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Tropical Storm Arthur Coming to North Carolina; Israel Deciding What Actions to Take After Palestinians Kidnapped and Murdered Three Israeli Teenagers; White House Pay; President Poll; Iraqis Fight for Baghdad

Aired July 2, 2014 - 13:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Right now all eyes are on tropical storm Arthur. As it grows stronger and gets closer to the East Coast. Potential hurricane is putting Fourth of July travel, parades, even firework shows at risk.

Right now, more tension and more grief in the Mideast. Clashes breaking out in Jerusalem after the body of a Palestinian teenage boy is found. Police are investigating whether it was a revenge murder.

And right now, the White House releases its annual list of who makes what, but when you look at the salaries for both men and women, the numbers don't necessarily add up.

Hello, I'm Jim Sciutto reporting from Washington. Wolf Blitzer is off today. Millions of people all along the East Coast are bracing for a stormy and potentially dangerous July 4th weekend. Tropical storm Arthur, the first named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is now churning off the coast of Florida as we speak. It's expected to bring heavy rain and fierce winds to the Carolina coast tomorrow. And as it marches north, Arthur could grow into a category one hurricane. Here's what it looks like from space. NASA astronaut Reed Wiseman couldn't resist tweeting a picture of the storm from the international space station looking huge from there, saying, quote, "It looks mean." Joe Johns is on North Carolina's outer banks, right in the crosshairs of the hurricane. And Chad Myers is tracking Arthur from CNN's hurricane headquarters in Atlanta.

I want to start with you, Chad. As you look at this, and no one knows it better than you. How bad is this expected to get?

Do you hear him? Sorry, we're not hearing - we're not hearing Chad there. We will come back to him when we fix that audio problem. So, first, I want to go to our Joe Johns, who is out in the outer banks. Joe, can you tell us what you're seeing there now? You're starting to see just those outer rings of the storm coming through there?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, to be honest with you, it's another day at the beach, at least so far. I want to give you an idea where I am right now. This is Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. To the south down there is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore. They're under a hurricane watch. And the beaches are supposed to be closed there around 9:00. The lifeguards had left their posts around 12 p.m. Eastern time. But down here on the beach in Kill Devil Hills is a completely different story. As you can see, hundreds of people getting in a little bit of extra sun. I talked to a lot of those people. They told me it doesn't really matter to them because as you know here in the mid-Atlantic, people are accustomed to hurricanes this summer. Still, a Fourth of July weekend, around 250,000 people are expected here. Authorities are making plans in case that storm does hit. The governor talked just a little bit about that earlier today.


GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R- NORTH CAROLINA): Again, use common sense, stay out of the ocean and sand throughout the duration of the storm. Riptides are very dangerous. No matter what your level of experience is in the water. Again, more than anything else, I don't want you to put at risk not only yourself, but also people who may try to help you, especially our emergency operation workers. This is no time to be selfish or pretend to be brave during a storm for a short-term adventure.


JOHNS: Since here, of course, the storm will move in and move out fairly quickly, nonetheless, some fireworks celebrations for July 4th have already been rescheduled to Saturday or even to Monday. And there are some concerns on the economics side here about cancellations by people at hotels and houses who were just planning to stay for the weekend. We'll just have to see about that. Now let's go to Chad Myers.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Joe, it's going to go downhill for you for a while there. It's going to be - the next couple of days will really start to make the waves significant. Anywhere from Cape Hatteras all the way down to Florida. This is going to be like - just like the governor said, all the way through here, this is where I can't have you in the water for any reason because there's no reason to be in the water when you're going to get rip currents like this, on shore waves and winds 70 miles per hour push the water up on to the shore. That water piles up along the shore and then, that's fine until the sand bar fails. When the sand bar breaks, all of the water that's up here rushes up all at once. So, you're standing there in a perfectly nice kind of a wavy bathtub and then all of a sudden, that water completely leaves you and takes you with it. There is the storm.

Now, I've been talking to producers all day long about this landfall thing. It may never even make landfall, maybe 20 miles offshore. That will be fantastic. But the closest approach to nags head will be 3:00 a.m. Friday morning. So, just after midnight Thursday, but that doesn't mean on Thursday that nothing's going to happen. The entire beach here south of nags head all the way down to Wilmington will be bombarded with these waves and with this rough, rough surf. So, Friday landfall, if there is one, but Thursday is the worst weather that you're going to get there in North Carolina, especially south of the cape. And there - it goes right over Cape Hatteras, right through by Nova Scotia. Here's how it works. There's sand bars. On the East Coast, the sand bars are here. Kind of that lighter area that I've dawn through there. The water washes over the sand bars and piles up. You don't even know it because you're just swimming in it. And it's only maybe 5 or 6 inches higher than the rest of the ocean. But all of a sudden the sand bar fails right there and all of the water that's here by all these fear waves you've had - you can play in all along the beach, all of a sudden that fails. When that sand bar fail, the rip current rips you out and you don't even know it. There's no time for you to react. That's why you can't be there at all. It's nice and calm until it's not, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Chad, you make a good point there, because we always look at the path of the storm and where it's tracking, but this is a big storm, so even if the path doesn't make landfall, a lot of the effects of the storm do too. And there are a lot of airports along the coast there. I wonder if you have a sense of how much this is going to affect holiday travel in the next coming days.

MYERS: When you see winds at 60 miles per hour, waves, wind. Right now I'm seeing at least 30 to 40. And the storm is not even close. There will be roads. There will be bridges. There will be ferries that are completely shut down. So, you're going to get to the ferry stop and go, I guess we can't go any farther. Then where do you go? So don't even try to get to the Carolina coast until Saturday. By then, it's over. So you wasted a day. Go watch the fireworks in your hometown. It's that big of a difference between 24 hours or not. By Saturday afternoon, it's going to be the most beautiful place to be in the world, but Friday afternoon, maybe not so much.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's good to hear. By Saturday, we'll still get a weekend. Thanks very much to Chad Myers. Keep watching us here, we're going to keep you updated on the storm, and Chad is certainly over the coming days.

We're going to move overseas now, where the death of a Palestinian teenager is adding to simmering tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. And police are investigating now whether he was killed in retaliation for the killing of three Israeli teens. The Palestinian teen's body was found in woods near Jerusalem according to the Palestinian News Agency. It was, quote, "charred and bore signs of violence."

Skirmishes have broken out as angry Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli security forces. The Israelis responded with stun grenades and tear gas and rubber bullets. Our own Ben Wedeman is in the neighborhood in East Jerusalem where the violence broke out. Ben, how tense is the situation there right now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's extremely tense. Really, these clashes have been going on, Jim, since the early morning, as soon as news spread of the killing of this young Palestinian boy. Now, at the moment, it's quiet, because we've come to the end of the daily Ramadan fast. We just heard the mosque just a moment ago. So at the moment, it's quiet, but we're expecting as soon as everybody's had their evening meal, trouble could begin again. It's not just tense here, Jim. Also in other parts of the city, we're hearing of smaller clashes. But it definitely -- this is the tensest -- this part of town has been since I can recall. And that's a few years.

SCIUTTO: We now have a full audio and transcript from this chilling phone call that was made by one of the kidnapped Israeli teens. According to Israeli media, one of those three, 16-year-old Gilad Shaar, made this call to police on June 12TH. I'm just going to have our views have a quick listen to this and then come back to you.


POLICEMAN: (speaking Hebrew)




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking Hebrew)




POLICEWOMAN: Hello? (speaking Hebrew) Hello?


SCIUTTO: It's really remarkable, Ben. And I now you've heard this, too, because now there are reports that Israeli officials believe that during that -- possibly during that phone call or soon after is when those Israeli teens were killed. In other words, they were killed very soon after they were picked up. What are you hearing now about what Israeli officials believe?

WEDEMAN: Well, they believe that, first of all, we know that they were killed soon after they were kidnapped on the 12th of June. That's been known for a few days now. As far as the call itself goes, of course, there are persistence reports that in that call there's the sound of what could be gunfire. Now, it's really hard to make out anything in that tape beyond some basic -- very basic stuff, but regardless of the contents, what is really causing ripples in Israeli politics and criticism of the police is the fact that this call was made at about 10:30 on the evening of the 12th of June. And it wasn't until 5:00 a.m. that the Israeli army in the West Bank was alerted to a kidnapping. And to add to that, according to reports in some reliable Israeli newspapers, the parents started calling the police. They made 54 calls between the time they started to suspect the children had gone missing until the army actually was alerted and started taking action. So already we know that four police officers have been dismissed for mishandling this affair and I think probably more heads are going to roll, Jim. SCIUTTO: Incredible, just thinking of the criticism of the government

response as well with all the anger swirling there. I know there's been a lot of debate inside the Israeli government about how intense the military retaliation would be for the killings of these three Israeli teenagers. Is the Israeli government any closer to deciding what they're going to do, how much and where they're going to do it?

WEDEMAN: Well, we understand they're going to hold, this evening, the third security cabinet meeting in three days to discuss the options. So this is unusual. For instance, last night, they were in cabinet session until late into the morning. And unlike normally the case here, no leaks are coming out. We've heard initially that Prime Minister Netanyahu said that they were going to do three things, pursue the kidnappers, crack down on Hamas in the West Bank, and operate against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But beyond that, it's not clear what they're going to do. Obviously, there's a lot of disagreement. A lot of debate within the security cabinet as to what to do, because the fear is that, you know, they've gone to war with Gaza and Hamas twice already. Very little was achieved. Many within the security establishment are starting to ask, if we do it again, what can we realistically accomplish, and if Israel does somehow weaken or unseat Hamas, who takes their place. There are far more radical elements in Gaza than Hamas. Jim.

SCIUTTO: It is always hard questions there now. One of them, how far this tit-for-tat violence is going to go. Thanks very much to our Ben Wedeman, he's right in the middle of it, in Jerusalem.

Ahead this hour, the killings of the three Israeli and Palestinian teens pose a danger in a volatile region. We're going to talk with Ambassador Nicholas Burns about the potential fallout and the U.S. response.

Also ahead, assessing the Iraqi military forces. Will they step up if ISIS reaches the capital Baghdad? We're going to take a closer look.

But coming up next, have you ever wondered how much people make working at the White House? Want to know more? We're going to have the exact numbers coming up.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back.

Investors are watching the Dow, wondering if today will be the day that it closes above 17,000. You can see it there, just about 31 points below. It is almost, but not quite there. The Dow briefly bumped up against it yesterday before slipping back. The 17,000 figure is mostly psychological and does not mean anything special as far as the markets are concerned because it is already at a record level.

Now, President Obama is having lunch with a group of economists right now looking for ways to boost growth and increase job opportunities for more Americans. At the same time, the administration has revealed salary information for the men and women who work inside the White House. Despite the president's recent focus on pay equality and raising the minimum wage, it appears that many women in the White House still lag behind their male counterparts by about $10,000 a year. Our Athena Jones is live at the White House now.

So, Athena, I know you've been crunching these numbers. What do these salaries reveal?


Well, it's true, women do lag behind their male counterparts. I think we have those figures we can put up on the screen. On average, male staffers here at the White House make about $88,600. That's versus $78,400 for the average woman. That's a gap of 13 percent. And I asked the White House about this. They said the pay disparity is due to the fact that there are more women in junior level positions. But a spokesperson also told me, "at the White House we have equal pay for equal work. Men and women in equivalent roles earn equivalent salaries, and over half of our departments are run by women." And so they say don't look at the salaries in the aggregate, pay attention to the specific roles people are filling. And in that case, the men and the women match, those salaries match.


SCIUTTO: I see. So in other words, a man and a woman working in the same job, they're going to get the same salary, but fewer women in those senior positions, that get the bigger salaries.

JONES: Exactly. That's what they said.

SCIUTTO: OK. So how about when you look at the White House, who makes the most? I think a lot of folks back home are curious. We know the president makes $400,000 a year. That's been that way for some time. But how about the folks working for him? Who makes the most?

JONES: Now, the people who make the most are the people who have the title of assistant to the president. And that salary figure is about $172,000. And there are 22 people at the White House, 11 men and 11 women, who make that figure, $172,200 to be exact. In general, we -- if you look at the staffers across the board here at the White House, they, on average, make more than the average American.


SCIUTTO: Yes, that's the other thing, I'm sure a lot of folks back home look at those salaries in average in the 80s and they're thinking, you know, that sounds pretty good to me. Thanks very much to Athena Jones at the White House.

Now, President Obama is at the top of a new poll, but it's not welcome news for the White House. Quinnipiac University asked more than 1,400 voters to rank the 12 presidents since World War II. And 33 percent said that Obama was the worst. Worse than George W. Bush. Worse than Richard Nixon. George Bush got 28 percent. Nixon, 13 percent. We have CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser here.

So, you know, this is - this is a poll. It's got 1,400 to 1,600 people. I mean when you look at the sampling here, is there a lot here to this poll?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: A very legitimate poll. It's getting a lot of buzz, as you can imagine, Jim, today. But let's take it and look at some of the caveats here. President Obama is in the public consciousness right now. He's in the White House. So, of course, he's going to be seen favorably by some and unfavorably by a lot of others.

Quinnipiac asked the same question in 2006 when George W. Bush, his predecessor, was halfway through his second term. Guess what, he came out on top as the most - or the worst president since World War II. And also, remember, Bush number two in this poll, Obama number one as the worst presidents. They are governing at a very partisan time when nothing gets done.


STEINHAUSER: One other thing. Who was the best president in this poll? We'll take a look. Ronald Reagan right there at the top of the list in the poll at 35 percent. Bill Clinton, 18 and JFK at 15 percent, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Not bad. When you look at Bill Clinton, you know, one thing I was thinking, you hear from historians all the time, this changes very quickly. The president who's hated and Bill Clinton had very low ratings as he left, then people start to say, oh, maybe he wasn't such a bad president. I mean is there precedent for people over time starting to like presidents more?

STEINHAUSER: In fact, our poll from just a couple of weeks ago indicated that George W. Bush's favorable ratings have risen back up to where President Obama is now. So, yes, time changes everything. People change their minds. Polls change all the time.

SCIUTTO: Imagine that. Politicians change their minds as well.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, they do.

SCIUTTO: All right, thanks very much, Paul Steinhauser, as always. What, another poll that the president probably doesn't like the numbers, how they look.

Another story at home, 140 immigrants arriving every 72 hours. That's what the police chief in Marietta, California, was told to expect in the coming days.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not born here. They're not born here!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to go back to Mexico.


SCIUTTO: And it is expected to ignite more scenes like this one. A wall of angry protesters blocked three buses of undocumented immigrants yesterday. They were traveling from Texas to the Marietta border patrol station but they were forced to turn around.

With the flood of undocumented immigrants coming into Texas, some are being sent to other states for processing. The immigrant crisis will be the focus tonight of a town hall meeting in Marietta, California.

And on Saturday, we're going to look at immigration through the eyes of an undocumented worker. Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist living in America illegally. Now he is risking everything by coming forward and telling you his story. "Documented," a CNN film, airs Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Up next, security options in Iraq. The U.S. is beefing up the airport and the embassy in Baghdad, but will Iraqi forces do their part?

Plus, a tropical storm is threatening much of the East Coast at the height of the July 4th travel holiday season and it could become a hurricane by tomorrow. Hear who's in the danger zone. That's going to be coming right after this.


SCIUTTO: The man suspected of leading the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi will stay in federal custody here in the U.S. A short time ago, a federal judge ordered that Ahmed Abu Khattalah be held until his criminal trial. Khattalah pled not got to a single conspiracy charge over the weekend, but it is expected that more charges will be added. "The New York Times" quotes U.S. officials who say Khattalah gave interrogators important information about the attack before his arrival in Washington.

And to Iraq now and an offer of amnesty from Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki. He says he will forgive Iraqi tribes that have been fighting against the government as long as they don't have blood on their hands. It's an effort to gain support against ISIS forces who some of those tribes have been joining. While clashes continue outside Baghdad, we are getting our first detailed assessment of Iraqi forces that will be called to protect the capital. Our Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. This is an important part of these hundreds of U.S. military advisers that have been sent into Iraq by the president, an important part of their missing, assessing whether Iraqi forces will stand and fight. What are they finding now that they're on the ground?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very preliminary, Jim, but sources are telling us that the initial reports are that around Baghdad, the Iraqi forces, mainly Shia, will stand and fight, they believe at this point, will stand and fight and defend the capital. Now, that could not be more important because, of course, it is Baghdad and Baghdad International Airport that is so important to the U.S. If fighting comes to the capital, if the U.S. embassy were to come under attack, that airport in Baghdad is the only way to get Americans out. So it's going to be crucial for the U.S. to have the confidence that Iraqi forces would stand and fight in Baghdad if the fighting came to the capital. So this is going to be very important but it is very preliminary. What the advisers still must do is really get, we are told this, is

get eyes on and try and assess Iraqi forces. Will they -- do they have leadership? Do the troops have confidence in their commanders? Is there moral? Do they have sufficient equipment? These are the kinds of things they're going to be looking at and over the next couple of weeks making recommendations to the Pentagon about what the next steps might be.


SCIUTTO: You know, I just flew through the Baghdad Airport last week and I have to say, I was thinking and I was there, how close are those ISIS fighters to the airport there. I mean there's one question about, will Iraqi forces keep ISIS from advancing? But I suppose the next question is, can Iraqi forces take back the massive part of the country, a third of the country that ISIS now controlled, is that already something that advisers are looking into? Are they really focusing now on just not giving up any more ground?

STARR: Well, that's really interesting because the facts are right now, you know, the U.S. had talked about putting advisory teams in the north, putting an operation center up there, sending advisory teams up there. None of that is happening now because basically we're told there's no Iraqi military force in northern Iraq to assess. The Iraqi forces are largely gone from so many of those areas. So it is going to be very problematic by all accounts for the U.S. teams to get into northern Iraq and to figure out what to do there because the Iraqis aren't even there right now and no indication, at least at this point, that they can or will mount the kind of massive wholesale attack that would be need, counter attack, to take back that massive swath of northern and western Iraq. That will be a very tall order.


SCIUTTO: Yes, it's incredible to think that that's the status quo now, ISIS controlling such a big part of the country. Thanks very much to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

The July 4th holiday could be dangerous for much of the East Coast, and here's why. Tropical Storm Arthur is churning off the coast of Florida and marching north. We'll tell you when it's expected to grow into a hurricane, next.

And later, tensions on the rise between Israel and the Palestinians. Tragedies on both sides are adding to a volatile situation. We'll talk with Ambassador Nicholas Burns about exactly what's at stake.