Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal Continues to Unfold; Major League Baseball Player Kidnapped in Venezuela; Aftershock Hit Eastern Turkey; GOP Presidential Candidates Propose Dramatic Cuts to Government Programs; Calm Urged at Penn State Amid Scandal; Controversial Oil Pipeline Project; White House Releases E-Mails on Solyndra Loans
Aired November 11, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Happening now, the coach who blew the whistle on the Penn State scandal is put on administrative leave. How will it play with students after a week of raw emotion and even violence?
Also, Rick Perry is now poking fun at his memory lapse on the debate stage. We're taking a closer and serious look, though, at the topic he was trying to talk about, a proposal to get rid of some federal agencies.
And President Obama is being accused of putting election year politics ahead of creating jobs. We'll talk about his decision to delay a decision on an important oil pipeline project.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
Penn state officials are appealing for calm on campus at the close of a week filled with shocking allegations and painful firings. Another twist just a little while ago -- the coach who witnessed and reported the alleged rape of a boy was sidelined.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODNEY ERICKSON, INTERIM PRESIDENT, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: First, Assistant Coach Mike McQueary has been placed on administrative leave, he will not be coaching or attending tomorrow's game. Second, we have received many questions about security at tomorrow's game. Let me assure you that we have taken every precaution, including extra security personnel to ensure a safe game day experience.
But we need the public's assistance. There will be significant attention to the conduct of the crowd attending tomorrow's game. It is my sincere hope that all members of the Penn State community and our guests will conduct themselves in a way that reflects our collective values before, during, and after the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go to the campus of Penn State University. Mary Snow is on the scene for us. Mary, another momentous day on that campus.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Wolf, Mike McQueary was told this afternoon that he was being put on administrative leave. It was anticipated yesterday that he would be at the game. Last night the university came out saying there had been multiple threats made and they decided to keep him away from the game. Now he's on administrative leave.
We should point out he's not accused of doing anything wrong legally and was a credible witness in the grand jury testimony. But there has been increasing scrutiny surrounding Mike McQueary and a lot of question about why he didn't do more. Also Penn State's new president announcing the appointment of an ethics officer is just the latest move as this university tries to put this dark scandal behind them.
SNOW: Two days after ousting its president and legendary coach Joe Paterno, Penn State's board of trustees named Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier to head a committee to look within. Its job is to investigate who knew what and when did they know about sex abuse allegations involving former coach Jerry Sandusky dating back to the 1990s. Those allegations only exploded into public view within the past week.
KENNETH FRAZIER, CHIEF PENN STATE SPECIAL COMMITTEE: We intend to look on every fact that bears on whether its university and its officials and employees acted responsibly in response to any information on possible child sex abuse.
SNOW: On campus students singing Penn State's alma mater. One line of it, "May no act of ours bring shame." Instead of a traditional pep rally leading into a home game, tonight there will be a vigil to remember victims of child sex abuse. Outside Penn State's stadium, ousted coach Joe Paterno remains popular with the fans, taking pictures in front of his statue. Saturday's game is the last home game this season. Andrew Porter is a senior.
ANDREW PORTER, PENN STATE SENIOR: Tomorrow is a big day. Today is the calm before the storm. I know the students will be supportive of the players because the players have no effect on this. But in terms of what to expect, we don't know.
SNOW: Security is being beefed up following unrest on Wednesday night in wake of the firing. The university is getting extra help from state police. Their opponent, Nebraska, says they've also brought extra security. But students like Ryan Murray says this weekend is about showing support not only to players but victims of sexual abuse. And he will attend tonight's vigil.
RYAN MURRAY, PENN STATE STUDENT: I think it's important just to show that you know, a lot of the media is focused on the riots and that sort of thing, to show we're also -- we haven't forgotten about the victims.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SNOW: Wolf, one thing that will be different tomorrow as well is students are planning to wear blue to remember victims of child sex abuse and president Rodney Erickson is encouraging students to convey the best of Penn State values, reminding them, in his words, "much of the world is looking at us tomorrow." Wolf?
BLITZER: What a sad story, indeed. We'll be watching together with you, Mary. Thank you.
The mother of the alleged victim who triggered the sex abuse investigation is now speaking out. She told ABC News her son lived in fear of exposing what the former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly was doing to him. She says he gradually became aware of what was happening and that her son would intentionally try to be grounded to prevent Sandusky from taking him out of the high school. Her identity is not being revealed to protect her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't even know that he was leaving the school with my child or taking him out of classes. They never told me that. You just can't tell Jerry no. I want justice. I want him -- I want him to be locked up. There's no -- there's no help for somebody that does this. Not like this. He needs to be put away for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The woman's son known as victim one first met Sandusky through his program for at risk boys when he was 11-years-old. We'll have more on this story coming up later this hour.
Meanwhile, growing questions this hour about the fate of a Major League Baseball player, kidnapped in Venezuela. Wilson Ramos, a rising star with the home team here in Washington, the Washington Nationals, has been missing since Wednesday. Our own Brian Todd has been investigating what's going on, taking a closer look at this story. It's a heartbreaking story. What's the latest, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, experts say kidnapping is an industry in that part of Latin America. And right now one of the highest profile kidnappings in recent years is still shrouded in mystery.
TODD: From all accounts, the kidnappers of budding Major League Baseball star Wilson Ramos targeted him for kidnapping. Police say the perpetrators followed Ramos. A spokesperson for his local teams says what happened next at the family's home in Venezuela.
KATHERINE VILERA, SPOKESWOMAN, ARAGUA TIGERS: They first circled the house and looked around, and they proceeded to take him at gun point, of course.
TODD: Since that moment on Wednesday evening, an excruciating period for the family. Publicly the family isn't saying much, giving no indications that they've had contact with the kidnappers or heard any ransom demands. But security expert Chris Voss says privately --
CHRIS VOSS, MANAGING DIRECTOR, INSITE SECURITY: More than likely someone is talking to the kidnappers. This is -- the degree of publicity this is getting out down there actually is a little bit dangerous because it may potentially limit the kidnappers options and make them more worried about getting caught.
TODD: Police say witnesses have given them descriptions of at least two suspects. They say the kidnappers tried to burn a vehicle they used.
(on camera): The Nationals aren't commenting at all on this case other than a general statement of support for the families. Chris Voss says it's likely the Nationals are helping out behind the scenes, not necessarily with money, but with help in bringing in experts to aid in the negotiations.
(voice-over): Negotiations that will be delicate and may become more intense as time passes. Voss, a former FBI negotiator who worked more than 100 kidnappings, took us inside the process.
(on camera): What are you saying to the kidnappers right now as a negotiator?
VOSS: We're being deferential. We need to let them know he's alive and we're going to link his safety and well-being to the payment of a ransom.
TODD: Police and family members have given indications that they believe Wilson Ramos is alive. Chris Voss says he would advise the family to pay a ransom in one payment but not too soon. If they pay it to soon, the kidnappers may double down and say they want more money and not turn their loved one back to them, Wolf.
BLITZER: We know there have been other instances in Venezuela of kidnappings, but of family members of baseball players, not necessary of the baseball players themselves.
TODD: It's extraordinary. We checked the records. Over the past seven years, relatives of four major league baseball players have been kidnapped in Venezuela. In three of those instances, they have been returned safely. In one instance, the brother of Venezuelan born Henry Blanco of the Arizona Diamondbacks was kidnapped and killed. This was the first time we know of an active Major League player being kidnapped in that part of the world.
They are definitely targets, though. They have money and everyone around them knows this. These are small towns, not much security. Police are sometimes lax, and that's what we're told is going on in Venezuela.
BLITZER: If they go home, they've got to have security, otherwise don't go home. It's dangerous down there. Thanks very much.
Let's go to Turkey right now where the death toll is rising and it's a race against time to find those buried in the rubble. Just two days after a powerful earthquake rocked the eastern part of the country, CNN's Ivan Watson has a closer look at how the earthquake unfolded and the outrage erupted on its way.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A dramatic escape seconds before an entire building collapses. The earth just won't stop shaking in eastern Turkey. Security camera footage shows Wednesday night's 5.6 earthquake knocking out electricity in the eastern city of Van and sending three men racing into the street just seconds before the hotel came suddenly tumbling down.
(on camera): This is all that's left of what was a five-story building, a pancaked pile of rubble, now the scene of a dramatic rescue operation that's working round the clock.
(voice-over): Fortunately rescue workers and heavy equipment were close by to help. They flooded the area after a much more powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake slammed the Van region barely three weeks ago, killing more than 500 people. On Wednesday some of these rescue workers became victims of the latest quake. Emergency workers pulled this Japanese volunteer from the rubble.
MIYUKI KONNAI, SURVIVOR (via translator): I tried to open my eyes but I could not because of lots of dust getting into my eyes. When I finally managed to open my left eye slowly, there was a ray of light I could see in what I thought was complete darkness. That light gave me relief and gave me hope to live. That was the light from the computer I was using.
WATSON: One of her fellow Japanese volunteers died from his injuries.
Amid stories of tragedy and hope, there's also anger. Residents confronted Turkish officials on Thursday, demanding resignations. Riot police charged the crowd just yards away from collapsed build beings. In the days ahead there will be more questions about government enforcement of building codes and pressure to resettle hundreds of thousands of people made homeless.
But for now, Turkey's earthquake survivors are just looking for a warm place to sleep, most of them clearly too scared to step into their own homes.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Turkey.
BLITZER: Elsewhere in Turkey, we're getting word of a hijacking of a ferry in Turkey. At least one hijacker maybe four are on board. You're looking at live pictures coming in from Ismet in Turkey. It's after midnight there. One of hijackers claiming to be armed has explosives on the ferry, ferry carrying 17 passengers and four crew according to the provincial governor in the area. We'll stay on top of this story as well. Never dull when one story breaks in Turkey, another one seems to follow, this one obviously very serious, hijacking of a ferry.
Meanwhile, new evidence that controversy may be catching up with Herman Cain and Rick Perry. But Mitt Romney doesn't seem to be benefitting from the uproar. Stand by, some fascinating new poll numbers coming into "THE SITUATION ROOM."
And Rick Perry forgot which federal agency he wants to cut, but we haven't forgotten the serious issue that got lost because of his gaffe.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We saw Rick Perry make fun of himself on the David Letterman show. It was a tongue in cheek attempt at damage control after his brain freeze during this week's Republican presidential debate. There's certainly been a lot of discussion about the political fallout for Perry. But our own Lisa Sylvester is here to talk about the very serious issue, the policy issue, that Perry struggled with Wednesday night. Tell us what's going on.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after the debate there was only one thing people in the political world were really talking about -- Rick Perry's major gaffe. But he was actually testing out a new policy message, cutting three federal departments.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Rick Perry.
SYLVESTER: Rick Perry was trying to make a point before quote, he "stepped in it."
RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The third agency of government I would do away with, education, the commerce -- and let's see -- I can't -- the third one I can't, sorry. Oops.
SYLVESTER: Perry's message, entirely lost in the massive fumble. But what was his point? He wants to eliminate the departments of education and commerce and energy. The Texas governor would cut nondefense discretionary spending by $100 billion in the first year.
But reducing the size of government is not new. Fellow Republican contender Ron Paul has made it part of his calling card, and going back even further, Ronald Reagan proposed cutting the department of education.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is a standard part of playing to a certain conservative base that dramatically wants to reduce the size of government and feels the best way to do it in some cases is wholesale elimination of certain cabinet agencies.
SYLVESTER: Consider this, though -- the department of commerce houses various agencies including the patent and trade office and NOAA, and the census bureau. And the education department is in charge of federal student loans and enforcing federal equal access laws. The energy department's duties include overseeing the country's nuclear reactors, radioactive waste disposal, and maintaining the nation's nuclear weapons.
But fiscal conservatives say Washington has become too bloated. Chris Edwards runs the CATO Institute's downsizing government website. He says commerce spends about $12 billion year, education $79 billion, and energy $45 billion. With the country deep in the red, he says something has to go.
CHRIS EDWARDS, CATO INSTITUTE: The growth and entitlement program like Social Security and Medicare frankly are squeezing out a lot of other activities of the federal government. Eventually we have to take on the departments and downsize them simply because the entitlements are costing so much.
SYLVESTER: But rolling up a whole agency? It's not easy. Sally Katzen is a former deputy director of Office of Management and Budget and a senior analyst with the Podesta Group.
SALLY KATZEN, THE PODESTA GROUP: Everybody would like to have a more efficient government. But does that mean that you slice it down to size? And what size do you want because there are functions that are critical to the American people? And it matters in your everyday life and it matters to the business community and the way it functions. If you abolish those functions, you've lost something.
SYLVESTER: On Tuesday, Governor Perry will give a speech in Iowa outlining his fix for the government and a member of the press staff said that's when you'll hear more of the details if you proposed cutting the wholesale or keeping the critical functions in place.
BLITZER: Ron Paul wanted to eliminate five departments. We have three, five. We'll see what happens. Lisa, good report, as usual. Thank you.
Newt Gingrich is strengthening his position near the top of the Republican presidential pact as Rick Perry and Herman Cain deal with gaffes and controversy. A new Maris poll shows a very competitive three-way race with Mitt Romney on top. Newt Gingrich essentially tied with Herman Cain for second place. The poll was taken after Perry's so-called brain freeze and after the sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain surfaced over the past several days.
A new CBS News poll shows a closer three-way race with Cain on top and Romney and Gingrich dead even. Let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, who is watching all of this unfold. You're learning that Rick Perry has got some new initiatives, new efforts that he's wanting to do to bring his campaign back?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot bit of damage control. He just bought a national ad of about $1 million. It's an ad already on the air in Iowa. When you take a look at a little piece of it, you'll see why it makes a lot of sense after that oops moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're looking for a slick politician or guy with great teleprompter skills, we already have that, he's destroying our economy. I'm a doer, not a talker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: There you are, he's not a talker. He's also trying to reassure donors, the campaign has been talking to donors. The big issue right now is to get Rick Perry's credibility back with the voter and that's what that ad is about.
BLITZER: That is going to buy a lot of 30 second spots. If Rick Perry and Herman Cain are slipping a bit, and they apparently are for obvious reasons, why isn't Mitt Romney going up?
BORGER: The truth is he's not the perfect fit for the Republican primary voter. They are skeptical about him. They remember his so- called flip-flops from the 2008 campaign. And eventually, Wolf, I think what you're going to see, they will end up believing they have to settle for Mitt Romney. They are not going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.
But the big question now for Romney campaign is whether they actually compete actively in Iowa and South Carolina. Romney is at the top or near the top in those states. They did not expect to be there. I spoke with a senior Romney adviser who said, look, the way you know whether we're going to compete in Iowa is if you see an ad go up in that state.
BLITZER: Doesn't it -- if he could win, for example in Iowa, New Hampshire he probably will win.
BLITZER: And South Carolina, it could be over.
BORGER: Wolf, he doesn't have to win. If he comes in second it looks like a win. The question is, do they put their resources into organizing in Iowa because that's what the Iowa caucuses are about.
BLITZER: It looks like the big winner so far over the past several days is Newt Gingrich, because all of a sudden, you saw the polls, he's doing amazingly well.
BORGER: He's doing amazingly well, he keeps complaining that he doesn't like the debates. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to point out, my colleagues have done a terrific job of answering an absurd certain question. To say in 30 seconds --
The debates are a better way of communicating than anything else we've found so far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: There you are. He says the questions are absurd but they are good ways of communicating. For a candidate like Newt Gingrich whose campaign seemed to implode early on, the debates are a way to get out there on the platform and get well known, strut your stuff. And so far, he's a pretty good debater, Wolf. He's done very well.
BLITZER: If anyone has gained from the debates, it's Newt Gingrich.
BORGER: So he complains, but he's not going to opt out of any of them. He'll be at your debate.
BLITZER: He will be, of course. Thank you very much, Gloria, for that.
I'll be the moderator when the candidates take part in CNN's next Republican debate in Washington, D.C., Constitution Hall. Join us Tuesday night, November 22nd, 8:00 p.m. eastern. You'll want to see that debate.
President Obama delays a decision on a controversial pipeline expansion. Is he playing project with a project Republicans argue could create tens of thousands of jobs?
BLITZER: Continuing fallout for Penn State University following the horrible child sex abuse scandal. It was announced that the university will have a special committee look into the alleged abuse. Let's bring in our senior political analyst David Gergen. He served on the boards over at Yale and Duke universities. David, when you see this scandal unfolding at Penn State and you're affiliated with Harvard University right now, what went throughout your mind?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's so sad because Penn State has had a legendary football program, as you know, with a legendary coach. And yet right at the heart and center of that program was a predator. And he was allowed, even though there were various reports coming out, people just ignored them. It had to remind you of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, they just didn't respond.
I think the university board, the central responsibility is to preserve the long-term interests, hence the long-term interests of the university had no choice but to make an unpopular move, and that was to let both the football coach and the president go. It was the right move and it was done decisively. And I think students are obviously very upset about it. Over time it will do more to protect the university than if they allowed both of them to stay in place.
BLITZER: David, you've got to admit, everybody is shocked that almost 10 years ago an official at the university sees this alleged activity going on in the men's locker room with a young boy, and for 10 years, apparently, if you believe the allegations, this kind of stuff continued there. How could this happen?
GERGEN: Well, that's -- you know, you almost have to think that the program, the football program, became so big, such a big moneymaker, and had this world class reputation, that people were scared to take action, as they just wanted to sweep it under the rug. Again, that's very similar to the Catholic Church.
And there was a responsibility here on the part of those who knew that something was amiss, and that included the coach, Paterno, and it included the university president. And they sat on it. They didn't push. They weren't aggressive about it. They sort of tried to treat it as, well, that sounds minor, let's not look into it.
And when you have now there are three individuals, high-level officials of that university who are facing criminal charges over this, including the predator, but two other university officials as well, the university president has no choice but to fall on his sword. And so does Joe Paterno. And I must say, to his credit, Coach Paterno seems to be taking this very well. I think he understands.
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment, David, because Jill Dougherty, our foreign affairs correspondent, is getting some new information on a totally different story, that oil pipeline, the Keystone Pipeline, that was supposed to be built from Canada through the United States. The president announcing yesterday, the State Department also announcing they were going to hold off on a final decision for at least a year.
But what are you learning right now, Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, that was the environmental debate, Wolf. And now we're getting more information on the jobs side of it.
The supporters of this pipeline said that it was going to create 20,000 jobs. And that's what it looked like for quite a while. But now there's some clarification coming from an interview with CNN's Drew Griffin, who spoke with Robert Jones. He's the VP of Keystone Pipeline for TransCanada.
And in that, he explains -- Mr. Jones sticks by the 20,000 figure. He says 13,000 direct construction jobs, 7,000 manufacturing jobs, but he explains they are not permanent.
Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT JONES, VICE PRESIDENT, TRANSCANADA: We will have an integrated operation with the existing pipeline, so, you know, the numbers are literally technicians and such up and down the line. So you're probably looking in the field from Montana to Houston in the hundreds, certainly not in the thousands, because those are construction jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGHERTY: Yes. So, I guess you have to look at the fine print here, Wolf.
And in the briefing yesterday that we got from the State Department from Kerri-Ann Jones, who is with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, she said they are still studying those numbers for the State Department. And she also confirmed that they are short-term jobs, but the construction jobs, of course, would be important to people who are in construction and who really do need some work.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jill. Thanks very much.
I want to go back to David Gergen to discuss this, because a lot of people are outraged.
They've been studying this pipeline for a long time. And a lot of President Obama's critics are saying, you know, he punted, he couldn't make a decision, so he decided to hold of because of the politics for at least a year, until after next year's election, basically saying, we'll deal with it another time. Environmentalists don't like it, a lot of the unions obviously do. A lot of jobs are at stake.
What do you think, David?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think, unfortunately, Wolf, the president did punt. And this project has been understudied by the State Department for three years.
They've had on a couple of occasions multi-volume reports saying it's environmentally insignificant, there's not a real danger to the environment. And here, at the last minute, they pull back from a decision that everybody expected them to make by now. And there's no -- the only -- this is similar to what they've done in other areas of the environment and energy. They postponed a number of decisions until after the election because they don't want to have to -- inevitably, making this decision is going to alienate some bloc of voters, so they are making a political decision.
But, Wolf, there's one other aspect of it that I think is also really important. I've been up to Canada a couple of times in recent weeks, spoken to the business leaders there. And to a person, they say, you folks in the United States don't really understand this very well. We've had this project, we've been expecting an answer for a long time. We've always seen you, as Americans, as our chief partner for oil and gas.
This was a big project together. And if you guys are not going -- if you're going to screw around with this for a long time, we've got another partner out there that really wants to work with us, and that's China. And their sentiment is changing in China, maybe we just ought to work with the Chinese.
BLITZER: Yes. There's a real sense of frustration in Canada right now.
And Republicans and some of President Obama's critics are saying, you know, he's doing now -- you tell me if this is fair criticism or not, David -- he's doing now what he did when he used to be a state legislator back in Illinois. When he couldn't make up his mind on a controversial vote, he just voted "present."
Is that what he's doing now?
GERGEN: Well, in effect, but I think he's really just trying -- I think he's into campaign mode, and he just wants to put this off. I think eventually, he probably will support it, but we can't be certain.
But let's go back to the 20,000 jobs point. When the president was pushing shovel-ready projects, and the administration passed the stimulus program, a lot of the jobs that were created were these kind of construction jobs that were going to be one-shot jobs. That's the nature of construction.
They weren't permanent jobs. But the administration proudly claimed that it was creating X millions of jobs and saving X millions of jobs. I don't understand why in the Canadian case, they are now suddenly underscoring, well, they're really only short-term jobs, they're not -- they really don't amount to all that much.
BLITZER: Yes. And obviously what's also important beyond the jobs energy independence, it's much more important if you get the energy from Canada than from some other countries, as all of us know by now.
David, thanks very much.
GERGEN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dozens reportedly killed in brutal new clashes in Syria. Just ahead, what details of a new humanitarian report could mean for the Syrian regime.
Plus, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords speaking publicly now for the first time since being shot in the head. You're going to hear how she says she's feeling right now.
BLITZER: The family members of those killed and wounded in the Fort Hood massacre are now suing the U.S. Army.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that, some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's the latest?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, claims have been filed asking for government compensation in the amount of $750 million for failing to stop the attacks. The families are arguing that the Justice Department, Pentagon, and the FBI intentionally ignored the threat posed by the suspect in the 2009 shootings, Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan. A Fort Hood spokesman says the cases will be taken seriously.
Opposition groups in Syria say dozens were killed in brutal new clashes with government forces today. This, as Human Rights Watch reports the government's crackdown now amounts to crimes against humanity. The group is calling for the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions and suspend the country's membership. CNN cannot independently confirm information though coming out of Syria.
And a boost on Wall Street today. The Dow closing up almost 260 points. Traders were encouraged by new steps the leaders of Italy and Greece are taking to ease the grave European debt crisis. Greece's new prime minister was sworn in today, and Italian lawmakers were able to advance a package of austerity measures.
And just months after being shot in the head during that deadly Tucson attack, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, she is speaking publicly for the first time about her dramatic recovery.
Here's a little clip of her interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, ABC: How do you feel?
REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: Pretty good.
SAWYER: Is it painful? Is it hard?
GIFFORDS: Well, it's difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: That's pretty amazing. It really is.
Gifford and her husband, Mark Kelly, also have a new book chronicling the milestones in her progress.
That is amazing to see considering she was shot in the head. You know, unbelievable.
BLITZER: Almost a year already.
All right. Thanks very much, Lisa.
President Obama is getting ready to go to a basket ball game, but this one is a bit unusual. Stand by.
BLITZER: All right. This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. The Obama White House releasing more e-mail about the Solyndra loan controversy.
Let's go straight to the White House. Our chief correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is standing by over there.
What's the latest, Jessica?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. The White House has supplied the House Energy and Commerce Committee with more of their internal White House e-mails. These are the first internal White House e-mails that they have sent up in response to the subpoena that was issued. And in a letter accompanying those e-mails, the White House counsel slams the committee for what she essentially calls a selective release of some e-mails earlier this week that paint a picture of apparent political influence in giving out the Solyndra loan.
In a letter accompanying these e-mails, the White House counsel writes -- this is a quote -- "None of these documents" -- referring to the e- mails -- "contain evidence of political favoritism or wrongdoing by White House officials. Indeed, the documents produced to date including Mr. Kaiser's" -- that's an Obama donor involved in all of this -- "including Mr. Kaiser's own candid e-mails, indicate that White House officials did not intervene on Mr. Kaiser's behalf with the Department of Energy to influence the decision to grant or restructure the Solyndra loan guarantee."
Now, Wolf, the other piece of this story is the White House has not fully complied with the subpoena, because the committee wants every single e-mail that ever mentioned Solyndra. And the folks here say that's just too much.
They insist that they are only satisfying what they think is the legitimate interest of the committee. And in this letter, the White House counsel also writes that the committee has issued a " -- overbroad and overreaching subpoena to the White House that encroaches upon important and longstanding executive branch prerogatives."
An administration official says they feel that the e-mails they've supplied today satisfy the legitimate interest of the committee. We'll see if the committee agrees. Somehow I think this back-and- forth will continue -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I think you're absolutely correct, Jessica. Thanks very, very much. The saga will continue.
A boy essentially without a country. Up next, the debate at the United States Supreme Court, what it could mean for Middle East peace.
BLITZER: You're looking at a time lapse showing the amazing transformation of the USS Carl Vinson. The aircraft carrier, it's being transformed into a basketball court.
It's the ship, by the way, that buried Bin Laden's body at sea. It's also where President Obama is about to watch a match-up between Michigan State and UNC.
CNN White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar has the details.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, not only is this the ship that buried Osama bin Laden at sea, it's also the ship that first launched attack against Taliban and al Qaeda following 9/11. So, a historic setting on Veterans Day for this historic event, the first time that a college basketball game has been played on an aircraft carrier.
And President Obama will be delivering remarks shortly before the game. As you know, he is a huge basketball fan and player. And he'll be joined by thousands of other fans, thousands of servicemen and women, to watch this game which begins at 7:15 p.m. Eastern, will be broadcast on ESPN.
And during the game, he will be interviewed courtside both by ESPN and Westwood One. So, television and radio, and that radio interview will be airing as well on the Armed Forces Radio Network.
Then, after the game, it's business. He will be departing San Diego, heading for Honolulu, Hawaii, where he will be the hosting the APEC summit, joining leaders from around the Asia-Pacific region to be talking about economic issues. But this is really an extraordinary way to celebrate Veterans Day and also to kick off this nine-day trip that he's going on to Hawaii, as well as Australia and Bali, where he will be facing this challenge of trying to stay focused on his jobs message while he's overseas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, traveling with the question.
Brianna, thank you.
Meanwhile, here in Washington, a debate is unfolding over at the United States Supreme Court over the birthplace of a little boy. It could have serious implications for Middle East peace.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Menachem Zivotofsky is a shy 9-year-old boy, a boy without country, so to speak.
ARI ZIVOTOFSKY, FATHER: We moved to Israel, and then we're very proud that our third child was born there, and we want his documents to say that.
BOLDUAN: Ari Zivotofsky's son is at the center of a highly-charged legal dispute potentially pitting one family's wish against the future of the Mideast peace process all over a U.S. passport.
SARAH Cleveland, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: There have been 50,000 Americans in the last 10 years that were born in Jerusalem, and many of them would like to have Israel indicated as their place of birth in the passports. But this is also an extremely important geopolitical issue.
BOLDUAN: Jerusalem is the holy center of three different religions. The United Nations and the most of the world community do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Both Israelis and Palestinians consider the city their own.
The Zivotofskys are American citizens. When their son was born in Jerusalem, they requested his U.S. passport list Israel as the place of birth, following the normal practice for Americans born outside the U.S. But nothing is normal when it comes to this disputed city.
The State Department refused the request, listing only Jerusalem on the boy's passport, sparking this nearly decade-long battle.
ALYZA LEWIN, ATTORNEY FOR THE ZIVOTOFSKYS: What's at stake is their deep, personal pride and sense of identification with the state of Israel, and their right given by Congress to express that on the passport.
BOLDUAN: The Zivotofskys are asking the court to enforce a law passed by Congress in 2002 t giving their son and others the Israel option on passports. But both the Bush and Obama administrations has ignored the law, saying it interferes with the president's power over foreign policy.
While the Zivotofskys recognize the complex and thorny issues surrounding this fight, Menachem's father argues their request is a simple one: where can his son call home?
ZIVOTOFSKY: Whatever else they decide, whatever the bigger issue is, that's for them to decide. We're requesting just exactly what the lawsuit says -- implement the law and write on the passport that he was born in Israel.
BOLDUAN (on camera): In court, the justices had tough questions for both sides. They seemed to show little sympathy for the family involved, but also seemed to struggle with the larger question of, where does congressional authority begin and end with regard to foreign policy issues? We expect a ruling in the next few months.
Kate Bolduan, CNN, at the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: Millions of Catholics may find themselves very confused very soon when they go to mass. Stand by. We'll explain.
BLITZER: There could be mass confusion at Catholic churches here in the United States on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
CNN's Athena Jones explains.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, big changes are coming for America's 70 million Catholics as a new translation of the mass goes into effect November 27th. The revised words and phrases will provide a more literal translation from the Latin.
We spoke with experts and ordinary Catholics about the coming changes.
MSGR. RICK HILGARTNER, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: For us, this is a pretty landmark moment, probably the biggest change that we're seeing in the way we celebrate mass in almost 40 years.
JONES (voice-over): About a decade in the making, the changes to the text are meant to provide a more literal translation of the original Latin. Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, who is helping the Church with the transition, says priests and parishioners will have to adjust to the new language.
HILGARTNER: So it will sound a little bit more formal. The language will sound far more rich. In many cases, it won't sound like everyday casually spoken English.
Well, this to say, "And also with you." And now it says, "And with your spirit."
JONES: And where Catholics once said, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, they will now say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof."
Catholic bookstores like this one at the National Shrine on stocking up on the new text, and parishioners say they're ready.
THERESA LEYVA, CATHOLIC PARISHIONER: I think it's subtle enough that we'll have to pay attention and relearn, but I think it will be a great chance to really think about what the prayers mean again.
SARA HULSE, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Each word has great value. And so we don't just, like, throw a word out, or, you know, "With you, with your soul and your spirit." Like, there's a specific reason for each word.
JONES: Still, the new translation could lead to confusion for some Catholics used to reciting the mass from memory.
REV. MARK KNESTOUT, ARCHDIOCESE OF WASHINGTON: At first, people might have some apprehension.
JONES: Father Mark Knestout, with the Archdiocese of Washington, has led 22 workshops for clergy and church leaders to explain the changes.
KNESTOUT: And there have been critics that might say, well, we don't like exactly the words that were chosen and things like that. But to understand the process, then one would understand maybe have less of an apprehension or less of a criticism.
JONES: Churches will provide pew cards to help parishioners learn the new responses. Spanish, French and other languages will also have new translations. The goal is to unify the world's Catholics around a common, more accurate version of the mass.
HILGARTNER: This is not just a moment for us to get people to say new words and learn new responses, so much is it's a chance to teach about what we're worshipping.
JONES: All this means that Catholics who only go to church a few times a year may find themselves scratching their heads this Christmas season -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena, thank you.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.