second largest dog fighting bust in U.S. history.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

We begin in California where a wildfire, this is the size of Chicago, has scorched thousands of acres around the western edge of Yosemite National Park. Now the U.S. Park Service says that more than 3,600 firefighters, they're now on the front lines. But this fire still only 15 percent contained. In fact, the fire, it's so big now that it can be seen from space.

I want to bring in Chad Myers. He's where -- here with us and Nick Valencia just outside Yosemite. Nick, let's start off with you. You see what's going on here. The fire, this is really a threat to the place of the park that's quite busy where you've got the campers and people who have been planning their vacations for quite some time.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is still about 30 or 40 miles away from Yosemite Valley, the heavily visited area of Yosemite National Park. But officials are very concerned at this hour. I just spoke to the U.S. and they say this fire is making an easterly push towards Hetchy (ph), that reservoir that carries about 85 percent of San Francisco's municipal power and a majority of its water.

Part of the reason why they're so concerned, hot spots like these. I'm not sure if you can see the smoke around me but let's bring you in here a little bit. And you can tell that the tree stump right here about a yard by a yard wide completely demolished and destroyed. The fire came through here probably days ago scorching this earth and turning all of it black. And just to juxtapose this, you look at this tree stump over here. It's still, you know, remaining but also completely damaged by the fire.

But another reason why they're so concerned right now, Suzanne, is it's just about 15 percent contained. And it's just in the last couple of days since we've been here, this fire has grown more than 30,000 acres. It still is, as I mentioned, a ways away from Yosemite Valley but is pushing easterly towards Yosemite National Park. And that's major concern for tourism and fire officials, the top priority --

MALVEAUX: Oh, lost Nick there. We're going to bring him back. I want to bring in Chad here because, Chad, when you talk about that fire being the size of Chicago, I mean, that is really unbelievable when you think about it there. I imagine that they will, at least at some point, have to warn folks that if they are planning vacation, a Labor Day vacation, they might have to cancel.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, obviously, it's all about wind direction. And the wind direction so far has been OK. The half dome, that big valley we all want to go to, is right there. The fire is not here yet. This is Monday. Here is Tuesday. Again, I'm going to make you Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And notice as it's growing toward the northeast, it's not growing this direction at least very quickly. You see a little bit of progression but not quick enough. I think that we're going to have to get everybody out of the valley. It is still growing though rapidly.

You know, I mean, we're talking just on Friday, it grew 60 square miles. I know we always talk about 100 this and 150 and that acres. People don't get a feel for 150,000 acres. You get a feel for the size of Chicago. You get a feel for the -- this, you know -- I mean, we're just talking about how many square miles it is out there.

What we see here in the fire is that it's burning into the granite area to the north. This is -- all the way up through here, this (INAUDIBLE), this is now going to be a little bit easier to fight because there are fewer trees up along the granite surfaces where you see all this green here. There's a lot of fire to fight this way in case that wind starts to make a charge off to the east.

Right now, the winds are decent, five, 10, 15 miles per hour, winds six miles per hour gusts to probably 10 or 15 later on today. But there is just literally no chance of any rain in the forecast. I just don't see it at all.

MALVEAUX: And, Chad, real quickly here. Two hundred miles away, state of emergency in San Francisco. How is that being impacted by the fire?

MYERS: Well, that's all part of the water system. And they -- obviously, there is power, too, being generated up there. When the rain and the wind and the snow gets up on top of the mountain, that actually has to run down with gravity and they use that for power and, obviously, they use it for drinking as well. And if you start to put ash or you start to get lines (ph) in the way or fires in the way of those high-tension power lines, then all of a sudden they have to start shutting things down. And those people of San Francisco are obviously worried about that and watching it very closely because this is a major source for everything for them, power and water.

MALVEAUX: All right, Chad. We're watching it closely as well. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: U.N. inspectors appeared to have reached one of these areas of an alleged chemical attack in Syria. That is after sniper fire hit one of their vehicles forcing a delay in this inspection here. Now, both government rebels leaders had agreed to grant these inspectors full access to the neighborhood where the rebels say that government forces killed hundreds of people in a nerve gas attack.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad today repeated his denials that his army had anything to do with the use of poison gas saying, quote, "the area of the claimed attack is in continuity with the Syrian army positions." So, how is it possible that any country would use chemical weapons in an area where its own forces are located? The question now, was it too late for U.N. inspectors to verify whether or not those chemical weapons were used and who was responsible?

I want to bring in our Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence with a report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bombs are falling, the accusations flying. Now, the pressure is on President Obama to defend his red line on chemical weapons which rebels claim killed more than a thousand people in Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we cannot sit still. We've got to move and we've got to move quickly.

LAWRENCE: U.S. and British officials claim Syrian forces shelled the site of Wednesday's attack so much it corrupted any evidence the U.N. might find this week. A U.S. official tells CNN behind the scenes multiple international sources have already collected evidence from that site. The official says the sources took tissue samples and other evidence shortly after the attack. And it was being analyzed in secure locations.

That's why the White House tone changed so quickly from Friday's get the inspectors in to Sunday's it's too late to be credible. And it's why an administration official sounded so confident in saying there is little doubt, at this point, that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians.

The president's newly updated options include cruise missiles launched from one of four Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea or jets firing weapons from outside Syrian air space.

CHUCK HAGEL, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: And we are prepared to exercise whatever option if he decides to employ one of those options.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: Chris Lawrence joins us from the Pentagon. So, Chris, tell us what some of the options are that the president is considering right now.

LAWRENCE (live): Right now, Suzanne, some of the potential targets include command bunkers in the actual delivery systems for weapons such as artillery batteries or even missile launchers. On a next level, it could go so as far -- go as far as some of the training grounds where Assad trains militias or even some of the ground bases that support military operations. But all in all, I am told these are very limited options that are looking to deter future chemical weapons attacks not in any way to try to overthrow the Assad regime.

MALVEAUX: We have actually heard Russian officials and the foreign minister as well comparing these allegations of chemical weapons in Syria to the claims that the United States made before about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So, Russia's claim here, does -- their opinion, does it carry weight when it comes to the international community and how they are going to deal with Syria in the days ahead?

LAWRENCE: Only really in the sense of you will not get a mandate from the United Nations Security Council because Russia would not allow that. And, legally, there's really only two ways to go at this. Either it's got to be self-defense which it doesn't apply here or you've got to have that mandate. And so, really, without that, what it does is take it from the legal realm to the moral realm and put it more squarely in the realm of what happened in Kosovo where this coalition of countries figured that going in and acting would do more good than harm and that's sort of the moral justification rather than a strictly legal one that you would get through a U.N. mandate.

MALVEAUX: And real quick here, Chris, we know that there are four warships that have been moved into the area. How soon could we see some sort of response, some sort of action from the United States? Are we talking about days or weeks or months?

LAWRENCE: All signs seem to be pointing that it's going to come relatively soon. If you listen to what some of the foreign ministers from France and the United Kingdom are saying, it seems to be building towards some sort of action. But all these military options depend on the president. Ultimately, that's what they are. They're options. It's the president who has to weigh the risk and then ask the military to, you know, draw up a --

MALVEAUX: Sure.

LAWRENCE: -- firm option. And at that point is when they will start assigning a unit or coming up with a detailed plan.

MALVEAUX: All right. Chris, thank you, appreciate it.

Here is more of what we're working on. More than 300 dogs found emaciated, part of a multi-state dog fighting ring that was busted. We're going to tell you what else investigators found. Congressman John Lewis tells a crowd gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, that the fight for equal rights is not over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot give up. We cannot give out. We cannot give in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Lewis was the youngest speaker during the 1963 Civil Rights March, and we're going to speak with him about what the movement still needs to accomplish.

And Miley Cyrus causing a lot of blushing last night at the VMA awards. The dirty dance went far beyond Lady Gaga's. Why parents are now kind of angry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: A military jury is beginning the sentencing phase for U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan. He could face death for the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. Now, Hasan who represented himself admitted in court that he killed 13 people and wounded 32 others. Now, if Hasan is given the death penalty, he would be the first put to death by a military court since in 1960s.

Police in Spokane, Washington has arrested a second suspect, this in last week's beating death, this is a World War II veteran here. Kenan Adams-Kinard is charged with first-degree murder and robbery. He is one of two 16-year-olds who police say brutally beat 88-year-old Delbert Belton during a botched robbery that happened on Wednesday night. Now, police say that race was not a motive in this attack.

And seven victims have settled lawsuits against Penn State. This is over the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case. They include Sandusky's adopted son. Sandusky, the university's former assistant football coach was convicted last year and is serving at least 30 years for child sex abuse.

Now, Penn State is facing some 30 lawsuits related to his case. The amounts of the settlements, they are being kept confidential. But some victims say, they are going to bare scars for the rest of their lives. One man known as victim number seven says, quote, despite the settlements, my life will never feel back to normal. If I had the power to go back in time and not ever meet Jerry Sandusky, I wouldn't hesitate.

And hundreds of dogs rescued. Almost a dozen people now under arrest for what might have been the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history. Now, this happened on Friday. Our David Mattingly is here with the details. And tell us -- tell us how they discovered and what they actually found.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're not giving any details about how they were -- got into this. If it was some sort of undercover work or if they had some sort of insight or informer. But they rescued 367 dogs, and the federal authorities talking about it today, in Alabama. And the way they found them, there was one location where they had 114 of these dogs and it was described by people who were there as these dogs were being chained outside in the hot sun, very deplorable conditions. Listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RICKEY, ASPCA INVESTIGATOR: The conditions that we found on these properties were consistent with what we've seen in other dog fighting operations throughout the country. We commonly see animals that are kept in deplorable conditions. Tethered to heavy log chains in middle of the wooded areas and open fields. Dogs that often have scars and other animal fighting paraphernalia that is indicative of illegal animal fighting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: That's 367 dogs. Not even close to the record which was over 500 from one raid. In this raid they arrested ten men, seven of them from Alabama. It's more than just dog fighting is what federal authorities were describing the way they were going after this. Because it such a big money operation. Now, those ten men are going to be facing charges about dog fighting, but the federal authorities also seized a half million dollars from those men. They're saying these men were betting anywhere between 5 and $200,000 on a single dog fight.

MALVEAUX: This is big business for these guys. What happens to these dogs now that they've discovered them? I imagine they're in pretty poor shape. Will they offer them to people to adopt or take care of them?

MATTINGLY: That's a bit down the road. Right now, these dogs are evidence. They're actually going to be doing DNA testing on them to find out if they have ant offspring or relatives in other states at other dog operations just to see how far out these operations extend.

MALVEAUX: Do they think they can save the dogs or does it look like some are in that bad shape?

MATTINGLY: We were looking at the pictures. We saw the ASPCA people carrying them out. Some of them were wagging their tails and seem to be in good spirits as the dogs were being taken out. Some look like they are in good shape. But you know, if they are bred for fighting they have scars on the inside as well as outside.

MALVEAUX: All right, David thank you. Appreciate that. We'll take a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Children, video games, violence. Is this a deadly mix? With that issue back in the forefront after this tragic shooting. This happened in Louisiana. The shooter was an 8-year-old boy, rather, and the victim, his 87-year-old care giver. Police say he killed her with the woman's own gun. This happened on Thursday. And Sara Sidner, she tells us how it all unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A neighborhood is stunned after investigators say an 8-year-old shot and killed his 87-year-old care giver Marie Smothers.

GERALS METHVIN, OWNER, COUNTRY BREEZE TRAILER PARK: It's a shock to me as much as anyone else because everything's been so peaceful.

SIDNER: The little boy told sheriff's deputies it was an accident, but in statement to the media the sheriff's department said their evidence, quote, "has led investigators to believe the 8-year-old juvenile intentionally shot Mrs. Smothers in the back of the head as she sat in her living room watching television." Police say the boy pulled the trigger minutes after playing the very popular and very violent video game, Grand Theft Auto 4, which awards points for killing people.

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST/ATTORNEY: In this particular instance the direct correlation of the video game playing during the shooting and even still on the television when police arrived cannot be overlooked. Can you conclusively say it caused him to shoot? We don't know. There's too many variables that work in a child's mind.

SIDNER: Videogame makers say it's unfair and unjustified to blame this tragedy on a game. A statement sent to CNN by the makers of Grand Theft Auto said, this is about access to guns, not video games, and ascribing a connection to entertainment, a theory that's been disproven repeatedly by multiple independent studies both minimizes this moment and sidesteps the real issues at hand.

Sara Sidner CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: The boy will not face charges even though police say they believe the shooting was intentional, but under Louisiana law a child under ten is exempt from criminal responsibility.

This past weekend thousands filled the National Mall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis was one of the speakers just as he was 50 years ago on the day that Martin Luther King Jr. have his I Have A Dream speech. We'll talk to him about what today's civil rights mission is all about. T

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: An Ohio hospital is fighting a legal battle. This is with an Amish couple. This is a case which could mean life or death for a 10-year-old girl. Now, this girl is fighting leukemia and her parents initially allowed chemotherapy. After six weeks they ordered the doctors to stop. The girl begged them to end this because she had horrible side effects. The parents are looking into natural and herbal medicines instead. Doctors say, however, she's going to die without chemotherapy. The hospital filed a lawsuit seeking emergency guardianship over this child. Now, last month a judge denied and the application. The hospital is now appealing.

President Obama says that he is inviting Antoinette Tuff to the White House. She is the bookkeeper, you might recall, she being called a hero. She took a call from the president in our studios just last week. And last Tuesday, she was the one who talked down that gunman at the Atlanta area school. She is also getting accolades from her home church, and on Sunday her congregation they praised her. And her congressman proclaimed the day in her honor. The pastor said that Tuff was a hero because she was living home grown values.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR ULYSSES TUFF: THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE CHRISTIAN CENTER: Someone just doing ordinary day job and never giving any thought with trying to make a statement to the world. For that to happen, she became the reality of what we teach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The suspect, Michael Hill, was armed with an AK-47, 500 rounds of ammunition when he entered the school and held hostage. She was able to calm him down and get him to surrender to police. It was extraordinary exchange.

Wednesday, marking the 50th anniversary of the famous march on Washington back in 1963. These iconic images recall the event that attracted more than 200,000 people to the nation's capital. This was the hallmark of the civil rights movement where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have A Dream speech.

Now, the youngest to speak that day was the man in the middle there, a 23-year-old Baptist theology student from Alabama names John Lewis. Fast forward, 50 years. He's Congressman John Lewis walking in front of the marches. He lives in Atlanta. He's been in Congress since 1987. Saturday, he rallied thousands who came to the National Mall to remember that march 50 years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GEORGIA: All of us, it doesn't matter whether we're black or white, Latino, Asian American, or Native American. It doesn't matter whether we're straight or gay, we're one people, we're one family. We're one house. We all live in the same house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Congressman Lewis was the last living speaker from the march. He's joining us from Washington.

Congressman, it is so nice to have you here with us. I really appreciate it. Heard a lot of people, got a lot of pictures and tweets from that Saturday event. My sister, many friends who had gathered there. Tell us what that moment was like when you saw sea of people on Saturday some 50 years later.

LEWIS: Thank you for having me today. It was unbelievable. It reminded me of 50 years ago when we came to Washington and I just kept wishing that Martin Luther King Jr. and the other eight participants, other eight leaders and the so-called big six could have been there. It was moving to see so many young people, see families, with their children, and grandparents with their grand children there. They all wanted to be there to share and participate in the moment.

MALVEAUX: You were close to Dr. King. When Dr. King looks at today, if you can imagine, do you think he would believe we were in the right place at a good place when it comes to race relations?

LEWIS: Martin Luther King Jr. would be very pleased that we come to this point in our history. He would be gratified to see first of all that we have an African American in the White House, and to see more members in the Congress that are minorities.