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West Virginian Governor Proposes New Legislation To Try To Prevent Another Chemical Leak; Syrian Defector Shows Horrific Incarceration Images To War Crimes Panel; Japanese Dolphin Hunting Brought To The Forefront; After "The Cove"; When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong?; Cool Runnings II?

Aired January 20, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The governor of West Virginia legislation is proposing new legislation to try to prevent another chemical leak that plagued much of the state's drinking water for a week-and-a-half, a regulation would regulate above ground storage tanks, requiring them to meet safety standards and for written plans to be in place in case of emergencies. Like, for instance, a contaminant getting into a water supply. Earlier this month, a chemical from an old 35,000-gallon storage tank belonging to Freedom Industries leaked into West Virginia's Elk River, contaminating the water for more than 300,000 people.

He was the hero that Gotham City deserved. He had the costume, he had the Batmobile. In fact, the only thing Batkid Miles Scott didn't have was Bruce Wayne's bank account to pay for this all. But now, that's not going to be a problem. You may remember that the Make-A-Wish foundation transformed San Francisco into Gotham City back in November to fulfill a wish for Miles, who was a five-year-old leukemia patient. More than 14,000 people filled the streets to cheer Batkid on as he saved the city from the Riddler and the Penguin. Darn that Penguin!

Staging all that action, however, came with a price tag of more than $100,000. But now it's all covered, thanks to a charity group, the Jon and Marsha Goldman Foundation. Jon Goldman tells the "San Francisco Chronicle" that the Make-A-Wish Foundation, quote, "should not have to pay for such a good deed." Thank you to the Goldmans.

When we come back, shocking new photos that look like something out of the Holocaust. But these are from inside Syria today. Who's responsible?

Plus, babies ripped from their mothers; others killed for food. Still, some are defending the dolphin hunt as a local tradition. But now Caroline Kennedy is diving into the controversy. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

A world exclusive, breaking now from inside Syria: a defector from the Syrian government has provided thousands of images to a team of internationally renowned war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts, showing them just what exactly is going on inside the prisons there in Syria. And if true, well, it's horrific. We must warn you, we're about to show you some graphic images. So if you have children in the room, you may want to have them look away.

This is one of the photos taken by the defector, claiming to be a prisoner tortured by the Syrian government. It's unclear who this prisoner is, but obviously a devastating image. It shows how dire things have gotten as the civil war rages on.


TAPPER: And joining me now is CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, great to see you as always. So you and "The Guardian" got this exclusive on this report that claims to have evidence that the Assad regime is torturing prisoners. Tell us exactly what you have.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, listen, we've been reporting for years on the mounting 100,00-plus casualties on the battlefield. So, this evidence is the first that shows that there is, according to the defector, systematic torture and killing of prisoners. So in a controlled environment, the panel is made up of very distinguished jurists who have been associated with U.N. war crime tribunals. A very distinguished forensic scientist, both American and British.

And I asked them to go through the images of what they have seen. For instance, figure number one shows a horribly emaciated figure. As one of the panelists said to me, this is Belsen, referring of course to one of Nazi death camps during World War II.


DR. STUART HAMILTON, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: This is, in essence, a person who has been starved. You can see, quite clearly, how prominent the ribs are, the loss of muscle mass. This is not just somebody who is thin or maybe who hasn't had enough food because there's a war going on. This is somebody who has been really starved.


AMANPOUR: The other pictures show equally horrendous images. There's somewhere people have been absolutely beaten. I mean, their whole bodies, not just really thin, but they have been beaten and lacerations in their bodies.

Others show bodies who have been killed because of strangulation, and you can see with the ridged collar and it's left distinctive marks on the neck. This is strangulation, according to the experts, other than hanging. So, it's incredibly, incredibly indicting and incriminating, and the jurists say that they are convinced that this would stand up in a court of law or any kind of tribunal and would provide evidence of crimes against humanity.

TAPPER: Christiane, of course, we're at a period right now where the international community is pressing forward with attempted peace talks. Syrian president Bashar al Assad in an interview that aired on Syrian TV said he's ready to run for another term. Take a listen.


BASHAR AL ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT (via translator): If there was public desire, a public mode that wants me to run for another term, then I will not hesitate for a second to make that step. In other words, we can say that there are big chances that I will run for another term.


TAPPER: Big chances that he will run for another term. Christiane, can peace talks succeed if he's talking about running again?

AMANPOUR: Well not really, precisely because that completely violates the spirit and the letter of Geneva One, which is that there must be a move towards a transition that sees President Assad departing and leaving office and leaving power.

Now, it's in threat and jeopardy for other reasons as well. Huge, you know, utter disarray because of the U.N. inviting Iran to the talks, the opposition really upset, the U.S. is really upset. But beyond that, Jake, even before all of this, many people who I've spoken to say they don't feel there's any possibility of a political resolution at this time.

TAPPER: Christiane, you mentioned Iran. Iran today has been suspending high-level uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. This is, of course, part of this interim deal. What do you see as the chance for a long-term deal?

AMANPOUR: Everybody has said that's going to be the really difficult one because it's going to necessitate much more, you know, giving up from both sides, from both the United States and from Iran.

However, many people are encouraged that this interim deal is and appears to be proceeding as it has been signed, sealed, and delivered. And that is a good thing. Obviously whether it's implemented or not. As you know very well, being in Washington there's a lot of opposition for members of Congress, not to mention in Israel as well who believe the Iranians are not, you know, playing real ball, that this is all just a sham.

But of course, many in Iran feel the United States is also not necessarily there to be trusted and that it may all fail because of the United States. So right now, Rouhani has his ducks in a row. The hard liners are on side because he's managed to convince the supreme leader. So far, so good. The hard work is going to come when they start negotiating the long-term deal.

TAPPER: Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: Thanks, Jake.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD, dolphins desperate for an escape as the clock counts down to the hours to their slaughter. We'll tell you why the Japanese government says dolphin hunting is okay.

Plus, they barely have winter, but they do have Winter Olympic dreams. The Jamaican bobsled team wants to compete in Sochi, but first, they need the Internet to help.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Now it's time for the Buried Lead. These are stories we think are not getting enough attention. They are among the most intelligent beings on the planet, and right now more than 200 dolphins are trapped in a cove in southwest Japan where they've had nothing to eat for more than three days.

You're watching now footage from a live stream provided by the marine group Sea Sheppard Conservation Society. The group says many of these animals will likely be slaughtered tomorrow. Others will be sold into captivity at marine parks and aquariums around the world. It's all part of an annual event, the Taigi (ph) dolphin hunting season. The Japanese have long defended the practice as a local custom no different than the slaughter of any other animal, any other meat.

But Caroline Kennedy, the recently installed U.S. ambassador to Japan, recently tweeted she's deeply concerned by the inhumaness of drive hunt dolphin killing. She's not alone in her apprehension. In 2009, the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" documented the hunt through use of hidden cameras. Well, that film sparked an uproar.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen so many dolphins before. The Japanese people don't even know about it. They say if the world find out what goes on here, we'll be shut down.


TAPPER: Joining me now is Louie Psihovos, director of "The Cove" -- Academy-award winning director of "The Cove" and executive director of the Oceanic Preservation Society. Louie, good to see you. Thank you for joining us. One of these dolphins, the one possibly who has captured the world's heart the most, is this baby dolphin, an albino being called Angel. Tell us about that animal and the impact it's having for your cause.

LOUIE PSIHOVOS, DIRECTOR, "THE COVE": Well, it's a 1-year-old female dolphin, it's actually a calf. It was still being nursed by its mother. The mother actually committed suicide. It spent about six or seven minutes looking for its calf and it was doing spy hopping where it was coming out and looking and after six or seven minutes, it got too stressed and swam to the bottom of the cove and committed suicide.

That's typically what these animals do when they get severely stressed. This animal is doomed to a life of captivity. It's become part of a freak show. It's a very rare dolphin, but this animal who is being taught how to feed is being forced to do tricks for human amusement. It's a travesty, really.

TAPPER: For those who are not familiar with the opposition to what's going on there, explain why the U.S. ambassador, Caroline Kennedy, explain why you are opposed to what is going on. Why this is different from any fisherman doing their job.

PSIHOVOS: Well, it's morally reprehensible, almost on every level. The fishermen claim that they are using it for food. They issued a statement today that it is used to feed their grandmothers and their poor families. None of the fishermen there are poor, by any stretch of the imagination, and this meat that they are using is toxic.

We've had it looked at and measured former mercury. It -- some of it has 2,000 more times mercury allowed by Japanese law. This meat that they are feeding to their mothers, grandmothers and children is poison. So on that level, it's morally reprehensible, but these animals are sentient, intelligent.

They have bigger brains than humans and they have more neurons that are associated with complex emotions than, say, they hang out with their mother sometimes for life. This animal is ripped away from its mother at 1 year old to do tricks for the SeaWorlds of the world. So to me it's just -- it's a travesty on every level.

TAPPER: When your film came out, it sparked enormous outrage and concern in the West, celebrities, filmed, public service announcements in support of the cause. It felt like the start of a movement, but what's happened since then to stop or slow this practice?

PSIHOVOS: Well, there's been several countries that have now banned the import of wild dolphins for dolphin shows. Hopefully America is right on the heels. You know, SeaWorld in Georgia are trying to incorporate beluga whales and were caught very much the same way as the animals in the cove

And also our film helped in a way spawn the blackfish, which was an amazing movie that's been on your network and airing. I think we're coming up against this tipping point. You need about 16 percent of the population to really swing to the other side and we're reaching that now where people are now aware that these animals don't belong in captivity.

That they are extremely stressed and what you're actually watching when you're seeing a dolphin show is a spectacle of dominance you're not seeing education, you're seeing animals being tortured. They are -- food is being withheld so they can do those tricks for human amusement. They belong out in the wild, not at some concrete theme park.

TAPPER: Louie, lastly, how culpable is the west in this? These are, correct me if I'm wrong, but these are the same dolphins that appear in our zoos, our dolphin shows, right? PSIHOVOS: Well, SeaWorld has been trying to get dolphins as early as 2010. They claim that they haven't gotten any wild orca for 35 years, but are desperate to get animals from the wild to improve their breeding stock. In fact, they were a couple -- getting an animal called morgan was off the coast of Netherlands and now want to use it for breeding stock but that's over in Laurel Park, over with other SeaWorld dolphins.

TAPPER: All right, Louie Psihoyos, thank you so much.


TAPPER: Coming up next, he stole the spotlight from Peyton Manning and they didn't even play in the same game. Why everyone is talking about Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman after his epic sideline interview.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Sports Lead now that the Super Bowl matchup is set, we can all breathe a little easier and focus our attention on guessing how many Budweiser commercials will get bombarded with during the game. The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are headed to New Jersey in two weeks to battle it out for a Lombardi trophy.

It's a match up that comes with more storylines than an episode of "Guiding Light." You have the number one defense versus the top offense in the league not to mention Bronco's quarterback, Peyton Manning's ultimate quest for redemption. There's this guy, whose name you may not have heard of unless you follow football, Seahawk's cornerback, Richard Sherman. He put on quite a show both during and after his team's NFS championship victory over the San Francisco 49ers last night.


RICHARD SHERMAN, CORNERBACK, SEAHAWKS: I'm the best one in the game. When you receive an assault like crab tree, that's what you're going to get. Don't you ever talk about me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one is talking about me.

SHERMAN: Crabtree. Don't you open up your mouth about the best.


TAPPER: You're going to forgive me, I am going to talk about you right now, Mr. Sherman. He's no stranger to trash talk and Kanye West-esqe levels of self praise, but that particularly rant was almost instantly hailed as epic in social media for better and for worse. In a later, much calmer news conference, Sherman tried to clear up the emotion behind his rant and offered an apology to reporter, Erin Andrews.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERMAN: Wherever you are, I'm sorry. I was talking about crabtree. He's a mediocre receiver, mediocre. And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that's what happens game.


TAPPER: Reaction to Sherman seems to be split between two camps, those who find his brass and classless, and those who think he is bringing a much needed level of passion and bravado to the game. Let's face it. He's not the first sports figure to let his post-game emotions get the best of him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you in such a bad mood?

MIKE DITKA, FORMER HEAD COACH, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: What do you care? OK, you would be in a bad mood, too, if you were 2-7. What's next?

MIKE GUNOT, FORMER HEAD COACH, OSU COWBOYS: If you want to go after an athlete, one of my athletes, you go after one that doesn't do the right thing. You don't downgrade him because he does everything right and may not play as well on Saturday and you let us make that decision. That's why I don't read the newspaper because it's garbage. Come after me. I'm a man. I'm 40.

DENNIS GREEN, FORMER HEAD COACH, ARIZONA CARDINALS: The Bears are who we thought they were! That's why we took the damn field. Now, if you want to crown them, then crown -- but they are who we thought they were and we let them off the hook.


TAPPER: For more on Sherman's march to notoriety, we want to bring in "Washington Post" columnist, Clinton Yates, what's your take on this? Do you think Mr. Sherman crossed a line in any way or?

CLINTON YATES, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": This was easily my favorite moment of the NFL season. People want to complain that guys always are boring in press conferences and they are kind of useless, but this was great. I mean, the guy is screaming directly into the camera and straight out of WWE. You cannot ask more of your fan of sports.

TAPPER: Do you think -- I know he's a communications major at Stanford. How much do you think this was him excited, pumped up, he had just deflected a pass and, you know, he was so excited he had just won versus a little showmanship?

YATES: Well, either way, that's great. That's what I'm saying. He made the biggest play of his life and the biggest spot of his life to get to the biggest point of his career. It doesn't matter whether or not it was calculated or not. What came out is one of the best things I've seen, again, in the NFL and I really want to commend him for not being vulgar. All he said was I'm better than that guy --

TAPPER: Right.

YATES: I just proved it. What you going to do about it?

TAPPER: No curses at all, looking at the camera. Social media exploded. A lot of people like you who loved it especially Seattle fans, but then there are plenty of folks are blasting him including former Indianapolis Coach Tony Dungy who said, quote, "Richard Sherman made the play to win it, but show a little class, Richard." What do you say to the people who say, look, this is not good sportsmanship, you just won. You don't have to like then insult a rival player?

YATES: I think that's totally bogus. This notion that somehow celebrating yourself in the conflict of athletics is classless to me, it makes absolutely no sense. You have got guys like Mohammad Ali. He is one of the greatest athletes in the world who are known for their ability to psychologically dominate opponents via what they said to them.

And Sherman is no different. This is the kind of guy where you can look at him and say, you know what, I like the way the guy approaches the game. I want my kid to be like Richard Sherman, who cares if he's yelling and screaming at a reporter. There's nothing inherently problematic with being loud in front of a camera.

TAPPER: He wasn't yelling at a reporter.

YATES: Yes, he was yelling in the vicinity of a reporter.

TAPPER: Right, at his opponent, exactly. The one other thing I want to ask you about there was a lot of racist directed at him. He commented on that in a column he wrote and then also this idea that he's a thug for what he did.

YATES: Right. Let me explain this. America, loud, screaming black men are not by default dangerous or thugs. It's as simple as that. These sorts of plantation politics that people allow to move into their mind set about everything permeates to society. You're not a thug because you have dreadlocks or you were loud or somebody was standing there who doesn't know what is going to happen next. I really don't appreciate it and I don't understand why somebody feels that way not because they are racist, but it's because this is the way that America works.

TAPPER: One thing that I think is indisputable is that he probably added about 10 million in viewership -- let's be honest, it's a mountain and pacific Super Bowl, but now there are lot of people who are going to be either rooting for him or against him from different parts of the country.

YATES: He added one fan and that fan is me.

TAPPER: All right, I think he added more than one. Thank you so much, Clinton Yates. Appreciate it, from the "Washington Post."

It has all the makings of a great sequel, a pair of underdogs from a poor tropical national overcoming adversity to triumph in the cold of the Russian winter if they could only find someone with the cash.

Ready? Feel the rhythm. We all know the story of the Jamaican bobsled team from the movie "Cool Runnings." Now the internet might help this year's team make it to Sochi. An online campaign started by total strangers on has raised close to $25,000 of 80 grand the team needs to get to the Olympics.

Over the weekend, Olympic officials announced the two-men Jamaican bobsled team qualified for the winter games, but they currently don't have the cash to cover equipment and travel costs.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page at for video, blogs, extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.