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Donna Summer Dead; Congressional Offices Burgled; New Details Emerge in Mary Kennedy Death; Closing Arguments in Edwards Trial; Proposed Anti-Obama Ads Set Off Shockwaves; SuperPAC Backer Rejects Anti-Obama Ads; Flames, Snakes, Mines Confront Firefighters; Verizon Scrapping Unlimited Data; Donna Summer 1948-2012
Aired May 17, 2012 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I am Ashleigh Banfield in for Brooke Baldwin today. We have a huge show ready to go. The countdown, it is on. Investors anxiously awaiting as the price of Facebook is just dangling out there waiting to drop. It will be released after the closing bell and that magic number is going to make a lot of people rich, instant millionaires, a couple of billionaires and we have every angle covered on this big moment on Wall Street. First off, though, this.
BANFIELD: That is the voice of an era, the queen of disco, and singer Donna Summer, she will be remembered for songs like this, "Songs for Last Dance", "Hot Stuff," and "On the Radio." She died this morning according to a family statement. She was just 63 years old. In her career she earned five Grammys including a shaking on the stage performance on American Idol in 2008.
BANFIELD: That voice as strong as ever. Nischelle Turner is in Los Angeles live. Do we know anything about how Donna Summer died at such a young age?
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we are getting just a little bit of information, Ashleigh. She was a very private person, and we're seeing that even in her passing. Her family did talk about the fact that she did die of cancer. They confirmed that to us but would not say what type of cancer Donna Summer had. She was battling it.
They did tell us she was surrounded by her family, surrounded by love in Florida this morning. We talked about the statement they sent out. I am going to read that to you. They said "Early this morning we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time."
And that is from the Sudano family. They also gave us a little more information, Ashleigh. They said in lieu of flowers they request that people give donations in Donna Summer's honor to the Salvation Army if you want to pay tribute to her in that way. You were talking about some of her amazing accomplishments. The five Grammy awards which continues to amaze me, she won in so many different categories. It just shows how she crossed genres. She won for best R&B vocal, best rock vocal, best dance performance, best inspirational song. You see how much her music affected so many different people for all the genres she continued to cross.
BANFIELD: She was the disco queen. She launched an era, but she also did something that was very edgy at a time when music, the edginess of music was Elvis Presley and the Beatles and she came along with that very provocative "Love to Love You Baby" and all sorts of heavy breathing and other things that sounded like they were going on. Is she being remembered as much for this kind of thing about for pushing the envelope as she is for just being an extraordinary entertainer?
TURNER: Absolutely. I think she is being remembered as an innovator. You talked about "Love to Love You Baby". That was a 17 minute song that at the time caused so much controversy. A lot of radio stations said this is way too racy, we cannot play this on the air, and it was at that point very racy. It was very erotic. It was also in her words for women a little bit empowering, and I know someone was just you can talking about the fact she sang the song and tried to be reminiscent how she thought Marilyn Monroe would sing the song and interpret it.
But I know the Recording Academy also just released a statement they gave to me and you were talking about how she would be remembered and they said her talent was a true gift to the music industry, and that is very true because she paved the way for so many of the diva voices that we celebrate today, so I think she definitely will be remembered as an innovator and just a couple of years ago I know she said she was trying to get back into the recording studio. She was thinking about doing an album of the standards. Can you imagine that voice doing songs of the standards? That just would have been really, really amazing.
I know she also met with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to talk with them about music and collaborating with people like that would have been fantastic.
BANFIELD: Can you imagine? Really a voice gone too soon. I say very young. I think 63 is young and especially when you see her performing just recently and her voice seemed so strong. She hadn't lost any of it. Thank you, my friend. Keep on the story if you can for us. We appreciate it. By the way, Donna Summer, such a performer, will certainly be remembered by so many of her talents and so many of her awesome songs. Have a listen.
BANFIELD: Donna Summer, dead at the age of 63. A security breach in our nation's highest halls of power. Someone say Watergate? Kind of sounds like it, someone snooping around the Capitol and breaking into congressional offices and stealing anything that isn't nailed down like cash, computer equipment, clothes, even an autographed baseball, and booze. The committee officers are get - two committee offices are getting hit, too and yet the National Journal is reporting that no national security information has been taken. That we know of at this point.
One of the offices belongs to South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, and he joins me live now from the hallowed halls. What did you lose?
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I lost a couple of cameras, digital cameras, a computer screen, batteries, things that are easily converted into cash. As a former prosecutor I don't have much money laying around, but they took the little bit I did have in my desk drawer and more importantly took some change and some dollar bills from some of the folks I work with and --
BANFIELD: What about your hard drive? Did you keep your hard drive?
GOWDY: No, ma'am.
BANFIELD: There is my concern. When I hear that kind of thing is going, how can with he be certain sensitive information isn't gone from, say, your office or the other offices that have been hit?
GOWDY: You can't, other than you shouldn't be leaving sensitive or classified information where anyone can get it through thievery or any other means. Our offices have things that are very important to us and private to us but we shouldn't be carrying national security secrets in our offices to begin with.
BANFIELD: I understand, but Congressman Gowdy, this is where you work and this is the kind of work you deal with. I can only imagine your computers are communication devices for the sensitive work that you do, and I get it. You can delete, but I am concerned that perhaps some of the other congressional offices in the committee, that the committees that have been broken into may in fact have something more concerning on their hard drives.
GOWDY: They may well. I would defer to you, your information may be better than mine on what was stolen from other offices. I am not on any committees that would have classified information. The items that were taken seem to be items that were taken for resale as evidenced by the fact they took the screen and not the hard drive.
But your point is well taken. You ought to have security in House and Senate office buildings regardless of whether you're taking signed autographed baseballs or national security secrets
BANFIELD: So here is a concern. I don't have the complete list of things taken, and everybody who has been hit, but I do know this. One of the offices is from Representative Jerry Lewis, the Republican from California and Jon Runyan, Republican from New Jersey, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Office was hit, and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Office was hit. Those sound like pretty critical places with lots of sensitive information. So my question is what are you being told from the people who are supposed to be keeping you safe and my guess is that's the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, correct?
GOWDY: Well, I think it would be Capitol Hill police would be responsible for security of the buildings. You may know this, I was a prosecutor for 16 years. I am familiar with thievery and what motivates folks to do it. Runyan's office is right next to mine. I don't understand how you can walk out of a House or Senate office building carrying computer screens and it not garner anyone's attention.
BANFIELD: It sounds awfully strange. I am only going off of your letter, your correspondence between the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer. It is the Capitol Hill police you say should have been on the ball with this as opposed to you're appealing to them to help you repay the lost and stolen items, is that it?
GOWDY: It is a little bit nuanced. The members are personally liable for material taken from the offices, and if that's the rule, I am happy to reimburse whomever for the cost of it. Capitol Hill police provide security for the office building, so my letter to House administration was kind of a procedural or administrative letter. Capitol Hill police are the ones investigating the thievery and trying to ascertain who would have had access, because our doors were locked.
BANFIELD: Don't you have cameras all over the place? My thought would've been that you have more cameras than CNN.
GOWDY: You would think. Apparently members don't like having cameras in their offices, but I remain stunned that you can walk out a Congressional office building carrying digital cameras and computer screens and not garner anyone's attention. But apparently that happened. I don't know that they have any suspects. I will pay whoever I owe. I am a rule follower. I do think it is a little bit crazy when you lock your doors and you do everything that you're supposed to do -- in my old job we didn't make victims reimburse their employers when things happened, but I will do whatever the rules require me to do.
BANFIELD: It is also disconcerting that the offices of our Congressmen are being broken into and our committees are being broken into and things are being stolen. It is disconcerting to all Americans as well as you for your loss.
Congressman Trey Gowdy, I have to move on. Thank you for joining us today live. I appreciate it. Good luck with your battle to retrieve your goods and get reimbursed for your goods and let's hope for the best in this one. Thanks, sir.
GOWDY: Thank you.
BANFIELD: A whole lot more to cover in the next two hours. Take a look at this. Let's face it. You or someone you know is on Facebook every day. Do you have any idea how incredibly rich the makers of this website are about to become in a matter of hours? And P.S., will you even be on Facebook in five years? I am Ashleigh Banfield. The news starts now.
Back-to-back cases of flesh-eating bacteria. This time, it hit a new mom and the strain could be more common than you think.
Plus, outrage after a white cop is acquitted in the beating of a black teenager. A stomping caught on video.
BANFIELD: We have learned some new details from an autopsy report on the cause of Mary Kennedy's death. She was the 52-year-old estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was found dead at her suburban New York home yesterday. Our Alina Cho has been working the story. - Alina.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The medical examiner's office has confirmed to CNN that Mary Kennedy died from asphyxiation due to hanging. Not a surprise, given the reporting in the past 24 hours. As for what happened, citing two unnamed sources, the "New York Times" is reporting that Mary Kennedy's body was found hanging in the barn in the back of the house, and that authorities did arrive and did try to revive her.
One thing we do know for certain is the last few years were not kind at all to Mary Kennedy. She battled a lot of demons. The public problems began in May of 2010, when her husband Robert Kennedy Jr., the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, filed for divorce. Not long after that, Mary Kennedy was arrested for driving under the influence. It happened twice in 2010, once for alcohol and once for prescription drugs. One charge was reduced. The other was thrown out. Nonetheless, it did happen.
There was also a domestic incident the night after Robert Kennedy filed for divorce during which he told authorities his wife was intoxicated. The couple has four children all under the age of 18, just heartbreaking. The divorce, we should mention was never finalized, so at the time of Mary Kennedy's death they were still officially married.
Mary Kennedy's family released a statement saying in part our heart goes out to her children who she loved without reservation. Robert Kennedy Jr. also released a statement saying Mary inspired our family with her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit. She was 52 years old. Alina Cho, CNN, New York.
BANFIELD: Alina, thank you for that. Also in the news, a mother in South Carolina who just gave birth to twins is fighting for her life. The husband of Lana Kuykendall says the flesh-eating bacteria that's been making news in recent days and weeks, well, that same disease has forced doctors to remove skin and tissue from her legs. It is the second such case in recent days. A Georgia grad student named Amy Copeland has lost her leg and parts of her abdomen due to this flesh-eating bacteria. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been looking at the cases, and what you should be looking for as well. -- Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, Lana Kuykendall gave birth on May 7th to twins, and four days later when they'd arrived home, she and her husband noticed she had a bruise on the back of her leg. And it wasn't just any bruise. It was actually a bruise that was growing quickly. They said you could actually sit there and watch it grow.
Now, Lana is a paramedic, so she knew to pay attention to this. They went to the hospital and she was quickly diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, which is the scientific name for flesh-eating bacteria. Now, we're not quite sure how it happened, but doctors say that blunt trauma can lead to necrotizing fasciitis. In other words, perhaps she hit her leg, she got a bruise -- and many of us have strep A bacteria naturally in our bodies, it is not usually a cause for concern. But that bacteria can rush to the blood and get into the blood stream and cause this horrible systemic infection.
Many of us get bruises and so we shouldn't freak out, because most of the time they are no big deal. Here are a couple of things to think about. If the bruise is causing disproportionate pain, in other words, way more pain than you would expect from a simple bruise, pay attention. Fever and weakness, you should also pay attention to those. You should also pay attention to swelling. On CNN.com/empoweredpatient we have more signs of necrotizing fasciitis. Also if it is a bruise, if it is growing quickly, you should definitely call your doctor and get that checked out. -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: All right, Elizabeth Cohen reporting for us. Thank you.
So it is down to the wire for John Edwards. He is sitting at a table in a courtroom and listening to two sides pitch their case once and for all. Then it is up to the jury. Our Joe Johns is in the courtroom. He is going to give us the lowdown.
Plus, an actor from "Terminator" has disappeared and there is one place police are focusing their search. We'll tell you where in a moment.
BANFIELD: If you happen to be a fan of 80s soul-funk, you're going to remember songs like "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" and "Burn Rubber on Me". Charlie Wilson was the lead singer of The Gap Band, and as chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains in this week's "Human Factor," things have not always been outstanding for this artist.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Charlie Wilson is best known as, uncle Charlie, as a member of the 80s funk group the Gap Band and now a solo artist. But Celebrity status has had its ups and downs.
CHARLIE WILSON, FUNK SINGER: The ride got wild, of course, with success. Of course alcohol and drugs, and it just got unbearable.
GUPTA: At one point, Wilson lost everything.
WILSON: I became homeless. I didn't have anywhere to go.
GUPTA: He did eventually get sober, and went back into the studio as a solo artist, and made eight more hit singles. But then, in 2008, life dropped another bomb on uncle Charlie. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
WILSON: My life was devastated, and I thought my career was over because the word cancer scared me to death.
GUPTA: With surgery and radiation he was able to overcome the disease, and he quickly realized that talking about prostate cancer was his new life's work.
WILSON: I wanted to educate people about this disease. I didn't know what I was going to say. I just knew that what I had went through was very scary, and I wanted to share it with someone.
GUPTA: So he's partnered with the pharmaceutical company Jansen Biotech, and as a paid spokesman, is helping educate black men about the disease.
WILSON: We're two times likely to die from this disease from any other ethnic group. And that scares me.
GUPTA: For uncle Charlie the future continues to look bright.
WILSON: I am 18 years clean and sober. I thank God for my life and I thank god for my wife, so here I am, ready to take on the world again.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: We have a whole lot more news to catch you up on, so this is "Rapid Fire." Roll it.
Vermont becomes the first state in the union to ban hydraulic fracturing. Don't know what that is? You have probably heard of it as fracking. It is the practice of injecting water at really, really heavy-duty velocity, sand, chemicals along with it, deep into the earth, to try to crack shale rock and release oil and natural gas.
Energy production in the U.S. is really booming because of fracking, but there are a lot of critics that don't like it. They say that they think fracking can contaminate ground water and also possibly be responsible for causing mild earthquakes as well. Mississippi police are saying that ballistic tests are linking two highway murders that occurred 55 miles apart. Investigators say they think somebody is posing as a police officer and luring victims to the side of the road and then shooting them to death. In two cases this is what happened. The wallet of one of the victims, a 74-year- old, Tom Shandler, whose picture was up on the screen missing from the crime scene, so somebody took his wallet. The other victim, a 48- year-old woman, who was killed just a few days later, no word if anything was missing from her.
At the Pentagon today, defense secretary Leon Panetta meeting with Israel's counterpart, defense minister there. And one of the main issues on the table is stopping a nuclear Iran. So defense minister Ehud Barak is talking with our Piers Morgan, in fact said what he thought about the military option.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Are you prepared to act completely unilaterally if you have to?
EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: I don't want to respond to this question, but I think that the (INAUDIBLE) situation is clear. We say - the leaders saying, including the American president, no option should be removed off the table, and we basically admit it (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Always nervous when I hear "I don't want to answer that question." All right, so here is what the U.S. says. "We're willing to accept Iran producing low enriched uranium, that's the kind of thing you can do for medical needs. But Israel is not keen on that. That country believes that a deal that allows that would actually allow Iran to continue deceiving the western world and actually advance its nuclear program for combat. Talks with Iran and the six world powers are set to occur a little later on this month.
For the first time in U.S. history, minority births are out numbering white births. The census bureau says as of last July 1st, 50.4 percent of children who are younger than age 1 were minorities. And that's defined as anyone who doesn't identify solely as of the white race. Minorities make up 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population, and that's a half percentage point higher than the previous year.
Search is on for actor Nick Stahl, who disappeared more than a week ago. His estranged wife reported him missing on Monday. The "LA Times" reports that police have been focusing their search on one particular area in LA, Skid Row. That's where apparently Stahl had been frequenting. He is probably best known for taking over the role of John Connor in the movie "Terminator 3."
John Edwards's attorneys very busy getting their last shot at their form of justice today trying to convince jurors the former presidential candidate did not misuse nearly a million dollars worth of campaign funds. But prosecutors get to do the same thing, too, push their arguments. This is closing arguments today, taking place in Edwards' federal trial. The jurors are expected to listen and then start deliberating tomorrow. CNN's Joe Johns is in Greensboro, North Carolina. Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, a real contrast in style from the lawyers today as closing arguments got underway in the John Edwards campaign finance trial. Prosecutor Robert Higdon walking through the facts of the case almost in chronological order, starting out with the John Edwards run for president, characterizing Edwards as a viable candidate in 2008 who cooked up a scheme to stay viable in spite of his affair with his mistress Rielle Hunter. Higdon said Edwards had sown the seeds and weeds of destruction by himself and that he clearly knew the law and decided to violate it.
Defense attorney Abbe Lowell said this case should define the difference between someone committing a wrong and a crime, a sin and a felony, and said no crime had been committed. That Edwards understood the motivation of his late wife Elizabeth in covering up his affair was to get out with dignity and keep the family intact.
Both sides put a big focus on the government's star witness, former Edwards right-hand man Andrew Young. The prosecution admitting he did a lot of things wrong including keeping a lot of the hush money that was intended for Hunter, claiming paternity for Hunter's child, and allowing Edwards to use him. But Higdon said young was not a master manipulator.
Defense attorney Abbe Lowell compared Young and his wife Cheri (ph), who also testified, to the notorious crime couple Bonnie and Clyde, and essentially said the government would not have a case without Young.
More closing arguments this afternoon, then the judge will read a lengthy list of instructions to the jury. They're expected to begin their deliberations on Friday morning. -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: All right. Joe Johns, thank you for that. Appreciate it. The race for president, if you thought it was ugly before, it is really getting nasty. There are rumblings that could be getting worse and, boy, is there a domino effect on something that came out today, a plan unearthed.
In which a Republican "Super PAC" would launch a multi-million dollar campaign smearing President Obama and using Reverend Jeremiah Wright and race as the core. We have gotten word of a dramatic twist. You will not believe the reverberation this has caused.
BANFIELD: So did you get your "New York Times" on your front doorstep this morning or on your iPad or some other way where you had a blazing headline that suggested, boy, this is going to be ugly?
"New York Times" reporting that there was a big old campaign that was in the works, not OK'ed yet, but in the works that would have resurrected President Obama's former ties to that fire brand preacher Jeremiah Wright.
And according to "The Times," this detailed proposal stated that the ad campaign would, quote, "do exactly what John McCain would not let us do." You might remember McCain, of course, was Obama's opponent back in 2008.
So what happened when that came out? Wolf Blitzer, just within the last hour, Wolf, I have seen the wealthy backer of the anti-tax "Super PAC" that was supposed to be somehow connected to this put out word he is not going to be funding this provocative series of ads against President Obama.
Joe Rickets saying, no, I never did OK all of that. That was a proposal. I said no. But man, it has sparked reaction not only from Obama's campaign, but Mitt Romney's campaign and him himself.
Can you give me basically the essence of what this thing was all about and how it came into being, Wolf, and how this took off in the past couple of hours?
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, the "New York Times" got a copy of the proposal, which was never formally accepted by Joe Rickets anti-Obama pro-Republican "Super PAC."
Although it is interesting in the statement just released on Rickets behalf, Brian Baker, the president of the Ending Spending Action Fund, which is a "Super PAC" that Rickets is affiliated with.
He says at the end as you point out, he has no interest in getting involved in any personal attacks or social or cultural attacks against the president. He wants to fight the president on the economic issues, the most important issues of the day.
But it is interesting in that same "New York Times" article and they got a copy of this proposal, it was linked to them someone who was very disturbed by it according to the "New York Times.
That statement that Rickets was adamantly rejecting this strategy was not included in the "New York Times" story. So clearly in my sense the reaction since that "New York Times" story came out and I think posted over night in the "New York Times" web site obviously in the "New York Times" this morning --
BANFIELD: So he had to jump to react quickly.
BLITZER: It caused a huge, huge backlash and I think what's going on, Ashley, is that a lot of moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats, those independents who will determine who the next president of the United States is in those ten or 12 battle ground states.
The fear and Romney is totally disassociated himself from the Reverend Wright strategy. The fear is if you go that direction potentially you are going alienate a lot of independents, a lot of moderates, a lot of people on the fence right now because when you look at all of the polls, the president is very likeable.
Americans like the president even though if they disagree with him on economic issues or other substantive issues. Likability is one area that the president scores high on.
BANFIELD: To that end, I have actually got one of the quotations from inside this plan according to the "New York Times" about his likability and how they could actually try to inflame the public and yet not infringe upon the likability.
Here it how it reads. The strategist grappled with how to inflame their questions on his character and competency while allowing themselves to still somewhat like the man. That becomes the challenge.
They were lamenting apparently that voters still aren't ready to hate this president. Wolf, this sounds so dirty and shadowy, but I guess, I am led to believe that this has been going on forever.
Now we have "Super PACs" who can really do it in the shadows and really make it happen with lots of money.
BLITZER: Well, if they have a billionaire out there who is willing to spend $10 million and $20 million in this era of "Super PACs," you can do exactly that. You can get on the air and around September, October, you can put any commercial in those battle ground states you want.
Totally legal, totally within the realm of American politics right now and the aftermath of the citizens united Supreme Court decision. You have a lot of money you can put that on the air.
What's interesting here is that this proposal that was put forward to the anti-Obama "Super PAC" has now been formally rejected by the billionaire, Joe Rickets, who was apparently studying it or at least some of his associates were studying it. But now they've decided to run away from it as quickly as possible.
BANFIELD: And I am curious how John McCain would respond to this as well because they were none too kind to him in this proposal. In fact, saying that their plan was to do exactly what he would not do in 2008.
Actually calling him a crusty old politician who often seemed confused and burdened with a campaign that was just as confused that has to hurt and again, I bring up the shadowy dirtiness of this.
BLITZER: Well, look, there is going to be dirt. There is going to be ugliness. There is going to be an extreme right wing fringe that will bring up the birth certificate, that will bring up all sorts of other stuff about the president of the United States.
The question is will the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, do what John McCain did four years ago and say, you know what, I am not going there. We have substantive economic national security issues. That's where we disagree.
Let's fight over those issues. Let's not get into the whole Reverend Wright birther issues although there will be elements out there that will raise it. I suspect Mitt Romney will do exactly what John McCain did and say I am not going anywhere near it.
If there is crazy people on the right who want to get into that, let them do it. Romney I think is going to do exactly what McCain did.
Because both of these guys when all is said and done, they're both gentleman. They're both serious. They're both substantive and I don't think they're going to get into the trash.
BANFIELD: Yes, I mean, you know, the Obama campaign responded to this. Mitt Romney's campaign has responded to this. Mr. Rickets is responding to this and one thing in this piece.
And I know you will do more on this in the SIT ROOM later on, Wolf, is that the "New York Times" suggested that publicity that certain to surround this will send the strategists back to the drawing board and it looks like that is exactly what's happening. Mr. Blitzer, it's always nice to see you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Again, Wolf is going to be doing a lot more of this on his program immediately following this program, 4 p.m. Eastern Time, "THE SITUATION ROOM."
More than 30 square miles of forest land and grassland has been burning. Have you seen the pictures? How would you like to be waking up to that?
Hundreds of people have had to evacuate their homes and have no idea if they can go back. The wildfires in Arizona are absolutely raging out of control. Firefighters also dealing with snakes and mines. This is a bad one.
BANFIELD: Arizona's gladiator wildfire is living up to its name and it is getting worse for the people who live near Phoenix practically tripled in size just since yesterday. Look at this monster.
This is part of the more than 30 square miles of forest and grassland that have been destroyed by four separate fires as well and more than 500 firefighters are doing their darn to contain this gladiator fire.
Mandatory evacuations are still in effect for at least 350 people that live in the historic mining town called Crown King. Let's go to Joe Dana who is live on the ground in Spring Valley, Arizona. Are they getting this monster under control?
JOE DANA, KPNX REPORTER: They're not. Right now, they're on the defensive. Right now, there is a lot of wind down here. Now normally wind is really a menace for wildland firefighters.
But in this case, crews are hoping that the red flag warnings today, the gusts of up to 40 miles per hour could actually help the firefight because they're simply pushing the fire north away from the town of Crown King.
Of course, there is always the chance the gusts will whip around the other way and it will create a very dicey situation. That town has about 250 homes and cabins. A power line was already taken out, cutting off electricity there.
Nearly all of the 120 permanent residents of that town have already evacuated and there is also concern of some cell phone and radio towers up there. Firefighters have traveled here from around the country to help in this effort.
Florida, New York, Mississippi, Alaska, and they're battling the blaze and in a unique environment. You have the desert and the mountainous area. They are learning about how to stay away from rattle snakes, bees.
And of course, a lot of these empty mine shafts. So, you know, that's the workplace that these guys deal with and they're making some heroic efforts right now. And the hope is that they will be able to keep this thing under control once the winds settle down over the next couple of days -- Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Joe, real quickly, I know there was stragglers that did not want to leave their houses. Have they been able to clear everybody out who wasn't so sure this was going to get close to them?
DANA: From what we understand, there may be a half dozen or so people that still lingered there. The law in Arizona says you can't force people to leave. So nearly everyone has left. Some relatives have gone back to basically convince their loved ones, look, you just have to leave. There may be a few still behind what we're told.
BANFIELD: Nothing looking good in the forecast for wind right now?
DANA: Yes, wind, gusts, expecting up to 40 miles an hour today. But again, firefighters say if those are steady north winds, then it will actually help firefighters. It will buy them time because they will be able to continue to build lines around Crown King while the fire is being pushed away from the city.
BANFIELD: OK. Joe Dana, thanks for that. Stay safe out there as you do what you do best, working the story. Thank you.
Your unlimited cell phone minutes or your smartphone plans might be history sooner than you think. Sorry.
BANFIELD: We are seen the future of data plans for your cell phone, iPad and other mobile devices and it isn't unlimited. It is shared. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange.
OK, this big old shift in how we get our minutes is being spearheaded by Verizon. So I want to ask you, how is this working? What is the deal? What's it going to mean to me?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: OK, so consider this as kind of like a limited bucket of data that you can use for yourself or share it with your family members and their devices or you can share it among different devices, so let me give you an example.
Let's say you have a smartphone and you have a tablet and what you can do is put both of those things on the same data plan or if everyone in your family has a smartphone, everyone can share in the data.
Remember, it is going to be a limited amount of data, unlimited, going away, going the way of the dinosaur. I know. Verizon, it is really no surprise.
Verizon has been chipping away at this. You look what they did in July. Ashleigh, Verizon ended unlimited for its new customers. So beginning this summer if you're looking to upgrade to a new phone, let's say, it will be with a limited plan. They need to make money. Limited is the way they need to go.
BANFIELD: So eventually, they will get all of us, even the existing customers for years and years. What about the other big ones like AT&T and Sprint?
KOSIK: And that's a good question. So what Sprint does is right now it allows families to share data on phones, but tablets are actually separate. Now Sprint also is still offering unlimited, but Sprint, of course, did not comment on what it plans to do in the future.
All right, so what is AT&T doing? AT&T does not offer shared plans at all for devices or in family plans and it did not comment on its future plans either, so they're leaving the door wide open here.
But typically, you know, when one of these companies does something, the other follows. They're like sheep. They're like the airlines. So I wouldn't be surprised if you see AT&T and Sprint follow the lead of Verizon.
BANFIELD: And some might say Lemming. Thank you, Alison Kosik. It's nice to see you.
OK. So your family, your life, your community, events you share every day when you send us your CNN I-Reports. I want to let you know, the second Annual CNN I-Report Awards are under way now.
It is your chance to let your voice be heard. We have gone through thousands of reports and we submitted all of the most compelling into a selected group.
And now we're giving you the chance to vote for the nominee that you think best represents CNN I-Report in 2011 for the community choice awards. So have a look at all the nominees in the original reporting category.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a small digger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, come on. It is my turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other guy. Run, run, run.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is ground zero. We're remembering everyone who passed away on September 11th and it is really unfortunately and we are just remembering.
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BANFIELD: She was hot stuff. She was the queen of disco, and she has died. Donna Summer no longer with us after dying this morning and we are remembering this legend.
And you know who else is remembering her, Casey from K.C. and the Sunshine band and also huge in the era. I will speak with him in a moment.
BANFIELD: Her voice and her image, the background to the disco generation. Donna summer died today at the age of 63. She was a five-time Grammy award winner. She sang "Bad Girl, Last Dance, I Feel Love." Have a listen.
Joining me on the phone, Harry Casey of K.C. and the Sunshine band, no stranger to Donna Summer and performed with her in the 70s. Harry, thanks so much for doing this. I want to get your initial reaction to learning of the passing of one of your contemporaries.
HARRY CASEY, K.C. AND THE SUNSHINE BAND (via telephone): I am in shock. I am truly in shock. I saw her several months ago at a performance. She looked great. She sounded great. The performance was amazing. We got together back stage and had good laughs and walked down memory lane and I am just in shock. I had no idea anything was wrong.
BANFIELD: I think you're probably not alone. I think at 63, nobody was expecting this.
BANFIELD: As you had the chance to digest, her loss, can you even at this point tell us what she has given us and give us her legacy? I know it is so soon to be even forming that legacy. CASEY: You know, I am trying. Donna and I, I had these dreams of one day doing a tour with her as the queen and king of disco. And we were the freshman of the new music that has taken over the world and we were the creators of this new music, and her contribution is just immeasurable, you know.
BANFIELD: I am so glad to talk to you about this because I listened to this woman day and night and I listened to you day and night and get down and that's the way I like it.
You guys were like anthems for my life and as you think about that, how did you and Donna summer, how did you get out of the clubs and get this into our musical vernacular?
CASEY: Well, I think we just saw something happening and something, you know, that nobody else could see, I guess, I don't know. You know, they were great songs and from the great songs that came out on the radio. The radio had no choice, but to play our songs. It was in such demand in the clubs.
BANFIELD: We were the benefactors of it, and I am so sorry to only have the chance to talk to you on this sad occasion. Harry Casey, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
CASEY: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Coming up, we are watching the live mic where Mitt Romney is expected to make comments in Jacksonville, Florida. And there is a smeary kind of "Super PAC" plan that's been out there. Everybody is slamming it, will he? Back in a moment.