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Wildfire Scorching California; Whitey Bulger Trial Continues; Drone Strikes Against US Citizens Abroad Examined

Aired July 18, 2013 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: A raging wildfire in California forcing thousands of people out of their homes. The hot, dry temperatures not at all helping firefighters much.

Casey Wian is live in California where I know we saw a lot of smoke when we chatted last hour. Casey, set the scene for me. How is the weather?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, weather's not too bad. Winds are calm right now, Brooke.

Look behind me. You can see fire trucks here. The Idyllwild fire department, they're staying behind to protect this town in case the firefighters out on the mountain don't have success in keeping the flames away from this community.

You can look off to my left and see the thick smoke that is there. That has really grown over the morning. It was hardly any at all when we first arrived early this morning.

Now it's much thicker. Wind is blowing smoke and a little bit of ash this way.

I've got 23,000 acres that have been affected by this blaze. We've got 3,000 firefighters out there fighting it.

The good thing, as we mentioned, the winds are fairly calm. The difficulty that they're having right now is the heat and the humidity, five percent to 10 percent humidity, 99-degree temperatures. That's really causing the fire to really accelerate.

They have been able to get helicopters and aircraft into the air, to drop retardant on to the burn areas and really slow the spread of it, still 15 percent contained only, though.

We can look over here and see evidence of the evacuation orders in place for this community. Businesses are closed.

About 6,000 people away from their homes right now hoping that they will have homes to return to when it's time and safe to return, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We all hope so. Casey Wian in Idyllwild, Casey, thank you. From the fire now, though, to the heat, don't underestimate the power of a heat wave.

You know extreme heat kills more people than hurricanes and tornadoes, and with the Northeast and the Midwest stuck in this grip of this heat wave, you can't really be too careful.

I mean, it's just heartbreaking when you hear about this 11-month-old girl. She's died after being left inside a broiling SUV about three hours. This is Homewood, Alabama.

She was taken to a hospital yesterday and died there. The baby's body was apparently registering 110 degrees. Much hotter than it was outside in a car.

In Kentucky, police say a 78-year-old man has been found dead in his car from heat exhaustion.

And back to Boston we go, a couple of big developments today in the trial of reputed south Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.

A potential key witness by the name of Stephen Rakes who claimed Bulger shook him down, took his liquor store to use as a base of operation, so he said, who couldn't wait to testify -- it's been years he's been waiting for this day -- has been found dead on a roadside in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Now, news of Rakes' death has broken on the very same day Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi took the witness stand, coming face to face with his former partner "Whitey" Bulger for the first time in almost 20 years.

"Boston Globe" reporter Shelley Murphy is author of "Whitey Bulger: America's most wanted gangster" co-authored with Kevin Cullen who we spoke with earlier. You tweeted this afternoon once the jury was ending about this colorful confrontation between Flemmi and Bulger. Tell me about that.

SHELLEY MURPHY, "BOSTON GLOBE" REPORTER: Yes. It was very -- the jury did not see this. They were on their way out of the courtroom, but Flemmi, who's now 79-years-old, was facing Bulger for the first time in about 20 years.

And the two of them glare at each other, Flemmi stood there with his hands on his hips in the witness box. We heard him swear something I can't say on television.

It sounded like Bulger said something back to him. And we could hear, you know, Flemmi saying, really?

It looked like they wanted to go at it. There were a number of very big, burly marshals standing between the two of them.

BALDWIN: How does "Whitey" Bulger appear each and every day in court? How is he dressed? What's his demeanor like?

MURPHY: Well, he's 83-years-old now. He shows up every single day in jeans, Wrangler jeans. Every day he wears a different color shirt, usually a long sleeve shirt.

He looks very meek and mild and unassuming. He looks like this little old guy sitting between his two lawyers who would never hurt anyone.

Then you -- he's been very careful not to look at too many of the witnesses. He sort of averts his eyes. He looks down. He takes notes.

But there have been a couple of exceptions. One of them was another former, you know, associate, Kevin Weeks. They really went at it.

"Whitey" lost his notorious temper, started swearing. They swore back and forth. So there are a couple of witnesses who really seem to, you know, hit his buttons.

BALDWIN: What an incredible trial to be covering for you, who I know has covered this for years and years.

We mentioned Stephen Flemmi. I know he was in the box for all of 10 minutes before everyone recessed until tomorrow.

When we hear more from him, do you think it's possible that Flemmi could do "Whitey" Bulger in?

MURPHY: Well, he's a very critical witness because, you know, "Whitey" is charged with so many things, but the two things he most wants to refute is that he was an FBI informant and that he killed women.

Two of the 19 victims he's charged with killing are women. Flemmi is a critical witness on both of those points.

Flemmi also was an FBI informant. He started to testify today that the two of them together would meet with this FBI agent. He's also the guy that says that he watched while Bulger strangled two young women.

BALDWIN: What about, quickly, Rakes who was the man who was found on the side of the road? What are you hearing about him about his death?

MURPHY: We do not know. We know that there were no obvious signs of trauma, but beyond that, state police have not yet released any details. I believe they're waiting on an autopsy.

He was a very physically fit man. He walked. He swam. People saying he had no obvious, you know, health issues. And so at this point it's a mystery.

We don't want to arouse undue fear here. We don't think "Whitey" has much of a crew left out there on the street, but we just don't know.

BALDWIN: "Boston Globe's" Shelley Murphy, thank you. We'll be reading your tweets as the days continue inside that courthouse.

A record day on Wall Street, already today, we are minutes away from the closing bell. How that could directly affect you and your money, up 67 points here, half an hour to go, that's next.


BALDWIN: Getting close to closing bell on Wall Street, got about 20 minutes to go. It's been a day where the stock market has been hitting record highs.

Zain Asher is in New York. And, Zain, tell us. What's the number we're watching for at 4:00, straight up?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, yeah, we have been in record-high territory all day today.

The Dow right now is up about 69 points, although that's slightly below the session highs. The Dow rose as much as 119 points earlier, touching levels, Brooke, we have never seen before.

Now even with the pullback, we are still likely to see a record close for the average. Stocks certainly getting a boost today from earnings.

United Healthcare is up nearly seven percent, the biggest gainer on the Dow. The company reported better than expected earnings thanks to 3.2 million new enrollments in its health insurance plan.

IBM is following right along, gaining two percent after posting its earnings after the close last night.

Now it's not just the Dow. The S&P 500 is also touching a new, all- time high today. It's a much broader measure of the market. It's what most of our retirement and mutual funds track, so if you've looked at your investments lately, then you are probably feeling a little bit richer.


BALDWIN: What about student loans? Because I know, you know, young people's ears perk and parents as well.

There's been this tentative deal that's been reached on student loans. What should people who are heading to school in the fall do or know?

ASHER: Right. So, Brooke, it is better late than never. This is a huge relief for anyone taking out new loans, right?

So, remember that rates for subsidized Stafford Loans doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1st, and lawmakers have sort of been scrambling to reach a deal before students return to campus in the fall.

Good news, though, is that just last night a bipartisan group of senators reached a tentative agreement. It's not set in stone yet, and some details could, of course, change, but let me break it down for you. So under the deal, student loan rates for subsidized Stafford Loans would be 3.86 percent. That's for undergrads. For grad students, it would be about 5.4 percent. And for parents, it would be 6.4 percent.

And even though any movement in the rates would be tied to the markets, there would be a cap on those movements, 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent, parents 10.5 percent.

Now remember, though, this isn't for all student loans. It's just for new subsidized Stafford Loans, so basically, need-based loans.

We're not entirely sure when the Senate will vote on this bill. Students should, of course, talk to their student aid office about how this affects them.

The good news, though, is that the lower loan rates are retroactive. So if you did take out loans after July 1st then that means the newer rates will actually apply.

So good news all around.


BALDWIN: Zain, thank you. I know that was a lot of information for viewers to take in.

If you need to go through it with a fine-toothed comb, go to

Zain, thank you.

And this year's Emmy nominations had a big surprise. Broadcast TV got snubbed for Best Drama category. Not a single show from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW got nominated for Best Drama.

The nominees are "Downton Abbey," "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland" and "House of Cards."

Netflix made history today with 14 Emmy nominations. "House of Cards" also got nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew you shouldn't trust that woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't. I don't. I don't trust anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then how could you not see this coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never thought they were capable.


BALDWIN: The Emmys will air in September.

And he's back in the news, Eliot Spitzer. Why is he drawing this kind of attention?

We'll fill you in, next.


BALDWIN: President Obama accentuates the positive when it comes to his Affordable Care Act, but he doesn't mention the roadblocks or the delays.

So, Jake Tapper, you're going to dive into that next hour, and a little something else as well, Eliot Spitzer trying to get back in the public's good graces. Tell me about that.

JAKE TAPPER, ANCHOR, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER": Mr. Spitzer will be here. We'll ask him about his campaign and about the scandal that led to his resignation as governor.

And then, of course, as you say, we're going to be taking a deep dive on ObamaCare, President Obama today holding a big rally with people who he said will benefit from ObamaCare.

Specifically. there are all these rebates coming from insurance companies that, according to the law, if you don't spend at least 80 percent of your premiums as an insurance company on health care, you have to give rebates, and about $500 million is going back to consumers, back to companies.

But there are a lot of individuals, especially small business owners, very concerned about the choice they have ahead of them. We'll be talking to one of them who says she's going to have to reduce the hours of her employees because she just cannot afford to pay for insurance for all of them.

We'll be talking about that and, of course, the Zimmerman trial and many, many other things in the news, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jake Tapper, thank you. Good to see you.

TAPPER: Good to see you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: We'll see you at the top of the hour, Jake Tapper, "The Lead."

Meantime, he pleaded with the president to spare his son's life. That didn't happen.

He has now written an op-ed in the "New York Times" today, entitled "The Drone That Killed My Grandson."

Those details are just ahead.


BALDWIN: Nasser al-Awlaki wrote a letter to the president. His request? Please do not kill my son. Didn't work. 2011, his son, the high-profile, American-born al Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a targeted U.S. drone strike in Yemen.

Well, now, Nasser al-Awlaki has written an op-ed today for the "New York Times" with a different message. It's entitled "The Drone That Killed My Grandson."

You see, the tipping point for Nasser was the death of his grandson. Born in Denver, Abdulrahman was just 16 years of age when he was killed in a separate U.S. drone strike a couple of weeks later in Yemen while having dinner with friends.

And earlier we said that he was killed in the same drone strike that killed his father. That was not the case. We regret that mistake.

I want to play you some sound from Christiane Amanpour who actually sat down and spoke to the grieving grandfather last year.


NASSER AL-AWLAKI, GRANDFATHER OF DEAD AMERICAN TEEN: And that's why I want to know why Abdulrahman was killed.

He is only a small boy. I wanted to send him to America, Christiane, to study like his father, like myself, like my other son.

Will I get justice? I hope I will overcome everything in my heart against the U.S. government.


BALDWIN: In the "New York Times" op-ed, Nasser al-Awlaki writes this, "He was a typical teenager. He watched "The Simpsons," had a Facebook page with many friends. He had a mop of curly hair, glasses like me and a wide, goofy smile. I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed."

And earlier in the show, I spoke with Dennis Blair. He was a former director of national intelligence under President Obama about this drone strike and asked him, what would he say to this grandfather to justify Abdulrahman's killing?

Here's what he told me. I'm going to quote him.

"It's tragic that your grandson was killed because, obviously, he had nothing to do with the acts that his father committed. But the strike against Anwar al-Awlaki was justified. And it's unfortunate that he had his son with him at that time."

We are now efforting a response from Blair about the fact that Abdulrahman was killed in a separate drone strike from the one that killed his father, Anwar al-Awlaki.

And I should tell you, tomorrow, Nasser al-Awlaki is petitioning a federal court in Washington with one goal in mind -- to find out why a U.S. drone took the life of his teenage grandson.

Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a controversial law today banning most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

The bill passed the Texas legislature last week after failing the first time around. It is considered one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.

Democratic state senator Wendy Davis stalled the bill last month with a dramatic 11-hour filibuster.

A milestone today in a court-martial of former Army intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, a military judge refused to throw out two charges against him, including the most serious, aiding the enemy.

If Manning is found guilty, he could get life in prison. Manning's defense said he wanted to inform the public when he leaked classified documents to Wikileaks.

And now take a look at your hands, take a look at your wrist, maybe a little gold here, there. I don't know, in your mouth, wherever you keep the gold. I'm serious, wherever you keep the gold.

You've got a lot, may have gotten your gold from outer space.

Stay with me. The game-changing discovery started when researchers saw a strange glow in their telescopes.

Chad Myers is here with a little space lesson on star, neutrons and gold.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, gold may be more rare than we think. It may have come from a neutron collision of two great little sun-stars out there.

We thought for a long time that it was a super nova, a white dwarf, small boom, you know, all these things get flown out into the atmosphere, into the universe, and then all of a sudden the earth kind of grabs it all together as one big ball.


MYERS: But now, we don't think maybe so much that it's only supernovas. It could be something else. It could be this.

Neutron stars as they spin around, they get smaller and smaller and smaller and then, all of a sudden, there's the gold as they explain.

Now, they're only about as big as Manhattan when they hit each other and so this gold slung out into the universe, may be more rare than you think, but it's still only worth 1,300 bucks an ounce and I wear stainless steel, so ... BALDWIN: I know. Are you kidding me? This isn't the real thing.

MYERS: You've got gold plate.

BALDWIN: All right, Chad, I love story. Thank you, my fellow space- nerd. I appreciate that so much.

And before we go, I wanted to share this with you. She is the teenaged girl who was shot in her head by the Taliban for advocating women's education. She is Malala Yousufzai.

Her recovery, her perseverance have made her an inspiration to millions, but her fame has also caught the attention of the very group who tried to kill her.

Speaking last week at the United Nations, Malala gave an impassioned plea for worldwide childhood education and condemned any, quote, "extremists condemned to pen and paper."

Well, those words didn't fall on deaf ears because Adnan Rasheed -- he is a senior commander in the Taliban actually penned a "Dear Malala" letter in response to the speech, and clarified to the 16-year-old girl why they wanted to kill her.

So this letter from the Taliban was obtained by Channel 4 News. Here is just a portion of what was written.

"When you were attacked, it was shocking for me. I wished it would never have happened."

It goes on. "Taliban never attacked you because of going to school or you were education lover. Taliban believed you were intentionally writing against them and were running a smearing campaign."

The letter closes in saying, "I advise you to come back home, adopt Islamic and Pashtun culture, join an Islamic madrasa near your hometown and study and learn the book of Allah."

Malala and her family are currently living in London and are not likely to head home anytime soon.

And thank you so much for joining me here.

Oh, well, let's just go back to Chad just because we can. You're just hanging out. Hey, it's hot.

MYERS: I just want people to understand what this heat now is doing to their body, doing to their -- you know, days on end, doing to their home.

It's not cooling down at night anymore. We're down to 80 in the middle of the night, so your house isn't cooling down at all.

And your heat index, when it gets above 105, you're body's not cooling down. Lots of water and shade. And please take care of your pets, they can't take care of themselves. Shade and water for the pets, please.

BALDWIN: Good advice. Thank you, sir.

MYERS: You've got it.

BALDWIN: Thank you for watching.