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THE SITUATION ROOM

Rebels Claim New Massacre Inside Syria; Same-Sex Kiss Day At Chick-fil-A; U.S. Economy; Jobs Report; Deadly Ebola Outbreak; NASA's Riskiest Mars Landing

Aired August 3, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, new action from the United Nations as the violence in Syria spins out of control. Just ahead, why some critics argue it's to little too late.

Plus, it's a place where not one inch of skin can be exposed. CNN suits up for exclusive access inside the epicenter of a deadly Ebola outbreak.

And gay rights activists around the country seal their bold message to Chick-fil-A with a kiss.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Candy Crowley. And you're in the SITUATION ROOM.

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CROWLEY: The bloodshed worsens in Syria prompting grave concern inside the U.N. The General Assembly today issued a strong resolution not only slamming the actions of the Syrian government, but also the Security Council's failure to deal with the crisis. This amid reports of 120 people killed across the country just today. At least 72 of them believed to be in another deadly massacre. We want to go straight to our Brian Todd who's joining us with more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, this is an all-out chaotic fight in Syria right now. The Calvary is not on the way. The U.N. and the west unable to step in right now. And now, the Syrian rebels have weapons that can cause even more bloodshed.

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TODD (voice-over): The battles are growing uglier and more contentious. Syrian rebels slugging it out with government forces near Damascus and Aleppo. Rebel factions now have some heavy armament on their side including tanks and heavy guns captured from the Syrian army. Not all are serviceable, but the rebels used some against the army this week near Aleppo. How did they capture them?

AKIL HASHEM, RETIRED SYRIAN GENERAL: This regime troops (ph) are very coward. And once they feel the heat from the freedom fighters, they just desert their tanks just like that.

TODD: Akil Hashem is a retired Syrian army general. He left the military a long time ago but knows it well. He now supports the opposition forces. I asked Hashem him if the newly seized tanks might tip the balance for the rebels.

HASHEM: No, not at all. The regime still has something around 4,000 tanks. So, capturing 40 or 50 or 60 will not make any difference.

TODD: Hashem says if the rebels get more sophisticated anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons, those would make more of a difference. What's not making a huge difference right now, the United Nations. The Security Council could not agree on tough resolutions against Syria. And special envoy, Kofi Annan, quit in exasperation.

KOFI ANNAN, RESIGNED AS U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: When the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger pointing and name calling in the Security Council.

TODD: That ineffectiveness in Syria draws grim comparisons. There as in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and Rwanda in the 1990s, the world body has shown an inability to stop a murderous regime or paramilitary force bent on killing. Analyst, Frank Gaffney, says the U.N sometimes even makes things worse.

How does it contribute to problems in situations like this, civil wars or the things like that?

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: One way is by creating the impression that somebody's going to do something about a problem. Whatever that problem may be, it's a humanitarian disaster on the one hand, or cases like this, it's acts of aggression often genocide in proportions. And in the end, it almost never can do anything.

TODD: A U.N. spokesman responds.

FARHAN HAQ, U.N. SPOKESMAN: But when the U.N. Security Council is united like they were last year in Libya, it can be very effective. In Libya, the Security Council was able to halt a defensive that could have killed tens of thousands of people.

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TODD (on-camera): Farhan Haq also cites conflicts in Lebanon, Eretria, and Ethiopia, and in Congo where he says the U.N. was able to ratchet down tensions on the ground with the use of its peacekeepers, humanitarian aid teams, and peace negotiators, Candy.

CROWLEY: Let me just get back a minute to the weaponry. You say that the rebels now have got some Syrian government tanks and some other equipment. I'm reminded of those pictures in Libya where we saw some of the rebels take over some of the equipment.

TODD: Right.

CROWLEY: And they were shooting ground to air missiles in the wrong direction.

TODD: Right.

CROWLEY: Do these rebels know how to operate some of this heavy duty equipment?

TODD: Gen. Akil Hashem says every young man in Syria has to undergo at least two years of military training, military service. So, he says many of them do have some rudimentary knowledge of that. They can use -- have some rudimentary knowledge of how to operate tanks, but the question now is a lot of analysts are saying, a lot of these tanks are in pretty bad shape.

So, their effectiveness is going to will be limited. We'll see what they can do with some of this equipment.

CROWLEY: Yes. Some of it better than none of it, but nonetheless.

TODD: Right.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Brian Todd. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to talk more about the crisis in Syria, Andrew Tabler. He's a senior fellow at the Washington Institute and author of the new book, "In The Lion's Den." Andrew, good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

ANDREW TABLER, SR. FELLOW, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: Thank you.

CROWLEY: What can you tell us about Aleppo right now and the fighting that's going on there.?

TABLER: There's an intense battle going on between the rebels who claim to actually control about a third or more of the city and the government's forces which have thrown everything that they possibly can at Aleppo, including pulling military units out of key areas in the Kurdish east and elsewhere in the country.

So, it's a real battle. It's what Syria's largest city. And it's there that the regime hopes to put a lid on this Ramadan offensive by the opposition.

CROWLEY: And so, when we hear so often this will be the turning point, Aleppo is the key. Do you mean the war will either continue here or end here? Is that what that means?

TABLER: No. It's just that this is just one of the flare ups, and it's been every year during -- every Ramadan since the beginning of the uprising, violence has spiked. And this is one thing that I think that most of the international powers were looking to and it's been a real problem because as some of your earlier commentators have said, the U.N.'S been unable to do -- unable to step in and unable to come up with a solution to this.

CROWLEY: And let's say the U.N. was able to come up with something, which obviously they are unable to do, because the Security Council is so split, but Assad is not going to listen to the Security Council, is he?

TABLER: Absolutely not.

CROWLEY: So, that's always sort of been, you know, a function with absolutely no meaning.

TABLER: Exactly. It's actually pretending to do something when you're actually not doing something. And I think this is where Kofi Annan was wrong. I don't think its Russia and America's fault for this. The origin of the conflict is inside of Syria. That's where the political problem is.

And one side has to win over the other. And the United States backs the opposition as do the western countries. And now, we're going to have to go that route by directly backing them.

CROWLEY: OK. Listen, thank you so much, Andrew Tabler. It's always good to get your perspective.

TABLER: My pleasure.

CROWLEY: After slogging through a grueling schedule of three and four-day workweeks, members of Congress finally have thrown in the towel and headed off on vacation. Senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, took a peek at the long and unfinished to-do list they left behind. But Dana, you say lawmakers can point to at least some accomplishments.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Candy. Maybe, at this point, people have such a low view of Congress. Their biggest accomplishment is them leaving town. But I just want you to take a look at this. You know where I am. I'm in the Russell Building Rotunda.

You've been here many, many times. It is usually where we see senators, we see reporters, a lot of hubbub. This is what it looks like right now. Empty, a ghost town. Everybody is gone and will be for five weeks. And as you said, Congress did leave a lot of unfinished business on the table.

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BASH (voice-over): Be hold a familiar ritual of the modern republic, the Congressional bolt for the exits, five weeks home for summer sun and campaign craziness. Instead of boasting about accomplishments, bipartisan hand wringing.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: I am disappointed, perplexed, and somewhat confused.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: There's so much unfinished business.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: The American people are probably more polarized now than any time since I've been here. And as a result, we see that polarization reflected here in the halls of Congress.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: This is a moment of disappointment that I really cannot conceal.

BASH: Joe Lieberman was talking there about a classic example of Congressional gridlock, cyber security. Legislation national security experts call critical to protecting America from espionage and cyber attacks, stuck in the Senate because of partisan difference.

But that's just one stalled bill on a countless list of others, from food stamps and drought relief to reform for the cash-strapped post office. Legislation left on the table that really affects people's jobs and lives. To be fair, Congress did get some important things done so far this year like extending federal aid for student loans and sanctioning Iran.

But it's not just our imagination. It has been far less productive than in the past. Take a look at this. So far, this 112th Congress has enacted 151 laws. That's fewer than half the 385 laws enacted in the last Congress and a lot fewer than the 460 laws enacted before that. A key reason this Congress is less productive, divided government.

More laws passed in the last decade when one party controlled all of Congress. Of course, more laws don't necessarily mean better government. Even so by historical standards, this Congress is slow to move legislation even issues both parties want to tackle. They can't find compromise.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAIN: There certainly is plenty of blame to go around.

BASH: She was talking about cyber security, but it could also be said about most of Congress' large stack of unfinished business. One retiring Republican says he still has hope in a colorful if not alarming way.

REP. STEVEN, LATOURETTE, (R) OHIO: It's a little bit like an alcoholic in my mind. I think the place has to hit bottom before they realize they got a problem and begin to fix it.

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BASH (on-camera): And there will be a lot to fix when members of Congress return here in the fall. Some of the biggest issues facing the country really, Candy, when it comes to the economy and the American people's wallets, the biggest issue, I think, that we're going to be talking about a lot, of course, is those Bush-era tax cuts, whether or not they should be extended, and if so, for whom -- Candy.

CROWLEY: That's one thing about to-do lists, they never get any shorter. Dana Bash, thanks so much.

Same-sex couples are converging on Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country and sealing their relationships with a kiss. Plus, a mixed jobs report leaves some Americans scratching their heads. Find out what it could mean for you.

And why Apple is now revealing that the launch of its popular iPhone series almost never happened.

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CROWLEY: Gay rights activists declared today as same-sex kiss day at Chick-fil-A. It's their answer to Wednesday's Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A that drew long lines of people who support the restaurant chain president's opposition to same sex marriage. CNN's George Howell is keeping track of today's turnout. Hey, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, well, if you use the Facebook fan page as any indication, what we saw on Wednesday, the more than 600,000 plus people who showed up for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day much bigger than what we saw today.

Some 13,000 people signed up for today's kiss-in, but you saw these crowds here in Atlanta, Georgia, we saw crowds, saw crowds all across the country. But here in Atlanta, we spoke with one person who organized a rally and also tried to invite the CEO, the president of Chick-fil-A to her house to talk about the issue. That didn't happen. But she told us why she held the rally. Take a listen.

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MARCI ALT, PLANNED DECATUR, GEORGIA PROTEST: I'm sure that he will find that we share some of the same kind of values. So, I think it would open his eyes to understand that, you know, just because we're, you know, a lesbian couple that, you know, we're really not any different than Him and Mrs. Cathy.

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HOWELL: So, the numbers weren't quite as big, but the goal was still to start a conversation. And they did that at many Chick-fil-As across the country. But we also heard from Chick-fil-A, I got a response from them about how they were handling this. And I want to read this to you, Candy.

Chick-fil-A, they say, "We appreciate all of our customers and are glad to serve them at any time. Our goal is simple, to provide great food, genuine hospitality, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with the Chick-fil-A."

Now, while that happened today, we did see one isolated incident at a Chick-fil-A in Torrence, California, we saw a graffiti written on a Chick-fil-A that said "taste like hate." Again, an isolated incident. That was not the goal of many of the people who came together, the thousands who came together to share a different message, Candy.

CROWLEY: So, as far as we know, George, is the same-sex marriage issue, and so far, is tied to Chick-fil-A, is it now over? The demonstrations done and both sides feel they've had their say or is more in store?

HOWELL: When you talk to people, especially people who showed up on Wednesday, they say they will continue to support this company. And keep in mind, on Wednesday, the company saw record profits. They would not give specifics on the numbers. It is a private company, but they said they made a lot of money that day.

And you can also bet that people who oppose the company will stop eating there and continue to share their message.

CROWLEY: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

We have proof that concealed weapons can sometimes stop criminals. Some would-be jewelry store robbers just found that out the hard way.

We also have a story that might inspire you to finally clean up your attic. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

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CROWLEY: We're learning more about the arrest of three suspected terrorists in Spain. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM. Mary, what have you got?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, it's being called one of Spain's biggest operations against al Qaeda. Two of the men were arrested Wednesday. The third man was detained yesterday.

Authorities say they had enough explosives to blow up a bus and were actively planning an attack inside Spain or elsewhere in Europe. They believe France may have been the first target, because the suspects were headed there.

Apple's iPhone launched a revolution of Smartphone technology, but it almost didn't happen. Apple's head of design says the company almost gave up on the iPhone several times because there were too many design flaws in early models. They eventually worked out the kinks. The first iPhone launched in 2007. Since then, Apple has sold more than 200 million of them.

Five would-be robbers in California got an unexpected surprise when a 65-year-old woman chased them from a jewelry store with a gun. Take a look. Surveillance video shows the men entering the store with bags. Seconds later, the gun-toting owner starting firing.

The men run for the door. The get-away driver took off so fast three of the guys were left behind. They were picked up a block away. Police are still looking for the suspects.

And a rare discovery leads to a huge payoff for an Ohio family. Carl Kissner (ph) was cleaning out an attic when he came across some vintage baseball cards in mint condition that belonged to his grandfather. The card sold at auction yesterday for, get this, more than half a million dollars.

Family spreading the wealth. The money will be split among 20 cousins. never happens in my family, Candy.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: But I'll check my attic tonight. I know I have baseball cards, I just don't think they're that valuable.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: My grandchildren maybe, I think so. Thanks so much, Mary Snow, appreciate it.

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney say today's unemployment numbers prove their case. In a minute, we'll consider the rest of us. Has the economic recovery stalled?

We also have an exclusive report from the epicenter of the latest Ebola outbreak.

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CROWLEY: A mixed bag of news for the economy today. The Labor department reporting a net gain of 163,000 jobs, while unemployment inched up from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent. President Obama attempted to assure the country things are right on track while his arch rival on the campaign trail pounced.

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MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's another hammer blow to the struggling middle class families of America, because the president has not had policies that put American families back to work.

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CROWLEY: Joining me now, Alan Krueger, who is chairman of the president's council of economic advisors. Thanks for being here. Mitt Romney has called these numbers out today a hammer blow to the struggling middle class.

My question to you is, the roMney campaign repeatedly points out that we have now had 42 consecutive months of unemployment over eight percent, and that's what he's referring to in this. Can you react to that?

ALAN KRUEGER, CHMN., W.H. COUNCIL OF ECONOMICS ADVISORS: You know, Candy, if you asked the 163,000 people who found a job in July, I think they would see it differently. The economy was in terrible shape when President Obama came to office. We were losing over 800,000 jobs a month. We've now added jobs for 29 months in a row, 4.5 million private sector jobs over that period.

So, we're digging our way out of a very deep hole, just a long way to go. The president is going to continue pressing for the kinds of policy actions that will help. But we are headed in a better direction than we were in. CROWLEY: When you have 42 consecutive months of eight percent unemployment, would you, as an economist, look at that and say that's not good?

KRUEGER: Well, certainly the unemployment rate is too high. Because of the recession, the unemployment rate peaked a little over 10 percent. It's come down since then. We want to see it come down further. That's why the president proposed the American jobs act part of which passed.

In addition, he'd like to have more investment and infrastructure to put construction workers back to work and more teachers jobs, support out teachers (ph), first responders on the job. So, there are steps that Congress could take to bring down the rate of unemployment right now.

CROWLEY: When you look at the state of the economic recovery right now, I think the fed said that the recovery was decelerating. Certainly, when you look since January, there are some signs that recovery is stalling. Would you agree with that characterization?

KRUEGER: You know, recoveries don't move in straight lines. We've added over a million jobs so far this year. This recovery from the beginning was going to face headwinds because of problems in Europe, because of struggles that state and local governments were going through, because households were repairing their balance sheet, because we oversold homes during the boom years.

So, I think all of that needs to be taken into account. Nonetheless, over the last 29 months, we've added private sector jobs each month, total 4.5 million, as I mentioned.

CROWLEY: So, take all of that into account and you describe to me what you think the state of the economic recovery is.

KRUEGER: You know, we're digging our way out of the deepest economic and financial crisis in the post-war period.

CROWLEY: Right. Is recovery strong? Is it weak? Is it stalled? Is it decelerating as the fed has said?

KRUEGER: You know, I try to avoid adjectives, because they'd intend to be volatile. They get revised. There have been some big revisions in recent months. I think when you step back and you say which direction is the economy headed, it is continuing to expand. We have had economic growth now for 12 quarters in a row.

We'd like to see it faster, of course. That's why the president keeps pressing for the kinds of actions like extending the middle class tax cuts that will provide more certainty and help the economy to continue to expand, put more people back to work.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about consumer confidence, which had been on the rise since last September. In the past couple of months, it is going down. So, clearly, Americans look at the economy and feel that something is wrong. Why do you think confidence has gone down? KRUEGER: You know, I think confidence is going to move up and down just like other economic numbers. I think one thing that the American people can be confident about is that President Obama's going to continue fighting for the types of policies that are going to strengthen the economy, make the economy work better for the middle class, that's why he has been pressing for Congress to extend the middle class tax cuts to provide more confidence, security going forward. That's why he has been pressing for components of American Jobs Act that were not passed such as investing more in infrastructure, helping state and local governments keep teachers and first responders on the job. He's going to continue to do the kinds of things that can strengthen this recovery.

CROWLEY: And a final question let me ask you, there are about a million Americans who are long-term unemployed who are going to lose their benefits at the end of this year. Congress sort of made that move thinking that perhaps a recovery was beginning to take hold. Do you think given the past several months of not very great job growth that Congress should look back and see whether long-term unemployment ought to be extended again?

KRUEGER: I think there will be time to consider policies like that as we get closer to the end of the year.

CROWLEY: Do you think it's a good idea?

KRUEGER: No. As I said, I think that ought to be evaluated as we get closer to the end of the year. We can see where the economy is at that point and where it's headed.

CROWLEY: Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. Thanks for joining us.

KRUEGER: Thanks for having me.

CROWLEY: And joining us now to respond, former New Hampshire governor and Romney campaign adviser John Sununu. Welcome, Governor. Let me turn this argument now on its head. For 29 straight months there has been job growth in the U.S. economy totaling 4.5 million jobs. That's a pretty good record.

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOV.: If they had kept up in having job growth that just kept up with the growth of population, they'd have about 400,000 more jobs than that. That record is a failure. And the comments you're hearing from Mr. Krueger and the president and the White House are numb and dumb. They're numb because they're insensitive to the 25 million people that are unemployed and underemployed.

And they're dumb because they're deceptive. There were 162,000 jobs created primarily by the artifact of a seasonal adjustment. In fact there were 150,000 fewer people working last month than the month before. These people -- if he wants to brag about 163,000 phantom new workers, the 152,000 who lost their job are not very happy to hear what Mr. Krueger and the president have to say about trying to spin this as good news. CROWLEY: Nonetheless, Governor, when the president took office we began a march toward 10 percent unemployment. It was much higher. It was almost two points higher. We were hemorrhaging (ph) jobs in January that he took over. Their argument is it was much worse than so many of us expected and this is going to take a while.

SUNUNU: Yes, but he knew then that what he should be having now is 5.5 percent, 5.6 percent unemployment. He said that himself when he took that job and --

CROWLEY: Well, I think his economic advisors prior to taking over had mentioned that. But there were lots of caveats, but nonetheless, continue --

SUNUNU: Yes. Nonetheless he -- at this time in a recovery, a 42, 43, 45 months from the bottoming out you should be having six to 800,000 jobs created. That's what happened when Reagan got things turned around. This is unbelievably bad. And the president doesn't even meet with his jobs council. It is 200 days since the president met with his jobs council.

Now, my personal theory is he doesn't go there because Jeff Immelt (ph) said that he wasn't going to vote for him this time and so he's in a peek. Mr. President, the phone number at the White House is 202- 456-1414. The operators there are fantastic. They'll connect you to your job council.

CROWLEY: OK. Let me ask you, Governor, if the economy is so lousy and the president has done such a bad job and in fact he does have some harsh economic figures that no president in modern history has been re-elected on, why is he leading in some of these key swing states Mitt Romney sometimes by six points, in Pennsylvania, in Florida, in Ohio, why is this race looking like Mitt Romney is behind?

SUNUNU: He's leading in the race where the polls have an imbalance of Democrats to Republicans of about a dozen. Those are -- if you look at the polls that have the right weighting like Rasmussen and Gallup, the respected polls, this president is losing and his popularity is caving in and he's in real trouble. And that is why he is asking puppets like Harry Reid to go to the floor of the Senate and tell us he hears voices that Mitt Romney didn't pay his taxes.

That's an outright lie. Coming from Harry Reid that the "Investor's Business Daily" had a nice little article today talking about "Los Angeles Times", and other Nevada paper's exposes on him pocketing a million dollars on a smarmy (ph) land deal and the problems with his kids with lobbying in Washington when he was majority leader.

CROWLEY: Before we turn this into a Harry Reid bashing, let me just say we don't know. He says -- he's an honorable man, he says that he was told by someone at Bain that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes.

SUNUNU: Yes.

CROWLEY: Now, we've heard Mitt Romney, an honorable man, say I did pay taxes. But, Governor, there's a way to fix this. SUNUNU: Yes. I know. Harry Reid probably heard it from the mirror when he was shaving.

CROWLEY: Nonetheless, do you wish this conversation would go away? If you want to talk about the economy --

SUNUNU: No.

CROWLEY: -- wouldn't the conversation about Mitt Romney's tax returns go away if he just put them out there?

SUNUNU: They'll go away when the public starts paying attention in the campaign. It happens about a week or two before the Republican Convention. People are starting to understand that President Obama's theory of fixing things is to do the same thing over and over and over and over again and hope the result will be different. It's not going to change until you change the president. The public is beginning to understand that. And the last 70, 80 days is when a campaign really focuses in on something like that.

CROWLEY: I need a two-word answer here, Governor. Everyone's chiming in on the VP, the number two in the slot. Boehner wants Rob Portman (ph). Jeb Bush says Marco Rubio would be good. Who would John Sununu like to see on that ticket?

SUNUNU: Any of the above on the list. They're all good people.

CROWLEY: That's -- just a name. How about a name? Who do you like?

SUNUNU: A name?

CROWLEY: Yes.

SUNUNU: How about Ronald Reagan?

CROWLEY: OK. All right now we're really in la-la land.

SUNUNU: I don't know. I know -- I know nothing about the VP thing honestly. I'm happy with Portman. I'm happy with McDonnell (ph). I'm happy with Rubio. All those people on the list are good people and Governor Romney is going to pick somebody that could be president.

CROWLEY: OK. Governor John Sununu, thank you as always. Appreciate it.

SUNUNU: Thank you.

CROWLEY: We are about to put a human face on today's unemployment numbers. After four years of looking, a California man finally found his new job. You'll also see what happens when not one but two hurricanes hit at the same time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: A lot of numbers get tossed around when the candidates talk about jobs. But behind those numbers, real people. CNN's Kyung Lah has been following one man's ordeal of unemployment and finally finding a job -- Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been four long years, not just for the president who wants to be re-elected but for the people who have been looking for work and we found a man who has been unemployed all of Obama's first term. And he says for him it has been quite a long journey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): The start of the day and a new full-time job for Ernie Casillas, these first steps on the Los Angeles Airport tarmac have been nearly four years in the making.

(on camera): How long were you unemployed?

ERNIE CASILLAS, NO LONGER UNEMPLOYED: I'm going on four years November 6th.

LAH: Four years?

CASILLAS: Yes.

LAH (voice-over): Barack Obama started his new job as president a short time after Casillas lost his job making big bucks as a mortgage broker. CNN met him as a subprime mortgage crisis wreaked havoc on the economy and his own career.

CASILLAS: Driving expensive cars, having expensive suit, now I'm just like everybody else looking for work. It humbles you.

LAH: He not only lost his job but his home and his marriage. He moved in with his mother. Casillas went to job fairs and networks sending out hundreds of resumes. He started his own computer consulting company, but it never took off. Increasingly desperate, he put this ad on Craigslist stating bluntly, I need a job. Last year still unemployed he hit downtown Los Angeles carrying a sign.

CASILLAS: But I'm so tired of collecting unemployment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think that there are a lot of us who are walking here who know we're not that far away --

CASILLAS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- where you are.

LAH: Last week he was at rock bottom.

CASILLAS: I had something to eat. I didn't have money for gas. I looked under my car seat and I had $1.65.

LAH: That paid for the gas that took him to meet Anna Rosales (ph) and she gave him a job as a supervisor for her cleaning company newly contracted at LAX.

ANNA ROSALES, CEO, AVOR INC.: He deserves it. Everyone deserves to work. Have you ever been unemployed? Have you not been able to pay a bill? There's a whole lot of Ernie's out there.

LAH: As the next presidential election looms with the economy as a defining issue Casillas' political intentions may surprise you.

(on camera): Who are you going to vote for?

CASILLAS: Obama.

LAH: Why not vote for Mitt Romney?

CASILLAS: He -- I don't think he's with the people. He's a person that we can (INAUDIBLE).

LAH (voice-over): Casillas says Obama less distasteful and Romney deserves more time. He says his long jobless ordeal showed him there's no easy path out of unemployment and no quick fix for this country's sluggish economy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: And if you take a close look at the figures that were released by the Labor Department today, 185,000 people are moving off that classification of long-term unemployed. But that is just a drop in the bucket, Candy. There are still millions who have been out of work for six months or longer -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Kyung Lah, you got me with that one. What a great, great story. I feel like every politician should sit down and watch that before they go out and give a campaign speech. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The tropical storm season is getting busy. There's a new one in the Atlantic and we'll show you the disaster left behind by a pair of storms in the Pacific and a CNN exclusive from the area where doctors are trying to contain the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

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CROWLEY: A race against time in Uganda to contain the spread of a deadly Ebola outbreak that has now killed 16 people and may have infected hundreds of others. Health officials are concerned about a patient being treated who just escaped the hospital at the center of the crisis. CNN's David McKenzie put his own life on the line to get exclusive access inside.

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DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the epicenter of an Ebola outbreak. We've been given exclusive access. And the first thing we found out is that our safety protection isn't enough. Now the reason this isn't acceptable (INAUDIBLE) equipment is because of this cotton- like material. And obviously you know fluids, which are a key risk in contracting Ebola, can get sort of soaked-in to the material. Let's keep going -- right.

What we've got is (INAUDIBLE). Within here there are various bits (INAUDIBLE). The virus is so deadly you need extreme protection. Inside the kind of restricted area, no matter what you're doing you have to wear something like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should, yes.

MCKENZIE: Plastic overalls, aprons, hoods and a face mask, not a single inch of skin can be exposed. Touching fluids, a patient or even an object can put you at risk. We're inside Kigali (ph) hospital. When the first case was confirmed in late July, the rest of the patients fled and health workers were some of the first to die.

HENRY GREY, MSF EMERGENCY COORDINATOR: Early on in the epidemic they're often in contact with patients and unwittingly they don't know it's Ebola, they may catch it themselves and then transmit that to the community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can't do that you can rip it.

MCKENZIE: Within 24 hours of the first case, Doctors without Borders was on the ground. There is no cure for Ebola and up to 90 percent of the people who catch it will die so managing the fear factor is key.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We use a lot of chlorinated water.

MCKENZIE: (INAUDIBLE) is in charge of the response. She says it is important to stay calm when entering the high risk zone.

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MCKENZIE: This is the inner most exclusion zone (INAUDIBLE) suspected cases of Ebola, two confirmed, the sickest too dangerous for us to get close enough to film. There is no treatment. All the doctors can do is give care. All the patients can do is hope. Doctors wear protection for themselves and to contain the outbreak.

OLIMPIA DE LA ROSA, MSF EBOLA EMERGENCY COORDINATOR: The main objective when one of these outbreaks lasts is to contain the spread because we cannot give treatment to the patient and we cannot give (INAUDIBLE) any prevention (INAUDIBLE) so we must contain the spread of the disease.

MCKENZIE: We are allowed only a few minutes inside and have to leave. It's the front line of the fight against the Ebola outbreak. So no risk is worth taking, the goal is to stop the spread in Uganda and even beyond.

David McKenzie, CNN, Kigali (ph), Uganda.

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CROWLEY: That is just scary. China has just been hit by not one but two hurricanes. The tropical cyclones as they're called in that part of the world came ashore at nearly the same time just after one of the storms ravaged Taiwan. As Kristie Lu Stout shows us, disastrous flooding has already started.

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KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is an unusual weather situation on China's coast with not one but two tropical cyclones battering the coast. Tropical Storm Sella (ph) and Damry (ph) made landfall within hours of each other. As the strong winds and torrential rainfall continue, Chinese authorities are bracing for heavy flooding that is sure to come. Tropical Storm Damry (ph) made landfall Thursday night in eastern China as a typhoon, packing 126 kilometer winds.

Sella (ph) came ashore Friday morning further south, after slamming ashore in Taiwan early Thursday with typhoon strength winds. Almost 7,000 people had to evacuate in Taiwan where some homes are underwater. Heavy rains left mud, devastation, and danger in their wake. This security camera footage shows a man being swallowed by a sinkhole. This happened in Taipei, Taiwan's capital. The heavy rain had made the ground unstable.

Rescuers did manage to pull the man out, but he died from his injuries. In all, five people were killed, 15 injured, and two are missing according to Taiwanese authorities. The storm moved away from the island Thursday night and onto the mainland. The same storm left 37 people dead in the Philippines. And now China is dealing with both Sella (ph) and Damry (ph). The last time two powerful storms hit the country in such quick succession was 2006.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.

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CROWLEY: There's also a new tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean, Ernesto is between Puerto Rico and South America, heading for the lower Gulf of Mexico.

Coming up in our new hour at 6:00 Eastern, the reason for Mitt Romney's in-your-face message to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today, put up or shut up and next, get ready for NASA's latest spectacular. It happens Sunday night.

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CROWLEY: By the time we wake up next Monday NASA's most ambitious Martian explorer will be on the red planet surface. The big question is will it be in one piece? Here is CNN's John Zarrella with a preview of NASA's latest spectacular.

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JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eight months in space, 354 million miles traveled, $2.5 billion spent, nearly a decade of work. After all that, it will take only minutes, just minutes, to determine elation or disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Full nights of sleep have eluded me for a couple of years now.

ROB MANNING, CHIEF ENGINEER: We think about failure every day. We think about how to avoid failure.

ZARRELLA: After NASA's "Curiosity" rover breaches the top of the Martian atmosphere, a series of precisioned (ph) choreographed events will begin to unfold, events never before attempted, events so dramatic and defining, the space agency put together a short movie calling it "7 Minutes of Terror". That's the amount of time it will take "Curiosity" to come through the atmosphere and either crash or land safely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It heats up and it glows (INAUDIBLE) 1,600 degrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If any one thing doesn't work just right, it is game over.

ZARRELLA: "Curiosity" is huge, the size of a small car. Its size meant NASA couldn't use the tried and true landing methods, air bags or shock absorbing legs. On top of that the rover will have to hit a specific spot; one place NASA thinks could have hints of past or present life. That requires a precision landing, on one side, a mountain, on the other, a crater wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get there safely, though, we need to be able to land on the one big flat spot that sits right at the foot of that mountain, inside the walls of the crater.

ZARRELLA: Out of necessity was born the "7 Minutes of Terror". "Curiosity" hits the atmosphere at 13,000 miles an hour, steering her way towards the landing site. Next, the parachute deploys, slowing "Curiosity" then rockets fire, aligning "Curiosity" with the landing zone below, finally the sky crane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rover is lowered, below the jet backpack and the two together descend their way down onto the Martian surface.

ZARRELLA: Engineers say at the end of the day, this is the safest way to get a rover this size on the ground in one piece. Every component was tested again and again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.

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ZARRELLA: But from the point "Curiosity" hits the atmosphere, all the scientists and engineers can do is hold their breaths and wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the end, she'll be on her own.

ZARRELLA: "7 Minutes of Terror".

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ZARRELLA: John Zarrella, CNN, Pasadena, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. Wolf will be back next week. Thank you for joining me. And join again this Sunday 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 12:00 Eastern for "STATE OF THE UNION". But right now THE SITUATION ROOM continues with Kate Bolduan.