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Wildfires Rages in California; U.N. Weapons Inspectors Fired on in Syria; Boy Shoots Caregiver After Playing Violent Video Game; Ohio Hospital Fights to Give Amish Girl Chemotherapy

Aired August 26, 2013 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little nerve wracking when they come knocking on my door because this is new for us. I just wanted to get out.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The battle for Yosemite. An out of control wildfire burning thousands of acres inside the national park. Firefighters in a deadly fight. We're live on the ground.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Crossing the lines. The U.S. says there's little doubt Syria used chemical weapons. Now, there are growing calls for President Obama to fight back. We're live inside Syria.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Incredible! Justin Timberlake and N'Sync reunited, bringing down the house of the MTV Video Music Awards. And it was Miley Cyrus' R-rated dance moves, though, that really had jaws dropping.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: What you need to know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am totally convinced that, again, not for the first time, Bashar Assad has used chemical weapons.

ANNOUNCER: What you just have to see.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning to you. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Monday, August 26th, 7:00 in the East.

A lot going on this morning. Donald Trump sued to the tune of $40 million by the state of New York. The state's attorney general says Trump University is a bait and switch operation, a scam on thousands of students. We're going to talk exclusively to AG Eric Schneiderman about the case. And later, Donald Trump will respond live.

BOLDUAN: We want to hear that. Also ahead, Amanda Knox revealing that she is not going back to Italy for her new murder trial over the death of her British roommate. When she spoke with Chris earlier this year, she wasn't sure what she was going to do if this came up, but despite her decision, she may not be in the clear. Could she be forced to go back? We'll talk about it.

PEREIRA: Are you ready for five ounces of cuteness? We have it coming your way. Washington's baby panda makes its debut, and what a debut it is. Find out why this little guy gave zoo workers quite a scare this weekend.

CUOMO: First up here this morning breaking news from California. The rim fire has now burned through an area the size of Chicago, 144,000 acres. The fire is burning one of our most famous and important natural wonders, Yellowstone National Park, scorching 12,000 acres there already. Officials say they will do whatever they can to protect the Yosemite Valley. That's where the park's famous cliffs and waterfalls and giant sequoias that are thousands of years old, that's where all that is. Nick Valencia is tracking developments from California. Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. This massive fire has changed the lives and landscape of this community, and every day has been a challenge for these firefighters to keep it from growing.


VICKIE WRIGHT, U.S. FOREST SERVICES: It was astounding to see the power of what I witnessed earlier.

VALENCIA: It's one of the largest wildfires in California history, scorching nearly 150,000 acres of land and threatening than 4,500 homes and structures.

WRIGHT: So our main objectives now is structure protection, just making sure we keep everyone safe and we protect that part at all costs.

VALENCIA: Over 3,000 firefighters are now battling the rim fire. The massive blaze is threatening to destroy parts of the Yosemite National Park, already devouring 12,000 acres.

How does this one compare to others you fought?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is probably one of the worst ones that I have been on if not one of the more extreme fires that I've been on since 2001 since I started.

VALENCIA: The fire has threatened the ancient sequoia trees that grow in the park believed to be 2,000 years old. Government officials say containing this fire is the highest priority in the nation, but that is poses every challenge there can be. Meanwhile, evacuations continue.

SUSAN LOESON, RESIDENT: It was nerve wracking when they came knocking on my door because this is new to us. I have never been in an area where they have bad fires. So I just wanted to get out. When we came up here yesterday morning it was thick coming up through the valley. And then it cleared, to I thought maybe we are OK. So we are hoping.

VALENCIA: And more than 200 miles away San Francisco is also at risk. Power generators that feed things like cable cars and street lights in the city are threatened by the wildfire that shows no signs of stopping soon.


VALENCIA: Fire officials say they have made some progress. But Kate, with just seven percent containment, we are at the mercy of these extremely dry conditions fuelling the fire.

BOLDUAN: Basically Nick, thanks so much for that update. Let's get straight to Jennifer Delgado in for Indra Petersons tracking the forecast. So what are we looking at this morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. We are actually looking at better conditions for today to battle that rim fire. We are expecting winds to remain relatively calm. We are not seeing red flag warnings out there today.

As we look at the conditions for today, we are expecting a high of 77 today and 82 on Tuesday. Notice for yourself zero percent chance of rainfall today and winds 10-15 miles per hour. As we move into Tuesday we are going to have an increased chance of thunderstorm activity up to about 30 percent. And that means we could see lightning out there. That could lead to more of the wild fires spreading across parts of Yosemite. Guys, we'll send it back over to you.

BOLDUAN: Jennifer, thanks for that update.

CUOMO: We have breaking news out of Syria this morning. The U.N. says the car carrying their team of weapons inspectors was hit by sniper fire this morning. They are trying to determine conclusively whether a chemical attack took place in Damascus last week. We are covering all angles of this story with our Fred Pleitgen in Damascus and Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon. Chris, let's start with you.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the tone coming out of the White House changed so dramatically almost overnight. This morning we are getting new information from our sources and it is going a long way to explain how the U.S. could go from demanding access for those inspectors to basically saying it doesn't matter what they find.


LAWRENCE: 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 1,000 people in Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 airspace.

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


LAWRENCE: Some of the potential targets include command bunkers in the actual delivery systems for weapons. The president would have to weigh any risk of collateral damage including the possibility that a missile could get shot down by Syrian air defenses and how that might affect some of the civilians below. Kate?

BOLDUAN: A lot of option before them, but when they make the decision is the big question now. Chris, thank you very much.

As we mentioned just moments ago, there are reports that snipers have fired on a U.N. vehicle in Damascus. Let's get straight to CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is there. What are you hearing about this?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are trying to get the details of that incident, Kate. We heard it from a U.N. spokesperson who said that apparently one of the vehicles of the U.N. chemicals weapons inspectors, they have six vehicles in total, was apparently fired on. Judging from when they left from the hotel that they are staying at this must have happened in rebel controlled territory. It is absolutely unclear who might have fired on them. Is this some rogue person trying to derail all of this? Of course, shortly before they left the area it was hit by a mortar. That was something that also held them back for a while.

The U.N. says apparently the inspectors are going to replace that vehicle and head back into the area. That means they will head back on the ground and also try to conduct the investigation where, of course, they are going to try and find out what exactly that chemical agent might have been used and what sort of delivery system might have been used, an artillery shell or something else. The Assad regime saying it had nothing to do with all of this and if America intervenes it would be, quote, "a mistake." Chris? CUOMO: Thanks for the reporting.

There's no question the situation on the ground is moving very quickly and pressure is mounting and has changed the posture of Washington. Remember, the president took a very measured tone when we spoke last week, but even then he hinted change would be coming.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't expect cooperation given their past history. And, you know, what I do believe is that although the situation in Syria is very difficult and the notion that the U.S. could somehow solve what is a sectarian, complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated.

CUOMO: But delay can be deadly.

OBAMA: But there is no doubt when you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale that is very troublesome. This is something that is going to require America's attention and hopefully the entire international community's attention.

CUOMO: The red line comment you made was about a year ago this week. We know there are things that qualify for crossing that red line.

OBAMA: Chris, I have got to say this. When we take action -- let's take the example of Syria. There are rules of international law. If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it. Do we have the coalition to make it work? And, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.

CUOMO: Do you believe this is enough?

OBAMA: This latest event is something we have to take a look at. Keep in mind, also, Chris, because I know the American people keep this in mind, we have a war still going on in Afghanistan.

CUOMO: Is there a shorter time frame now in terms of what the U.S. can use as a period of decision in Syria and Egypt?


CUOMO: It's a more abbreviated timeframe now?



CUOMO: The interview got tremendous pick-up all over the world because it seemed like the president wasn't just making a series of suggestions. It sounded like a strategy. Now what we see in Syria is the steps outlined in the interview seem to be taking place. You have the U.N. going on and the coalition forming. The question now is what will be the direction that coalition takes? BOLDUAN: And what position will Russia take I think is also an interesting point to find out, which we don't know. They have consistently been on the side of most of our allies.

Very troubling story out of Louisiana. An eight-year-old boy accused of shooting and killing his elderly caregiver allegedly after playing a violent video game. The case is sparking a powerful debate over whether those games are partly responsible. CNN's Sara Sidner is at the CNN Center in Atlanta with more on this, this morning. Good morning, Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this story is really creating a lot of soul-searching, especially for parents. We are talking about an eight-year-old kid accused of killing his 87-year-old caregiver. This is bringing up a lot of hot button issues, including gun control and the fact that police say the little boy just minutes before the shooting was playing a very violent video game.


SIDNER: A neighborhood is stunned after investigators say an eight- year-old shot and killed his 87-year-old caregiver, Maurice Smothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a shock to me as much as everyone else.

SIDNER: The little boy told sheriff's deputies it was an accident. But in a statement to the media, the sheriff's department said their evidence "has led investigators to believe the eight-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 was playing minutes after playing the very popular and very violent video game "Grand Theft Auto 4," which awards points for killing people.

DR. 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 are simply too many variables that work in a child's mind.

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

SIDNER: The one big thing we all don't know, police say they really don't know what the motive is. This child had what they feel like was a loving and normal relationship with his caregiver. And we do know this, in Louisiana any child under the age of 10 is not deemed criminally responsible but the child could end up in some sort of juvenile court.

BOLDUAN: Sara Sidner, thanks for that update. With an eight-year-old boy you may never know the motive. CUOMO: A lot of news this morning, so let's get right to Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, making news, a military jury about to start deciding if convicted Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan should be given the death sentence for the 2009 massacre. Then panel of 13 senior officers expected to hear two or three days of testimony in open court before deciding on Hasan's fate.

Engine trouble forcing an American Airlines plane to make an emergency landing in Little Rock, Arkansas. American Flights 1111 headed from Charlotte to Dallas Sunday when one of its engines gave out after takeoff. The jet landed safely with 135 people on board. In the meantime pilots on a Delta flight reported smoke and fumes in their cockpit forcing an emergency landing in Montgomery, Alabama. Fire officials on the ground determined there was no danger.

It's good to be a Supreme Court justice. An 80-year-old Ruth Ginsburg says she has no plans to retire form the high court. Ginsburg is telling the "New York Times" she is in good health after surviving two bouts with cancer. She intends to keep working as long as she can do the job full steam. Ginsburg describes the current court as one of the most activist in history.

More J.D. Salinger books are reportedly on the way. A new biography and film out next week claim the "Cather in the Rye" novelists was working on at least five book before he died in 2010 and instructed his estate to begin releasing them in 2015. One of them focuses on "Catcher" protagonist Holden Caulfield and his family, another would feature the Glass family from "Franny and Zooey."

And finally, sometimes bravery comes in small packages. Here is a look at some very sharp children who despite being home with no adults had the courage to dial 911 as intruders were ransacking their homes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, what is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are some people in our house.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you in the home by yourself?

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

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

PEREIRA: Gianna Brian hid with her 11-year-old sister while the burglars made off with a laptop and a 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 am very proud of them both. Gianna was super for thinking real quick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't feel brave. I felt like scared because what if they busted down the door.

PEREIRA: Gianna ultimately gave the dispatcher vital information that led to the arrest of two suspects. 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 into my house. They just broke the window now.

PEREIRA: You can hear the fear in Dion Murcock's (ph) voice as he hides, terrified in a closet.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay, just stay there. The officers think they're going to catch the guy, okay?

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

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

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


PEREIRA: Quick thinking indeed. Dion's mother was actually out trying to find their family a new place to live. She said she thought her son would be safe while she was gone, and thanks to his quick thinking he was safe. How terrifying to think they are huddled there in darkness hoping help comes quickly and it did.

CUOMO: They did the right thing. Teach your kids get to a safe place, call 911 and they did that.


BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY an Ohio hospital is in court. They want a 10-year-old Amish girl to stay on chemotherapy, receiving chemotherapy as she is battling leukemia. Her parents want to try other forms of therapy. Can a hospital force her?

CUOMO: And Amanda Knox's nightmare has come true. She is being tried again for murder in Italy. She says she is not going, but what will Italy have to say about that if anything? We will hear from Amanda straight ahead.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. An Ohio hospital is fighting in court to force a 10-year-old girl, an Amish girl, to continue receiving chemotherapy treatments. The girl is fighting leukemia, but asked to stop treatments because, in her view, of the horrible side effects. Her parents are looking into natural herbal medicines instead of the more traditional treatments that the hospital wants. The hospital now wants an attorney to get limited medical guardianship over the child in order to resume her chemotherapy. Joining me now is the chief medical officer of the Akron Children's Hospital, Dr. Robert McGregor to talk more about this. This is a tough case for everyone involved, doctor. I'm sure you agree. First off, let me ask you, what is this little girl facing?

DR. ROBERT MCGREGOR, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, AKRON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: This little girl with treatment that would be continuous from the time she presented, she has an 85 percent chance of five-year survival. It is an excellent prognosis for a tough disease.

BOLDUAN: Without treatment, though, how much time does she have?

MCGREGOR: Well, that would be tough to say because she only started her initial therapy and then had a break for two months. At this point we don't know to what extent the disease has become more aggressive, or whether we really did get a little bit of a stall with the first round of chemotherapy.

BOLDUAN: I think this leaves a lot of people scratching their heads. Everyone involved wants the best for this little girl. They want her to be better, but this has really put the hospital and her parents at odds and it's led to court now. The court has ruled once in favor of the family saying they have power over her medical decisions. Now the hospital will be appealing. How did it get to this point?

MCGREGOR: I think we started therapy and the child did have some side effects, which would be certainly expected. And then the decision initially was they wanted to have additional complimentary medicine, which is something that we would certainly be supportive of. And then the decision shifted that it would be only using the alternative medicine, or the herbal medicine which has no evidence to support success.

BOLDUAN: I assume that the hospital laid this out to the family?

MCGREGOR: Absolutely. In fact, we take this very seriously. We do respect the family's wishes, and do think that they really do think they have the best interest of their child. We met with our ethics committee on three different occasions and had members of my ethics committee meet with the family individually to make sure that we were communicating adequately and we understood what their barriers were and they understood what we were saying, and we did realize that we had agreed to disagree. That is why we decided at this point we really needed to advocate. We felt there was a moral and legal obligation to advocate for this child who has an 85 percent chance of a great outcome. BOLDUAN: So this -- the family is Amish. There is a large Amish community in Ohio. What role, if any, do you think religion plays into the family's decision?

MCGREGOR: Well, early on, that wasn't mentioned. In one of the recent legal courtroom settings, that was mentioned. However, we treat -- we have at least ten or 11 other children from the Amish community right now in active chemotherapy. We have one of the largest hemophilia centers treating Amish children in the country. So we've got a very nice relationship with the Amish community, and we really do respect their culture and have open dialogue. So, I think it certainly is a fact in the case. I don't think it was a major role at least not early on.

BOLDUAN: Time means everything to this little girl and anyone who is suffering from a life threatening disease. Where do things go from here? I understand there is a court meeting at least this week. But how is this likely to turn out?

MCGREGOR: Well, I wish I could tell you that. I would like to say it will have a positive outcome and this little girl will resume chemotherapy and five years from now will have a celebration that she is doing great. I do have concerns. The court-appointed guardianship, I just want to clarify, is not somebody from our institution. This is an outside person has a medical background and is also an attorney at one of the local medial schools, who has advocated for families and children before.

Our goal was not to remove this child ever. That was never part of our agenda to ever involve removing the child. We think the family is very loving and caring. What we wanted though, was to have a neutral or a second opinion to help the family understand and navigate the medical decision making. So that was really a limited guardianship is what we were asking for. And that is what the appeals court as we have gone back to them has said that we should resume chemotherapy until this decision has returned in August, at the end of August.

BOLDUAN: We will sit and wait hopefully in time to see what the decision is by the court, and how this all turns out. Hopefully everyone will be continuing to look out for the best interest of this little girl who desperately needs help.

MCGREGOR: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Dr. Robert McGregor, great to meet you. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, Kate. Thank you very much. When we come back here on NEW DAY, Italy putting Amanda Knox on trial again. Her lawyer says she is not going. Can Italy force her to?

And the state of New York going after Donald Trump with a new lawsuit. Officials say Trump University was a scam. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is going to join us live, exclusively, to make the case.


CUOMO: Hope the morning is working out the way you want. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Monday, August 26. Coming up in the show, Amanda Knox. Turns out that she's going to be retried for murder.