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Assange to U.S.: Drop "Witch Hunt"; IED Kills Three NATO Troops in Afghanistan; Anti-Japan Protests Break Out in China; Syria President Attends Eid Prayers; Crews Battle Western Wildfires; San Francisco Bus Ads Stir Controversy; First Lady to Visit Wisconsin Thursday
Aired August 19, 2012 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, made a dramatic move today stepping out on the balcony of Ecuador's embassy in London, his first public appearance in months. British authorities and a crowd of supporters watched as Aassange delivered a blunt message to the U.S.
CNN's Atika Shubert was there.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, it's been two months since Julian Assange sought refuge inside the embassy of Ecuador and almost two years since two women in Sweden brought allegations of sex crimes against him.
That's why Sweden wants him extradited and what Julian Assange is fighting against. But today, Assange addressed his supporters from that balcony, still a protective part of the embassy of Ecuador where he has now been granted asylum.
Scores of his supporters came out to hear him while British police stood guard. He told supporters his fight was purely political.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response. I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against Wikileaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: That's not how Britain and Sweden see it. They say this is purely a criminal investigation. That he's running from the law. If he steps outside that door, British authorities will arrest him and have him extradited for questioning to Sweden.
And that's why his supporters are outside here keeping vigil. But no matter how many colourful protests, how many rallies and speeches, Julian Assange so far is still go nothing where, he's still stuck inside the embassy of Ecuador -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Atika Shubert there in London.
In Eastern Afghanistan, NATO says three international service members were called in an improvised explosive device attack. NATO isn't giving out any other details right now. The attack comes during a major Muslim holiday and at a critical time for the United States as it prepares to withdraw troops by the end of 2014.
On to China now, anti-Japan protest erupt in several cities. Thousands of people took to the streets across China smashing Japanese-made cars and attacking Japanese restaurants.
The attacks began after Japanese nationalists raised the flag of Japan on a group of disputed islands. Both Japan and China claim the islands in the East China Sea.
In Syria, President Bashar Al Assad attended eve prayers marking the end of Ramadan, but the vice president was noticeably absent. Rebels say he has defected.
Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has details now.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So what we could learn from this, the fact the vice president wasn't there at this important prayer service is that the government's been lying. They've been saying that he's at his job. He has no intentions to defect.
Yet now we see if the situation was normal, he would have been there with the president, with the other government officials and he wasn't. It doesn't mean we know where he is, however. What rebels are telling us is that there are commanders who have been trying to get him out of the country.
They've lost communications with them and they don't know exactly where the vice president is. He's trying to get out of the country to Jordan. They say he's been trying to get out for the past week.
They are concern they say that if his family are captured, then he may be forced into surrendering, but no indication of that so far. But these pictures, these images of President Bashar Al-Aassad appearing at this tiny mosque close to his presidential palace tell us quite a lot.
I mean, this is a rare appearance by him in the first place. We haven't seen him for a month. Normally, he would attend these important prayers at the mosque in the center of Damascus. He's chosen to go to a tiny mosque close to the presidential palace.
It clearly gives the impression that he doesn't want to drive into the center of the capital, somewhere where he would normally feel safe to do so. He doesn't appear to feel that safe now. And his political world is shrinking. Not just his physical world. The vice president is not there. The prime minister sitting there with him was only appointed a couple of weeks ago.
Just Saturday he changed his -- he changed the health minister, the minister for industry and the justice minister and the governor of Aleppo, all important positions right now. So it does appear that his support for him is crumbling.
Elsewhere in Syria across the day, the death count seemed lower than normal. There were plenty of anti-Assad protests. Some protests in the city of Hama, for example, people chanting against Bashar Al- Assad, as they would normally do has become typical on Fridays.
Also waving their shoes in the air to insult the president, but the death toll on this day that's normally a day of celebration generally, lower than it has been over the previous days. Nic Robertson, CNN, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
WHITFIELD: And now to the extreme fire danger across several western states today. This map you're about to see shows red flag warnings in effect right now and they're in south eastern Oregon, Idaho, south western Montana, Western Utah and Northern Washington.
These are the latest pictures out of Utah right now where a new wildfire ignited just as fire crews contained two other fires that were started by lightning. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect today in several western communities threatened by wildfire.
Some ads on San Francisco buses have enraged the Muslim community and landed the transportation agency now in hot water.
WHITFIELD: A San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is in hot water over some controversial ads appearing on buses. The ads by the American Freedom Defense Initiative read, quote, "in any war between the civilized man at the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."
The bus company says it can't stop the group from running these ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL ROSE, SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION AGENCY: Obviously, we think the ads that are in place right now are repulsive and they definitely cross the line so there is not a lot we can do in light of the first amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The head of the initiative says the group is planning more ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA GELLER, AMERICAN FREEDOM DEFENSE INITIATIVE: Those ads will be calling out the institutionalized and systemic anti-Semitism of the government of San Francisco. They're clearly picking sides. They should be running disclaimers on every ad, not just mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: The Transportation Agency is giving the money it earns from those ads to charity.
First lady Michelle Obama will travel to Wisconsin Thursday. She will meet with families of the victims of the shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek earlier this month.
A gunman killed six people and injured four others before killing himself. The first lady will go to Milwaukee to visit with immediate family members of those who were injured and killed.
The holy month of Ramadan has just come to a close. It is an annual opportunity for fasting and abstinence, a 30-day period of internal reflection for all Muslims.
We caught up with members of one Muslim community in Atlanta to talk about Ramadan and its significance.
ALI GEBRIL, ROSWELL COMMUNITY MOSQUE: Ramadan, you can look at it this way. You can think of it as boot camp, training boot camp for the spirit, for the soul. So it's a spiritual training period that extends about 30 days.
KAREEMAH BUDAIR, ROSWELL, GEORGIA: The funny thing is that people think it is the food and the water. It's not the food and the water that's the hard part. The hard part is without the food and the water with be everything goes on in life. People may aggravate you and when you don't have food and water and you're tired, then you have to be patient and that's like a challenge.
GEBRIL: Ramadan by its nature will change the routine for everybody. Everything would be upside down. Sometimes you are the only fasting person in your workplace or your classroom and everything else is not practicing what you are practicing. We are feeling that you are doing this alone. It is not easy. It's harder. This is a place where everybody comes together and everybody stay to worship.
BUDAIR: You start to connect with them and their lives for many of don't see all year. It brings together this whole idea that this is a community that we need to care about each other. We teach the kids that they have to be extra good in this month.
They have to try to please God. They have to try to strive to do good deeds and so their reward is their holiday. The idea is to go back to life better than what we entered Ramadan in and try to improve ourselves and improve the world through that process.
WHITFIELD: On to presidential politics in a moment, the nastiest campaign ever. It is the phrase thrown around a lot during election years. But the tradition and history of mudslinging goes way back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Both presidential campaigns are accusing each other of going negative in ads and speeches. Former senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was a target of Mitt Romney's attacks during the 2012 primary season.
And today CNN's Jim Acosta got Santorum's reaction to Romney's complaints about the Obama campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't get the sense that Governor Romney's complaining about negative attacks. I think he'll tell you, as much as anybody else -- you're in a political race.
You're going to take your blows. You're going to go after each other and that's all fair game. I think what he's talking about is the tone of the Obama campaign, which is divisive.
It's one thing to go out and attack Governor Romney's record, fair game? Go for it. But to go out and do what he's doing as far as dividing this country -- and he is. It's class warfare at its worst.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: President Obama's deputy campaign manager says it's Romney who has consistently used inflammatory language when referring to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: If we want to talk about words on the campaign trail that are poor choices of words, let's talk about Mitt Romney. What he's been traveling for the last two years basically calling the president un-American, saying that the president wanted to make this a less Christian nation.
Those are poor choices of words and that's, we find, completely offensive. So this faux outrage by Mitt Romney complaining and whining about the tone of this race is really completely hypocritical.
WHITFIELD: And of course, negative campaigning isn't anything new. It actually isn't even as nasty as it used to be.
Earlier, I spoke with Kerwin Swint, he is the author of the book "Mudslingers" and a professor of politics at Kennesaw State University. I asked him to draw some comparisons beginning with one of the first nastiest campaigns of all when Andrew Jackson took on John Quincy Adams.
KERWIN SWINT, AUTHOR, "MUDSLINGERS": Well, this is the campaign that most historians would point to as the most negative ever because of the personal attacks and vicious assaults on Jackson and Adams.
For example, the Adams forces said that Jackson's mother had been a common prostitute. They said his wife was a bigamist because her marriage was never legally divorced. They called him a murderer. They accused him of murdering his own troops in the war.
And so these were vicious attacks that both sides felt unrestrained in delivering. There was no TV. There was no monitoring of some of the things that were being said so they felt like they could say almost anything.
WHITFIELD: All right, and then people forget that Abe Lincoln's re- election got very, very ugly in what way?
SWINT: One of the worst ever. Lincoln in the beginning of 1864 was very unpopular. The war wasn't going well. He was being attacked by all sides. He was being called all kinds of names. He was being drug through the mud by the newspapers who wanted him out of office.
And so that was a very tough re-election fight. Fortunately for Lincoln, the battlefield changed. They started winning battles. Here in Atlanta, 1864, September, that's really where it started to change for him. And his campaign against McClelen, the former general was vicious right up until the end of the war.
WHITFIELD: And then fast forward, very few people can forget Barry Goldwater, even if you were born at that time, but that ad comes up, exemplifies modern day negative campaigning.
SWINT: Yes. That's the granddaddy of them all. I mean, that's the one that set the modern standard for how to really go after your opponent especially because the feature in the ad was a nuclear war and during the cold war, people were terrified of nuclear conflict.
So the Johnson campaign used that fear to make people afraid of a Barry Goldwater presidency, this guy's dangerous, he's going to lead us to nuclear war. That ad is remembered for kicking off a lot of the negativity we have today.
WHITFIELD: Fear and fear is something that's still is a common thread when it comes down to negative campaigning.
SWINT: Everything boils down in a negative campaign to fear. You want to make the voters afraid of your opponent.
WHITFIELD: Then there was the Willie Horton, that famous ad in the 1980s used very effectively against Michael Dukakis.
SWINT: Absolutely, the Bush strategy that year was to go after Michael Dukakis. Lee Atwater, who was Bush's campaign manager, was asked what the strategy is. He said we're going to scrape the bark off of Michael Dukakis.
And they did with a very effective series of ads that really questioned his patriotism, questioned his competence as the governor of Massachusetts in a way that really took his numbers down by the election.
WHITFIELD: And already some parallels being drawn about the swift water -- swift vote ad that damaged Kerry quite a bit, parallels being drawn just this week with the former Navy SEALs that came out with a campaign ad saying that Obama should not be taking credit for the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
SWINT: Right. Those ads and those statements look very similar to 2004 when they really felt they had to draw questions about John Kerry. And the Obama campaign -- or "Super PACs" tied to the Obama campaign are criticized for an ad they ran against Mitt Romney.
Saying he was responsible for the death of the wife of a former employee from Bain Capital. So he has some really high emotional attacks coming from both sides that indicate this is going to get worse before November.
WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Professor.
So Mitt Romney will have more money to spend, by the way, on advertising after a weekend swing through Massachusetts. His campaign says it raised another $7 million from donors.
All right, looking for a home cooked meal? Next time you go to Havana, Cuba, it is easier than you think. You can actually meet the locals.
WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now. The company at the center of a miner strike in South Africa is giving its workers until Monday to return to work. This all started last week when the miners demanded pay increases.
The company said, no, and violence was believed to be sparked between two rival unions accused of trying to outdo each other in negotiating wages. Police opened fire on striking miners killing 34 workers and wounding 78.
What you see here is the very rare sight. In fact, storm chairs captured not one, not two, but five tornadic waterspouts at the same time on Lake Michigan.
The waterspouts were photographed Saturday afternoon about 45 miles east of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For folks in that area, the weather service says conditions are right for more waterspouts today.
Diana Nyad, you know the name. She's back in the water again trying to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her crew says she's making pretty good progress so far. The 62-year-old Nyad began her swim off Havana yesterday, a day earlier than planned.
She had a rough first night when she was stung by jellyfish. Nyad has made several attempts to swim across the Straits of Florida, but had to abandon the trip each time. So we wish her the best this go round.
All right, so if you want to have a good meal the next time you go to Havana, Cuba, there's more to the government run restaurants. There are eateries run right out of residents' homes. Here's CNN's Patrick Opman based in Havana.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: People always ask me where do you eat in Cuba and I always say people's homes, private restaurants. Cubans are able to have in their homes.
Let's go into one of my favorites, Cafe Laurent here in downtown Havana, one of the best palatars that I go to.
We're in Cafe Laurent. It looked like what it was -- someone's home. Here you can see they have a bar menu, making mojitos. It is really set up like a restaurant, but it is not a government restaurant. It is actually someone's business.
Until recently, that's not something that was very common in Cuba. But laws have been changing allowing people to have their own businesses. They are famous for their seafood here. They just brought me this beautiful plate of lobster and shrimp and fish. It looks great.
I have to say, sitting out here on this terrace where you have an incredible view, there is a really nice breeze. It is just a really relaxing place to be. I can't think of a better place to be right now and this looks fantastic. I'm going to go ahead and dig in.
WHITFIELD: Man, thanks, Patrick. That does look fantastic. I'd say it's time for lunch about now.
All right, I'll be back in about an hour from now. Summer may be winding down, but there's still time for one last get-away. We'll show you how to spend your Labor Day holiday, perhaps with a few stars in Hollywood. Stay with CNN.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "YOUR MONEY," starts right after the break.