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Metrodome Roof Collapse; Lure of the Outsider; WikiLeaks War; Christmas in Washington; Sarah Palin in Haiti; Dream Act in Jeopardy; Atlanta Cheating Scandal
Aired December 12, 2010 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Don Lemon. It is the top of the hour.
Remember last night, we showed you the video of the New York Giants stranded in the Kansas City airport. Well, they were on their way to Minneapolis to play the Vikings today but couldn't get out because of bad weather. So the game was postponed and the Giants spent the night in Kansas City.
But it turns out that actually might have been a good thing because -- check out what happened earlier this morning. The roof of the Metrodome where the Vikings and the Giants were supposed to play today, it collapsed and it was actually caught on tape. The video is unbelievable and we're going to play it for you in just a moment.
And we'll also have our first live report from inside the dome. But first, we want to show you just how bad the weather, the winter weather is across the country.
The storm roared out of the plains yesterday with sideways snow and freezing temperatures. This was the scene in Sioux City, Iowa as this storm was at its height. And this is from the tower cam overlooking O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Nearly 1,000 flights were canceled. Planes that were flying either in or out faced significant delays.
At Chicago Soldier Field, the grounds crew had a busy morning trying to clear the open air stadium of snow for today's game between the Bears and the New England Patriots. Wisconsin is under a state of emergency for more than 70 counties. Parts of the Interstate system are impassable, even in parts of the country that are used to the big winter storms. Events like this can still bring life to a standstill for at least a few days.
Wintry weather is even blowing through the Deep South. This is what it was looking like for me, for all of us today as we made our way into work this afternoon. Snow in the Deep South. That is rare.
Jacqui Jeras is here to give us an update on all the extreme weather and the flight delays happening all across the country right now.
But first, the video of the Metrodome roof collapse. It was caught on camera by Fox Sports and it happened this morning. I want to take a look at that video before we go to CNN all-platform journalist Chris Welch. This is what happened this morning at the Metrodome.
And first, the snow started to seep in bit by bit. And then it started to collapse in big chunks of the roof that is of course, that game between the Vikings and the Giants had to be canceled, really postponed -- look at it coming down -- postponed until tomorrow in Detroit where they're giving away free tickets. Everyone who was supposed to go to this game will get their money back.
CNN's all-platform journalist Chris Welch has gotten inside of the Metrodome and he joins us now for a live shot. What are you seeing around you, Chris?
CHRIS WELCH, CNN ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST: Well, Don, first of all, wasn't that video just incredible?
Now, personally I've been outside all day. This is the first time I've been able to get inside and get my own look at what actually happened. You see the video from about 5:00 a.m. this morning.
Now, check it out live. It still looks a -- a little bit of a mess. Let me get behind the camera here so I can give you a better live shot, but you can see the biggest tear there in one of those Teflon panels. Three of those panels were ripped and will need to be replaced and crews here tell me the people to make the assessment and decide how long this will take and then to actually do the repairs are coming tomorrow.
So just -- just look at some of this. You can -- I can hear it flapping. I don't know if you can hear that at all in the background, but it's kind of -- sometimes you'll hear an occasional thunder. It's a little -- it's a little disheartening, but this is certainly something you don't see every day.
And then I'm going to pan down a little bit here. You can see the ice chunks all over the floor, snow on the floor and then the water that you saw falling in that video is now -- is now ice obviously. It's still cold in here. I made my way inside, thought there might be a chance that some heat was still so trapped inside. Boy, was I wrong. And it's -- it's still chilly in here Don --
LEMON: Are you able to talk to anyone there of any authority -- about how long it's going to take to repair this and the stability of this dome -- Chris.
WELCH: Well, they don't have an exact number yet as to how long it'll take. Now, this has happened in the past where you know, the dome has -- has had issues in the past. They've fixed it in a matter of days. They're hoping obviously that it can be fixed again in a matter of days. But they don't know exactly because the people who will be making that estimate will arrive tomorrow.
So hopefully, it will be fixed relatively soon. It looks like a mess right now, but they say it actually looks worse than it is. So I mean, let's see if that's -- that turns out to be true or not. LEMON: All right, our first live look inside of Metrodome there with our all-platform journalist, Chris Welch, Chris, -- Chris thank you very much. Great reporting there.
Let's turn now to our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. Jacqui, unbelievable, those are good pictures.
JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, yes.
LEMON: Sadly, you know it happened, but there is our first look inside. And it had to be a monster of a storm for this to happen.
JERAS: Well, it was. I mean there are about 17.5 inches in downtown Minneapolis and the wind probably was a contributing factor too because I mean, you know, Twin Cities sees snowstorms of 15 inches or more on a pretty regular basis. So I think there may have been some other factors involved there as well. And Chris mentioned how cold it was inside the dome. Even and -- look at that -- it feels like 12 degrees below zero.
That's the temperature your body feels outdoors in Twin Cities; 20 below in Fargo; 10 below in Sioux Falls. So you know, the snow has come to an end across this part of the Midwest, but the bitter cold temperatures is what's going to stick around and that's going to be the big story here in the upcoming week.
Now, let's talk about where the blizzard is. Is this still ongoing? It is in just a couple of spots, blizzard warning just expires for the Green Bay area, but you can see it continues across northern parts of Lower Michigan. So it's a real small area where we're looking at that really poor visibility and those really strong gusty winds.
Now, winds will continue to be a problem across the Great Lakes into the Ohio Valley and even into the northeast since there's a lot of energy with this storm system and those cold temperatures are making their way down to the south as well. And as those cold temperatures move over the warmer lakes we're going to start to see those lake effect snows developing and we're kind of starting to see a little bit of this into the Gary area not to mention the winds. We just got a report in Gary of wind gusts at 60-miles-per-hour.
So when we're talking winds those strong, that can cause some damage, power outages. And we've seen some of those across lower parts of Michigan as well.
A little snow in Tennessee right now, a little snow trying to make its way into the North Georgia Mountains. We don't think a lot of this will accumulate so we think you're going to be ok in Atlanta despite some of those snow showers earlier today.
And in the northeast, this is a wet event for you, continued heavy rainfall. You might get a little snow on the backside of this by tomorrow. But unless you live in those snow belts of the Great Lakes it won't be an issue.
Travel almost impossible today. We heard about those 1,300 flights that were canceled in and out of O'Hare. Multiple delays in many cities across the Midwest, north east and south east. And we may playing catch-up with some of this I think into tomorrow as well -- Don.
LEMON: Oh big delays. Jacqui Jeras on top of all of it. Thank you very much Jacqui.
We want to check your top stories right now on CNN.
CNN has confirmed six American soldiers have been killed in southern Afghanistan. "The New York Times" reports a suicide bomber drove a van filled with explosives to a joint outpost and detonated it. More than a dozen U.S. and Afghan force -- forces troops were wounded. The blast crumbled the outpost roof, trapping troops below. Other soldiers clawed through the rubble to pull them to safety.
The State Department says U.S. diplomat, Richard Holbrooke remains critical, but stable tonight. He underwent emergency surgery yesterday to repair a tear in his aorta. Senior White House adviser, David Axelrod today called Holbrooke a very tough person who is fighting a heart problem that many people could not have survived.
Former Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin spent the weekend in Haiti. She joined Evangelist, Franklin Graham and his charity Samaritan First, on a humanitarian mission. Haiti as you know as -- is being ravaged by cholera even as it continues to recover from that huge earthquake 11 months ago.
As her trip drew to a close, Palin told reporters today she hopes the American people will continue to help with the recovery.
Later in the show, we'll have a live report from Haiti for you, plus, we'll take you to a New York -- to New York, where protesters are rallying behind WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. And I'll ask a former CIA analyst why he thinks Assange was right to release thousands of classified documents.
And I'm online and I know you are too, make sure you check out my social media accounts and let's connect. Also on my blog right now, I had some program highlights.
This weekend, you can catch my interviews with singer Annie Lennox and actor Matthew Morrison from "Glee."
LEMON: The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sent his supporters into overdrive. Among other things they have mounted a cyber-attack against WikiLeaks' perceived enemies online.
Some say this case follows a pattern that not all that uncommon -- that is not all that uncommon when the notorious develop a curious fan base.
Here's CNN's national correspondent, Susan Candiotti.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For fans of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, his arrest has made him even more of a cult hero.
DAN COLLINS, PROTESTER: He should be freed. He should not be threatened with unfair prosecution and he shouldn't be threatened with potential assassination and he shouldn't be called a terrorist either.
CANDIOTTI: A pro-Assange rally in New York is one of many being staged around the world, applauding him for leaking classified government papers. Some fans are avenging his treatment by disrupting Web sites of MasterCard and Visa, companies they blame for trying to cut off his financing.
GREGG MCCRARY, RETIRED FBI PROFILER: And it allows them to actually get in the game, if you will, to actually, you know, strike back at these same targets that he has struck at that they feel are inappropriately going -- going after him.
CANDIOTTI: A former FBI profiler says for some, Assange is a modern day hero of the underdog.
MCCRARY: He may be the Robin Hood of data or information rather than money.
CANDIOTTI: Rooting for the notorious is nothing new. At first, real life bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde captivated the public and Hollywood glamorized the couple's crime spree.
JOEL KIRCH, CHIEF INSPECTOR, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: The country was in a depression and people, I think, at that point, were looking for entertainment --
CANDIOTTI: But the fan base dried up when robbery victims started dying. The so-called "Barefoot Bandit" developed a fan base without killing anyone -- he eluded the laws stole planes and left barefoot tracks.
KIRCH: It became a cat and mouse game with the police.
CANDIOTTI: He had 60,000 fans on Facebook and even inspired songs posted on YouTube.
Fugitive John Robert Boon who could pass for Santa Claus is a legendary Kentucky pot farmer. Authorities say supporters won't give him up and have sold "Run, Johnny, Run" T-shirts.
MCCRARY: It's a variation on the standard thing of rooting for the underdog. It's still -- this is just -- a twist on that.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): A fan base can boost an ego or provide encouragement, but it can also get in the way of those trying to stop someone accused of breaking the law.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LEMON: All right. Susan and in spite of public protests, it is clear many leaders in American government think the founder of WikiLeaks is a criminal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I), CONNECTICUT: I hope the Justice Department will soon indict him and that we will be able to extradite him from Britain and bring him back to stand trial in the United States.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that the release of this information has put at risk American national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: One politician even called Assange a high-tech terrorist. So how can one person's terrorist also be called the ultimate journalist?
For a perspective on that we go to Ray McGovern, who is live in Washington for us. McGovern is part of a group of former CIA members who recently wrote a letter praising Assange's actions.
So thank you for joining us tonight.
Why do you think Assange is doing the right thing by releasing all -- all these documents?
RAY MCGOVERN, CIA ANALYST FOR 27 YEARS: Well, I think the question as to whether he's a journalist or not, is the -- the proof is in the pudding. The function of a journalist is to record the actions and behavior of those in power and make it possible for the public to -- to know what's going on.
Thomas Jefferson said that if it were a choice between a government and a free press, he'd pick a free press.
And so this is what's needed to preserve the democracy and the idea is to tell as close to the truth as possible and that simply take notes on what the government is saying. That's what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have done to the embarrassment of the government because a lot of their dealings are kept in secret and need not be kept in secret.
LEMON: So, you don't like the label, you don't like the way he's been labeled a terrorist or a hacker. You actually do think that he is a journalist -- I want to get that correct. You think he's a journalist.
MCGOVERN: Of course he's a journalist according to definition that I just -- that I just listed here. He's making information available to the American people and others who are frankly, malnourished on what I call the fawning corporate media, who is -- who act more -- more as stenographers than they do as journalists. LEMON: So you don't think there is information in those documents that should have been left out or maybe blacked out that may be detrimental to the country, may be detrimental to our troops of even other countries? Because that's what -- journalists would have fact checked and there are standards and no one wants to put people in danger and in jeopardy. I think that's what most journalists would have done. Julian Assange didn't do that.
MCGOVERN: Well, I correct you on that. He did do that. He made that information available to the Pentagon and State Department and they refused to expunge it. They refused to redact it.
Now, what has been released, it is a canard. It is a red herring to suggest that lives have been put in danger. The only lives that have been put in danger are the troops that we sent over to Iraq and Afghanistan under false pretenses.
Now, the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that these reports about lives in danger are greatly overwrought -- his word, ok. He said that no sources and methods have been compromised. NATO has said the same thing and our command in Afghanistan has said the same thing. Not one person has been identified as having been spat upon much less imprisoned because of these documents.
Now, that doesn't mean that the pundits here in this country don't say it 10 times a day. Saying it 10 times a day does not make it true.
LEMON: His attorney said the same thing on the steps of the courthouse that this was a set up -- talking about the charges in Sweden. This was just one way to get him into custody, to keep him there. And that this is what journalists should be doing.
You really think we -- and I say we, I'm a journalist -- you think we have it wrong and that he is actually not a pariah. We should be praising him and following his lead rather than calling him a pariah?
MCGOVERN: Yes, actually, with all due respect, I think you should be following his example. Seek out the secrets. Find out why it is that my taxpayer money is going to fund trafficked young boys performing dances in women's clothing before the Afghan security forces who we are recruiting to take offer after we leave. Take a look at the documents and see the abhorrent activities that our government has endorsed or had done through its contractors. And then tell me you don't think the Americans can handle that. Well, I think they can handle that, but they can't handle it if they don't have it.
LEMON: All right. Ray McGovern, thank you. Appreciate your time. That's going to have to be the last word.
MCGOVERN: You're most welcome.
LEMON: When we come right back here, a closer look at the cyber- attacks launched in support of Julian Assange and just how vulnerable we are as Internet user. Plus, a private performance from Annie Lennox.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(ANNIE LENNOX PERFORMING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That is just a tiny part of my interview with the Grammy winner and we'll have much more coming up.
LEMON: All right.
Just before the break, you heard this week from some of the people who said that, you know, the WikiLeaks guy is a hero. And you also heard from some major corporations that were the victims of the WikiLeaks' so-called hacktivists as they have been called.
Supporters of Julian Assange attacked the Web sites of MasterCard and Visa after the companies refused services to WikiLeaks. Now, the cyber-offensive war -- was, I should say -- called Operation Payback -- Operation Payback.
How did the operation bring down the Web sites of these major corporations? And if you are a customer, here's a question -- is your information vulnerable?
Cyber security expert Gregory Evans is here to provide us some insight on that. He is the CEO of LIGATT Security and a former hacker himself. You were a hacker?
GREGORY EVANS, CEO, LIGATT SECURITY: That's right. That's right.
LEMON: All right. Listen, so, it's inaccurate to call these Assange supporters hacktivists. Is it because there was actually no hacking?
EVANS: There was no hacking on this. Basically, they did a denial of service. It's like they just sent so many requests, a billion requests to their servers at one time, they took their servers offline.
LEMON: All right. So to be clear, you said there's this thing that's called Bots (ph). Explain to us what Bots and what was the role of these Bots in this attack.
EVANS: Well, if they had used Bots and most likely, they did -- billions of computers, yours, mine, CNN's, we may have them on our computers. They're like sleeper cells and they're just waiting for a command. And they may receive a command that says on this day, in this time, hit Mastercard and all these millions of computers from around the world, their Bots will wake up and just hit Mastercard and send a request to Mastercard while you're using the computer.
It's just that simple.
LEMON: So the Bots, is that like a signature that you're sending out all the time? What is that? EVANS: A Bot is a piece of code that's on your computer that you may have downloaded that you don't know. And it just sits there.
LEMON: From where?
EVANS: From the Internet, just surfing the Internet. And it won't be picked up by your anti-virus or your anti-spyware. It will just sit there. And there's good Bots and bad Bots. For instance, when you get stuff -- your Web site gets put into Google's search engine, that's a Bot.
EVANS: Ok. But there are Bots out there, war Bots that that say, hey, on this date and time we want you to attack this Web site. And just send these requests.
LEMON: So there's no way to protect your computer against Bot. If you're online, you're going to send out a Bot or --
EVANS: Yes, there's -- I mean you may have a Bot on your machine. It's very hard to detect.
LEMON: So if -- should people be worried then if there actually was no hacking going on? People who use Mastercard or any of these services, should they be worried?
EVANS: No. Yes, they shouldn't be worried. Their information is safe. Mastercard has everything encrypted. They did not get through the front door. All they did was shut down the Web site, which is totally different than where all their information is safe.
LEMON: And corporations, you say, are attacked a lot more than we realize. That this was just brought up to the light, this Julian Assange story.
EVANS: Corporations get attacked all the time; 72 percent of corporations do not report that they've been attacked because they don't believe that law enforcement, one, can help them or they don't want the bad publicity, so it happens all the time.
LEMON: Is this the end of, really, security and privacy? You're a former hacker; you can get into anything, can't you?
EVANS: Well, my team and I --
EVANS: A hacker can yes.
LEMON: So as former hacker, what do you think of Julian Assange? My previous guest said that he was doing the role a journalist should be doing.
EVANS: No. First of all, he's not a journalist. I mean, he got caught and what he's done is he's inspired more people to go out and hack. He's inspired more people who work for big corporations to betray the company they work for, of if you're working for the government to betray your government. And no, he doesn't done anything to help anyone whatsoever.
LEMON: All right. Gregory Evans, CEO of LIGATT security and a former hacker himself; we appreciate your information.
EVANS: Thank you.
LEMON: All right. Listen, I want to tell you that we have a quick programming note for you. A new CNN series looks at whether it's possible to keep your identity private as Gregory and I were just talking about. "END OF PRIVACY", it starts Monday right here on CNN.
And when we come back, Annie Lennox unplugged. She is taking part in the annual holiday show in Washington; it's called Christmas in Washington. But first, she'll be here to sing for us. That's next.
Plus, the roof of an NFL stadium collapses. We're going to show you the video of it as it was happening. We'll take you inside, as well.
LEMON: Welcome back everyone.
The annual Christmas in Washington show airs Friday December 17th 8:00 p.m. Eastern on our sister network, TNT. And among the headliners, international performer and AIDS activist -- there you see her -- Annie Lennox. I spoke with her about the show and her new CD of Christmas songs. Take a look.
LEMON: Annie Lennox, thank you for joining us. Christmas is my favorite time of the year. You have to be excited about Christmas in Washington.
ANNIE LENNOX, SINGER: I certainly am. This is absolutely amazing. I only just flew in last night and I'm here at the building museum in the center of Washington and it's so beautiful and it's thoroughly exciting. It's going to be an amazing concert. I know that.
We've done rehearsals all day and it's sounding wonderful. I'm thrilled to bits.
LEMON: Rehearsals are going well. Who's -- I know Ellen DeGeneres is performing. Maxwell is performing. Who else?
LENNOX: Mariah Carey is going to be here, tomorrow and Andrea Bocelli . It's a very, very nice line up and we have some gorgeous choirs, beautiful voices, a fantastic orchestra. It will be big treat for everyone.
LEMON: Yes. And it must be an honor to be included, I mean Andrea Bocelli, that's amazing; and to perform along with Annie Lennox. What are you singing? LENNOX: Well, I'm going to be singing one of my own songs that is on my album The Christmas Cornucopia. It's a song called "Universal Child". And it's just fulfilling for me because when I wrote the song back in April of this year, I had no idea that I would actually be performing it in front of so many influential people here.
In fact, the President and his family, so that's very moving. To think that the song is actually going to be presented in that way and lots of people in America will be able to see that. It's fulfilling for me. And then I'll be singing -- go ahead.
LEMON: We can talk about what else you'll be singing, but your Christmas CD is called a Christmas Cornucopia and I found it very interesting that it includes the African children's choir on that CD. Why did you include them?
LENNOX: That's right.
LEMON: What gave you the thought to do that?
LENNOX: Well, I first met the African children's choir back in 2004 when I was in South Africa performing for the 4664 campaign which is Nelson Mandela's HIV and AIDS campaign. I was very, very touched by these kids. And I love the fact that the choir creates a template of transformation for them in their lives through music.
I told myself, one day, I want to relay record with them and I knew that one day, I would like to put down for posterity the kind of Christmas carols that I sang when I was a child that I just adored and do them in my own way. I knew that if I were to use children's voices, it had to be the African children's choir.
It has a connection to my campaigning with HIV and AIDS and the things that I've seen in Africa. So I thought it would nice to give them a platform and for people to hear their voices and to find out a little bit more about them as well.
LEMON: While we have you here, can you do us a big favor and give a little bit of a preview of what we're going to hear from you?
LENNOX: Oh, well, we're going to sing - I'm going to sing - Angels from the realms of glory, you know that one? Wing your flight through all... I'm going to do that. I would have done "God rest ye, merry gentlemen," but I'm not going to do that.
LEMON: Why not?
LENNOX: What else I'm going to sing tonight? They're asking me to sing.
I can sing lots of songs.
LEMON: Why didn't you want to do "Got Rest You -"
LENNOX: I'm not going to do "the holly and the ivy..." and I'm not doing that. And I'm not doing "god rest ye merry gentlemen," I'm not doing that. So, shall I keep singing?
LEMON: What's your favorite Christmas song if you want to end this interview by singing us your favorite Christmas song, we would really appreciate it.
LENNOX: OK. It's - well, I have so many of them, but my favorite Christmas song is this one.
LENNOX: In the bleak mid-winter frosty wind made mourn.
Do you know that one?
LEMON: I do not know that one.
LENNOX: You see, you've got to get my album. You've got to get some education. You've got to get the "Christmas Cornucopia" and learn.
LEMON: That is a promise. I will get it and I will play it this Christmas season. You are such a good sport and you have such an amazing voice. Annie Lennox, thank you.
LENNOX: Thank you, thank you. Thank you, Atlanta. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LEMON: Did you hear her voice ringing in the room there? Amazing voice and a really good sport. Annie Lennox. "Christmas in Washington," next Friday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern on TNT. And to watch my interview with Annie Lennox and "Glee" star Matthew Morrison go to my blog, CNN.com/don. The entire interview, both of them are there.
When we come right back, a stadium roof collapse forces the New York Giants, the Minnesota Vikings football game to be moved to a different city, and we'll show you a video of the actual collapse plus a live report from Haiti, where Sarah Palin has just held a press conference.
LEMON: In the news right now, check out this before and after shot of the Metrodome in Minneapolis. More than 17 inches of snow and high winds proved too much for the Teflon roof. This is what it looked like this morning. The weight of the snow falls ominously downward and then, it popped like a balloon. Well, today's Giants-Vikings game was moved to tomorrow night, tomorrow night in Detroit.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg says he's not going to run for president in 2012. Not going to run. In his own words, he says no way, no how. Bloomberg who is an independent said on "Meet the Press" that he already has a great job and just this week, Bloomberg gave a speech on national political themes sparking new speculation he might be plotting a run for higher office.
Swedish police believed twin explosions that killed one person and injured two others were an act of terror. A car exploded multiple times on a street crowded with holiday shoppers yesterday. Minutes later there was another explosion nearby. Police say they received e- mailed threats shortly before the blast and they are trying to determine if the explosions and the threat are connected.
Sarah Palin joined the Reverend Franklin Graham and his charity, Samaritan's Purse, on a mission to Haiti this weekend. Haiti, as you know, is being ravaged by cholera, even as it continues to recover from a huge earthquake, 11 months ago.
CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Port-au-Prince tonight. Gary, thanks for joining us. What did Sarah Palin do today?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I tell you, Don, it was a very unique visit because we're not exactly sure about everything she did. We'll tell you why in a second. What I do mean to set up for you though is there are still, behind me, thousands of homeless people. There's more than one million homeless people in this country.
There's also, as you just said, this cholera epidemic. There's violence in the streets from the presidential election. Two weeks ago, a lot of people think was fraudulent. And amid that, Sarah Palin arrives for a weekend visit. She may run for president in 2012. She decided to come for the first time to Haiti to get a look at it. And she was the guest of Franklin Graham, the son of the Reverent Billy Graham.
Billy Graham's son, Franklin is the president and CEO of a charity called Samaritan's Purse. That's a great organization that has done a lot here in Haiti. They built more than 10,000 shelters for people since the earthquake. But the visit was unusual though. as I was saying, because Sarah Palin made an unusual decision, that she would ban all the media from any of her events over the last two days.
Now, that's very unusual because a lot of VIPs have come here and we kind of work together in disaster situations and it could be, you know, life or death situations for the media, Fox News helps us, we help CBS, ABC helps the BBC. We all help the VIPs, the VIPs help us. She made the decision, no media except for the news organization she works for sometimes, Fox News.
So (INAUDIBLE) news conference. So we went to the news conference armed with questions and we were told by Franklin Graham at the news conference that Sarah Palin will take no questions and then Sarah Palin said she won't take questions because she doesn't want to get political. She then made a statement and ironically she gave some credits to journalists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FMR. ALASKA GOVERNOR: I do thank the media for keeping a spotlight on this country and on the conditions that the people are living in, that they are trying to survive amidst and to be here and see firsthand the conditions and what it takes for the people who are living here in such adverse conditions, what it takes just to survive. Their daily lives are so challenging because of economic and political and environmental conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: In her statement, Sarah Palin did not get specific about what she saw here in Haiti. That's why we don't know exactly what she did. So we still tried to ask her one question about specifics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: Thank you, you're doing god's work. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you, governor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can just ask a question -
PALIN: Much harsher than I expected, the conditions are. Much rougher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Sarah Palin came here with her husband, Todd, her daughter, Bristol. They left a couple of hours ago to go back to the United States. We want to ask - what precisely she got out of this visit but we could assume that she got a lot out of it because it's impossible to come to this country for the first time and not be touched by what you see.
LEMON: You got a question in, you got an answer but listening to your report before we heard from her, she didn't want the media there. She didn't want to take any questions. She didn't want a press conference, why are we there then, Gary?
TUCHMAN: That's a good question, Don. I mean, the fact is, Sarah Palin was a vice presidential nominee for John McCain. She may run for president. When a presidential candidate there will be more in the months to come to come to Haiti. It's an important news story.
We did think however and I must stress this, we did think we would be able to attend some of the events. Her people led us to believe that. They were very vague. A little evasive when we got here. No one know for sure what was going on. We were then told we could ask questions at the news conference. We didn't. I honestly don't think it was handled that well, but that is the way they wanted to handle it and we are reporting it as it happened.
LEMON: Yes, as soon as you said that, that was what I was thinking. I'm sure that's what the viewers at home at thinking but I had to ask you the question. Gary Tuchman in Haiti, thank you so much.
Still ahead here tonight on CNN, finally on dry land after being stranded on a boat for more than 15 hours.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last night was kind of a real pain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We actually took the table cloths off the tables and wrapped up in those.
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LEMON: We will tell you what happened to this show boat in Missouri.
Plus, a rare look behind enemy lines. We'll hear from a film maker who was embedded with the Taliban.
LEMON: At the two have of the hour, a CNN documentary "Taliban," it shows the Afghan fighting force as you have never seen them before. And this clip with CNN's Anderson Cooper, we see some of the extraordinary images captured by a Norwegian film maker, Paul Refsdal. And we hear why he chose to tackle a subject that put his life in danger.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Taliban fighters prepare for battle.
A convoy approaches.
This is the Taliban as you've never seen them before. In battle, in their homes, in their hideouts. Rare, exclusive images. Behind enemy lines.
Norwegian film maker Paul Refsdal first came to Afghanistan in the '80s to report on the Mujahideen. Now he returns on a dangerous assignment. One that could get him to the country's deadliest regions. It's an assignment that could get him kidnapped and killed.
(on camera): Why did you want to do this?
PAUL REFSDAL, NORWEGIAN FILMMAKER: Because we've been fighting the Taliban for nine years. I thought it was time that someone met them and actually tried to show who these people are.
COOPER: Why risk your life to tell the story of these people who are fighting the U.S. government and fighting the Norwegians, as well?
REFSDAL: It's very important that people know who we're fighting, because at present, people don't have a clue, really.
LEMON: You don't want to miss "Taliban," a CNN documentary that is coming up next right here on CNN, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, at the top of the hour.
And when we come right back, he is the student body president at Fresno State University, but he's also an illegal immigrant. We're going to talk to him about what he thinks about the stalled legislation in Congress that might give him a path to citizenship. Pedro Ramirez joins us. Plus, education contributor Steve Perry examines a cheating scandal in a major U.S. school system. You're going to be surprised at who did the cheating.
LEMON: It is time now to get an update on the Dream Act. The Dream Act, that's the bill before Congress that would create a pathway to American citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Senate Democrats pulled the bill this week conceding they don't have the votes needed to get it passed.
So joining me now is Pedro Ramirez. He is the student body president at Fresno State University and he recently revealed that he is an illegal immigrant. Pedro, thanks for joining us again. You were with us here last month when you revealed that you weren't a citizen.
So listen, on Wednesday, it did pass the House and then Thursday, the Senate said they admitted they don't have the votes. There's still a slim chance, so do you think that the Dream Act has any chance of passing?
PEDRO RAMIREZ, FRESNO STATE UNIVERSITY, STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT: I think there is a chance for it to pass in the Senate, you know, we thought this it was going to fail in the House, to be honest. We heard, of course, that we didn't have the votes in the House and it ended up passing in the House. And so there's still that, you know, little light under the tunnel, you know, that it will pass in the senate. And so, you know, if we can do a little bit more pushing and nudging to those senators on the fence, there's always that chance of passage.
LEMON: Yes. All right. I know you've turned to be positive here and good for you, but it is slim. So what do you do if it doesn't pass, Pedro?
RAMIREZ: If it doesn't pass, then I'll definitely have to look at other options that I have open for me in this country. You know, I'll be looking at whatever legal assistance I can get. Do I have an attorney now helping me and looking into any other matters, you know, the immigration laws in this country and if there's an opening for me to apply.
LEMON: Is there a possibility that you may have to go back to Mexico?
RAMIREZ: You know, that's the same possibility for everybody here that's undocumented in this country. You know, I'm not anything special. Just like everybody else. So there's always that chance.
LEMON: You said you can't go back. I mean, physically you could go back. It is possible. You are technically a Mexican citizen, a citizen of Mexico, but you can't go back, you say, because?
RAMIREZ: Because I don't know the culture. I don't know the way around Mexico. You know, there's also the concerns for drug violence and the corruption there. And you know, even though I'm pretty fluent in Spanish, speaking wise, I don't know the language. I don't know how to write the language. I barely know how to speak it now, but I do know it. So I really don't know how to navigate myself around that country.
LEMON: There are critics who call the Dream Act, amnesty. What do you say to them? Is it amnesty?
RAMIREZ: No. That's totally false. That's a very - it's misrepresentation of the bill. The Dream Act is a very narrowly tailored bill for specific groups of people. For students and for those who want to serve in the military and there's real, real strict restrictions on the bill where you have to be 15 years of old when it's enacted. You have to be 29 by the time, and you have to be here for at least three years, you know, getting your degree, for two years getting your degree or joining the military.
So it's really, really strict. There's also background checks if you have criminal activities. So it's not amnesty. By any far, it's not amnesty. It's very strict, it's very defined to a group of students and those who want to serve in the military.
LEMON: You have a lot of support there. And there was a protest - was it last week? When was the protest in support of you? And there's a video right there. How are people reacting around you, the school, your fellow students? What are they saying about this and the Dream Act?
RAMIREZ: We had a rally, I would say, a week on the Friday of when my status was revealed. We had a rally to support the Dream Act. Where I was able to speak to the students and tell them my story. We had overwhelmingly support from the community, from the campus community, from the community at large around the university and from the university professors, the students and the university administration. So we have broad support for not only me but for the Dream Act and what it means to the students.
LEMON: Hey, Pedro, I've got to run. Are you on pins and needles?
LEMON: Yes. Anxiously awaiting it and keeping your fingers crossed that the Dream Act will pass. Pedro Ramirez, Thank you, student body president at Fresno State University and he is an illegal immigrant in this country and he's waiting on the Dream Act. We thank you for joining us. Let us know what happens, OK?
RAMIREZ: OK. Thank you very much.
LEMON: Let's move on now and talk about cheating in public schools. No, not by students but by teachers and principals. CNN's education contributor Steve Perry has more on a story that has rocked the Atlanta school system in today's edition of "Perry's Principles."
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): It's been one stunning headline after another in Atlanta. Evidence of cheating on standardized tests in at least 12 public schools. Not by students but by at least 100 educators including teachers, assistant principals and even principals.
GOV. SONNY PURDUE, GEORGIA: There has been evidence of test alterations that are unacceptable.
PERRY: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation began questioning educators in mid-October after the governor widened the probe.
KRISTINA TORRES, "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Federal authorities are also looking at Atlanta public schools. They are concerned about federal monies any of these schools may have won, which is potentially fraud if they used in this case falsified scores to earn those dollars.
PERRY: In Atlanta and some other public school systems around the country, improved test scores can also trigger bonuses. In 2008, the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" analyzed state exam results for students who needed to retake the test and noticed something didn't add up.
TORRES: Lo and behold, they all not only passed but they were with at the top.
PERRY: That prompted the state to take a closer look at the test forms. Eraser marks raised red flags.
TORRES: The state sanctioned 13 educators in all. There were suspensions from 90 days to two years.
PERRY: Among those suspended were the principal and assistant principal at Atherton Elementary School in suburban Atlanta who admitted to wrongdoing.
TORRES: They have admitted physically taking these three tests, going into a room and locking themselves in and someone erase and someone called out the answers.
In October 2009 we published our second analysis. That analysis found 19 elementary schools statewide, including a dozen in Atlanta, that had unusual gains or drops. And that included schools that had such a gain that our odds put that at worse than one in a billion.
PERRY (on camera): One in a billion.
TORRES: One (INAUDIBLE) a billion with a "b."
PERRY (voice-over): Improbable odds that did nothing to erase doubt. It only raised more questions, questions that should be settled once Georgia's investigation wraps up expected early next year.
Steve Perry, Atlanta.
(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: And still ahead here on CNN, it might be freezing in Toronto, but that didn't stop a group of brave Santas from running in their Speedos. Do we have to see that?
LEMON: Every weekend we like to bring you some interesting news items that you might have missed during the week. The first one is she is two years old. She saw a stuffed animal and she said, I have to have that stuffed animal. In the matter of seconds this girl in Pennsylvania was inside this toy machine. Hey, she knows what she wants.
It took about 15 minutes for firefighters to rescue the little girl. She wasn't injured. I hope they gave her a stuffed animal. The fire chief said the opening to the machine was big enough for not one but two toddlers to climb through. You go, girl.
All right. Christmas gifts have landed a Connecticut man in big trouble with the law. The wrapped gifts were delivered to the man's house. Look at that. Imagine that on that side. But they actually contain more than 100 pounds of marijuana. An informant tipped off police about the pot delivery. They swooped in and also seized $23,000 in cash. The man is in custody on a $750,000 bond. Talk about a very merry Christmas there.
His widow says he would not have wanted it but the state of Florida has pardoned Jim Morrison. The late "Doors" singer is off the hook 40 years after he was convicted of indecent exposure in Miami. The conviction was still under appeal when Morrison died in 1971. Morrison's widow said the singer would actually oppose the pardon. In her words, "he didn't do anything wrong but he wouldn't want to be cleared." It just adds to the lore, doesn't it?
OK. This is news you might want to miss. 'Tis the season to put on your red Santa Speedo or bikini and run through the streets. Once become a holiday tradition, runners braved frigid temperatures and jog two miles through downtown Toronto in the annual Santa Speedo run. It is all for a good cause though to raise money for a local children's hospital.
Remember the Seinfeld episode with George Costanza. Shrinkage!
I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Thanks for joining us. Up next, a CNN documentary "Taliban." Thanks for watching. I'll see you back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.