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CNN NEWSROOM

California Wildfire Out of Control; Software Systems Failed to I.D. Suspects; Rapper Chris Kelly Dies; Evidence of Cannibalism at Jamestown; Pepsi Ad Triggers Outrage.

Aired May 2, 2013 - 13:30   ET

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


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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Check out these live pictures we're getting from our affiliate, KTLA, out in California, Camerillo. Look at this mobile park -- these mobile homes. They are on fire now. These wildfires there really escalating right now. If we get a bigger picture, you can see what's going on. An enormous amount of smoke. A very, very dry area. The conditions, firefighters say, with the winds making it very, very difficult to contain. We're told the blaze now grown to nearly 3,000 acres out there. Winds are the wild card as I said in trying to deal with the blaze picking up as the sun is intensifying as well. At least 425 firefighters are involved in dealing with this. But this is a tough situation. Hard for aircraft to come in with water because there is simply so much smoke. But you see these mobile homes on fire. There you get a better shot right there of what's going on. Take a look at this. Dramatic wildfires out of control. They got to do something to contain these fires because they're increasingly getting closer and closer to other residential areas as well. Look at the smoke, look at the flames. Don't see a whole lot of effort underway to deal with that because it's so dangerous to get in. Smoke so intense right now. We'll continue to update you on what's going on with the wildfires out in California.

Let's get you up to speed on the Boston terror investigation. The FBI has recovered the laptop that the bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, left in his dorm room. It's not clear how or when the investigators got it. Three of Dzhokhar's college buddies, they are accused of removing that laptop from the suspect's room along with a backpack and Vaseline. The 19-year-olds were arrested yesterday. Their lawyers say their clients are cooperating with investigators.

Authorities also want to know what the widow of the older suspected bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, said to her husband in a phone call that took place after his picture appeared on national television and before investigators had identified him. Authorities want to question her why -- ask her why she didn't notify the police.

When it came to quickly catching the suspected Boston Marathon bombings, some software systems actually failed.

Tom Foreman takes a closer look right now and finds out what's being done to improve the technology.

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TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the FBI released these photos during the search for the Boston suspects, there was hope that computers might help, as they do on shows like CSI, comparing facial features with existing data and coming up with a name.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hello, Harry.

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FOREMAN: But even though pictures of both brothers were in public databases, the computers that searched that data missed them and came up empty.

The government has been working on facial identification software since the 1960s. And companies like Facebook and Apple use similar technology to tag people in photos.

But security analysts widely admit this technology is not good enough to spot a suspect in a crowd.

At Carnegie Melon, Mario Savvides runs the Cy-Lab Biometric Center.

MARIO SAVVIDES, DIRECTOR, CY-LAB BIOMETRIC CENTER, CARNEGIE MELON: One of the toughest problems is low resolution. When you look at images collected from standard TV footage, the faces are way too small.

FOREMAN: His team is developing next-generation software to change poor and partial images into much clearer pictures. They are creating programs that can reliably match images of people to their true identities despite low light, movement, odd positions.

SAVVIDES: It's a big challenge. How do you match an off angle image say 50 degrees, 60 degrees, 45 degrees off angle to a face that's just a frontal sort of, you know, passport-type photo?

FOREMAN: They're even transforming flat pictures into 3D.

Look at what their lab did with a single photo of me. In less than an hour, it was turned into a series of images showing how I might look from above, from the left, from the right.

Savvides believes such programs can and will substantially improve the reliability of facial recognition and lead police to suspects much faster.

SAVVIDES: And ultimately, hopefully, save a life, because that's our aim, that's our goal, that's everything we do here.

FOREMAN (on camera): For now, the FBI is installing its latest version of facial identification software to work with security cameras coast-to-coast as part of a billion-dollar program called Next Generation Identification. Still, in Boston, it wasn't technology but human investigators who triumphed.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

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BLITZER: Interesting stuff.

Thank you, Tom.

They were only 13 years old when their debut song "Jump" topped the charts. Now the lead rapper of Kris Kross is dead. We have details about his death and how the entertainment community is reacting.

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SKIP RUSSO, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, INSTITUTE FOR GREATER TECHNOLOGIES: Anybody that goes to war I going to be changed. It's just a reality. On the other hand, PTSD is a significant challenge. It's not about being weak. It's about having an experience of stress that really has a neurological impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen now potentially hundreds of thousands of veterans maybe returning from Iraq or Afghanistan with post- traumatic stress disorder. Conservative estimates say one in five folks coming home.

RUSSO: I want to prepare people to deal with stress better, and if that doesn't work out, to help them fight through the challenges in the aftermath of stress.

Hi, I'm Skip Russo, clinical psychologist at the University of California, Institute for Greater Technologies.

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BLITZER: That song called "Jump," a hip-hop hit by the rap duo, Kris Kross. Sad news to report. Chris Kelly, one-half of that duo, has died of a possible drug overdose at the age of only 34. Kelly and partner, Chris Smith, were discovered in 1991 by producer, Jermaine Dupree, performing at an Atlanta mall. They were only 13 years old. Their music and style of wearing their clothes backwards became nationally known and widely copied.

"Showbiz Tonight" host, A.J. Hammer, is joining us from New York.

A.J., what more, first of all, are we learning about Kelly's death?

A.J. HAMMER, HOST, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: Well, at this stage, Wolf, the cause is still under investigation. Atlanta police telling CNN that they're looking into the possibility that Kelly may have died from a drug overdose. They do have an eyewitness who claims Kelly was using heroin and cocaine on Tuesday night. But an autopsy is going to be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Even though the song "Jump" was their only top-10 hit and one of only four singles that hit the charts for Kris Kross, the song was huge. I cannot overstate that. It was the song in the summer of 1992. Spent an incredible two months at number one. Chris Kelly and his old partner, Chris Smith, recently reunited, playing a concert that celebrated the 20th anniversary of their old record label. It was founded by their mentor, Jermaine Dupree.

Dupree issued a state. I want to read what he said. He said, "To the world Chris was Mac Daddy, but to me he was a son I never had. As much as I think I taught him, he taught me. God has blessed me to be in the presence of so many naturally talented people and Chris was one. I will always love you, Chris, and I will never let the world forget you."

Wolf, I was working on the radio back in the summer of '92 here in New York City, and it was one of those songs where nine out of 10 people calling up on the request line were saying, you got to play "Jump" by Kris Kross. It was that big.

BLITZER: It was a huge, huge hit. Sad story. Only 34 years old. A talented young man.

All right, A.J., thanks very much.

There have been rumors for years, but now we're learning some gory details about what America's first columnists ate when they ran out of food.

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BLITZER: Some fascinating new research is shedding light on a horrific chapter in American history. It happened more than 400 years ago in the colony called Jamestown. The settlers were starving to death, and scientists today say it looks like they resorted to some of the most desperate acts imaginable.

Here's CNN's Lisa Sylvester.

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LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They came by the ship with their hopes. Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in North America in 1607. It was long believed that James Fort on the island had, over time, washed away, but beginning in 1994 archaeologists began finding the remains of the original four.

And then something even more astounding was discovered last year. This is a skull that forensic archaeologists say was that of a 14- year-old girl of European decent, who they are calling Jane. She was on board a ship that arrived in 1609. It couldn't have been a worse time. The food supplies they were bringing from England were lost in a severe storm and tensions were high between the Powhatan Indians and settlers.

JAMES HORN, VICE PRESIDENT OF RESEARCH, COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG: All of a sudden, 300 settlers who survived the crossing arrive at Jamestown very little in the way of food supplies. And it's at that very moment that the Powhatans and English began an all-out war. The fort is cut off. It's besieged by the Powhatans and the 300 men, women and children are trapped within the confines of the fort itself.

SYLVESTER: They had only enough food to last two months, just as winter was setting in, a winter known as the starving time of Jamestown. No food, disease and war.

JAMES KELSO, JAMESTOWN REDISCOVERY PROJECT: In the records, there were accounts of the fact that when things were so desperate and it was very hopeless for the colonists that they resorted to some cannibalism. But they were kind of enigmatic references. Some believed it, some didn't. Now we have evidence of it. And it's the only physical evidence ever been found in the sites that date to the colonial period in America that proves that this took place.

SYLVESTER: That proof is this skull. It was found in an abandoned cellar of the fort. Forensic archaeologists now have confirmed that, on Jane's jaw, there were cuts from a very sharp knife consistent with efforts to remove flesh, consistent with cannibalism.

KELSO: This discovery really, to me, has made such an impact on my empathy with the hardships that the settlers went through for that time period and how close Jamestown came to failing. If it failed, the course of American history would be very different.

SYLVESTER: November of 1609, there were 300 settlers. By the time more provisions arrived the following spring, there were only 60 settlers left.

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BLITZER: Lisa's joining us now live.

Lisa, what more can scientists tell us about this teenage girl known as Jane? How did she die?

SYLVESTER: Well, they don't know how she died. They do know that at the time of the cannibalism that she was already dead. And it's a very sad part of the story that you have these settlers who were so desperate that they were resorting essentially to digging up dead bodies and consuming dead bodies.

But they are now trying to find out her true identity. They know she was 14. They can do -- modern science has allowed us they know her age. They know she's of European decent. Now it's a matter of poring over the archives and historical records to try to find out her identity because they want to give her due credit as to all the settlers of what they actually went through when they came to this country -- Wolf? BLITZER: What a story.

Thanks very much, Lisa, for that report.

A battered woman, a police lineup with African-American men, and a goat. Pepsi has a lot of explaining to do now about a new Mountain Dew commercial.

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BLITZER: An angry talking goat in a criminal lineup intimidating a victim -- that's the premise for a new Mountain Dew ad, but instead of producing laughs, it's triggering outrage from critics who are calling it extremely racist.

Here's CNN's Zain Asher.

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ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It never aired on TV, and it never will, but it did get posted online by Pepsi-Co, and now is being called the most racist commercial in history. Five black men and a goat in a police lineup, a battered white woman on the other side of the glass, and the lawyer saying, "Just pick one." It was supposed to sell Mountain Dew, now it's managed to offend just about anyone who's seen it.

REGINA AUSTIN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: It conveys the wrong message about black criminality and snitching. It is not a funny subject.

SEAN HUGHES, P.R. CONSULTING GROUP: It has a lot of stereotypes, and it's not what this country is about. And I find it pretty offensive.

ASHER: The ad was produced for Pepsi by Tyler the Creator, a 22-year- old African-American rapper and a record producer.

He apologized for the ad, but his manager, Christian Clancy, defended it, saying on his Facebook page, it was, quote, "never intended to spark a controversy about race, it was simply an admittedly absurd story that was never meant to be taken seriously."

The fact such an ad could be the work of an African-American is also raising eyebrows.

AUSTIN: It may say something about people who are like minded, but I don't know it says a whole lot about black men in general.

ASHER: There's also the issue why Pepsi allowed the ad to be produced and posted in the first place.

HUGHES: Why wasn't it reviewed by senior management? Why wasn't it reviewed by a focus group? Because clearly that probably would have put a stop to it.

ASHER: In a statement, Pepsi told CNN, quote, "We apologize for this video and take full responsibility. We have removed it from all Mountain Dew channels and Tyler is removing it from his channels, as well."

HUGHES: It is not enough. They need an explanation of how it got through and what they are going to do to make sure something like this does not happen.

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BLITZER: And Zain Asher is joining us now live from New York.

Zain, Pepsi, obviously, didn't learn from mistakes made by some other big companies, Hyundai, McDonald's. They got in big trouble from some of their ads, as well.

ASHER: Absolutely, Wolf. That's right. Mountain Dew is one of several companies to issue and release ads, have them go viral, and backfire in recent weeks. McDonald's apologized for an ad poking fun at developmental illness and Hyundai for an ad of suicide. In this case, though, Tyler, the Creater's manager is saying the ad was made for a niche audience. Saying, quote, "His demographic understand what we ultimately stand for and they see the irony of it all."

That, of course, is no excuse. And in a digital age, you have to expect everyone will see it. People from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life are offended by this.

There's also a video, by the way, Wolf, circulating on YouTube of Tyler the Creator saying he discussed his controversial idea with executives in pitch meetings and he couldn't believe how much they liked it -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zain, for that.

Zain Asher reporting.

The calendar says it's May, but for the Midwest, at least big chunks of it, it feels like February.

Plus, this Sunday night, Anthony Bourdain heads north to Canada. We love Canada. He'll take us on a tour of the country by train. This is a show you won't want to miss. Sunday, 9:00 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.

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BLITZER: Let's check some other news we're following right now.

Major health concern in Saudi Arabia. Five people have died from a SARS-like virus. SARS is an acute respiratory disease, like pneumonia. It swept from country to country across continents 10 years ago killing hundreds of people, most in Asia where it originated. There's no vaccination or preventive antibiotic treatment for the virus.

A tweet from Seattle police say things have quieted down in that city, but officers still keeping a close watch on the downtown areas to prevent more of this.

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BLITZER: The violence erupted yesterday's May Day protests. Police say they had to use pepper spray and flash-bang grenades against demonstrators, who pelted officers with rocks, bottles, metal pipes, anything else they could get their hands on. Eight officers were slightly injured. 17 people were arrested.

In southern California right now, flames are ripping through entire hillsides, threatening homes and lives. The summit wild fire in banning is just 40 percent contained, that's what we're told. Almost 3,000 acres have been scorched. At least one house has been destroyed. Firefighters made some progress overnight. Strong winds today could complicate their efforts. In fact, we're getting more information right now. Look at these mobile homes. These pictures coming in from our affiliate, KTLA. Take a look at these mobile homes. They are on fire. Right now, we're told the smoke is so intense, it's hard for aircraft even to get close to these flames to douse them, try to douse them, with water or other repellents or anything along those lines. We're told that there are literally almost 500 firefighters involved in dealing with these flames, but there are clearly major, major problems. Many of these mobile homes now being destroyed as a result of this.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room." Much more on what's going on.

Brooke Baldwin has more of our special coverage. She's coming up live from Boston right now.