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Remembering Colorado Shooting Victims; New Push for Gun Control?

Aired July 24, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we continue to focus tonight on the victims of the Aurora shooting, the victims and the survivors. There are some remarkable people we're going to introduce you to tonight, some who made it and tried to save others, some who did not make it out of theater number nine.

We're going to speak to the father of Alex Sullivan, who died in that theater. It was his 27th birthday and Sunday would have been his first wedding anniversary.

You're also going to meet an amazingly brave 13-year-old girl who tried to save the life of a 6-year-old girl after the shooting.

And a stunning story of a young woman who survived in the most remarkable way imaginable -- her story and more just ahead.

But we begin tonight though "Keeping Them Honest" with a few lawmakers on Capitol Hill talking today about toughening gun laws in response to the shooting, but most politicians, especially President Obama and Mitt Romney, trying hard not to talk about it, trying it seems to take gun control, whatever you think about it, off the table.

Now, at the same time, what little they are saying, both of them differ sharply from positions they once held. And again, it isn't for us to decide what's right or wrong when it comes to gun control. That's for you voters to decide. We will leave that up to you.

But "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, both President Obama and former Governor Romney have either flip-flopped on the issue or backed away from it and now, well, see if you can spot any difference between the two candidates.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don't believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy.


COOPER: That's Mitt Romney last night. Here's what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Sunday -- quote -- The president's view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of hands of people who should not have them under existing law. And that's his focus right now."

Do you see much difference? Neither did Republican House Speaker John Boehner today.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president has made clear that he's not going to use this horrific event to push for new gun laws. I agree.


COOPER: Gun laws such as the ban on assault weapons that was passed during the Clinton administration. It barred the sale of assault rifles specifically including the AR-15 and high capacity magazines like the 100-shot drum the Aurora shooter used.

That law though had a built-in expiration date eight years ago. Four years ago, then candidate Obama supported reviving the law.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland. But don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.


COOPER: He apparently felt the same last year in the wake of the Tucson shooting, where the killer used a 30-shot clip, which would have been illegal under the expired law.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president, again, since I have been with him in 2004 has supported the assault weapons ban and we continue to do so.


COOPER: This year, however, even before the Colorado massacre, the White House was already backing away from the issue.


QUESTION: That expired in 2004. Has the president taken a stand on extending that?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will have to get back to you on that. I don't have any new information on that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, just today, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president continues to support the weapons ban but described it as an issue for the future, not now.

And as you heard at the top, Carney also said that existing laws are enough. But if President Obama has recently started downplaying the former position as the presidential campaign has gotten started, Mitt Romney has done a complete 180 on the issue. Here's what he said when he was running for governor of Massachusetts.


ROMNEY: We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts. I support them. I won't chip away at them. I believe they help protect us and provide for our safety.


COOPER: That was in 2002 running for governor. Two years later, Governor Romney signed a permanent assault weapons law. Deadly assault weapons had no place in the commonwealth, he said at the time.

Yet, the next year, in anticipation of a presidential run, he began shifting his position on gun control. He designated May 7 Right to Bear Arms Day in Massachusetts and he began courting the National Rifle Association. Then in 2007, he became a lifetime member.

"I'm after the NRA's endorsement," he said at the time. "I'm not sure they will give it to me. I hope they will." Also that year when asked on "Meet the Press" whether he would bring back the federal assault weapons law, well, decide for yourself what he's saying here.


ROMNEY: I supported the ban.


ROMNEY: And I signed -- let me describe it.

QUESTION: But you're still for it?

ROMNEY: Let's describe what it is. I would have supported the original assault weapon ban. I signed an assault weapon ban in Massachusetts as governor because it provided for a relaxation of licensing requirements for gun owners in Massachusetts, which was a big plus.

And so both the pro-gun and anti-gun lobby came together with a bill and I signed that. And if there is determined to be, from time to time, a weapon of such lethality that it poses a grave risk to our law enforcement personnel, that's something I would consider signing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Clearly, he felt differently three years before when he signed that bill in Massachusetts. Back then there were plenty of weapons he considered lethal enough to ban, apparently not anymore. Today, both he and the president say existing laws are good enough.

"Raw Politics" now. Let's talk about it with chief national correspondent John King and political analysts Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

John, whatever position hold on stricter gun laws, whether they think they're a good idea or not, whenever the subject comes up, it does seem like most of them can not change the subject fast enough. I mean, is it just that divisive an issue?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it can be a tough issue depending on where you are in the country.

You have people like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Senator Dianne Feinstein. They have been consistent. They say the country needs to have a conversation about what they would call commonsense gun laws, but especially among most other Democrats, Anderson, they view this as taboo. Why? Because the legend of Democratic politics is it's probably one the reasons Al Gore lost the White House in 2000.

His campaign manager, our colleague Donna Brazile, says not so much. There was Clinton fatigue. There were other issues as well. But Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee. He lost West Virginia. Barack Obama is looking at a map where he probably needs to win Pennsylvania. He would like to win Ohio. He would like to keep North Carolina and Virginia. Endorsing new gun controls at this time by most Democrats is considered too risky so they'd rather change the subject.

COOPER: David, it does seem like the conversation on guns is just frozen.


Listen, there was a president named Bill Clinton who had the guts to stand up on these issues. He did it in 1993, signing the Brady law. 1994, he had another law, as assault weapons ban. Then he came up on a smart -- on a bullet law, three laws. And he got reelected. He showed some leadership. We don't see that today.

COOPER: Gloria, you take a look at the polls regarding gun control and there has been a huge shift among Americans over the past two decades from one side of the issue to other. Is there a sense of what's driving that change?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think as David was saying, you might go back to 1994, when Bill Clinton and the Congress actually passed that ban on assault weapons, which has since expired.

And when they passed that ban on assault weapons, then gun owners decided, and the NRA decided, they needed to make sure that what -- that ban expired, that nobody would renew it. And it became a single issue for an awful lot of voters.

And then also I think, Anderson, you look at the sort of anti- government attitudes now that seem to be on the increase. We see that with the rise of the Tea Party for example. And if you're anti-big government, then you don't want government getting in the way of your Second Amendment rights. So I think you take all these things together. And the political issues that John was talking about, particularly in rural America, and among blue-collar voters, and you say it's a formula for getting nothing done.

COOPER: John, for the politics on it for President Obama, is that particularly sensitive mostly among white working-class voters?

KING: Exactly.

You know looking at the 2012 map it will be much tougher than 2008. So what are the states President Obama -- he turned North Carolina from red to blue. He turned Virginia from red to blue. He turned Colorado where this tragedy occurred, the most recent tragedy, from red to blue. He needs to keep Nevada in play. In all of those states, it's risky to be for gun control. Those blue-collar voters Gloria was just talking about, if he loses white, Reagan Democrat- style union blue-collar voters, that puts Pennsylvania at risk, could put Michigan at risk, could put Wisconsin at risk.

If you're looking at this issue and looking ahead to the presidential election, it's simply keep your hands off. Yes, the president did promise back in 2008 he would push some new gun control laws, but he never has and he's not about to now.

COOPER: It is interesting. David you look at Mitt Romney's I guess you would call it evolution on this issue from the Massachusetts campaign to today, what are the politics for him as he moves forward?

GERGEN: Well, he's got his base to worry about. He wants to get a high turnout from his base.

Here's a guy who when he was governor of Massachusetts said, you know, we have to have a ban on assault weapons. He said it was good for Massachusetts. Now because he's chasing after his base, he's run away from that position.

President Obama campaigned in 2008 and said he would get a new assault weapons ban, the one that Gloria that just said expired. He would renew it. And here, today, his press secretary is now telling us the gun laws on the books today are sufficient.

BORGER: Anderson, you could make the case for President Obama if he wants to consolidate his base, what he ought to do is extend the assault weapons ban, which he has not done.

But he's worried about those independent voters; 55 percent of them say they care more about gun owners than curtailing gun ownership, right? So this is where he's living right now to attract those independent voters. I would argue on a congressional level it's really important to congressional Democrats in the South.

But I think the president has a little bit more wiggle room here than he thinks, particularly if he's trying to consolidate his base.

COOPER: It is fascinating, it's not my job to take a position one way or the other on this subject, but just how neither side really wants to even have this discussion. Both sides are just kind of wanting to move away and stay off it as much as possible.

David Gergen, Gloria Borger, John King, thanks.

GERGEN: Thank you.

COOPER: We have a lot more to tell you tonight about the survivors of the Aurora shooting. We continue to focus on the survivors and the victims and those who have had their lives forever changed.

We're going to talk to the father of this man, Alex Sullivan, who was killed on Friday. It was his 27th birthday. Sunday would have been his first wedding anniversary. We're also going to introduce you to a little girl, a baby-sitter named Kaylan, one of the bravest 13- year-olds you're ever going to meet. She tried to save the life of another child killed in the shooting.


KAYLAN, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: There's no words to describe what was going through my mind. I thought I was going to die.



COOPER: Welcome back.

Christian Bale, the star of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," was in Aurora, Colorado, today visiting people who were injured in the theater massacre. There's a picture of Christian Bale with Carey Rottman, who was shot in the leg.

Bale released a statement, as you may know, on Friday, saying words could not express the horror that he feels and that his heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.

Amid all the grief and the pain in Aurora, Colorado, there are some stories of survival and really amazing acts of friendship and courage and selflessness. We have learned more of those today.

We want to tell you some of those stories tonight as we continue to remember the victims and try to focus on them. The youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, she was just 6 years old. She was a vibrant little girl, her whole life ahead of her. She had just learned how to swim.

That horrible night at the movie theater, the night Veronica was killed and her mother was critically injured, a 13-year-old girl named Kaylan, who is Veronica's baby-sitter, desperately tried to save the little girl.

Kaylan is just 13 years old. She showed tremendous courage, even though she thought she herself was going to die.

Poppy Harlow spoke to her.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we just put Kaylan into your hands, lord, your loving, merciful, healing hands.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prayers for 13-year-old Kaylan, a survivor.

KAYLAN: He just kept firing, and then he would stop like he was reloading. And he kept firing at anyone he saw. I thought I was going to die.

HARLOW (on camera): You thought you were going to die?

KAYLAN: I have never had that feeling before in my life, and it's the scariest feeling to think that you're going to die.

HARLOW (voice-over): Kaylan watched as three people with her at the Batman screening were shot, including the 6-year-old girl she regularly baby-sat, Veronica Moser-Sullivan.

KAYLAN: I felt like it was partly my job to protect her. And even if I wasn't her baby-sitter, I would still feel the same because she was just a -- she was just a child.

HARLOW: Lying on the theater floor, she called 911.

KAYLAN: I put my hand on Veronica's, like, ribcage to see if she was breathing, but she wasn't breathing, so I started freaking out. And then they told me to do CPR. And I told them I couldn't because her mother was on top of her and couldn't move.

HARLOW: Veronica's mother, Ashley, was shot in the neck and abdomen. She lived. Veronica did not.

KAYLAN: She liked to draw. And she liked to look at the -- I had a bunny. Well, I have a bunny in my room. And she always liked to look at the bunny.

HARLOW (on camera): You OK? Take your time.

(voice-over): Her pastor calls her a girl with a servant's heart.

PASTOR MICHAEL WALKER, CHURCH IN THE CITY: She's the type of kid that would come in a room, and say what can I do to help? How can I give of myself? I mean, a young kid, that really can't be taught.

HARLOW (on camera): How has this changed your life?

KAYLAN: There are certain things I can't, like, hear, or certain things I can't look at or certain things that I can't do or even wear.

HARLOW: Like what?

KAYLAN: Like the clothes that I wore that night. I don't want to put those on again. Popping sounds, or like banging, if it sounds a certain way, and I can't really look at popcorn.

HARLOW: I know you want to say something to Ashley, the mother of Veronica, the little girl you tried to help.

KAYLAN: All I want right now is to go visit Ashley.

HARLOW (voice-over): Kaylan may not have been physically wounded, but she still bears the scars.

Poppy Harlow, CNN, Aurora, Colorado.


COOPER: Kaylan just seems amazing, says she either wants to be an actress or a doctor. She said she didn't know what doctor she would want to be before this tragedy, but now she wants to help people in the ICU.

Alex Sullivan died in theater nine. It was his 27th birthday. He'd gone to the film to celebrate. He was just two days shy of his first wedding anniversary, another young life cut far too short. His family began a frantic search after hearing about the shooting. They rushed to the staging area for information.

His father, Tom Sullivan, on Friday, carried a photograph of his son.


TOM SULLIVAN, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: This is him. His name's Alex Sullivan. Today's his birthday.




SULLIVAN: He's 27. We're looking for him. They don't have him on any list yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was at the movie?

SULLIVAN: He was at the movie.


COOPER: At the movie to celebrate, as I said, his 27th birthday.

Earlier that night, here's what Alex tweeted. "Oh, man, one hour until the movie, and it's going to be the best birthday ever." Alex did not survive theater number nine.

I spoke to his father, Tom Sullivan, earlier.


COOPER: First of all, I'm just so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine what you and your family are going through right now.

I have read so many words describing Alex, people saying he was full of love, always laughing, a big heart. How do you describe him? What do you want people to know about him?

SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, that's it.

From when he was a baby, that's what we used to say to each other. He was my best buddy in the whole world. And we said that back and forth until, you know, even last week. You know, that's how we referred to each other. Everywhere I went, I mean, I always went with him places.

People would say that, gee, Tom, when I see you, you know, you're always with your kids. And I said, well, you know, that's why you have them. I mean, they're supposed to be with you. And that's what we did. We went everywhere.

COOPER: It was Alex's 27th birthday. He was celebrating by going to see that movie, right?

SULLIVAN: Well, they always -- we always have gone to the movies on his birthday. We started back when he was 6 years old. We went and saw "The Rocketeer."

And the reason we wanted to see "The Rocketeer" was because after the movie was over, they had a special at Pizza Hut that he would get a special little kid's mug and a hat and all of that. And we went to the Pizza Hut and they were all out of the promotion. So he was really disappointed.

But him and Meghan, his sister, were so hungry, we decided just to order a large pizza and we shared it.

COOPER: And...

SULLIVAN: But we always go to the movies.


SULLIVAN: Several years after that -- yes, several years after that, we went to -- on his birthday went and saw "Jurassic Park." And when the raptors come out, I have never even to this day had my hand squeezed as hard as it was when those raptors were running around. And he was so scared. And that was the only movie that he's never sat all the way through. We ended up running up to the top the theater and spending the rest of the movie peeking around the corner, trying to see it.


COOPER: And when that movie was over, we went across the parking lot to the Red Robin and had his birthday dinner over there, which is where he was -- you know, all of his friends were with him at the movie there. He enjoyed, you know, even when he was 9 years old his birthday with people from Red Robin.

COOPER: It was not only Alex's birthday. He was also getting ready, I understand, to celebrate his first wedding anniversary. I think it was going to be on Sunday to his wife, Cassandra.

SULLIVAN: It was Sunday.

COOPER: How is she doing?

SULLIVAN: She's coping. She's coping.

COOPER: Is there anything else you want people to know, that you want to say? We have been trying over the last couple of days just to talk to as many family members as possible and just remember as many of and celebrate the lives of the 12. And I just wanted to give you an opportunity, if there's anything else you want people to know.

SULLIVAN: Well, he was just such a fun guy. And he was so empathetic, you know, to people and cared about people.

And don't be surprised if at some point somebody that you're talking with, you will say something about Alex, and they will say, do you mean that big guy in from Colorado who was the movie guy and loved hockey and all of that? And you will say yes. Well, I know him. You know, I met him.

I mean, we're getting things that we -- we got a fruit basket from a company that he only worked for, for three months. And they didn't want to let him go, but they just didn't -- the business was doing so poorly they couldn't afford him. And that was eight years ago.

I mean, he affected, you know, that employer so much that, you know, we have got a fruit basket at our house. I mean, so don't worry. You will run into someone who knows him and they will tell him all about him. But, I mean, he's just the best, I mean, like, as I say, my best buddy in the whole world.

COOPER: Well, on Sunday, there was a memorial service, and I found one of the things most moving is when they read out the names of each person and the crowd roared back, "We will remember you."

And so that is my hope and my prayer. We will remember Alex and all the others. Tom, I appreciate you being on. Thank you.

SULLIVAN: Oh, well, yes. We well never forget him. We will never forget him.

COOPER: Tom, thank you.


COOPER: Tom Sullivan.

Amid the tragedy in Colorado, some incredible stories of survival and friendship. Best friends Stephanie Davies and Alee Young, who are seen here with President Obama, stuck together during the rampage.

Stephanie applied pressure to Alee's gunshot wound and didn't leave her side. Their story and the story of a woman whose brain condition may have actually saved her life, that's next.


COOPER: You hear a lot about miracles after a tragedy like the one in Aurora and you hear about heroes. And that's the way it should be.

The fact is though the real miracle would be a time machine set for last Thursday before the alleged gunman went to the theater. That's all anyone really wants. There would be no need for heroes or miracles and that would be just fine. It would be better than fine.

Instead, miracles and heroes, well, they're the best we have right now. And despite the heartache, there's comfort in that.

Randi Kaye has more.


RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In a community draped in sadness, there are tiny miracles being born every day, like baby Hugo, born to Katie and Caleb Medley just after 7:00 a.m. This morning.

Katie and Caleb are high school sweethearts. They knew Katie was expected to deliver the baby this week, so as a treat decided to take in the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." Katie and the baby inside her weren't hurt when the gunfire exploded, but Caleb was shot in the face. He lost his right eye, has some brain damage and is in critical condition.

His friend broke down speaking with CBS.

MICHAEL WEST, FRIEND OF SHOOTING VICTIM: We talk about him because we know he can hear us. We tell him that he needs to get better, because he needs to be a dad.

KAYE (on camera): Doctors here at the hospital have Caleb in a medically induced coma. His brother says Caleb seems to understand what happened. What is unclear is whether or not he's aware he has a new baby boy.

(voice-over): The miracle of friendship may have saved the life of Allie Young, who was inside theater nine with her best friend, Stephanie Davies.

STEPHANIE DAVIES, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: There's smoke, there's explosions, there's blood, there's death, there's guns being fired.

ALLIE YOUNG, SHOOTING VICTIM: I just remember opening my eyes. I'm on the ground, blood everywhere.

KAYE: Alee was struck in the neck. Refusing to let her friend die, Stephanie did something, something so selfless. She stayed with her friend and applied pressure on the hole in her neck. Even President Obama shared their story after visiting them at the hospital here in aurora.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Alee told Stephanie she needed to run. Stephanie refused to go. Instead, actually, with her other hand, called 911 on her cell phone.

KAYE: And after the shooting finally stopped, Stephanie carried her friend across two parking lots to an ambulance.

DAVIES: She saved my life, which I, you know, that's always going to be, you know, a little emotional for me.

KAYE: It is no small miracle that Petra Anderson is alive. The 22-year-old was hit four times when the suspected shooter opened fire in the movie theater. Three shotgun bullets hit her harm. Another sailed through her nose, up the back of her cranium, hitting her skull.

Her pastor, Brad Straight, wrote on his blog, quote, "Her injuries were severe, and her condition was critical." The doctors prior to surgery were concerned because so much of the brain had been traversed by the bullet."

(on camera) Doctors haven't shared exactly what happened, but the young woman was probably saved by something she didn't even know she had. A small channel of fluid running through her skull that can only be picked up with a CAT scan. That channel of fluid likely maneuvered the bullet in the least harmful direction.

(voice-over) In stroke of luck, her pastor blogs, "The shotgun buckshot enters her brain from the exact point of the channel. Like a marble through a small tube, it channels the bullet from Petra's nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times. In the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain.

According to the pastor, if the bullet had entered just a millimeter in any direction, her brain likely would have been destroyed. Petra has already started to speak and walk again and is expected to make a full recovery.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: It's so incredible, Randi. How is her family doing?

KAYE: They are relieved, Anderson, that she is going to recover, but they're dealing with so much. Right now, they have Petra in the hospital obviously trying to get better. And her mother is battling terminal breast cancer right now.

And because they're running out of money, Anderson, they're trying to decide what will they be able to pay for? Is it going to be Petra's medical care or is it going to be her mother's cancer treatment?

So they're asking for help. We have a Web site that we can share with you tonight if you want to help Petra's family. Just go to

And also, for Caleb Medley's family, it's the same situation, Anderson. His bills could reach up to $2 million, we're told. And the Web site to help Caleb is

COOPER: And we'll put both those Web addresses on our Web site at Randi, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.

More on the quirk of anatomy that allowed this remarkable young woman to survive the way she has. We're joined by 360 M.D. and practicing neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So what kind of birth defect could cause this to happen, Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there's a couple, and they're rare. But I sort of was trying to piece this together, Anderson, reading some of the descriptions of what happened to her.

And I want to show you a couple of images. I don't know if you can see these but, you know, there's a normal-looking brain and then the other side is a brain that has something known as a cavum septum pelludicum. You don't need to remember that name, but basically, it's -- it's an extra fluid-filled space sort of in the middle of the brain.

And you can imagine if someone were to be injured, have a bullet injury as was the case here, and the bullet actually were to traverse through that fluid-filled space, not hitting any normal brain, you could, you know, limit if not completely eliminate effective injury.

Also, there's one more image over here. This is slightly more common. If you're looking at it now, it's called an arachnoid cyst. And this is, again, just a big cyst in the brain. It's filled with cerebral spinal fluid. There is no normal brain in that white area, that white fluid. If a bullet were to go through there, again, it could be life-saving, if that's the case.

I actually saw an example like this back when I was a resident in training, Anderson, where someone had what seemed to be a very significant bullet injury to the brain, and they had this arachnoid cyst. They didn't know about it, and it probably saved their life. So that's -- it sounds like that's what they were describing, Anderson.

COOPER: Before I let you go, you're at the International AIDS Conference in Washington. I was there over the weekend for an event for Bill Gates. You spoke to a guy who scientists say is the only man to be cured of AIDS. I met him Saturday night. Tell -- I mean, explain this.

GUPTA: Yes. It's a remarkable story. And let me just say, because you and I both covered stories like this. Scientists don't throw around the word "cured" very often. You know, there's lots scientists here, and they are using that word to describe Timothy Ray Brown.

His story is an interesting one. He had HIV. He developed AIDS. And then on top of it, he developed leukemia, if you can imagine that. And as part of his leukemia treatment, he got a bone-marrow transplant. And they believe the bone-marrow transplant in fact, in a way, taught his cells in his body to reject or not accept infiltration by the AIDS virus.

They're not exactly sure why. They think it was a genetic difference in the bone marrow that he received. But the question, as you might guess, Anderson, is not so much should we do bone-marrow transplants on patients with HIV? It's what can we learn, and can we teach cells in other people's bodies to do the same thing?

It's a clinical cure. He's been five years now off meds. Normal weight, normal appetite. He says he's clinically cured, as not had a problem with HIV/AIDS, Anderson.

COOPER: It's not something, though, that you know, can immediately be utilized for other people who are -- who have AIDS or HIV positive. This is something which -- I mean, it may give some indication of something down the road, but we're a long way off from a cure, yes?

GUPTA: I think so. But you know, again, the idea that they're even using the word "cure," I think, is a big deal. And from being here and talking to scientists over the years, I get the sense that this isn't going to come in little drips and small increments.

I think once they sort of seize upon what exactly, you know, constitutes a clinical cure, it could happen quickly. It's not going to happen tomorrow, to your point. It may be still a decade away. But I think it's going to be a sea change based on what I'm hearing when it eventually does happen, Anderson.

COOPER: Exciting, all these developments. Sanjay, appreciate it, thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, there's other news to tell you about. CNN's Ivan Watson has made his way back inside Syria where the fighting is raging, and the regime appears to be doubling down. He saw the aftermath in just one town. He joins me ahead.


COOPER: Well, fighting continues to rage across Syria. Opposition forces say at least 133 people were killed today. Bashar al-Assad's forces launched major counter offenses in the two biggest forces, regime forces have regained control of the capital of Damascus. Here's what ITN journalist Alex Thompson found in one neighborhood where opposition fighters had recently gained some traction.


ALEX THOMPSON, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Government forces turned helicopter gunships, tanks. Heavy machine guns. On this district for three days.

(on camera) The government says in two days[ time, families can begin moving back into Meidan (ph). But just take a look at what the family will find when they move back to this house. People say yes, of course, the rebel fighters have been pushed out. But they'll fight another day in another way. And there is no chance that President Assad will win this civil war.


COOPER: The regime does appear to be doubling down. Yesterday Syria's foreign ministry spokesman set off a new international outcry when he raised the threat of Syria using its chemical weapons if it comes under foreign attack.

CNN's Ivan Watson has managed to get back inside Syria. Here's what he found in a town just outside of Aleppo.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This bullet-riddled town is mostly deserted except for rebels and a few shell-shocked residents. This street was nicknamed the street of death, because anybody who set foot on here was likely to be shot.

(voice-over) The retreating government troops left behind a mini- graveyard of burned-out armored vehicles. And pro-regime graffiti with a terrifying warning. The words say "Either Assad or we'll burn this city.


COOPER: Another sign of just how bad things have become. According to the U.N., more than 10,000 Iraqi refugees who had sought refugee in Syria have actually returned to Iraq in the last week. It is that dangerous.

Ivan Watson joins me now from inside Syria.

Ivan, I want to ask you something about -- that you witnessed, that you were able to videotape. A man basically kind of pleading for his life and then being kind of manhandled and taken away. Do you know what happened to that person or what he was accused of doing?

COOPER: Well, the rebels told us that he was a suspected looter and that he'd be brought before some kind of rebel judicial council that had been set up. The rebels have had to fill the security vacuum and act as basically police in the areas that they've taken over.

But the way the guy was screaming and the words he said, "Please don't kill me, please pardon me," suggested he was terribly, terribly afraid. And given the scale of the atrocities we've seen in Syria, you have to wonder whether or not he was being set up for some kind of revenge punishment.

COOPER: Ivan, you spent time inside Syria before with opposition fighters, with rebels. How has the situation changed from your vantage point? Do they look more organized? Better armed?

WATSON: They're definitely more organized. We see rebel battalions all throughout the countryside in this rebel-controlled enclave here. They have better weapons. We've seen them carrying a Belgium-made assault rifles that they refer to as NATO, after the NATO military alliance we're hearing about. Much better rocket-propelled grenades that have proven effective at taking out tanks and armored personnel carriers.

So they're definitely better organized. There are fighters trickling in across the border. We came in with a young fighter, a Syrian who bought up equipment in Dubai, working as a car mechanic, and was coming in to start his own rebel brigade.

And a lot of this seems to be galvanized by the deadly bombing last Wednesday in Damascus that killed four senior government security chiefs. And that's pushed the rebels to try to capitalize on that moment of weakness for the regime to try to seize as much territory as possible.

COOPER: How capable are they of actually holding on to territory?

WATSON: I've been driving on sections of highway that I couldn't drive on last February and March. So it shows that they have been able to capture towns. We visited one town, Etatic (ph), that had really been devastated by months of fighting. And ultimately, the rebels were able to capture it.

But it is slow going. They're going meter by meter, foot by foot, village by village. And as they push the regime forces back, the government forces still fired deadly salvos of artillery from a distance, but there's no question that they hardened up the front lines and they've been able to establish enclaves, particularly along the borders.

And they've seized several key border gates. At least three they claim within the last week. And if they can hold onto those, then they'll be able to establish a buffer zone and doing it on their own without the help, for example, in Libya that we saw of a NATO aerial bombardment.

COOPER: Who are the fighters that you're seeing? I mean, they're obviously concerned. There have been reports about involvement of jihadist groups, al Qaeda-influenced groups. In addition to the local fighters who have just taken up arms after their demonstrations were attacked. What are you seeing?

WATSON: There's no question that the overwhelming number of fighters that I've seen are Syrians. And they're from these communities. They're students. They're defected police officers, many defected soldiers.

I got a tour with a guy who was a real-estate agent, who's a grandfather who now wears camouflage and is a rebel fighter.

But there are some foreigners. I met a man who came up to me and said he was a Turk. In the community I'm staying in right now -- we can't tell you the name of this village for security reasons -- the locals say there are a number of North African fighters here. The locals seem to welcome them.

The problem, though, is that there aren't enough weapons for all the volunteers, whether they're Syrians or foreign fighters that are coming in to fight. And that's what the rebel commanders are demanding help with. And what I'm really starting to hear, Anderson, is anger at the U.S. and at the European Union. That there's been a lot of talk against Bashar al-Assad and his dictatorship but no help to the opposition here. And for the first time, I'm hearing people actually cursing the U.S.

COOPER: Ivan Watson, appreciate the reporting. Stay safe. Thanks.

Well, tonight, a mystery deepens in Iowa. Two young cousins who appeared to have vanished without a trace. What new clues have police turned up. And where the investigation is heading now. That's next.


COOPER: Tonight in "Crime & Punishment," two young cousins in Iowa seem to have vanished without a trace. They went for a bike ride 11 days ago. They haven't been seen since. Now, authorities have pulled out all the stops to find them. The search has been intense. Tom Foreman has latest on the investigation.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A week and a half since 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins and 10-year-old Lyric Cook Morrissey went for a bike ride, and still there is no sign of what happened to them.

Despite the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, dozens of police, the FBI and even tracking dogs, investigators appear to have few clues. Elizabeth's parents on ABC's "Good Morning America" this week.

HEATHER COLLINS, ELIZABETH'S MOTHER: They just tell us that they do have a couple of leads, and that is it.

TAMMY BROUSSEAU, AUNT OF MISSING GIRLS: It's as though they disappeared into thin air in broad daylight.

FOREMAN: Shortly after they vanished, attention focused on 25- acre Myers Lake. The girls' bikes and a purse were found not far from it, and dogs indicated they might be in the water. But after an exhaustive search, which included using sonar and partially draining the lake...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators are confident that the two girls are not in Myers Lake. This case is now being handled as an abduction.

FOREMAN: That revelation led to a fresh surge of hope for some searchers, especially since it came along with police claims that Lyric's parents, Misty and Dan Morrissey, had drug troubles in the past, were not fully cooperating.

MISTY MORRISSEY, LYRIC'S MOTHER: I did a polygraph this morning. Dan has yet to do his. He'll do his later. Several of our other family members did theirs yesterday.

FOREMAN: Since then, however, police suggest the couple has become more helpful, the mother taking a second polygraph test which she says she passed. But the mystery has just grown deeper.

DAN MORRISSEY, FATHER OF LYRIC: It's just baffling to try to figure out the pieces to the puzzle. Looking at it, it doesn't make any sense.

FOREMAN (on camera): Police have put out a call for a man seen boating on the lake but not as a suspect. They say they just want to know if he saw something. Indeed, that's been their message to everyone from the very start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This town isn't the biggest, but it's certainly not the smallest either, so someone had to see these two girls.

FOREMAN: Meanwhile, the families are putting out a call of their own to anyone who might have their girls.

COLLINS: Take them somewhere safe. Take them to a gas station. Target. Just take them anywhere. We miss them dearly.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Tom Foreman, CNN.


COOPER: There's a lot more we're following tonight. Susan Hendricks joins us with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.


Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," has died. Sherman Hemsley was 74.

In Chicago, after saying the man's soul was as barren as dark space, a judge sentenced the former brother-in-law of singer Jennifer Hudson to life in prison without parole. William Balfour was convicted of the 2008 killings of Hudson's brother, mother and 7-year- old nephew.

Moody's is putting Penn State on notice. The credit agency says it may cut the university's rating of AA1. That is just part of the growing financial fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal which includes a $60 million fine from NCAA and other monetary risks associated with ongoing investigations.

And the expedition that hoped to find the wreckage of Amelia Earhart's plane off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean has failed. The famous pilot and her navigator disappeared 75 years ago -- Anderson.

COOPER: Susan, thanks.

A blast from the "RidicuList" past is next. Coming up, an answer to the question, so what has the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse been up to lately?


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, finally, a solution to a problem that has plagued political campaigns over and over. It happens all the time. Politicians use a song at their campaign rallies or maybe in an ad. The musicians ask them to stop using their work without their permission. Sometimes it ends up in court.

There is at least one man, one very motivated and very prolific idea man, who has a solution. He has taken it upon himself to compose a campaign song for Mitt Romney. Let's take a listen, shall we?


WILLIAM TAPLEY, THIRD EAGLE OF THE APOCALYPSE (singing): World War Three, that's Obama's plan for you and me. That's why I'm voting for Mitt Romney. He's a hero in my mind.


COOPER: Yes, our old friend William Tapley is back. Do you remember William Tapley, Bill to you and me? YouTube video poster extraordinaire? But you probably remember him by his other name. He has a few of them.


TAPLEY: I'm your host, William Tapley, also known as the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and the Co-Prophet of the End Times.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Who is the other prophet of the end times? He's the co- prophet.

Anyway, just on an off-chance you are unfamiliar with the third Eagle of the Apocalypse and Co-Prophet of the End Times, here's a small sampling of his previous work.


TAPLEY: You will not be raptured if you are using condoms.

The topic of this program is why a woman should not be president of the United States.

The news media is demonic.

(SINGING) World War Three, don't blame me. Store some water, food and fuel immediately.


COOPER: He's a Renaissance man. There's no doubt about it. So when I heard that the co-prophet of the end times had a new video and a new song, I had to say, I've got to say, I was just happy to hear that he seems to be branching out from what we know is his favorite topic. He and I actually went back and forth about this for a period of time last summer. That topic being, of course, how in his mind, the Denver International Airport is chock-full of phallic symbols.


TAPLEY: The bird standing upright is phallic. The shape of the sign is phallic. And even the name is phallic.

Many of the shapes on the horse's tail and mane are phallic shapes. These sure look like phallic symbols to me. I don't know. What do you think, Mr. Cooper? Maybe you think they're ice-cream cones.

The outdoor baggage handling area is in the shape of a phallus. Let's take a closer look. Up here we see the testicle area, and out here the phallus. What will do you suppose this street name is that runs right down the center? You guessed it. It's Pena Boulevard.


COOPER: Yes. So I'm going to go out on a limb on this one. I'm going to guess the Romney campaign is not going to be interested in the song stylings of the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse. I haven't called them or anything on this; I'm just guessing.

But he will always soar to great heights right here on "The RidicuList."

That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.