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THE SITUATION ROOM
Firestorm of Epic Proportions; New Charges Fuel Air Force Sex Scandal; Storm Debby Left Florida Flooded; Stockton, California will File for Bankruptcy
Aired June 27, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, tens of thousands of people are living in fear that their homes will burn to the ground at any minute. We're tracking an explosive wildfire in Colorado that's now twice as big and dangerous as it used to be.
Plus, Syria says a deadly attack on a pro-government TV station won't go unpunished. The al-Assad regime is blaming the West and declaring the country is in a state of war.
And in the midst of dangerous flooding in Florida, a bill to guarantee flood insurance is being held up by one senator. The reason -- he wants a vote on whether life begins at fertilization.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Candy Crowley.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This is why 32,000 people were told to grab a few things, get out of their homes and essentially run for their lives. Firefighters say the huge blaze raging near Colorado Springs is nowhere near being contained. And it doubled in size overnight. They're warning that conditions for fighting this inferno are as bad as can be. And today, it could get even worse.
Roads were clogged with residents escaping from flames they could see through their windshields. Even the U.S. Air Force Academy campus has been evacuated.
Officials don't know yet how much damage has been done, how many homes have been destroyed. Some describe the scene as Armageddon. And it could go on for days.
We'll go live to Colorado in a moment and to our Weather Center, where we're tracking the awful conditions that are making the fires worse.
But first, to Lisa Sylvester with a look at what people in the fire zone are going through.
MARK GALLEY, EVACUEE: The wind picked up more and more. And then you could just see it coming down the mountain. And it -- it just -- just the fire was -- I mean you could see it just like it was across the street. It was time to leave because the smoke and the ash started falling and coming into the house and it was scary.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The most threatening fire at the moment, the Waldo Canyon Fire, is pressing down on Colorado Springs. It doubled in size overnight.
RICHARD BROWN, INTERIM CHIEF, COLORADO SPRINGS FIRE DEPARTMENT: This is an active fire. It's not even remotely close to being contained, so please do not be deceived by what you see across the valley, with the smoke laying down the way it is.
SYLVESTER: There are now 10 major fires encompassing 150,000 acres. Thirty-two thousand Colorado Springs residents have been evacuated.
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: Well, we're just encouraging everybody to be very, very careful. You know, we banned fireworks in any place where there's woodlands or grasslands.
SYLVESTER: Members of the Colorado Air National Guard are assisting ground crews using C-130s to airlift water and fire retardant to the fire's front lines. The largest of the blazes is the High Park Fire in Northern Colorado, near Fort Collins. That one's been burning since June 9th. It has destroyed more than 250 homes. And the costs of trying to contain it have soared to more than $33 million.
The newest threat, the Flagstaff Fire, near Boulder. High winds and low humidity there are causing it to spread quickly. Residents are preparing for the worst.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We packed things that we thought were mementos, photographs.
SYLVESTER: Back in Colorado Springs, Russell Wolf has operated the landmark Flying W Ranch for 60 years. He wonders what lies ahead.
RUSSELL WOLFE, OWNER, FLYING-W RANCH: What -- what happens when -- if -- if everything burns down and all those buildings I built?
I just hope it stays OK. But I don't know. I'm 87 years old and I don't know what I'm going to do next. I'll do something.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SYLVESTER: So, so troubling for those folks.
Well, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized the use of federal funds to help fight the Waldo Canyon Fire after Colorado Springs and surrounding El Paso County declared an emergency -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Just that one, what 83?
SYLVESTER: Yes, 87 years old. Yes. Your heart goes out to these folks.
SYLVESTER: It really does.
CROWLEY: It does.
Lisa Sylvester, thank you so much.
Some of the flames from that Waldo Canyon Fire spiked as high as 20,000 feet into the air, fueled by hot winds and hot, dry conditions. Thunderstorms are in the forecast. And you might think that would help, but apparently it won't.
We want to bring in our severe weather expert, Chad Myers.
You -- you would think water would help, but I'm assuming it's the lightning?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It -- it's the lightning that hurts, and, also, what happened last night was the wind.
And let me describe what happened. Colorado Springs here, the western suburbs. This red zone right through there, that is the fire. There was a thunderstorm 30 miles to the northwest last night, up through Queen's Canyon. The thunderstorm was right here.
When that storm died, it blew all of its wind out the bottom of the storm, right down through Queen's Canyon. Queen's Canyon lit up. It wasn't even on fire. It lit up with embers jumping miles ahead. And then the ridge line caught on fire and then that fire went straight down the ridge line. And that right there is the Flying W. Not much left of it, as we know now.
There are also more suburban areas here. These are all homes here that they also were in the fire line. Those are the pictures that we showed you yesterday.
Let's get to a couple of those pictures now, because they are dramatic. You can go to DenverPost.com and see more -- home, home, home on fire. Home on fire. Amazing shots, devastating pictures for the people that live here.
We don't know whether there's dozens or hundreds of homes that are gone tonight. But here is the problem that I see in the next couple of hours, Candy. We have more thunderstorms developing in the same places that we had storms yesterday. If those same gusty winds blow down those same canyons, making the embers fly again, we could have another night tonight like we had last night. And I watched it online until at least midnight or so. It was devastating to watch.
CROWLEY: So essentially, these thunderstorms are like giant bellows?
MYERS: That's correct. A couple of things happen. When you put hot air into a hot air balloon, it wants to go up, because the air rises. When you take air, in a thunderstorm, or even a rain shower, and you push it into very dry air, the relative humidity is like 10 percent. When you push it down into the air, it evaporates and cools off. It's kind of like getting the alcohol on your arm when you get a shot, it gets cold because of the evaporation. That evaporation makes the air want to go down even harder.
When it goes down to the ground, it can't go any farther. It has to go out. When that air goes out, it blows down the canyons. And we had fires in the canyons. And those fires were a big bellow last night. And it just got worse and worse all night long.
CROWLEY: So, as you look at your weather map, beyond those thunderstorms you pointed out, which could mean more danger because of the winds that they're going to carry, is there anything out there that says to you, a couple days they might get some help?
MYERS: Not a couple days. I think maybe the El Nino pattern that's trying to develop in the Pacific, over a month, maybe you'd be able to put down enough rain to at least alleviate the drought.
We've had like 30 percent of what we need for rainfall to be, average, over the past two years. This entire area is just parched. Trees are dying because there's not enough rain. Trees are dying because of what's called the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle. It's just waiting to happen. And with the lightning here, I suspect we could have five or 10 more fires by tomorrow.
Chad Myers, thank you very much.
MYERS: You're welcome.
CROWLEY: I know you'll keep an eye on it for us.
MYERS: I will.
CROWLEY: Thanks so much.
Right now, thousands of Colorado residents are helplessly waiting to find out if their home survived this monster fire in one piece. They've already been through a lot.
CNN's Jim Spellman is in the fire Zone and talking to evacuees -- Jim.
JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Candy.
After seeing those photos that Chad was talking about and seeing this photo -- this fire firsthand, the people that are now in today's new evacuation zones are wasting no time getting out.
Take a look.
SPELLMAN (voice-over): After a brutal night of out of control wildfire in Colorado Springs, tough choices for families forced to evacuate.
(on camera): Was it difficult to decide what to bring and what to leave behind?
DARLENE COLBERT, EVACUEE: Oh, yes. You want to take everything. But you know you can't.
SPELLMAN (voice-over): Stan and Darlene Colbert are one of the last families in the evacuation zone to leave their home. They waited, hoping the fire would subside. But after watching the flames from their back porch, they knew it was time to go.
(on camera): Normally, this would be a pretty great view, but all I can see now is smoke.
STAN COLBERT, EVACUEE: That's all we can see today. It's pretty disheartening.
SPELLMAN (voice-over): They can only bring what will fit into the back of this pickup truck and this Jeep.
S. COLBERT: Just as soon as we close the hood, we're going to roll out of here.
D. COLBERT: OK.
SPELLMAN: Not everything fits into the Colberts' car. The dune buggies will stay behind. Luckily, though, all the family photos are packed up.
(on camera): After almost 20 years in your home, you must have a lot of memories.
S. COLBERT: (INAUDIBLE).
D. COLBERT: Lots of memories. And that's why the photos. And we have -- it's -- it's hard, you know?
But it's hard for everybody and all we can do is keep praying.
SPELLMAN (voice-over): Finally, they lock the doors for what may be the last time.
(on camera): When you pull out of the driveway and drive away, knowing that there's a chance you may never come back to this home again, what do you think that will feel like?
D. COLBERT: I -- I've already cried about that. I don't know how to start over. But we all do. As long as we have a life, I guess we just figure it out.
SPELLMAN (voice-over): They pull away knowing that even though they face an uncertain future, they're safe and together.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SPELLMAN: Candy, every single hotel room in Colorado Springs is full. And there are people staying at a handful of shelters. The bulk have been taken in with friends, like the Colberts. It's remarkable how much this community has come together to try to take care of each other.
CROWLEY: You know, Jim, I -- I think that quote at the bottom of the screen right now, which I know you can't see, "the sky is on fire," pretty much sums it up for us.
Let me ask you a question. We're hearing now that federal funds will be made available to help fight this fire.
At this point, is Colorado throwing everything they've got at it and it's just not working?
Or do they need more help?
Do they need more planes?
Do they need more firefighters?
SPELLMAN: They tell us they have all of the resources they need. It's really that the weather just overwhelms them. They're -- they flooded this area where the fire is with fire crews of -- of all sorts -- federal fire crews and state and local crews here. People come from all over the state and around the country to join this effort.
There's only so many crews you can fit into a certain amount of space. And when the winds kick up and it moves the fire beyond the fire lines -- last night it went beyond two fire lines -- there's really nothing you can do except pull out, move back and start over again.
Now, they did put out sort of an all points bulletin last night calling for help. They added about 400 firefighters to this. There's over 1,000 battling this now. So there are still resources that they need. And they also have four Air Force C-130s. They've been in the air for two days now helping this blaze.
It's just that when you've got 60 mile an hour wind gusts with these kind of conditions, so hot, so dry and such a lack of humidity, it -- it's almost impossible to really stay ahead of it until you get a break from Mother Nature.
CROWLEY: And tell me how much time these evacuees generally get before they say get out and do it this second?
SPELLMAN: Last night, some only had a matter of a couple of hours. First they do what's called a pre-evacuation and they let people know it's time to go and, look, if you've somewhere comfy to go, go ahead. Go now. And then they make it a mandatory evacuation.
Last night, I couldn't keep up with the updates of subdivisions and neighborhoods. It advanced several miles north in probably less than an hour.
And at that point, neighbors are going -- police are going door- to-door, telling people, you've got to get out right now, right now. I've never seen a firefighter -- a fire -- a wildfire change complexions so fast as it did yesterday evening, Candy, where it went from in the canyons and relatively under control to just out of control in maybe two hours. It was -- it was amazing how fast those winds came in and changed the whole complexion of the fire for everyone involved.
Jim Spellman, we may see more of that tonight, at least according to the weather report, with more of those windy storms coming in.
Thank you so much for covering this for us.
We will be talking with you.
SPELLMAN: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Syria's president says his country is in a state of war and now he's blaming the West for a deadly attack on a pro-government TV station.
Plus, there are new allegations fueling a scandal in the U.S. Air Force -- instructors accused of sexually assaulting female cadets.
And floodwaters are up to the roofs of some homes in one Florida community hard-hit by Debby's slog across the state.
CROWLEY: Jack Cafferty's here. I am told he has the "Cafferty File." What are the chances? Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Indeed, I do. Thanks, candy. No breaking news here. A lot of Americans are hurting big-time from a lousy economy, but that doesn't stop the politicians, shameless creatures that they are, from holding out their hands for campaign contributions. It's an election year, you know.
The latest scheme comes courtesy of President Obama who wants people to give him money in lieu of giving graduation, anniversary, wedding, birthday, (INAUDIBLE) gifts. This new fund raising tool lets those who want to contribute set up a gift registry to solicit donations from their friends and loved ones to give to Obama. This in lieu of a gift for your birthday or your wedding. The name for this is chutzpah. The website suggests, quote, "this is a great way to support the president on your big day." Plus, it's a gift that we can all appreciate and goes a lot farther than a gravy bowl. Gag. As you can imagine, critics and comedians are having a heyday with this.
Jimmy Kimmel suggests this is, quote, "A great way for people to lie about getting you a present." And one guy writes on the campaign's website, quote, "My six-year-old just lost a tooth. He's going to be so excited when the tooth fairy leaves him an Obama-Biden donation receipt in his name."
Meanwhile, the president, Mitt Romney, and the rest of them go right on asking Americans to give thee money at a time when millions of Americans can't find a job, and 28 percent of us have no emergency savings. Manners and CNN policy don't permit me to use the language I would like to to describe these people. this is an idea they can stick in their gravy bowls.
Here's the question, where do political contributions rank on your list of spending priorities? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Unbelievable.
CROWLEY: It really -- you're going to have some great answers.
CROWLEY: I can't wait. Thanks, Jack.
To the Pentagon now and growing allegations that Air Force instructors are sexually assaulting the female cadets they're training. CNN Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is at the Pentagon with details. Hey, Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Candy. Well, in one case, an instructor copped a plea bargain and admitted to prosecutors that he had improper sexual conduct with one trainee. After the plea bargain, he admitted it wasn't just one woman, it was ten. And that's the kind of problem that the Air Force is dealing with now.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): A drill instructor charged with rape. A master sergeant accused of giving alcohol and having sex with a young female recruit. The Air Force is reeling from a spreading sex scandal.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) CALIFORNIA: There is a cabal of persons at Lackland that are sexual predators.
LAWRENCE: Two more airmen have been charged, and now a dozen boot camp instructors are under investigation at the Texas base.
SPEIER: They are people that feel that it's OK to train these recruits and then force them to have sex with them.
LAWRENCE: Prosecutors only charged one airmen with raping a recruit he was training at Lackland Air Base. Four others are accused of sexual misconduct with more being investigated.
ANU BHAGWATI, SERVICE WOMEN'S ACTION NETWORK: The basic training environment in particular is honestly a target-rich environment for sexual predators.
LAWRENCE: Anu Bhagwati is a former Marine Corps officer who says there's no such thing as instructors having consensual sex with young female recruits.
BHAGWATI: You have that relationship with your instructor, which is based on fear and intimidation. If that's the person you're asking help from, well, I mean, it becomes a very bizarre scenario.
LAWRENCE: One of the alleged victims testified that her instructor was like a father to me. Another said of the military training instructors, they're MTIs, and you don't say no to them. The Air Force investigation is spreading to four bases, but the problem goes beyond one branch of service.
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Sexual assault is no place in the military.
LAWRENCE: The Pentagon estimates there are 19,000 sexual assaults each year. But only a small percentage of these military crimes are actually reported. And less than eight percent go to a court-martial.
BRENT BOLLER, JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO SPOKESMAN: We take every alleged incident such as this extremely seriously, and we investigate them thoroughly.
LAWRENCE: To be fair, many instructors at Lackland have behaved professionally.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They always made us feel safe. We never felt uncomfortable.
LAWRENCE: But some critic says unit commanders are not equipped to investigate sexual assault accusations.
SPEIER: It's too much of, we can't let this out. We've got to somehow, you know, sweep it under the carpet.
LAWRENCE (on-camera): Even Defense Secretary Panetta admits that, many times, local unit commanders just sort of sweep this aside and don't pay enough attention to it, it's why the Pentagon is creating sort of a special victims unit within each branch of service to put experts who know how to collect evidence and really talk to alleged victims of sexual assault to put these cases together, candy. CROWLEY: Chris, let me ask you a quick question if you know. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but are sexual assaults up in the military? Is there a way they can tell?
LAWRENCE: Well, they are up. I mean, that's one of the big problems. And as we pointed out in some of those figures, the big problem is how many are actually underreported. You know, that's the case since the civilian world, the case in the military as well. But there is a way when women or men, for that matter, feel they are a victim of sexual assault.
They do have some avenues. Each base has sort of a sexual assault coordinator independently that they can go to. They can also just call 911. You have the medical staff, chaplains, but the problem, of course, in the military like it is in the civilian world, is getting people to talk about what's happened.
CROWLEY: Sure. And turning in a superior, which you know is even more problematic in the military. Listen, thanks so much, Chris Lawrence. Appreciate it.
CROWLEY: Could George Zimmerman have done more to diffuse his encounter with Trayvon Martin in the moments before the unarmed teen was shot to death? The dramatic details of a new report just ahead.
Plus, how the TSA is responding to disturbing allegations it spilled the ashes of a traveler's cremated relative.
CROWLEY: There are new indications George Zimmerman may have missed opportunities to diffuse his encounter with Trayvon Martin in the moments before the unarmed teen was killed. Our Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Candy. Well, Florida prosecutors have released information from a police investigator in the case who wrote that on at least two occasions, Zimmerman failed to identify himself as a concerned resident or neighborhood watch volunteer.
Zimmerman's attorney filed the motion today requesting he'd be allowed to appear unshackled at his Friday bond hearing. He is charged with second-degree murder in Martin's February shooting death.
And an Indiana man is demanding an apology from the TSA, according to CNN affiliate, WRTV, after an agent at Orlando Airport allegedly sifted through his grandfather's cremated remains, spilling some of them on the floor. The TSA has issued a statement saying under no circumstances should a container holding remains be opened.
It says it's been unable to reach the family, but an initial review has concluded some reports of what happened are inconsistent with what it believes transpired.
And two cups of coffee a day may play a role in keeping your heart healthy. A new study in the American Heart Association's journal finds two eight-ounce cups a day gives you an 11 percent lower risk of developing heart failure. It looked at a decade's worth of data from more than 140,000 patients. The flip side, though, more than four cups seems to cancel out any benefits.
And Cleveland Indians fans can't be happy right now. Watch this as New York Yankee outfielder, Dewayne Wise, dives into the stands for an incredible catch. Look at that. But, not so fast. You see it there. A fan actually comes up with the ball. Now, Wise ran to the dugout like he caught it despite not having it in his glove.
The umpire never asked to see the ball and called the hitter out. No doubt a terrible call. But it was a great acting job by Wise. I guess. (INAUDIBLE). Look at that.
SYLVESTER: Look at that. Rewind that tape. Yes.
CROWLEY: Cheating in America's pastime. It's, you know, foul. He's out. You know, all that stuff. Wow. That's amazing.
SYLVESTER: That's my favorite story of the day, Candy.
CROWLEY: Yes. It's pretty good. It's pretty good. Thanks so much, Lisa Sylvester. Appreciate it.
We are watching the flooding crisis in Florida. We'll take you to a community where some homes are almost completely under water. You might think a flood insurance bill would breeze through the Senate just about now, but a debate over when life begins is getting in the way.
And we'll meet a woman who says it will be a death sentence for her if the city of Stockton, California goes bankrupt.
CROWLEY: A lot of people in Florida are baling water out of their homes today now that the storm called Debby has moved out of the state and into the Atlanta. The flooding crisis, however, is far from over after two feet of rain fell in some places swelling rivers and leaving some low lying areas practically under water.
CNN's George Howell is in Live Oak, Florida.
George, what is the scene there.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, we are where on Ohio Street here in Live Oak and this where the road ends. And right over here where the search and rescue operation begins for these emergency crews especially since we now know that at least three people died here in the state of Florida due to this storm system. I talked to the person who is overseeing the Florida National Guard search and rescue operation as his crews go into these floodwaters looking for people who need their help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: How high the water is at that stop sign, what do you think when you see a situation like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I look on the building and I see that it was up a foot higher than it was. So you know that the worst of it is probably passed. But your heart goes out to everyone here who lives in this community, who works in this community. And you know they're severely impacted by this event.
We've had rescues take place. We've rescued people from their homes, rescued people from a tree, rescued people from on top of their automobiles when they've driven into water that was much too deep.
This one has significant water. And some of the rivers in this area are not going to crest for a few more days. So even though the sky is blue and the clouds disappeared, we're still under threat here with rising waters in our rivers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: A live picture here back in Live Oak. You see these floodwaters. In some cases eight feet deep. Now, this is just - this is the deep water. But crews also urge people to think twice about the shallow water. That water that drivers see on the road six inches deep that drivers think they can cross, they say there's a danger there, especially at night, Candy, because you can never tell exactly how high that water is.
CROWLEY: George, how far back does that flooding go? Like if we could take the camera and move on, how far would we move down that block?
HOWELL: Can we pan down there and take a look? That's several blocks, at least five or six blocks. And keep in mind, Candy, you know, we drove around there with the National Guard. This goes for several, several blocks. And a lot of people, believe it or not, some people are still in their homes. Some people choose to stay in their homes. They believe that they are safe. They're still walking around in a lot of water.
Keep in mind there is still the danger these waters are still rising. So that's why these crews are out and about to make sure people are safe and to rescue those people who need them.
CROWLEY: George, are authorities fairly certain that there are no fatalities around? That nobody sort of stayed in their home? You're talking water rising to the rooftops, are they still looking for people? Or do they feel relatively certain that they've gotten to all of the really bad spots? HOWELL: From what we can tell, it seems to be a day-by-day and even hour-by-hour affair. These crews are always out and about. They're always going down the roads to check-in with those people who decided, again, to stay in their homes despite this floodwater. So, that's the way they are monitoring this situation.
So far at least here in Live Oak, they believe they have accounted for all of the people who lived in this area. And then the people who choose to stay here despite the waters.
CROWLEY: George Howell, thank you so much.
This might seem like the perfect time for the Senate to move on a bill for flood insurance given what's going on in Florida. But one U.S. senator is in the way. It's a new standoff until the culture wars and the debate over when life begins.
Our Brian Todd has that story - Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Candy, Senator Rand Paul says this is very important to him that a major vote on when life begins has never really been addressed by the Senate. But he's taking a gamble on public perception here. He wants to force a vote as part of a measure, as Candy mentioned, on flood insurance. And in the aftermath of tropical storm Debby, the perception that the Senate isn't moving on flood insurance isn't helping either side right now.
TODD (voice-over): Homes and businesses ravaged by flooding in areas near two major Florida cities. Now, a bill that would help some people get flood insurance in the future is in jeopardy because Republican senator Rand Paul wants to add a controversial amendment completely unrelated to flooding.
Paul wants the Senate to vote on whether life begins at fertilization. He calls it the life at conception amendment. Majority leader Harry Reid is frustrated.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm not going to put up with that on the planning insurance.
TODD: A senior Democratic aide calls Paul's move a stunt, a showboat. Say, if every senator behaved this way, the Senate would collapse. Paul's bill would give legal protection to fetus from quote, "the moment of fertilizations."
The term abortion isn't actually in the amendment, but Paul's office says if this ever passed, Rove versus Wade would be effectively reversed.
Laura MacCleery, of the Center of Reproductive right, calls this part of a war on women.
What senator Paul wants goes beyond just banning abortion. LAURA MACCLEERY, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: It does. It would man some forms of contraception. And it would certainly reach in vitro fertilization which is something that most people support when couples needed.
TODD: We called, e-mailed and went to Rand Paul's office to see if he would respond to the criticism. We couldn't get him to go on camera. But his press aide sent us a statement saying "Senator Paul is serious about this issue. It's an important issue that deserves the time of the Senate to debate. And this issue has never been voted on."
Darrell West of the Brookings Institution says this will help Rand Paul with his conservative political conservative base back home in Kentucky. But --
DARRELL WEST, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: It's a sign of how the culture wars have really helped to make the Senate a dysfunctional institution. People are so intent on forcing votes on key bills that sometimes they derail legislation designed to improve the country as a whole.
TODD: So how long is this going to go back and forth? I asked both sides. Senator Paul's aide says he's not holding this up. It's Senator Reid's choice on whether to call a simple up or down vote on Paul's life at conception amendment.
Now, an aide to Senator Reid said the choice is here is Rand Paul's. He can choose to keep objecting or he can drop his objection and let the flood insurance bill move forward. But in the meantime, Candy, flood insurance won't be there for people who may need it in future months.
CROWLEY: Just to underscore, this doesn't affect the people we're seeing here in the Florida flood. This is future insurance.
TODD: That's right. The people in Florida either now have flood insurance or they don't. It does not affect them. This bill would help future homeowners, you know, people in flood-prone areas, they need to have insurance in order to buy their homes, this is going to prevent them from getting that flood insurance -- some of them from getting that flood insurance in the coming months.
And again, we're entering hurricane season here, August and September, people are wanting to buy homes are going to need that insurance. If this doesn't go through soon, they may not get it in time.
CROWLEY: We'll see who backs down first.
CROWLEY: Brian Todd, thanks. More fuel for the deadly conflict in Syria. A pro-government TV station attacked. Now the al-Assad regime says someone will be punished.
CROWLEY: To Syria now where the government is claiming at least seven people are dead after a horrific blast at a state television station.
CNN's Ivan Watson has the latest from Istanbul, Turkey.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Syrian government says rebels attacked at dawn at the headquarters of the pro-government TV channel, al-Ikhbaria. It's outside of Damascus. And the government says the rebels killed three journalists working there as well as four security guards, and then planted explosives there blowing the place up.
The information minister for the Syrian government is calling this an act of terrorism, an attack on media and journalists inside Syria. And he's also blamed this attack on western governments and Arab and international institutions that he claims are part of a conspiracy against the Syrian regime.
What is clear is that the armed opposition is operating and increasingly audacious in its attacks on Syrian government targets and targets affiliated with the Syrian government. And that goes with the United Nations report today before the U.N. human rights commission. The deputy special envoy to Syria, he said that despite a six-point peace plan put into effect months ago, not only was the Syrian government apparently trying to retake urban centers that are in rebel control using artillery and helicopters and pro-government militia and infantry and tanks, but also the armed opposition stepped up assassinations of high-ranking military officials and the use of improvised explosive devices that we know so well from neighboring Iraq in bloody years gone by. The problem with that, the U.N. says, is it not only kills military targets, but also Syrian civilians. Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.
CROWLEY: She says it's like a death sentence. Ahead, we talk to a cancer patient losing her health benefits in a city poised to become the largest in the country to file for bankruptcy.
CROWLEY: Stockton, California, is on the verge of becoming the country's largest city to file for bankruptcy. And for some who live there, it could become a matter of life and death.
CNN's Casey Wian sat down with a retired city worker now being asked to pay for cancer care with money she doesn't have. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MAYOR ANN JOHNSTON, STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA: This is probably the most difficult decision I have ever had to make as an elected official. And it's heart-wrenching to think about the implications for all of you sitting in these chambers.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bankruptcy looms for Stockton, California. The results of a real estate market crash, bad civic investments and generous benefits for city workers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came here 50 years ago. And I have never, ever, ever seen it this bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not forget what you've done to my family.
WIAN: Neither will 59-year-old Anna Segura, who worked as a Stockton police department records officer for 26 years. She retired with full medical benefits in 2008. Now, the city's bankruptcy budget will require her to pay $1,200 a month for health care.
ANNA SEGURA, RETIRED STOCKTON CITY EMPLOYEE: July first, $1,200. I don't have $1,200. I need the health insurance. Right now I am having some medical issues. Back in 2010 I was - cancer, cervical cancer.
WIAN: After two surgeries, one cancer recurrence, radiation treatment, and clean bill of health in March, Segura says her symptoms returned last month.
SEGURA: Right now I am talking to my doctor. He wants me to come in. But now I'm faced with, how can I come in? They're not going to touch me without insurance. So it's like saying, you know, I'm going to die because I don't have no other insurance.
WIAN: In 1982, the Stockton police department offered Segura a generous benefits package. The mother of three says she couldn't turn it down.
SEGURA: They made that promise and said, Anna, you work for us, we guarantee you that you will have health benefits when you reach a certain age. They promised. And they turn around and lied. You know, you can't do that. You know, I feel that they betrayed me.
WIAN: Add to that, Anna is behind on her mortgage and owes nearly $200,000 on her house. Like many homeowners in financially strapped cities nationwide is worth about half that.
SEGURA: The doctor tells me, control your stress. Now, you know with the house turning -- being upside down and we fixed that issue, then, now with the issue with the medical, those are the two main important things in people's lives, your home and your health. Yes. And those two have now crashed.
WIAN: Hundreds of other former city workers face similar problems.
SEGURA: What am I going to do? Just pray and ask God to help me to get through this situation.
WIAN: For Stockton, bankruptcy will mean a new opportunity to renegotiate its debts and keep the city operating. For retirees like Anna Segura, they may never get that chance -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Casey Wian, not a good answer for anybody, looks like. Thank you so much.
We want to take you all now -- taking you all now back to Colorado Springs, Colorado. We've been talking all this hour about that horrific fire out there. And we want to go back to Jim Spellman who earlier brought us stories of people evacuating. And your backdrop has changed completely. And you haven't moved.
JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Candy. Just take a look at this. All day long fire crews here have been worried about storms coming in the afternoon creating what Chad Myers described as outflow with the wind whips through these canyons in the city.
It's happened in the last 15 or 20 minutes or so, the winds have started really whipping through here. The temperature's dropped probably 15, maybe 20 degrees. And this - and you can see from the smoke that the direction of the wind has changed. Now instead of blowing north up the mountains, it's blowing straight into the city.
And Candy, what's concerning about this is this is the exact phenomenon we saw yesterday when the fire got so bad, so intense, started jumping fire lines and burning houses. This is exactly what fire crews have been worried about all day. And now it's happening.
We'll have to see what actually happens with the impact, if they're able to mitigate more of the fire moving into the areas. But, it was predicted and now it is happening here in Colorado Springs, Candy.
CROWLEY: How far are you from homes that may be in danger at this point?
SPELLMAN: A mile and a half, two miles. It is a little bit hard to say. There's a freeway, interstate 25 that goes north, south. Everything on the west side of the interstate is closed down, all the way to the mountains, from the air force academy all the way down to Garden of the Gods, which is a popular national park, state park here.
It's really a wide area, and they're expanding it north, even farther with evacuations, and you can see why. One of the main concerns is an ember will pick up into the wind and can fly with this kind of timber up to a half mile, go behind the fire lines and start new fires. That's why they expanded the evacuation area so far north. But I tell you, when you feel this, it feels like an intense summer storm rolling in. But instead of rain, we're getting ash. CROWLEY: So, is there fire lines now set up? What are they trying? Is this basically standing back, waiting for the weather or winds to change or are there fire walls they hope the fire won't jump?
SPELLMAN: Well, they create fire lines, depending completely on the geography. They have to work with where they are. Yesterday they were in wooded areas, and they tried to use existing roads and supplement with lines they create with bulldozers, and even using Hansel, axes and the like to knock down trees and create a barrier between fuel and the fire that exists.
But when it gets to residential areas, sort of suburban areas where you have roads, and cul-de-sacs and houses, they have to look at the fuel around individual houses, try to decide which ones they can save, which ones they have to move on and try to save the one next to it.
It becomes more complex to assess. You can't look at sort of a top down map and say this is the line. You have to play it as it goes. The good thing is there's a bit less fool as you can imagine a suburban subdivision than intensely wooded area, but it creates such different hazards because there's so many more people around it. That's what set this fire apart from all of the other fires this season, how close it is to so many people in this community, Candy.
CROWLEY: Our Jim Spellman in Colorado Springs, thank you so much for that update.
You have probably heard of rock, paper scissors, but what about rock, paper, robot? If you challenge this thing to a round, you're definitely going to lose.
CROWLEY: Here is a look at this hour's hot shots.
In Germany, South African and German wheelchair basketball teams compete in a friendly match.
In India, a family watches the sun peeks over the moon over by skyline.
In England, Olympic torch bearer holds the flame on a coastal beach. Only 30 days until the opening ceremonies.
And in China, two children enjoy playing in a Beijing fountain.
Hot shots, pictures coming in from around the world.
After all of those beautiful pictures, time now to check back with our Jack Cafferty -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much.
The question this hour, where to political contributions rank on your list of spending priorities? Robert in Alabama says "ranks just below my contribution to the big oil companies at the gas pump so that I can have a productive day standing in an unemployment line."
Ralph in Texas says, "right below sending money off to one of those star registry gift offers that sell off a star in a loved one's name. As for any political campaign donation request, what galaxy do they think I come from?"
Kirk in Minnesota, "on a scale of one to ten, minus 37."
Cee writes, "they don't, Jack. My 50 cents would be lost among the list of large contributors. And so is my voice. And that's the problem with our system. The Supreme Court silenced the voice of masses with its citizens' united decision."
Susan in California, "right up there with elective root canal procedures."
Martha writes, "a few items south of room fresheners."
And Jack in Lancaster, Ohio says, Mr. Cafferty, it would rank the lowest on a very special list. The title of which I'm sure the SITUATION ROOM would not published."
You are right. If you want to read more about this, go to the blog, CNN.com/caffertyfiles or through our post on the SITUATION ROOM's facebook page. Always a pleasure sharing this little bit of air time with Candy Crowley, nice to see you.
CROWLEY: It's nice to see you. And I just want to tell you no one ever bought me a star, I'm just saying.
CAFFERTY: Well, you know, maybe I'll be the first.
CROWLEY: OK. It's a deal!
CROWLEY: A new robot is putting a unique twist on the game rock, paper, scissors. And chances are high, well, there are 100 percent, in fact, if you challenge this gadget to a round, you're going to lose.
Jeanne moos has a look at why.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When robots start to play rock, paper, scissors, humanity may find itself caught between a rock and paper because humans lose to this machine 100 percent of the time.
It was designed at a (INAUDIBLE) laboratory at University of Tokyo. Let's slow it down so you can see paper losing to the robot's scissors, or the robot's paper beating rock. Only way to beat this thing is to invent new rules as they did on "friends."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fire, beats everything.
MOOS: How does the robot do it? Well, a high speed camera recognizes which shape the human hand is making and within one millisecond chooses the gesture that trumps it. Rock, paper, scissors, you cheat, robot, you cheat, cheating really fast. It is like a card shark who sees your hand.
But what about the folks that organize championship tournaments? What does the world rock paper scissor society think of the robot?
DOUGLAS WALKER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, WORLD ROCK, PAPER, SCISSOR SOCIETY: It is extremely impressive.
MOOS: Doug last Walker doesn't consider it cheating. He says humans try to determine what sign a human will throw.
WALKER: The highest level rock, paper, scissor player actually do look at people's hands.
MOOS: For humans, rock, paper, scissors resonates from childhood. We are not sure what a rock scissor robot is good for practically speaking. The same lab designed cloth folding, and pen spinning and egg catching, and rope knotting robots. The Rock, paper scissors society did have one criticism of the robot's vertical paper sign.
WALKER: Which is technically bad form.
MOOS: Instead of vertical handshake motion.
WALKER: This is correct position for paper.
MOOS: Take that, cheating robot. You have lousy form. You're no better than the Simpsons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Poor predictable Bart. Always takes rock.
MOOS: Lisa Simpson's vertical paper.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rock, paper.
MOOS: Sticks out like a sore thumb.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
CROWLEY: That's it for me. Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm Candy Crowley in the SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.