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Plea Bargain for Alleged Arizona Shooter?; Mars Madness
Aired August 7, 2012 - 15:01 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: The other big story we're following this hour, Mars madness has taken over this planet. The world is talking about NASA's historic mission. The space agency is trying to find out if life ever existed on Mars. And today, it released some incredible new images.
Just look at this. You have got to look pretty closely, though, the very first color pictures of the mission. And you can actually see the crater in which the rover landed if you look closely. The photos are a little murky because the lens cover we're told is dusty from the landing. The cover will be open later to take clearer shots of Mars.
Meanwhile, NASA is also releasing this animation. It shows the surface of Mars, close up, close-up pictures that NASA is calling crime scene photos because it shows details about the landing site. Look at this. Low-resolution photos were captured by a camera underneath the rover Curiosity. Some 300 pictures have been taken and beamed back more than 150 million miles to Earth.
Just amazing. NASA compiled them into a video. They show the last two-and-a-half minutes or so of what NASA said was an exciting ride, 13,000 miles per hour landing on to the Red Planet.
Last hour, a NASA engineer gave our John Zarrella a tour of a full-scale model of the Mars rover Curiosity that's causing so much excitement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: This is a model that we have been showing everybody. This is Curiosity, the scale model.
You can see how big this thing is. If you come over and you take a look, look down here. This is the Sojourner rover; 1997, it was flown. Look how far NASA has come from the time they sent this rover to Mars to this car-sized rover.
Rob Manning, chief engineer, is with me here.
Rob, you and I were out here when Sojourner landed.
ROB MANNING, CHIEF ENGINEER: A long time ago, 1997.
ZARRELLA: That was one of your babies. This one is too.
MANNING: This one is. I can tell you if this looks 10 times harder, it's actually more like 100 times harder.
But we were able pull it off. It took us longer. It cost us a lot more money, but we really did. We were able to get -- this was by far the most complex beast we have ever put into outer space.
ZARRELLA: I know you had said to me that the one wheel is more complex pretty much than the Sojourner rover.
MANNING: The motors and electronics to control all this stuff has been monumentally challenging.
ZARRELLA: We're seeing a lot of images come down from the surface now. Tell us where we're getting some of these pictures from.
MANNING: The very first images we saw came from one of these cameras. These are called the front hazard cameras. This is the front of the vehicle.
There's actually two pairs. This is the right and this is the left. For redundancy, we have another pair right here attached to the second computer. But we're just using these two right now. We saw some fantastic pictures. It was from this camera with the protective lid cover removed, that allows us to see Mount Sharp right ahead of us right there. This is a fantastic mountain. This is a mountain that's higher than Mount Rainier. It's just a fantastic mountain. We're right at the foot of it, only six kilometers away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: Pretty exciting sufficient.
He is called the hipster Ph.D. He likes Elvis, but left the rock and roll scene to become a NASA engineer. You're going to meet one of the men working on the Mars Curiosity mission next.
CHO: Welcome back.
As we mentioned, Mars madness has taken over the planet. It seems people everywhere are talking about NASA's mission to our nearest neighbor.
The space agency is trying to find out if life ever existed on Mars.
Adam Steltzner joins us live from Pasadena, California, Jet Propulsion Lab, where the mission is being controlled. He's the lead for the entry and descent team.
Joining me as well for this line of questioning is our friend Chad Myers.
Chad, thank you.
Adam, thanks for joining us.
I want to get to how you switched from rocking out like Elvis to over to NASA. But first I want to talk about the mission. I don't think we can really overstate the importance of this. This literally is ushering in a new era of exploration, isn't it?
ADAM STELTZNER, LEAD LANDING ENGINEER, NASA: Yes, it is. This was kind of a make-or-break mission for NASA.
It allowed us to show the world again what the great power and engineering prowess of this nation can achieve.
CHO: You have seen some of the images including one of the first color images that came in today..
CHO: -- of the Red Planet. To us, it all kind of looks sort of blurry. But you guys are the experts. Is there anything you can glean from the pictures so far that you have seen?
STELTZNER: Yes. We have seen a lot, especially the pictures from on orbit that looked down upon where we landed and seen all the places where our various pieces of equipment landed.
It was such a perfect landing Sunday night. I can't even imagine it because those images of our equipment laid out on the surface of Mars are exactly as we thought they would be.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Adam, hey, it's Chad Meyers.
Let's talk about the equipment for a second because people have been asking me what exactly is this -- they're calling it a laboratory in a box. What are we going to look for? What kind of experiments will this machine do?
STELTZNER: Yes. We have taken much more science than we ever had on the surface of Mars there this time.
That includes an instrument called SAM, Sampling Analysis at Mars, which is an analytical laboratory, essentially, a chemistry lab that we can take samples, powdered up rock samples into SAM and it will do a whole sweep between SAM and CheMin, the other major body- mounted scientific instrument.
They can do X-ray experiments. They can bake the material and see how it bakes out. We have got a laser on top of the mast that can zap rocks and vaporize the surface of the rock and look at the vapor for the composition of the rock too.
STELTZNER: -- lot about the surface of Mars.
MYERS: What are the things that this thing is really, really going to drill down to?
STELTZNER: All right.
We're looking for the signatures of a habitat that could have been habitable for life. We're looking at the chemical signatures in the rocks, when they were made and what state the water was in when they were made.
Certainly, we would love to find organic carbon, if we can. That's quite a hard thing to find. But we're looking for signatures of life or the habitat that would support it.
MYERS: I'm looking far fossils and bones, just so you know where my threshold is, Adam.
STELTZNER: For me, I would love it. The home run would be a micro fossil. But I'm not going to wish for that. I'm not going to expect that. I'm going to expect an ability to range in on the chemistry of early Mars.
CHO: Adam, I have got a question for you. I think America has really been watching this. Millions of people have flooded to CNN.com to get all the latest details on what's happening with Curiosity.
I think what people connect with too so much is the emotion, the motion that we saw inside that room when Curiosity landed. You call it a make-or-break mission. Clearly, for many months, morale has been down at NASA. The shuttle missions are gone. There's been many, many layoffs. Is that why with this kind of success we have seen so much emotion?
STELTZNER: Well, certainly that's true.
But the personal investment of each of the folks on the team. A very, very talented team of people worked the better part of a decade to make this happen and a lot of long days, a lot of weekends working, a lot of personal sacrifices and personal choices. So, we were very, very, very invested. And to have that all come out the way it did with such a resounding, clean success was tremendous.
CHO: It's pretty incredible.
STELTZNER: The biggest thing in my life. Yes, if it's the biggest thing that I ever get in my life, it will be enough.
CHO: Wow. Wow. That's a big statement.
One final thing is that I can't let you go without talking about what my producer calls your Elvis hair and your former career. You used to be a musician. And then you got into NASA. How did that happen? When did that happen and why did you make the switch?
STELTZNER: Well, as a young man after leaving high school sort of not on the best terms, I played rock 'n' roll around the San Francisco Bay area for a few years. And then I got bored, frankly.
And I noticed that a different set of stars were in the sky when I'm come home from playing a gig than had been out there when I went to the gig. That made me curious about why that happened. I went to a community college. I took an astronomy course and a physics course and then that just blew my mind. And a few years later and a few degrees later, here I am.
CHO: I love how you say you left high school not on the best of terms. That's a very kind way of putting it, but look at you now.
Adam Steltzner, Chad Myers, thank you so much. Great to talk to you.
STELTZNER: Thank you for having me.
CHO: It's the controversial movie that depicts what went down that night that Navy SEALs came face-to-face with Osama bin Laden. Now we're getting our very first look at it.
Plus, it's a $90 billion industry, video games. But many people have become such big addicts they can't tell the difference between the games and the real life. Just wait until you see this CNN report.
CHO: Video games, they are a $90 billion business. Americans alone spend more than a billion hours each year playing them.
But addiction has become a major problem. And some gamers, specifically in South Korea, apparently can't tell the difference between the games and real life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have been gaming 19 hours a day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I feel like the game is pulling me. It's pulling me back when I go away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I feel like there is no reason to live. And sometimes I cry. And sometimes I want to kill myself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 15 or 20 years ago, the most significant juvenile delinquency issue was sniffing, what is that, glue? I think Internet addiction becomes the most significant issue in Korea, particularly compared to other countries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I even imagine seeing popular games if I'm forced to stop all of a sudden. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: It is important to note that the South Korean government has reported a drop in the number of young addicts in the past few years.
For more on the special series, go to CNN.com.
We're getting our first look at the controversial movie depicting what happened during the raid on Osama bin Laden. The movie, as you may know, at the center of a political firestorm, as critics question whether filmmakers got classified information from the Obama administration.
Judge for yourself. Here is the teaser trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No birth certificate, no cell phone. The guy is a ghost.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: He's right in the inner circle.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The whole world is going to want to know this.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I want targets.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: When was the last time you saw bin Laden?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Oh, my God. Is that what I think it is?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: Producers changed the movie's release date from October to December so there wouldn't be any fuss before the election.
We're getting some breaking news just into CNN. Jared Lee Loughner, the man allegedly who shot, who was the shooter in the Tucson shooting last year that killed six people and injured 13 others, including then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has just been declared competent to stand trial. Presumably, his guilty plea will be forthcoming.
Our Kyung Lah is inside the courtroom and she will join us next.
CHO: We have this just into our newsroom.
Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter in 2011 shooting outside an Arizona supermarket that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has just been deemed competent to stand trial.
To break down what happened inside the courtroom and what this means going forward, we have CNN legal contributor Sunny Hostin on the line for us.
So, Sunny, are you surprised by this? Tell me, what do you think happens next?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I'm not surprised by this.
We know that he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Alina, and had been medicated. And so we understood that a plea deal was in place and that what the judge needed to determine today is whether or not he's competent to not only stand trial, but to enter a guilty plea.
CHO: So, essentially, what this does, Sunny, then, if I'm understanding you correctly, is, this clears the way for Loughner to enter that guilty plea and avoid a trial?
HOSTIN: That's right. That's right.
My understanding, Alina, is that he's going to plead guilty to 19 charges, of course among them the attempted assassination of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords.
CHO: Some of the victims, most notably Gabrielle Giffords, obviously happy that a trial is going to be avoided. In fact, her husband, Mark Kelly, released the statement.
And I'm going to read it to you: "Gabby and I are satisfied with this plea agreement. The pain and loss caused by the events of January 8, 2011, are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives."
But, really, Sunny, and correct me if I'm wrong, what this does essentially is it avoids Loughner from ever having to face the possibility of the death penalty, right?
HOSTIN: I think that's right.
My understanding of the plea that he will be entering into is that he will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This is a good outcome I think certainly for the government, but certainly also for the victims of the terrible crimes, because they don't have to withstand a trial.
They don't have to, those that have survived, get on the witness stand and testify.
Really, the only question in this case was why Jared Loughner committed these crimes, whether or not he was competent, whether or not he did suffer from schizophrenia, and whether or not he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or receive the death penalty.
CHO: CNN legal contributor Sunny Hostin getting on the line pretty quickly for us.
Sunny, thank you, as always.
HOSTIN: Thanks, Alina.
CHO: All right.
And we're back after this.
CHO: Mitt Romney went today to the president's home state and unveiled a new attack. In a speech outside Chicago, Romney said the president is quietly undoing the welfare reforms that weaned millions of families off welfare.
The Obama campaign says nonsense. Here's CNN's Jim Acosta.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The Romney campaign doesn't actually believe they're going to win the state of Illinois, President Obama's home state, but advisers to the GOP contender say he's not going to pass up the opportunity to deliver what they're calling his message of the day.
And, so, they did that just outside of Chicago, en route to fund raising event inside the Windy City. It was at this event when Mitt Romney held a brief moment of silence for the victims of that shooting up in Wisconsin and then he went right into his attacks on the president's performance on the economy.
And that message of the day, according to the Romney campaign, is welfare reform. They are accusing the president of trying to loosen the work requirements in welfare reform that was passed by President Clinton, signed by President Clinton during the mid-1990s.
Here's what Mitt Romney had to say about that earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope you understand that President Obama in just the last few days has tried to reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare.
That is wrong. If I'm president, I'll put work back in welfare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, the White House denies they are trying to weaken those work requirements in welfare reform and Democratic operatives, meanwhile, are e-mailing out to reports a letter that Mitt Romney signed back in 2005 when he was governor of Massachusetts along with other GOP governors across the country.
It was a letter to Congress asking Congress for some flexibility in waivers in implementing welfare reform in their own states. The Obama campaign has pointed to that letter and accusing Mitt Romney of hypocrisy on this issue. Now, as for the GOP contender, he won't be in Illinois for very long. He is now on his way to Iowa for another campaign event where he'll go after the president in what is a crucial battleground state.
CHO: Jim Acosta. Jim, thank you very much.
Police in Florida want to know what a man was doing with dozens of fake I.D.s and uniforms. Just listen to this story.
Fifty-two-year old Roy Antigua was arrested this month for a parole violation. Investigators found phony military, law enforcement and medical I.D.s and uniforms, including federal badges, police radios, even a full NASA flight suit and helmet. Go figure.
Surveillance cameras were rolling over the weekend as two masked men wielding knives tried to rob a convenience store in Massachusetts. That's right, I said tried. Apparently, the would-be robbers hadn't counted on the store owner picking up a stick and fighting back.
The owner was ready because he are had been robbed at gunpoint just last week. Neighbors ran to his aid, holding one of the suspects until the police arrived.
From Hollywood to Broadway, "The Sting" to "A Chorus Line, just about everyone knows the music of Marvin Hamlisch. The 68-year-old composer died in his Los Angeles home Monday.
His agent would only say that the death was unexpected. Hamlisch's compositions also graced movies like "The Way We Were," "Three Men and a Baby" and "Sophie's Choice." He was music director for Barbra Streisand's 1994 concert tour.
Hamlisch won Emmys, Oscars, Grammys, plus a Tony, even a Pulitzer Prize. By the way, we should mention that Broadway will be dimming its lights tomorrow for a full minute to remember him.
Just in to CNN, the New York police department announcing a major move involving Twitter and a threat against Broadway. The NYPD says it will subpoena the social giant. We are gathering the facts and the details and we'll have those for you, next.
CHO: All right. We are "On the Case" now and we have this case just into CNN. The New York police department says it now plans to subpoena Twitter, the social networking site, to reveal the identity of a user who claims on Twitter to be planning an attack on a Broadway theater.
Let's bring in Anne Bremner, our legal person, to talk a bit more about this. Anne, you know, this is a bit similar to what we talked about yesterday with respect to the actress Ellen Page and her receiving some death threats. Apparently, someone posted a threat, claiming it would -- this person would attack a theater on Broadway where Mike Tyson is performing his one-man show. They tried to get more information from Twitter, were turned down, so that's why they have issued this subpoena.
What do you make of it?
ANNE BREMNER, CIVIL TRIAL ATTORNEY: Well, obviously, when there's a threat to kill anyone, Mike Tyson, what is the show, "The One Man Truth" on Broadway, it's kind of an odd target.
But you know, these threats are out there with celebrities and, you know, with these kinds of threats, they should be giving the information, but obviously there has to be subpoenas issued or search warrants.
And they always -- you know, the police always get their man, or their woman. They'll get the information, so be careful, anyone that's making threaten on Twitter that they can be prosecuted. They'll be -- their identity will be found out in very short order.
CHO: So, you're saying -- to me, to the normal person, it would seem like if the police department goes to Twitter, asks for the information, it would just be logical to say, listen, there's a possible threat. Give up the information and they would just give it up, but they refuse to do so.
So, you're saying, oh, no, no, no. They've got to go through the legal channels. They've got to get these search warrants or the subpoenas or what have you before they can move forward?
BREMNER: It's right. And, you know, like we talked about yesterday, Alina, there's a real sea change, I think, that we see this whole right to privacy in America.
We think, you know, my records, my information shouldn't be given out, even though I'm public on Twitter. I'm public on Facebook. I'm public in comments sections in newspapers or in the visual media.
But the fact of the matter is you have to get search warrants for these kinds of things right now. But that could shift because it's a death threat and there should be some exigency so we can get these kind of records.
But right now, privacy trumps the rights of the police or the public to know about this information. We always have to balance rights against a person's rights, rights to be protected from things versus our rights to do certain things in America. And that's a really tough balance.
CHO: Anne Bremner, thank you very much for your insight, as always. Good to see you. Thank you.
BREMNER: Thank you. CHO: As tuition skyrockets, more students are trading the dorm for home to save money. But that does not ease the burden of getting student loans and paying them off, so they're asking CNN's "Help Desk" for answers.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Here on the "Help Desk" today, we're talking about student loans and with me, Doug Flynn and Liz Miller.
Doug, this question is for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With my student loan debt, is it better to just pay the minimum balance every month and spread it out over ten years or is it more beneficial to pay off as much as possible as soon as possible?
KOSIK: Something a lot of us can relate to. What do you think?
DOUG FLYNN, FLYNN ZITO CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: The big important issue is whether or not you have a good cash reserve in place, three to six months. I would go with six months.
And then, if you do, I would -- obviously, you want to pay down debt as quickly as you can.
However, if it's a lower interest debt and you don't have enough cash saved up, the last thing you want to have happen is you lose your job and now you don't have anything to fall back on and you can't make any student loan payments.
So it really depends on what situation you're in. If you have a good cash reserve, absolutely, you want to pay it down as quickly as you can.
KOSIK: But what's considered a good cash reserve?
LIZ MILLER, PRESIDENT, SUMMIT PLACE FINANCIAL ADVISORS: You know, at different points in life, that can change. But certainly when you're starting out and you're saddled with all this debt, after you meet your monthly expenses, you really want to start putting a little something away each month.
And if you can achieve three months, that's a great starting point for a young adult, as we just heard from.
KOSIK: But trying to pay down, Doug, everything all at once when you're at that age, you shouldn't really try to do that? I mean, everything all at once? It's a big burden.
FLYNN: It is. And, especially if the interest rate is low and you have other goals. Like, I want to save for a house or a car or something. You don't want to put everything down on your student loans, especially at a low rate, when you could be saving and investing for other goals. So, it's -- you have to really know where you are. It's a good idea to pay down debt. We want to do that, but not at the expense of not being able to do anything else.
KOSIK: OK, good advice. Now, if you have an issue that you want our experts to tackle, upload a 30-second video with your "Help Desk" question to iReport.com.
CHO: Alison Kosik, thank you.
Gunfire, missiles and all-out civil war in Syria and people are streaming out of the country's largest city of Aleppo. Those staying, waiting in long lines just to get a loaf of bread. The reporting only CNN can bring you, next.
CHO: A smiling Bashar al-Assad was shown today on Syrian state television. We want to show you the pictures. It's the first time we've seen the Syrian leader in nearly three weeks, since the assassination of four of his top aides in a bomb attack.
In this video, Assad is seen meeting with an envoy from Syria's top ally, Iran.
I want to bring in Hala Gorani of CNN International. Hey, Hala, great to see you. Interesting that that meeting happened between the Iran envoy and Assad. A, were you surprised by that and what do you think is being discussed there?
HALA GORANI, ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: I think what Iran is doing is saying to Syria, we're standing by you. They're making this very public.
Bashar al-Assad had -- there were some reports -- rumors, I should say because, in the case of Syria, many rumors have been flying around -- that perhaps he'd been injured, that perhaps he'd left Syria.
Well, these are state Syrian television images, showing that he's indeed in Damascus, that he's meeting with Saeed Jalili. And Jalili says, look, any solution that comes from Syria cannot come from the outside. It has to come from the inside, which is, in a way, ironic, considering the external influence Iran has on Syria and how much of a close ally it is of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
And Iran also said something else, that it will now allow the axis of resistance to be broken in any way. This was Jalili, as quoted by Syrian state television, the axis of resistance being Iran, Syria and the group, Hezbollah, the Shiite group in Southern Lebanon.
CHO: I want to talk a little bit about the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria's largest city of Aleppo. We talked to Ben Wedeman yesterday and we also spoke with him again this morning. Let's listen to some of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Most people say that they've run out of cooking gas. Some say they are cooking their meals, very Spartan meals, I must add, over firewood.
Some have moved from the more dangerous areas that are controlled by the Free Syrian Army to areas that are still under the control of the rebels, but are not being shelled quite as much.
Others are moving to those parts of the city that are still under government control. Others still, moving to the countryside. And I've seen even more going over the border into Turkey.
But there definitely is a move away from those areas where there's an expectation of fighting. Many of the civilians here, even though they sympathize with the Free Syrian Army, they're exhausted. They're worried. The children that we've seen clearly traumatized by weeks of intense fighting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: You know, Hala, it's so interesting that we hear about that side of it because, as important as it is to report on the fighting and it is, I think people often forget about the humanitarian crisis and what's going on. And people are trying to go about their lives, but it's increasingly difficult.
What are you hearing about the situation in Aleppo?
GORANI: Well, I've spoken to people in Aleppo who are not in the areas where active fighting is ongoing and, you know, most of the civilians have actually fled these neighborhoods of Salahuddin and others that are rebel strongholds, those neighborhoods that are being shelled.
But, as a result, they have nowhere else to go. They're homeless. So, you have tens of thousands of Aleppo residents sleeping out of doors, in public parks, in many cases.
I'm also hearing for the first time over the last several days that bread is running short, just ordinary, everyday bread, that bakeries are running out of flour. The longer this situation goes on, the bigger and dramatic the humanitarian situation will become for ordinary civilians who don't want any part in the fighting.
And, so, you have a situation, also, where people are afraid for their own security because there are no police in the streets anymore. So they're concerned that, you know, they're in their homes hunkered down.
But what about all these people who don't have bread, who have nothing to feed their children? At some point, law and order is going to start breaking down in Aleppo. It's not just the fighting. It's just everyday security that's a problem. So, it's a disaster on so many levels.
CHO: And then something we, obviously, need to monitor in addition to everything else that's going on in Syria. We have to watch that, too, the growing humanitarian crisis.
Hala Gorani, thank you for that great reporting. Appreciate it.
CHO: A place of worship burned to the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, this incident should not stop us from worshipping our God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: The feds are in Missouri right now, investigating this fire. We will get a live update on this possible arson from our Gary Tuchman next.
CHO: All right. We're just a few minutes away from the top of the hour. That means my friend Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room." Wolf is here with a preview. Hey, Wolf, what have you got?
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, we've got a lot coming up, including all the latest coming in from Wisconsin on the Sikh killings. We're going to speak to the police chief of Oak Creek. He's going to give us the latest. We'll speak with him live.
We're also speaking with Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He's been tracking white supremacists, some of these hate groups for a long time. We'll have the latest on that front, as well.
Certainly, we're not going to ignore politics and the latest name-calling that's been going on between President Obama and Mitt Romney, a "Romney Hood" versus "Obamaloney." What's going on over here with all the name calling?
We're going to go into that. We've got representatives from both campaigns. They'll join us together for a serious debate. That's coming up in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, as well.
So, we're not going to ignore Syria, by the way. We'll go there. Ben Wedeman, as you know, he's on the ground for us in a very, very dangerous, unfolding situation happening right now in Aleppo. So, we'll cover that story, as well.
So, as usual, all the important news, coming up right here in "The Situation Room."
CHO: As usual, a packed show, Wolf. I'll be watching. Thanks so much.
BLITZER: Thank you. CHO: Shock and loss this afternoon for members of a Missouri mosque. This is the image that followers had of their mosque in Joplin at the end of the weekend.
But come Monday this is what they saw. Take a look. A fire destroyed the building turning it into ashes, soot and charred rubble.
Our Gary Tuchman is in Joplin this afternoon. He joins me now by phone. Gary, now twice, this mosque has been hit. What are you finding out?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Alina, I can tell you that a day-and-a-half after this mosque burned to the ground it was so hot it's still smoldering. We still see some flames.
But the people in the Muslim community here in Joplin, Missouri, are devastated. I mean, all these people in Joplin, 15 months ago, survived this horrible, horrible outbreak of tornadoes. One-hundred- fifty-eight people were killed, 1,000 hurt. These were the survivors.
And now , you look at this rubble and it reminds me of when I was here last year, seeing the tornado rubble, except this is a person we think who set this fire. And the reason we strongly think that -- they don't have the proof, yet -- but last month, as you were saying, on July 4th, someone tried to burn down the mosque.
And the reason we know that is because there's surveillance video and you see the man's face clearly who tried to burn down the mosque. He tossed a lighted bottle on top of the roof. They still have not been able to find that man, despite the fact that you can see his face clearly.
So, the suspicion is this was an arson. Either way, the Muslim community here in Joplin is without their one and only mosque right now.
CHO: Have police said anything about whether they believe that the same person might be responsible in both cases, Gary?
TUCHMAN: Well, that's certainly something they're looking into and there's a reward for the capture man who did this this past July.
So, at this point, they're suspicious about what caused this. It happened at 3:00 in the morning, Monday morning. It happened the day after the terrible, tragic attack in Wisconsin, so there's strong suspicion that's what it is.
My guess, with all the years I put in on this job, covering these things, that this is arson, but we'll have to definitively find that out. But we do know, definitively, last month that a man tried to set fire to this building.
What I should tell you and this left a good feeling in my heart, is members of the Christian community, the Jewish community and the Mormon community have come to the Muslims here in Joplin and said you can use our church, you can use our synagogue, we'll help in any way, shape or form.
So, the Muslim community here is very grateful for the outreach from other religions in town.
CHO: And, Gary, I know you have a report coming up on "AC 360" tonight. Give us a preview of who you're talking to and what we might see tonight.
TUCHMAN: You know, we talked to two dozen people who are members of this mosque, including small children. And we're getting the feelings of children and teenagers who are going through something that, you know, they were -- most of their parents were born elsewhere, but they were born here and they've never experienced something like this before.
And all of the sudden, they're fearful. They have trepidations. They don't know whether they want to come back into the new mosque when it's built. It's sad. It's pitiful. But it's reality. And that's our story tonight.
CHO: All right, Gary Tuchman, thank you so much for joining us. As always, we will be watching tonight for your report on "AC 360" at 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
TUCHMAN: Thank you, Alina.
CHO: I want to end with a scene that we really never get tired of showing, a teenager gets the surprise of her life when her dad, who was stationed in Afghanistan shows up unexpectedly during a big moment in her life. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and her dad just got in today.
ALANA EVANS, SURPRISED BY FATHER'S RETURN FROM AFGHANISTAN: I only get to test for my (INAUDIBLE) once and he was here to see it. He's just been gone for so long. I missed him so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: How cute is she? As 14-year-old Gina Evans was receiving karate's top honor, a black belt, that's when Dad crashed the ceremony, much to the delight of his family and everyone else.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Greg Evans was at sea for nine months. So, welcome home, Dad. What a great scene.
Surveillance cameras rolling as two masked men wielding knives tried to rob a convenience store in Massachusetts. That's right. I said tried.
Apparently, those would-be robbers hadn't counted on the store owner picking up a stick and fighting back. The owner was ready for the man after being robbed at gunpoint just last week. That's why he had the stick ready. Neighbors ran to his aid, holding one of the suspects until police arrived. Good for him.
Before we go, a huge fire in a refinery in California has been extinguished. We should tell you about that. Firefighters were able to put the blaze out at the Chevron facility in Richmond overnight.
The fire started after a diesel leak last evening, forcing the plant to shut down all operations. But now that fire has been shut down.
I'm Alina Cho. I'll see you again tomorrow. "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer starts now.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Alina.