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THE SITUATION ROOM
George Clooney Arrested; Bilingual Politics; Romney's Enthusiasm Gap; Santorum's War On Pornography; Big Brother In Your Swimming Pool?; World's Highest Free Fall From Space To Earth; A Movie Kids Should See, But Can't; Lines, Hype Greet New iPad; Young Girl Thrown From Carnival Ride; AA Flight Attendant Fired For Parodies
Aired March 16, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: The top two Republican presidential candidates trade places in Puerto Rico amid a bilingual uproar for Rick Santorum and bilingual opportunity for Mitt Romney.
Also, actor and activist George Clooney caps a very busy week here in Washington by getting arrested. We will show you what he plans to do next.
Plus, plunging 23 miles from the edge of space to earth -- details of an unprecedented skydive.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Out of Puerto Rico and into Illinois for Rick Santorum, working to keep up momentum as he heads into the next two Republican presidential primaries, but somewhat the opposite for Mitt Romney trying to gain the upper hand after a string of primary losses. He's now in Puerto Rico, where Santorum may have offended some Spanish speakers. Romney is courting them in their own language.
CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta in San Juan for us.
Jim, what's the latest from there?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, Mitt Romney is in Puerto Rico for a series of events before this Sunday's Puerto Rico primary. After Rick Santorum's trip to this island, the trick for Romney is pretty simple. Don't get lost in translation.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Mitt Romney is out to show Puerto Ricans he can speak their political language.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the majority of the Puerto Ricans wish to become a state, then I will support that effort in Washington.
ACOSTA: In the days leading up to the island's GOP primary, Romney has not only written a letter to voters in a Puerto Rican newspaper translated into Spanish. He's running a radio ad featuring his bilingual son Craig also in Spanish.
Romney's arrival comes after Rick Santorum seemed to stumble over whether the predominantly Spanish-speaking island must adopt English as one of its official languages as a condition for statehood. Santorum's comment prompted one of his delegates to jump ship.
(on camera): Should it be a requirement for this territory to become a state?
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think English and Spanish -- obviously Spanish is going to be spoken here in the island, but this needs to be a bilingual country, not just a Spanish-speaking country.
ACOSTA: But Romney may have some explaining to do on the language issue as well. At CNN's debate last January, the GOP front- runner said English should be the nation's official language. The question, would that also apply to a Puerto Rican state?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I think our position on English in our schools and in our nation is the same, which I believe English should be the official language of the United States, as it is. I also believe that in our schools, we should teach kids in English.
NARRATOR: Is Rick Santorum ready to be president?
ACOSTA: And there's one another supreme issue for Romney. Take this TV ad that ran in Ohio that attacked Santorum's vote to approve Sonia Sotomayor as an appellate judge before she made it to the Supreme Court.
NARRATOR: A Washington politician who proudly voted for the bridge to nowhere and for liberal Judge Sotomayor.
ACOSTA: Puerto Rican Sotomayor is the pride of the island. Her picture hangs in the office of the speaker of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives. That Republican speaker, Jennifer Gonzalez, a Romney supporter, says it won't be a factor on primary day.
Could it hurt Governor Romney, do you think, on this island?
JENNIFER GONZALEZ, PUERTO RICO REPRESENTATIVE: No, I don't think so. I think he's going to win, and I think Senator Santorum was hit by the language issue here, and I think the people of Puerto Rico will vote this Sunday to give Governor Romney the votes to the national convention.
ACOSTA: Just a few moments ago, Mitt Romney made some news on this subject of whether Puerto Rico has to adopt English as an official language in order to become a state. He was asked about this question by local reporters at the airport here in San Juan. Let's play what he had to say just a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will support the people of Puerto Rico. If they make a decision that they would prefer to become a state, that's an effort I will support. I don't have preconditions I would impose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Already, Candy, I can tell you the Santorum campaign is seizing on the comments when Mitt Romney said he would have no preconditions that he would impose on Puerto Rico to become a state. They are pointing out when he said that English should be an official language of the United States, they are calling that a flip-flop.
CROWLEY: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
I talked about all of this just a short time ago with CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it will be surprising, having spent several days in a controversy about English only, if Santorum does win Puerto Rico.
The question of how much impact it would have in Illinois I think is up to question. Candy, as we both know, the grooves in this race are cut pretty deep at this point. Mitt Romney has won non- evangelical voters in every state there's been an exit poll for except for Georgia. Santorum has beaten him among evangelical voters in nine different states.
To some extent, you can look down the calender at evangelical vs. no-evangelical, college vs. non-college, affluent vs. more working- class, and you can have a pretty strong educated guess about who has the advantage. Illinois is fascinating because it's one the states that is kind of at tipping point. It leans a little bit in the Romney direction, but not as decisively as the coastal states like New York, New Jersey, California. About 41 percent of the vote was evangelical last time. It's enough to keep Santorum in the game, but probably enough that Romney still has the edge.
CROWLEY: It's interesting because the other thing I think we're learning from these entrance polls and exit polls when we have them is that the turnout really has mattered, but specific turnout. So if Romney can't turn out his folks upstate, which I'm assuming is where he will plant himself, towards Chicago, and then Santorum goes downstate to the rural and farm areas, this really could be a tossup place, which we original thought, oh, Illinois.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. No, no, absolutely.
It's closely balanced enough. You look down the calender, there are states like Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California, 35 percent of the vote or less is evangelical. You have to think Romney is a strong favorite, given as I said that he's won non-evangelicals everywhere except Georgia.
You look at Louisiana, you look at Texas, you look at West Virginia, you look at Kentucky, Arkansas, strong favorite for Santorum in all likelihood. Then you have a few places like Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, that are kind of the battlegrounds where turnout is likely to matter a great deal.
But again, I think with 41 percent of the vote last time being evangelical in Illinois, you would still have to give the edge to Romney. It has a big as you say population that is more upscale, that managerial wing of the party that's actually pretty comfortable with him. But again Santorum is within reach there.
CROWLEY: I know just quickly you wrote an article in "The National Journal" this week, stronger but not secure as a description of where the president is in this election. How does he get secure?
BROWNSTEIN: I don't know if he does. First of all, in a more polarized country, it's probably harder for a president to get secure.
The question is whether it is possible anymore to be president of more than half the country, given how divided we are, and whether we will see someone get to the 59 percent or so that Ronald Reagan did. But the key for the president obviously is economic improvement.
The big thing that changed in our poll, our Heartland Monitor poll we do every quarter, is you now have 60 percent of the Americans saying they expect the economy to do better over the next year than it is today. And that is what is the tailwind that is lifting him.
You're also seeing an important separation here. White-collar Americans are becoming more optimistic relative to blue-collar Americans. They're beginning to see they're seeing their 401(k)s improve, housing values improve, and the president in both -- '08 ran much stronger among white-collar whites than blue-collar white and likely will need the same pattern to resurface if he's going to win in 2012.
CROWLEY: So while the Republican candidates battle each other, Democrats and the Obama campaign are trying to seize on what they see as an opportunity with women voters.
CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, we're not surprised, they have seen this as a huge bonanza. How are they using it now?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Democrats feel that they increasingly have an advantage, the political advantage as they go after the women's vote, not just energizing the Democratic base but trying to woo independent and uncommitted women voters, as more contraception, Planned Parenthood and abortion-related bills pop up at the state level. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
YELLIN (voice-over): This new Democratic video targets Mitt Romney before the Illinois Republican primary.
NARRATOR: Mitt Romney, he's wrong for women, wrong for Illinois.
YELLIN: Democratic women protested Romney at a breakfast stop in the state. It's all part of a push to appeal to women voters who in 2008 made up 53 percent of the electorate. That's eight million more votes than men.
The president's campaign has long planned to drive for the women's vote, launching this appeal back in October. Now the Democratic National Committee has a new women's institute to woo unaligned female voters, and it's all taken on a new urgency in light of the contraception and Rush Limbaugh controversies.
According to Pew polling, before that fight, women's view of Democratic and Republican parties were even, but now they have a more favorable view of the Democratic Party by 14 points.
Top Democrats see a treasure trove of activity at the state level, which they believe will help drive women to the left.
It includes this, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania backing a measure that would require women seeking abortion to first get an ultrasound. He said this.
GOV. TOM CORBETT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I don't know how you make anybody watch, OK? Because you just have to close your eyes.
YELLIN: Some Republicans say this is not where the party should be focusing its energy.
LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Whether it's contraception or people trying to bring the issue of pro-choice back into the mix, this is a losing issue for Republicans. They cannot slide this far to the right.
YELLIN: Ann Romney seems to agree.
ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: I have something to say about some of the women that I'm hearing from, and we have been all across this country. Do you know what women care about? And this is what I love. Women care about jobs.
YELLIN: The president himself also says he believes women are not single-issue voters, but he believes that the Democrats have more to offer when it comes to jobs, the middle class, not surprisingly.
The question is, as the general election turns to focus on the economy, will these issues, contraception, Planned Parenthood, energize women voters? Candy, you can be sure that Democrats operatives will try to remind women of all these issues that came up in the primary and Republican operatives will try to remind all voters it's all about the economy.
CROWLEY: So leaving the economy aside, the White House you have learned is going to further define its whole policy toward contraception and insurance.
YELLIN: That's right. Two senior administration officials, two administration officials tell me that this afternoon they're going to update and put out some new policy proposals asking for feedback on how self-funded religious institutions should provide contraception and handle the contraception rule for their employees.
CROWLEY: So if a church funds a day care...
YELLIN: And they provide their own insurance, how they should handle this rule.
CROWLEY: Which says to me they're still looking for the right answer to this.
YELLIN: This was one of the outstanding issues they said they would resolve and they would continue to work on. They also clarified if you're a university, a religiously affiliated university and you're providing contraception and you object to it, then your health insurance -- that insurer has to pay for the health care, for the pills, as well.
CROWLEY: More later.
YELLIN: I know, right?
CROWLEY: Chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, thank you.
Some real-life drama for actor George Clooney. He was arrested here in Washington today.
Also, an outbreak of Apple mania as the new iPad goes on sale.
And plunging to earth at more than 300 miles an hour -- details of plans for a jaw-dropping 23-mile freefall.
CROWLEY: Actor and activist George Clooney capped off a busy week here in Washington by getting arrested. It happened at a protest this morning at Sudan's embassy, where Clooney was calling attention to a crisis.
CNN's Athena Jones has more.
Athena, do where know where George Clooney is now? Has somebody set him free?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He's been set free. And as you mentioned, though, this was day three of George Clooney's his advocacy and activism here in Washington on behalf of the people of southern Sudan and South Sudan.
You know, he testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. He met with President Obama on Thursday. And today, he took that big step with this big act of civil disobedience.
JONES (voice-over): This was the scene outside the embassy of Sudan Friday morning.
GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: We're going to protest and try to raise more attention to the idea of the Sudanese government committing atrocities to their own people, to their innocent men, women and children.
JONES: Actor George Clooney joined activists, political and religious leaders and his father Nick Clooney to protest an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the border of Sudan and South Sudan.
CLOONEY: Immediately, we need humanitarian aid to be allowed into the Sudan before it becomes the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Immediately.
JONES: Hundreds of thousands of people are caught between the fighting between the Sudanese government and the rebels along the oil rich border region. They face starvation, injury and even death if help doesn't come.
Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern said the world was watching, and so was Congress.
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We will be here again, and again and again until this government stops using food as a weapon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions of Sudanese who are depending on you.
JONES: The son of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. demanded justice.
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, MLK'S SON: This crisis is beyond epidemic proportions.
JONES: The demonstration ended with ultimate multiple arrests for disorderly crossing the police line.
This is Clooney's strongest stand yet.
After he was released from custody, he says he has no plans to stop.
(on camera): What can we expect from you going forward?
CLOONEY: We've got a lot more work to do.
JONES: Are you coming back?
CLOONEY: Have I quit yet?
CLOONEY: No, I'll keep going.
JONES: You know, Candy. when Clooney was released a couple hours ago from this police station, he told us it was the first time he'd ever been arrested. We also know he paid $100 fine and he'll avoid court charges. Back to you.
CROWLEY: Which no doubt he can afford. Thanks so much, Athena Jones. Appreciate it.
It's a life-and-death issue for teens, but most can't see the new movie about bullying. Details on the controversy.
Plus, it will be the world's highest free fall, a 22-mile jump from the edge of space to earth. We'll show you the man who thinks he can do it.
CROWLEY: Some of the other stories we are monitoring here at THE SITUATION ROOM, the latest on those powerful tornadoes in Michigan. Three reported tornadoes ripped through southeastern Michigan yesterday. The twister destroyed more than a dozen homes and damaged more than 100 others. The city of Dexter, which is near Ann Arbor, was the hardest hit. They also downed power lines, started fires and caused flooding. Officials say no one died.
North Korea says it plans to launch what it calls an earth observation satellite next month, that's according to the country's official news agency. The move could threatened U.N. Security Council demands, along with a recent deal with the U.S. North Korea had agreed to halt nuclear test and long-rang missile launches in exchange for food aid. The U.S. calls this announcement highly provocative.
Three in 10 young adults now live with their parents. That is the highest level since the 1950s, according to a new Pew poll. Researcher blames the recession and weak economy. But most of these so-called boomerang kids don't mind living at home. Seventy-eight percent say they're happy about their living arrangements.
An enthusiasm deficit and a pornography crackdown, we're going to talk about that and more in our strategy session with Erick Erickson and Maria Cardona.
Also, the government jumps into the deep end of a controversy over swimming pools and the disabled.
Plus, details of plans for a different kind of dive -- an unprecedented free fall from the edge of space.
CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley.
Here are some stories we're working on for next hour:
Thousands of e-mails reveal a stunning look inside the Syria's ruling family. Shopping for jewelry and furniture as the brutal crackdown on the citizens intensify.
And Osama bin Laden's plot to kill President Obama. Details on what the terror mastermind had in mind.
Plus, a look inside a notorious Cuban prison. We'll show you what Cuba's government doesn't want anyone to see.
Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CROWLEY: Joining me for today's strategy session are CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona here in Washington, and from Atlanta, CNN contributor and editor-in-chief of the conservative RedState.com, Erick Erickson.
I want to talk enthusiasm on the Republican side, and put up for our viewers a new Gallup poll that measures the Republicans' level of enthusiasm.
For Mitt Romney, would you vote for him enthusiastically? Thirty-five percent. Rick Santorum, 34 percent.
Now, let's just go back four years ago and look at what they want about John McCain. At this point, 47 percent of Republicans said they were very enthusiastically would vote for John McCain, again, compared to 35 percent for Mitt Romney.
Erick, what does that tell us?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, to some degree, it's comparing apples and oranges, and that by this time in 2008, John McCain had the nomination wrapped up and we're still fighting it out. But, yes, anyone who says there is no enthusiasm gap, there is. There's a lack of enthusiasm for the candidates this time. A lot of people who wanted someone else to get in still talk and hope for some wanted to get in.
But at the same time, once we have a nominee, I think a lot of Republicans will coalesce around that nominee. And polling right now really isn't an indicator of what we're going to be three or four months from now. Remember, back in 1980, Jimmy Carter was kicking both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush all, over the map, a 30-point gap for him. So the polls change.
CROWLEY: And, Erick is exactly right, Maria. But it strikes me as weird that Mitt Romney's very enthusiastic voters four years ago is the exact same number as it is right now, 35 percent.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly right. And that's one of the big challenges that Mitt Romney is going to face, if he does indeed become the nominee.
Look, four years ago, in a hard-fought Democratic primary. there were 78 percent of voters unenthusiastic about voting for Hillary Clinton, and 84 percent were unenthusiastic about voting for Barack Obama when they were in the middle of their primary. And I think that translated really well into the enthusiasm in 2008 in the general election, which ended up working in Barack Obama's favor.
Now, Erick is absolutely right. The election is still several months ago. But I think this does need to be a huge issue that Republicans need to be worried about, because in a year where supposedly President Obama is so vulnerable in the minds of so many GOP voters, who's been such a disastrous president, why isn't they could not attract their supposed A team?
And I think one of the reasons why there is such a huge enthusiasm gap is because -- I've heard from some Republicans -- that they don't even have their B team. They had their C team out there. I think that's the problem.
CROWLEY: You know, Erick, let me ask you, though. Is it all that hard to translate what is clearly enthusiasm to un-elect President Obama in a second term and put it onto Romney? Is that going to be a huge leap for Republicans, do you think, should he get this?
ERICKSON: The problem isn't going to be Republicans. It's going to independents who lean Republican who aren't enthusiastic and that's a different -- true, but you got to get people something to vote for. So the Republicans do have that hurdle.
Maria is absolutely right. Romney has been running for five years. He can't get his enthusiasm gap up. He is a weak frontrunner for the Republicans. A lot of Republicans will vote against Barack Obama.
The Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, however it turns out, will energize a lot of them. But the independents who lean Republican want something to vote for not just someone to vote against.
CROWLEY: Let me show you both something that is on the campaign web page of Rick Santorum that's getting a lot of chatter on the internet.
He's pledging to aggressively prosecute those who distribute pornography and, quote, "While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families that will change under a Santorum administration."
Again, this has been picked up by the blogs. It is not something that Santorum is talking about on the campaign trail, but it's also getting picked up in a very important arena where it is sure to cause more conversation. Here's a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Santorum says if elected president, he'll crack down on internet porn. This could cause hundreds of California teachers their moonlighting jobs?
You know how many teachers -- well, crack down on internet porn? You thought he was alienating female voters with that birth control thing? Guys are going to be leaving in droves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: You know, Erik, one of the things I know is you don't want your stuff showing up on one of the late-night talk shows. Is this the chatter of the day on the internet or is this sort of more of Santorum's seeming just too far to the right?
ERICKSON: You know, I don't necessarily think although the left will say it's him being too far to the right. I don't think it's him too far to the right as a lot of people on the right would tend to agree with him other than saying the Obama administration hasn't done anything.
They actually have been very good on this issue particularly in child pornography and I have to give them credit for that. But at the same time -- this is like Newt Gingrich talking about going to the moon. People don't care about that issue right now.
They care about jobs. It's like Michele Bachmann getting off the bus in Iowa not talking to reporters. It plays into a stereotype of him not caring about the particular issues the voters care about of deem off message or off key or too much of pre-Madonna. He's playing to a stereotype that he doesn't need to play to.
CROWLEY: It's 30 seconds, Maria, I'll give you a shot at pornography.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, two weeks ago, we were talking about Santorum and Satan, and today we're talking about Santorum and porn. This is exactly why the Republicans are suffering from an enthusiasm gap.
This is not what voters care about. They care about the economy. They care about jobs, and they care about economic growth. And President Obama is actually talking about those things.
CROWLEY: Maria Cardona, Erick Erickson, thank you very much. Let's talk about jobs next time.
It's being called pool-mageddon. Why the government could fine some public pool hundreds of thousands dollars. And a 22-mile free fall. Why the sky diver isn't afraid of dying?
Plus dramatic video of a small child being thrown from a carnival ride. How did that happen?
CROWLEY: Big Brother in your swimming pool. That's how some say the latest dust up over government regulations for public pools, but others insist it's all about equality. CNN's aviation and regulation correspondent, Lizzie O'Leary joins us with details.
LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is one of those stories about federal regulation that gets a lot of attention. The idea here is an update to the Americans with Disabilities Act that about 300,000 public pools would have to be accessible to disabled folks by the summer or be fined $100,000. It caught fire in the conservative media over the past few days. We wanted to figure out exactly what was going on behind the controversy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom is already sitting in our chair.
O'LEARY (voice-over): This is what this whole fight is about, getting a disabled swimmer in or out of the pool. Three hundred thousand pools across the country need to make sure they're in compliance before the summer starts.
Here's the issue. The rules are so confusing pool managers just don't know. Many pools have disabled access like this portable lift. But does that mean this one at the University of Maryland is in compliance? Carrie Tupper runs the pool and she thinks so.
CARRIE TUPPER, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND AQUATICS DEPARTMENT: I would ask for some clarity. I know the access board is almost afraid in some ways to put finite words on it, because they don't want to pigeon-hole people into certain ways, but I think there needs to be more clarity in the decision.
O'LEARY: The Justice Department told us the pool can use an affordable lift if that's all that is affordable and easy, for now, but they should work towards one that's there all the time. That has hotels and public pool owners confused, afraid of lawsuits and crying foul.
MARLENE COLUCCI, AMERICAN HOTEL AND LODGING ASSOCIATION: Tomorrow you could put a pool lift that's portable, but a fixed lift requires that you do electrical grounding work. So you have to tear up a pool deck. This was not at all contemplated by the Department of Justice when they issued this further guidance.
O'LEARY: That guidance came out in January and caused an uproar. Owners at public pools, hotels, spas, even cities and homeowners associations have been scrambling to figure out what they need to do to stay within the law. Disability advocates say it's a civil rights issue and having a portable lift doesn't cut it.
(on camera): You hear from the hotel industry and you hear from other folks. Well, what's wrong with having a lift that maybe we keep in the closet, and if you're coming to swim, we take it out for you?
DANA FINK, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: It's not inviting people with disabilities into your facility. If this were to be the case, if you were not to be open and inviting with any other minority in this country, it would not even be up for discussion.
O'LEARY: This is about access, but it's also about money, a big hotel, the University of Maryland can maybe afford a $5,000 fixed lift, and work and manpower to install it.
A community pool with a tight budget, maybe not. So the Justice Department says they can claim financial hardship. They can escape a fine, but this whole fight is very hot. It's going to on for at least another two months.
So pools know what they should be doing. That decision, of course, is going to come, Candy, right in the middle of swimming season.
CROWLEY: It's not a surprise, right? I mean, how long has this been in place?
O'LEARY: It's not a surprise. This is part of the ADA, which was passed in the '90s.
CROWLEY: A couple decades ago.
O'LEARY: This is an update to that, but it's the fine-tuning that has those individual businesses very worried.
CROWLEY: Lizzie, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Call it extreme skydiving. A 70,000-foot jump lasting almost 40 minutes. But that's only a warm-up for the main event. CNN's Brian Todd joins us with more. You're not the jumper.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm a little envious, but I'm not the jumper, Candy. The cutting edge of exploration in the heavens right now may not be in the hands of NASA, but with Red Bull of all places.
They sponsor the Red Bull Stratus Project. It's going to test if a human can fly through the heavens in just a suit, helmet and parachute and survive. Later this year, an Austrian skydiver and base jumper named Felix Baumgartner will travel up to the stratosphere for a jump that's never been attempted before.
He did a test jump yesterday from 71,000 feet above New Mexico, but on the main jump, he's going to attempt the longest-ever free fall from the highest effort altitude, 120,000 feet above sea level. That is more than 22 miles.
The previous record for free fall, 102,800 feet. Baumgartner is going to free fall through stratosphere and while he does it, he'll try to set another record. No one has ever broken the speed of sounds accelerating with just the human body. They estimate that at altitude he's going to break that mark going 690 miles an hour.
I caught up with Baumgartner two years ago. He was working on this project back then. The project got delayed for legal reasons and it's now back on. Here's part of our conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So my first question is a two-parter -- are you nuts and why the hell are you doing this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, I'm not nuts. I think it's human nature. You know, records are meant to be broken. I'm a very competitive person. To me there's nothing more challenging that working on the Red Bull challenge project.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Baumgartner says he's not afraid of dying on this jump because he's worked so hard to reach this point. He has already base jump from the Petronus Towers in Kuala Lumpur and from the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.
Some of the video we're showing you. That's the Kuala Lumpur shot. There's the Rio event. He's nickname, Candy, as you might imagine, fearless Felix. Don't try this at home --
CROWLEY: It's amazing to me. I guess, more power to him. But it's also quite a story about a guy who's a consultant to all of this.
TODD: He's a terrific guy. Both these guys are great. This guy whose record he's trying to break, his name is Joe Kitinger. He is a consultant on this.
Kitinger is actually a retired Air Force officer who made that jump of nearly 103,000 feet back in 1960. I spoke with Kitinger when we interviewed Baumgartner. I asked him what is it like up there.
He said distant and very hostile. No kidding. But he was great. He talked a lot about the suits you needed to put on, this high pressure suits with heat sensor advisers and things like that, very elaborate suits because obviously you can't do this in a regular space suit.
CROWLEY: That makes me scared standing here listening about it.
TODD: It's going to be exciting. If he can pull this off later this summer, we think, it would be really summer.
CROWLEY: Wow, yes, it will. Thanks so much, Brian Todd.
It's a movie every young person should see, but many can't thanks to its "R" rating. Now the producer is seeking a rare exception.
CROWLEY: Stories of heartbreak and humiliation in a new movie about bullying, but many of the young people who could benefit most from seeing it may not be able to because of its "R" rating. CNN's Lisa Sylvester has more on this. This "R" rating was controversial decision?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was indeed. You know, Candy, I have to tell you. This is a movie that I tear up just watching the trailer. You really get a glimpse of what it's like for kids being bullied every day.
Now the debate isn't whether this is a great movie. Everyone says that it is. The debate comes down to six words in the movie, and whether that should keep it from getting a PG-13 rating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As they say he's a geek. Some people have told him he is worthless, so go hang himself. I think he got to the point where enough is enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A Perkins boy, just 11 years old.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): The movie is called "Bully," a documentary that tracks the lives of five students, two of whom killed themselves after being bullied, including 11-year-old Ty Field.
The documentary's producer Harvey Weinstein says it's a movie every teenager, teacher, principal, should watch. He wants to have bullies screened in schools.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like them to be activists and stop this, and we can stop it. We can stop it on the school level and if we stop it there, we'll stop it everywhere.
SYLVESTER: But many teens may not be able to see the movie, certainly not by themselves because the Motion Picture Association of America has given the movie an "R" rating. That's prompted a huge outcry.
More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition to get the ratings changed to PG-13. For the first time, former senator Chris Dodd, now the chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association and Weinstein sat down together in the same room with CNN to discuss the issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a qualitative judgment. It's based on content, what language, drugs, sexuality. It was designed by parents for parents. To give them some guidance, so they have some idea.
SYLVESTER: The "f" word is used in the movie six times warranting the "R" rating, but Weinstein says the issue is important enough for an exception. There is precedent. The MPAA made an exception for another movie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They used the "f" word 42 times. The board overturned the decision. I mean, it got rated PG-13 because they thought it was important. We see the "Bully" situation as its own war.
SYLVESTER: But Dodd says there are problems straying from the objective rating criteria.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The six or seven times if you're going to make an exception here, what do you do the next time? Another great movie on the environment, the health care or some other very legitimate issue that's well done and for whatever reason language or some other problem with it causes --
SYLVESTER: Dodd readily agrees it is a great movie, one that kids should see. So much so that he wants his own 10-year-old daughter to see it.
(on camera): You feel very passionate and aware of the impact.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SYLVESTER: You feel strongly that kids should be able to see this, but the reality is you still have the rated "R" rating. That will make it hard for schools to show it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not necessarily. Schools do it, for instance with "Schindler's List." They were shown all over schools. Schools made the decision and that's their call.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city school board in Cincinnati, we have 40,000 students, you know, ready to go to see the movie. It got rated "R" they pulled it. The archdiocese, said if it's PG-13, we'll do it. If it's "R, we won't.
SYLVESTER: You have the option though of essentially going back and cleaning up the film, right? Taking out some of those words out. Are you willing to do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the movie loses some of its strength.
SYLVESTER: The two men who are long time friends, agreed to work together to find a middle ground, but it will ultimately be up to an independent board. In the meantime, Weinstein's movie opens at the end of the month. He's hoping to get the rating overturned, still hoping for a happy Hollywood ending.
SYLVESTER: And I asked Harvey Weinstein, why he decided to do this project. And he told me that he was once rated one of the ten worst bosses because of his temper, and his tough nature.
That was something he was not proud of. So he says this movie is a little redemptive for him. He's also a dad. He has four daughters, two of whom are teenagers. So this is an issue he's very familiar with and it's very real for him -- Candy.
CROWLEY: It seems like there should be a simple answer in there some place.
SYLVESTER: Yes, hopefully that they will be able to reach some kind of compromise so that they will be allowed to screen this movie. Because in particularly in schools, because everybody says, you know, this can have a huge impact and when it comes to the debate over bullying.
CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Lisa Sylvester. Appreciate it.
New e-mails obtained by CNN showed just how detached Bashir Assad and his family from the violence and death around them including one racy message from a female aide.
Also, a chilling acts caught on tape, a 3-year-old thrown from a carnival ride.
CROWLEY: Apple's latest version of its popular iPad is out. Tech-obsessed San Francisco was among the last major cities to see iPads flying off the shelves. CNN's Silicon Valley correspondent, Dan Simon is there for us. So, Dan, any early feedback?
DAN SIMON, CNN SILICON VALLEY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know people are diehards. People love these Apple products. We have seen heavy traffic throughout the day here in San Francisco. It's been raining for much of the day, but that hasn't kept the crowds from coming into the store.
Apple quickly sold out of its pre-ordered stock, so inventory will be running thin for the next two to three weeks. But if you want to get an iPad today, you can do so by coming to an Apple store or going to one of the other retailers such as Target or Wal- Mart. We spoke to one happy customer a bit earlier. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, it's pretty insane, really, for a toy? That's all I use it for. It's pretty awesome. The whole -- I've never been in anything like this before.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SIMON: You know, Candy, it's worth noting that when that iPad first came out a couple of years ago, people dismissed it thinking that you wouldn't need an iPad if you have a smartphone or computer, but here we are two years later.
And it's Apple's fastest-selling device in history. That's not only true for Apple, but for the entire consumer electronics industry. The initial buzz produced Apple stock to go lightly above $600 yesterday, also a company record.
Now it's hovering about $585 a share, but some industry analysts think it could skyrocket, you know, more than 100 points over the next several months -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Dan Simon, thanks so much. CNN's Erin Burnett is going out front on the iPad story. Erin, I know you've been digging into the numbers. How much is this new iPad, which we can't call a 3, so we just call it the new iPad, helping Apple's bottom line?
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": I mean, it is unbelievable. My sister and her four kids are at the Apple store in Grand Central right now. They say it's packed. The kids are more interested in Siri, you know, the new voice automated part that goes with the new iPhone 4S.
It's not available on this new iPad, but it is -- all these stores are packed and it is going to sell like hotcakes. It's pretty amazing, Candy, when you look at what this has done for Apple, the iPad and iPhone.
Pacific Quest Securities, which an analyst firm, they have about almost 14 million iPads they say will be sold in the second quarter for Apple. They think in the second quarter Apple could sell 34 million iPhones.
And their estimate recently on the iPhone was only about 28 million. So you're seeing an acceleration among a lot of analysts and how popular this Apple products are. What does it mean for the bottom line?
Well, Candy, two numbers, $546 billion, that is the market value of Apple. It is the most valuable company in the United States, which is just a stupendous thing when you think about it, more valuable than IBM, more valuable than ExxonMobil.
I mean, it's incredible and then the other number, 97 billion that's just the cash that Apple is sitting on. Just literally sitting on and they have got to decide what to do with it. That is one heck of a stash. So a lot of iPads adding up for Apple.
CROWLEY: It will be interesting to compare that to the revenue of some of the nations around the world.
CROWLEY: But do you know what the next -- do we ever know what the next big thing is from Apple?
BURNETT: That's a good question. We were talking with some analysts today to try to figure what that is especially with Steve Jobs leaving. Obviously some of the divine design guys I'll call them at Apple are still there.
But what does come next -- they call this the new iPad, as you were saying. It's not an iPad 3 so some people are saying, what does that mean, what are you going to call the next iPad? Is this a sign for something to come or not to come?
That's the real question, but also what is the next thing? There's a real question. No one is concerned about that hurting Apple right now, but it's been a long time, the longest time ever, actually since we've seen a new product out of the company, and soon with those market values so high, people will start to ask, what is next?
CROWLEY: "OUTFRONT" with Erin Burnett tonight, maybe they'll call it the renewed new iPad.
BURNETT: I think that will work.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Erin. We'll see you later tonight.
Dramatic video of a young girl being thrown from a Texas carnival ride. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: Candy, media reports say the child was only 3 years old, and she was on the ride with her 8-year-old brother. Video shows the girl starting to slip from her seat before being throw about 8 feet down.
The child apparently met the height requirements, but officials say she was too young to ride without an adult. The girl suffered a concussion, but she is, fortunately, expected to make a full recovery.
An American Airline flight attendant who's videos who poked fun at the carrier's financial troubles has lost his job. NBC Miami says Galen David, a 24-year veteran of American Airlines was fired and he's fighting it. One of his online video characters, the Aluminum Lady is like Margaret Thatcher's The Iron Lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People on a rant creep me out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The woman that's running the flight attendants down in Miami is probably the most ineffective person I have in the whole company.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we fire her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, don't fire her. I like it like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: American filed for bankruptcy a few months ago, and plans to cut 13,000 jobs. An American spokesman didn't mention the videos when talking about the firing, but told NBC Miami that David published the private details of American Airlines passengers and promoted its competitors on his web site.
The rock band, "Kiss" has opened an entertainment complex in Las Vegas. The newcomer to sin city includes wedding chapel, a glow in the dark mini golf course, an arcade, cafe, and of course, the largest "Kiss" gift shop in the world. That's going to be a place for some serious fans, Candy.
CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Lisa. Appreciate it. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, the soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians is heading to --