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THE SITUATION ROOM

Al-Assad "Is Killing Children"; Slaughter "Too Shocking to Ignore"; Iran's Role in Syria Crackdown; Stunning Images of Syria Under Siege; Big Pentagon Move Puts Women Closer To Combat; Mortgage Deal Could Bring Billions In Relief; Deep Space Health Problem; FBI File Reveals Gripping Details of Steve Jobs' Life

Aired February 9, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, many more Syrians are slaughtered and we're told others are simply waiting for their turn to die. This hour, a new claim that the Bashar al-Assad is getting help in its brutal crackdown from Iran.

Plus, just when you may have thought this election year couldn't get any stranger here in the United States, stand by to see Nancy Pelosi's tongue-in-cheek ad attack on fake journalist, Stephen Colbert.

And a problem with astronauts' eyes could stop NASA from setting its sights on Mars. We have an exclusive report on an outer space mystery.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, the Syrian Army is tightening the noose on the besieged city of Homs. Opposition forces under attack for a fifth straight day. The shelling is relentless. The fear is constant. And the bodies are piling up.

Activists say 137 people were killed by government troops today alone, including 10 more children. Young Syrians are taking to the streets in protest, fearing this day will be their last.

An activist known as "Danny" has been posting videos documenting the terror and the carnage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY," SYRIAN ACTIVIST: This is one of the houses that got bombed. Look at these children. Is this how the Assad regime is supposed to treat our children?

Now you see what the Assad regime is killing children.

What is the U.N. going to do about this?

What is the U.N. going to do about this?

Nothing. They're going to sit and discuss and see what they're going to -- they want to do this peacefully. They want to do -- they want to solve it peacefully with this matter, after what they did to these children?

They've been hitting us from 6:00 a.m. until -- it's 2:00 p.m. now. We have over 100 bodies, over 200 underneath the destruction. We don't even know who they are. And this is only one area in Homs.

Look at the children

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

"DANNY": How can you stand and watch these children be like this?

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

"DANNY": This is Syria, Homs (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Syrians are risking their lives to make sure the world knows what's happening inside their country. The government has severely limited the access of international journalists.

CNN's Ivan Watson is working his sources from neighboring Turkey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Syrian military continued its deadly artillery assault on the besieged city of Homs on Thursday and claimed the lives, according to Syrian activists, of more than 100 people in a single day.

Among the scores and hundreds of people who have been wounded in the course of these days of rocket and mortar attacks were one Syrian activist who attracted international attention weeks ago, when he confronted international observers, Arab observers, and said they were not doing enough to protect civilian lives.

He has been wounded and issued a video appeal to the international community to come to the rescue of these beleaguered civilians. He also had harsh of defiance for the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

(VIDEO CLIP) WATSON: The Syrian regime is becoming increasingly isolated. The Libyan government announced that it had given Syrian diplomats 72 hours to leave Tripoli.

Meanwhile, the Syrian state news agency wrote a report, unconfirmed thus far, that its diplomats were attacked in Tripoli on Wednesday. Syrian diplomats have also been ordered out of other Gulf Arab countries over the course of the last week.

Meanwhile, the United Nations secretary-general has continued his harsh words of criticism for the Syrian government. He says that he has communicated with the secretary-general of the Arab League to possibly send in another group of Arab observers to Syria, perhaps joined with U.N. personnel.

But activists on the ground in Homs say they do not want more openers. They need the basic medical goods and supplies to treat the scores of wounded people there, one doctor telling us he doesn't even have antibiotics to treat the more than 100 wounded patients he received Thursday morning alone.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: And there's new reason to believe Bashar al-Assad is getting outside help to brutally destroy his opponents inside Syria. That help apparently coming from a rather ominous place, Iran.

Brian Todd is here.

He's been looking into this part of the story for us.

What are you seeing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this could be a very disturbing sign of just how far the Syrian regime is willing to go to crush this uprising.

We have reports that Iran, a key ally of Syria's, has sent one of its most accomplished and ruthless commanders to Damascus, to work some of his lethal tactics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: (voice-over): A crackdown that's brutal, relentless and possibly part of a frightening collaboration. The commander of Iran's notorious Quds Force has been inside Syria recently, according to various media outlets.

One report in "Haaretz" newspaper says he's even been inside the war room of Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, helping Assad direct his forces.

The Quds Force, the secretive lethal arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its leader a shadowy, ominous figure, General Qassam Suleimani.

(on camera): Concern among U.S. officials about Qassam Suleimani goes all the way to the top. Here at the Treasury Department, he's been cited more than once for his involvement in the repression of the Syrian people during this uprising and for taking part in terrorist plots.

(voice-over): Treasury officials say Suleimani oversaw the Quds Force officers involved in the alleged plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US. And analyst Matthew Levitt, who's written books about Iran's proxy in Lebanon, the terrorist group, Hezbollah, says Suleimani's imprint is on some well-known operations.

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: We have the attacks in Argentina. We have the attack in Khobar Towers. We have lots of surveillance of -- of U.S. officials and diplomatic installations.

TODD: Analysts say Qassam Suleimani is known as an aggressive commander. He's been called the sharp point the Iranian spear, a rising star since the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, when he led a series of daring missions behind Iraqi lines.

He is such a powerful figure now, experts say, that he reports directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, not to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the Syrian conflict...

(on camera): What could he bring to the Syrians that they don't already have?

LEVITT: We know that Iran, for example, provide -- provided Syria with the technical capability to follow Facebook and social media, to be able to see where the next protest was going to be.

We suspect and are concerned about the Quds Force providing training, and, in fact, the weapons for advanced snipers and stuff like that.

TODD: (voice-over): It was the Quds Force, analysts say, that played a key role in suppressing the 2009 Green Revolution inside Iran.

Why would Iran send such a key figure to Syria?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The loss of a strategic ally like Syria, like the Assad regime, would be a critical blow.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Analysts say that's because Syria is a key pipeline for weapons, supplies and trainers sent from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon and for similar aid to another group the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, Hamas. We called and e-mailed Syrian and Iranian representatives at the U.N. for a response to those reports of Qassam Suleimani being inside Syria.

We didn't hear back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we know from U.S. officials, they -- they believe that the same Quds Force that apparently is now in Syria undertook some notorious terrorist attacks against Americans in Iraq.

TODD: That's right. All those IED attacks in Iraq that killed so many Americans, U.S. officials have said that the Iraqi militants who did that got the components, they got the expertise, the -- the know-how about how to make the weapons and where to plant them, from Iran. And analysts say the Quds Force is very well-known for its expertise in that field.

BLITZER: Well, we know this Iranian-Syrian connection has been intense.

TODD: It's very strong.

BLITZER: Very important for Bashar al-Assad.

Thanks very much, Brian.

Let's talk a little bit more about Syria under siege right now.

Joining us is Rick Stengel, the managing editor of "Time" magazine.

In the new issue of "Time," Rick, you have some really remarkable photos documenting civilian casualties in Syria.

I want to put this first one up. And I want you to tell us how you managed to get these photos.

This is a Syrian man holding his wounded brother in a house that is used as a hospital in Baba Amr, a southern neighborhood outside of Homs.

But walk us through a little bit, this photographer.

How did you get this access?

RICK STENGEL, MENTIONING EDITOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE:

STENGEL: Yes. It's -- he's an Italian photographer who was working for us in Syria, Alessio Romenzi. He smuggled himself into the country, Wolf. I mean it's, you know, very difficult to get in there, as you know. And -- and sometimes we don't know how folks do that. And they -- they take great, great risks upon themselves.

And -- and this is in a -- in a private home on the -- in the southern area of Homs that they're using as a -- as a hospital. And -- because the hospital itself is -- is taken over by government forces. And -- and the streets are filled with snipers and rebels and it's -- and it's very difficult to get out. So he's -- he's in this house and in the basement of this house.

BLITZER: I want to put another one of the -- these amazing photos up. Let me put the next one up there.

These are mourners at the fun -- at a funeral of a 31-year-old who was shot dead by the Syrian Army, by a sniper there. And you can see the anguish, the pain. And multiply this many-fold, Rick.

STENGEL: Yes. I mean it's -- this pictures was taken a little while ago. But as you say, Wolf, I mean the country is in disparate straits. You know, the people who support the Free Syrian Army are -- are risking their lives, as well. I assume these women, even just going out into the streets for a funeral, are taking great risks.

BLITZER: And look at this next picture, Rick. It's a whole bunch of folks who are crowded in a shelter. There's bombardment shelling going on. And you can see the -- you can see there fear in these faces.

STENGEL: Yes. This is where Alessio himself has been. He was obviously down in the basement. The -- there -- there's shelling going on all day. The people feel the safest place to be, particularly for women and children, is -- is underground, in the basement.

BLITZER: Look at this next picture. This is a -- a member of what we call the Free Syrian Army shooting at the regular Syrian Army of Bashar al-Assad.

You know, there's a debate underway, Rick, among journalists, do we call this a civil war yet?

I don't know what "Time" magazine's position is, but you can explain that to us.

STENGEL: Well, we -- actually, in the -- in the -- in the current issue, in the -- in the story that -- that precedes these pictures that we're looking at, we basically say it is a civil war, that basically that the country is at war with itself.

The Free Syrian Army, which is -- which is a murky force. I mean we -- it's ex-military people, civilians. We don't exactly know who they are.

But, obviously, what's going on in Homs and in other cities around -- around Syria is, in effect, a civil war. You know, whether you -- whether you have to have a scale that takes over the whole country or not, I don't know. But -- but certainly that's what's going on there.

BLITZER: And look at this next picture, because it -- it really is a sad picture. And there are so many of these are going on. This is a mother and her -- her sons. Her husband was shot dead by the Syrian Army while he was out in the countryside in Syria. And you can just see the mourning that's going on. These little boys, obviously, I'm sure, do not understand what's really going on.

STENGEL: Yes. I mean what -- what we're seeing. Wolf, of course, is, you know, the continuation of Arab Spring. But what we're seeing in Syria are -- are -- is -- is a government force which is using an iron fist to clamp down on the protests. We haven't really seen that anywhere else or anyway else successfully or anybody who has pursued it with the relentlessness, as the Assad regime.

BLITZER: And Alessio, this Italian photographer, I assume he's out of there, he's safe and sound now, is that right?

STENGEL: He's gone to another house. It's a little bit further out. And I -- and, again, we hope he's safe. He's taken great risks himself.

BLITZER: Well, we hope he is safe, as well. It's an amazing series of photos in the new issue of "Time".

Thanks very much, Rick Stengel.

STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And you can see more of these remarkable photos from Syria in "Time" magazine, our sister publication.

Thanks very much, Rick, for that.

The Pentagon is opening up thousands of jobs to women. It could put them closer to the front lines. We have a report.

Plus, new relief for homeowners hardest hit by the mortgage mess. President Obama is touting a new landmark settlement with the nation's largest banks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no excuse for doing nothing to help more families avoid foreclosure. That's not who we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Will the new deal, though, really help ease the foreclosure crisis?

We're reading all the fine print.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Mitt Romney has been running for president for six year, and he still can't seal a deal. After losing to John McCain in 2008, Romney immediately became the presumptive nominee this time around. Problem is, nobody told the rank and file Republicans.

And instead of a coronation for Romney, Republican voters have spent the last year holding tryouts for other candidates to fill the anyone but Romney slot. From Rick Perry to Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and now, Rick Santorum. And a Santorum sweep this week didn't shake Romney up while it should have.

Compared to Romney, Santorum has little money or organization, but conservative voters like him. For many, the bottom line is Romney just hasn't been able to connect. He's seen as out of touch, too scripted, even aloof. Think about the infamous $10,000 bet he tried to make during one of the debates or his recent comment that he's not worried about the nation's very poor.

Furthermore, it's not really clear what Romney's message is other than attacking President Obama. As Howard Kurtz writes on "The Daily Beast" today, Romney, quote, "lacks an animating idea that would bring voters to their feet," unquote. Romney still the likely Republican nominee, but with low voter turnout and lack of enthusiasm among Republicans, there are signs now that he's not going to fare so well against President Obama.

Intrade, the online betting site with an unusually uncanny high accuracy in predicting election outcomes puts President Obama's chances of winning in November at 60 percent. Romney's odds are only 32 percent.

So, here's the question, what advice would you give Mitt Romney? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or help us set a new SITUATION ROOM record for the Facebook page by posting a comment there. We're apparently, I'm told, going to get a new record for the SIT ROOM on Facebook today. So, I guess that's good. Maybe a raise or something.

BLITZER: Maybe. Get some kudos or whatever.

CAFFERTY: Something. You know, flowers.

BLITZER: Congratulations. Thanks, Jack.

Other news we're following, a major Pentagon announcement could put more women one step closer to the frontlines of war just as the United States begins windy down combat operations in Afghanistan. The defense department is opening up 14,000 new jobs, but for many female service members, it's not nearly enough.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us now. She's got the details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today, we are seeing a small step forward from the Pentagon, but military women will be very quick to remind you, they have been in combat for years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Army Sergeant Kayla Williams was part of the 101st airborne division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

KAYLA WILLIAMS, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: I went on combat foot patrols with the infantry in Baghdad, translating between them and the Iraqi people.

STARR: Technically, as a woman, Kayla Williams was not allowed to be on a combat mission. For nearly 20 years, military policy has restricted women's exposure to combat by barring them from small combat units right at the front, but now, in an acknowledgement, the frontline no longer exists. The Pentagon informed Congress it will open 14,000 new combat-related jobs to women.

SHOSHANA JOHNSON, U.S. ARMY VETERAN/FORMER POW: I wonder what took them so long.

STARR: In 2003, Shoshana Johnson found herself taken prisoner in Iraq. She was an army cook, not supposed to be in combat.

JOHNSON: The restrictions are just silly at this point. No matter what job you have in the military, when you're in a war zone, there's always a danger of you being injured, you being killed or captured.

STARR: Kayla says it's not enough.

WILLIAMS: We still have a significant number of actual combat positions that are closed to women, which continues to, by regulation, enshrine women's positions in the military as second-class troops. There will still be many in the military who say women aren't real soldiers.

STARR: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended any concept that military women are not at risk. Women are still a fraction of the force. Just consider this, 205,000 of the 1.4 million active-duty military members are women. 280,000 of the 2.3 million that have deployed since 9/11 are women. But the price they have paid is significant.

144 women have lost their lives, 865 wounded. So, even as women still go on patrol, fly and work on helicopters and deal with local Afghans, they will now be able to work in frontline combat support jobs such as tank or artillery mechanics.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And, Wolf, some of the toughest, most demanding jobs in the military still will be closed to women for the foreseeable future. Topping that list, special operations forces -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks for reporting this information, important information for our viewers. Thanks very much for that.

It's no joke -- well, it's sort of a joke, and you're going to find out why Nancy Pelosi says TV funny man, Stephen Colbert, must be stopped.

And we've all heard glowing phrase of the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs. But wail until you hear what's in a secret FBI file that has just been released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This looks like a pretty interesting face. I mean, what goes on in here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, this is our lab. And, really, what happens here is we have interns that take things that we think might be in the magazine, and they try to re-create them. They take the author's recipe in a sense and test it. So, we're like a test kitchen for makers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Federal and state officials say billions of dollars of help is on the way to American suffering from the housing meltdown. President Obama says the new settlement with big banks will begin to turn the page of an era of recklessness direct, quote, "from him." Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is taking a closer look at this new deal. What are you finding out, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it took a year to get this deal done, because many states felt that an earlier version let the banks off the hook to easily, but now, with this version, some of the banks feel they get more clarity, and homeowners, they got some relief.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: After a year of intense negotiations, a deal.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have reached a landmark settlement with the nation's largest banks that will speed relief to the hardest hit homeowners and some of the most abusive practices of the mortgage industry.

YELLIN: Janet Lott is fighting a mortgage nightmare.

JANET LOTT, HOMEOWNER IN FORECLOSURE PROCESS: We're in the process of foreclosure due to the robo-signing. And, the problem is is that they don't know who actually owns the loan.

YELLIN: She's concerned this isn't enough.

LOTT: I don't think so. I don't understand how it can help when we're so far upside down, which most people are.

YELLIN: But hers is the type of case the settlement is designed to help if only the banks can untangle her paperwork to find her. Here's how the deal is designed. The nation's five largest lenders agreed to back a fund worth $26 billion.

It will be used to refinance some borrowers at a lower rate, reduce the principal balance for other homeowners who are the most under water, provide state government's money to give homeowners direct aid, and give $2,000 to victims of bad robo-signing foreclosures.

ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're getting partial relief. This is by, no means, a full step. Nothing is going to make up for all the misconduct that was done.

YELLIN: New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, runs the administration's new task force to investigate mortgage fraud. He insists this isn't the end of the story.

SCHNEIDERMAN: We are moving towards holding the banks accountable for establishing the liability for those who did blow up the economy and towards obtaining more meaningful relief from homeowners.

YELLIN: For frustrated homeowners, the clock is ticking.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (on-camera): Now, Wolf, some thing for homeowners watching to keep in mind, you can't apply for the relief offered by this deal. The banks actually have to find you in these instances. And then, on the bigger picture, the next question is, will any of these major bad actors who helped cause this nightmare to begin with really be prosecuted -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question. We'll continue to follow this story. Millions and millions of people out there, homeowners, are anxious to know the answers. Thanks very much for that.

President Obama has now freed ten states from the requirement of the no-child left behind education reform law. The White House now says the states are being rewarded for agreeing to raise standards and improve accountability. While supporters of the law say it has helped close an achievement gap, opponents argued that it simply turned classrooms into test preparations centers where the kids really aren't learning.

In this high stages election year, the political surprises just keep on coming. The former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is going after a new opponent with her tongue in cheek commercial right now. It's not necessarily Newt Gingrich. It's the funny man, Stephen Colbert. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Stephen Colbert used to be my friend. I even signed the poor baby's cast (ph) when he hurt his hand, but since the day he started his Super PAC, taking secret money from special interests, he's been out of control. Even using his Super PAC to attack my friend, Newt Gingrich. And if that weren't enough, I hear he doesn't even like kittens. Colbert must be stopped. I'm Nancy Pelosi, and I support this ad, because Americans deserve a better tomorrow today. Join me in stopping --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You saw that -- we didn't finish up the tape, unfortunately, but it was funny. Let's bring in two of our best reporters on the political (ph) to watch what's going on. Pelosi, by the way, is certainly trying to draw attention to the Democratic bill aimed at forcing Super PACs to open up more information about their donors.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, and our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is here as well. Dana, you've covered Nancy Pelosi for a long time. This is a little different side of her that we're seeing right now.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, big time. In fact, that's what makes it so funny, is that you don't normally see Nancy Pelosi doing something like this. Her tongue, as you said, firmly in her cheek.

This was supposed to be a joke, but it also was a way for them to get attention, as you said, for what they're trying to do. And I'm told that it was not so, so easy to get her to do it, but I'm guessing that they're happy now because they are getting attention.

What they're trying to do today is reintroduce what they call the Disclose Act. They can't do anything about the money flooding into politics on either side because of the Supreme Court decision, but what they can do, they say, is force people to have greater transparency.

So what this bill would do would do things like force corporations who are behind these outside groups to say -- to tell their shareholders exactly what they're doing, what they're spending money on. And also, the top financial contributors, the top five of them, those have to be disclosed.

Those are some of the things that these Democrats are pushing. Now, they don't run the House anymore, so it's going to be a heavy lift to get this on the floor of the House, but Senate Democrats who did run things over there say they're going to try as well.

BLITZER: Let's make the turn to presidential politics, Jim, right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Sure.

BLITZER: This fight between Mitt Romney and Santorum heating up big time, especially in the aftermath of Rick Santorum's dramatic three- state sweep this week.

Listen to how he's reacting to some of the criticism he's getting from Romney.

ACOSTA: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's funny he's not having people come out and talk about his record. Governor Romney's campaign has been about serially tearing down opponents without offering any kind of vision for what he wants to do for this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Serially tearing down opponents. Rick Santorum has been relatively -- I say the word "relatively" -- mellow, but now he's beginning to feel the heat.

ACOSTA: It's reminding me of what Newt Gingrich used to say a couple of weeks ago about all of those attacks coming from the Romney campaign and from that pro-Romney super PAC. Remember, Newt Gingrich was calling Mitt Romney dishonest over the last couple of weeks based on some of those ads down in Florida, and it sounds like these attacks are starting to get under Rick Santorum's skin.

But one think that Rick Santorum has going for him right now is a lot of these conservative states that are coming up in places like Oklahoma, where Rick Santorum was today. I listened to a conference call that was held by the Romney campaign featuring surrogates for Mitt Romney slamming Rick Santorum's record. Guess what? Those surrogates, they really didn't go after Rick Santorum. They were really just talking about why they think Mitt Romney is a better candidate. They even acknowledged on the conference call that Rick Santorum might do pretty well down in Oklahoma, and it's got a big delegate total.

BLITZER: You know, this whole issue with some of the criticism that Santorum is getting not only from Mitt Romney, but from Ron Paul, that he was a big earmarks kind of guy when he was a United States Senator, you were with Rick Santorum the other night when he won those three states, and you've been looking into his record on earmarks.

What did you find out?

BASH: That's right. They actually started going after Rick Santorum on earmarks when he did well after Iowa, and then kind of dropped it when he fell low in the polls.

It's really hard to say exactly how much he got when he was in Congress, because it was before members of Congress were required to disclose. But he was attacked for getting about a billion, with a "B," dollars in earmarks, and the people who look at this, experts, say that's possible that that is true. And that is --

BLITZER: A billion dollars for Pennsylvania?

BASH: It is possible. Now, to be clear, he was not the guy on the Appropriations Committee, meaning the committee that actually did that. That was Arlen Specter, his colleague. But he issued press release after press release, Wolf, when he was in Congress, touting the bacon that he was bringing home to Pennsylvania. He was a proud earmarker.

BLITZER: OK.

ACOSTA: And one thing that the Romney campaign pointed out today is that Rick Santorum, down in Oklahoma, said, well, there are good earmarks and bad earmarks. And the Romney campaign is asking the question, OK, which is it? Which are the good earmarks and which are the bad earmarks?

BLITZER: A good earmark is money that comes to my state.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: A bad earmark is money that goes to another state.

ACOSTA: That's how it works.

BLITZER: That's how it works in Washington.

Guys, thanks very much.

It could be a major breakthrough for Alzheimer's patients, the research study that has scientists so excited.

An unbelievable video. Yes, a school bus, and flames are shooting out of it. It happened on the way home from school.

The story, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Scientists are excited about a potential breakthrough in Alzheimer's research.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is good news. A widely available cancer drug is showing success in reversing the effects of Alzheimer's disease in mice.

Researchers say they were shocked and amazed that the mice improved within hours of taking the drug. They showed signs of being able to remember things and they were more social. Clinical trials for humans are in the works, and they hope to have results within the next year.

Thick black smoke billowing from roaring flames, usually not part of a child's ride home from school. But take a look at this picture here. A school bus in North Carolina is completely engulfed in flames. CNN affiliate WSOC reports the bus driver, he was able to get all of the children out safely before smoke filled the bus. Officials say electrical wiring in the dashboard caused that fire. Fortunately, no injuries.

And actor Will Ferrell is known for popping up in some random places. Well, last night, he announced the starting lineups at an NBC game between the Chicago Bulls and the New Orleans Hornets, and Ferrell took some comedic liberty with their introductions.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: And forward, number 5, he still lives with his mother, Carlos Boozer.

At center, number 13, he's a Scorpio and a horrible dancer, Joakim Noah.

And guard, number 11, he once ate 20 hot dogs in an hour, Ronnie Brewer.

At guard, number 1, his favorite movie is "The Notebook," Derek Rose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: Yes, the crowd having some fun there, Wolf.

Ferrell also cracked jokes on the Hornets' starting 5, but honestly, we thought that the Bulls' intros a little funnier, so that's what we aired.

But people can go to CNN.com if they want to watch the whole thing in its entirety -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love those intros. They're very funny.

SYLVESTER: You have to get in there and do the introductions sometime, Wolf. So maybe we could get a plug for you to do that sometime.

BLITZER: One of these days. Not worthy yet. One of these days.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thank you.

Doctors are finding a serious problem in astronauts when they return from deep space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: NASA is desperately trying to avoid flying blind into the next generation of space travel now that the vision of some of its astronauts -- get this -- may actually be in jeopardy.

CNN's John Zarrella is joining us now with this exclusive report -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, you know, this really could be a game-changer for NASA, and not in a good way.

We had an opportunity to sit in exclusively on an eye exam given to a NASA astronaut, one of many who has come back from long-duration space flight missions with changes to his vision, not for the good.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Astronaut Mike Barratt undergoes an eye exam. No big deal, right?

MIKE BARRATT, ASTRONAUT: E-K-Z-A-G-E?

ZARRELLA: But unlike your eyes or mine, the future of human deep space flight could be riding, literally, on astronaut eyesight.

TERRY TADDEGO, ACTING CHIEF OF PACE MEDICINE: I would say this is our top priority at the moment. In terms of establishing countermeasures for long-duration space flight, this has all of our attention.

ZARRELLA: Why? You see, Barratt is one of 10 astronauts who have returned from long space station missions with changes to their eyesight, sometimes permanent, and not at all good. The cause? A mystery.

DR. ROBERT GIBSON, SR. VISION CONSULTANT: What we're seeing is structural changes to the retina, we're seeing wrinkles or folds on a microscopic level to these areas.

ZARRELLA: And, as this image shows, the back of Mike's eye has flattened out.

GIBSON: You see the farsighted shift. Again, the cause for the farsighted shift appears to be the globe flattening.

ZARRELLA: In some cases back on Earth the eyes correct themselves, but not Barratt's.

BARRATT: I'm kind of eagle-eyed (ph) at blind distance, but I'm dependent on close-up specs.

ZARRELLA: Doctors say the problem has only occurred in male astronauts. It's possibly from an increase in pressure inside the cranium caused by microgravity. Doctors don't know if the problem might worsen or even lead to blindness on longer flights, say, to Mars.

(on camera): Over the next five years, NASA is spending about $18 billion to develop a new big rocket and this Orion spacecraft to send astronauts on those deep space missions.

(voice-over): If the problem isn't involved, human Mars missions could be in trouble.

The alternative? Get them there a lot faster.

BARRATT: I'm so hopeful that in 20 years, we'll have advanced propulsion capabilities that can get us there on a matter of weeks to maybe a very few months, and then a lot of these problems go away.

ZARRELLA: Doctors are intensely working the problem with space crews undergoing on-orbit exams and using special glasses called super focus. But so far there haven't been any eye-opening breakthroughs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA: Now, you would think the Russians have had so much experience on these long-duration flights with their Mir space station and now on the International Space Station, would be reporting similar things in their astronauts. Well, NASA is working with them, but right now they say the Russians have not told them of any such incidents.

And Wolf, one of the most fascinating things about this is how it appears the physiology of women keeps them from, for whatever reason, being susceptible to this eye issue. And that's another thing that's got them scratching their heads at the Johnson Space Center.

BLITZER: Yes, they're going to be working overtime to resolve this mystery, I'm sure.

Thanks very much, John Zarrella. Good report.

Jack Cafferty coming up next with your e-mail.

Then, the FBI profiles the late Apple giant Steve Jobs. Ahead, the little known details we're just learning about his riveting life.

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BLITZER: A riveting FBI file has new details on the life of Apple giant Steve Jobs.

Our Lisa Sylvester has the story.

SYLVESTER: Wolf, the FBI released this report after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed after Steve Jobs died, and it goes back to 1991. You can see Steve Jobs was a young man back then. And he was actually up for a position with President George H. W. Bush's administration with the Export Council.

It's 191 pages long. There's a background check. It includes interviews with Steve Jobs' former co-workers, his friends, even some of his neighbors.

Some of the things in here, there are a lot of compliments. This particular individual saying that Steve Jobs is impressive and outstanding, and that he could se no reason not to recommend him for this White House appointment. But there was also some criticism included in this report. Another individual characterized Mr. Jobs as a deceptive individual who's not completely forthright and honest. He stated that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.

Now, there are details in this report, some that we have heard about before, including the fact that Steve Jobs had a daughter born out of wedlock and that he originally did not offer the child or her mother much support. But that did change later on as the child got older.

Also another detail, more details about his drug use. There was approximately a period from 1970 to 1974 when he was experimenting with marijuana and LSD.

Some other details about him is the fact that he actually had -- his grade point average was about 2.65 on a scale of 4.0. That's his high school grade point average.

Another detail that I had not heard about before was that he was actually the target of a bomb threat. This goes back to 1985.

There was someone who called the Apple offices and threatened -- they said that they had planted four devices and that they would detonate these devices unless this individual was paid $1 million. Some of the details, that there was a San Francisco Hilton hotel, there was a table there. This individual said that he would place a note with further instructions underneath the table.

The FBI was called in. They checked out the table. They checked out Steve Jobs' home. There was never a note found and there were never any bombs. So the threat, it was essentially a hoax, is what it was.

So there's some interesting details about this. And the reason why we've been able to get a glimpse about all of this information is Steve Jobs himself actually signed a waiver allowing the FBI to do this check.

But when the special agent in charge asked to interview Steve Jobs back in 1991, he told the agent, I can't talk to you for another three weeks, and I can't even spare an hour to talk to you. In the end, Wolf, Steve Jobs did not get that position on the Export Council -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Lisa.

Probably lucky he didn't get it.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File."

It could have changed his whole life, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Instead, he changed ours.

BLITZER: That's right.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What advice would you give Mitt Romney?

Peggy writes, "For the love of all that's holy, change your stump speech. I want to hear a speech that inspires me. I don't necessarily want to hear the candidates sing 'America the Beautiful.' I love this country, too, but this ain't 'American Idol.'"

"There's an old saying that goes, 'I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care.' I know you care about people. Find a way to show it. Demonstrate your caring."

Bill in Ohio says, "Mr. Romney should bet $10,000 on President Obama."

Judy on Facebook, "Go home. Just pick a state and stay there."

Ed in Maryland, "Short of giving away all his millions to the poor, I think he's done after that not concerned about the very poor comment he made."

Reid in Florida writes, "I'd tell Mitt to get specific on his economic ideas. Just declaring Obama's performance bad and then saying we need someone who knows how to get this economy moving again is not enough. The question it, what will you do differently? We want details."

Marsha on Facebook, "None. Why should I care? I've been laid off three times in the last year and a half. I think I'm part of the poor. Mitt Romney isn't concerned for me and I don't give a damn about him."

Cy in Virginia writes, "Mitt, buy yourself a pair of shorts, a tropical, billowy shirt, and go visit your money in the Cayman Islands. This is not the year that a majority of Americans want a wealthy venture capitalist to take over the reins of our government. If women rejected me the way voters regularly reject you, I would join a monastery."

If you want to read more on this, you'll find lots of good reading on my blog site, CNN.com/caffertyfile, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very creative. Good stuff. Thanks a lot, Jack, for that.

The voice of Apple's iPhone now inspiring horror flicks.

Jeanne Moos is next.

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BLITZER: A new kind of horror movie using iPhone's Siri.

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know we have a love- hate relationship with high tech when our phones start killing us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to hell your stupid phone!

AUTOMATED VOICE: You first. Die.

MOOS: And the most blood thirsty of them all is Apple's virtual personal assistant --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does anybody have a knife?

AUTOMATED VOICE: There's an app for that.

MOOS: -- Siri.

(voice-over): Siri, are you capable of murder?

AUTOMATED VOICE: No comment.

MOOS (voice-over): Siri has spawned a spate of mini horror flicks on YouTube with titles like "Siri Tried to Kill Me" --

AUTOMATED VOICE: Continue driving straight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Straight?

MOOS: -- and "Psycho Siri." "Psycho Siri" creeps around the house firing an AK-47 and dropping grenades.

The creator of the four-and-a-half minute movie gets blown away by Siri early on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does the phone know my name?

MOOS: But Siri didn't blow a hole in the budget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My budget was zero dollars.

MOOS: Budding filmmaker Andrew McMurray (ph) asked his brother to star in the mini movie shot in seven hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've always thought it would be scary if a piece of technology would turn on you.

AUTOMATED VOICE: I overheard you saying something about selling me. I'm afraid I cannot let that happen.

MOOS (on camera): Siri, I'd like you to meet Hal. He's 44 years older than you, but I think you're going to like him.

AUTOMATED VOICE: If you insist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY": Open the pod bay doors, Hal.

AUTOMATED VOICE: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

MOOS: Back in 1968, "2001: A Space Odyssey" starred a murderous computer. AUTOMATED VOICE: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me. And I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.

MOOS: Four decades later, we've shrunk the technology and our monsters are now mobile.

AUTOMATED VOICE: What would your blood look like on these bed sheets?

MOOS (on camera): Siri, do you have blood on your keyboard?

AUTOMATED VOICE: This blood bank looks pretty close to you.

MOOS (voice-over): There's only one thing that can stop her from running amuck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You killed it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. (INAUDIBLE) last night.

MOOS: Siri may be a serial killer, but at least she has the decency to clean up after.

AUTOMATED VOICE: I found five funeral homes nearby. Where would you like me to send your body?

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Wow. Thanks, Jeanne.

Thanks for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.