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Syria in Crisis; Nine Olympic Athletes Suspended for Doping; Interview with Debra Messing
Aired July 25, 2012 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Now this: top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
The largest city in Syria is hurtling toward chaos. And I'm not talking about Damascus. I'm talking about Aleppo. If Damascus is Syria's Washington, then Aleppo is New York City. Today, government fighters are streaming into Aleppo to try to crush this armed revolt, as they did just last week in the capital city. And look at this video. This is what awaits them. I want to share this with you.
Several hours ago, we gathered around the newsroom and we watched this video feed in. This is Aleppo. You see the smoke and the fire. That's a government tank in flames. Later, rebels were seen in other government tanks. They had managed to commandeer those as well.
And more pictures. You see this? What is this? This is a burnt-out police station seized and burned today by the rebels. Just take a look and listen. These are Syrians. You see the picture, foot on President Bashar al-Assad. They had taken this photo, the portrait from the captured police station they ransacked and then they burned. As you know, we have struggled to get our crews, get our journalists inside Syria. It's been incredibly frustrating for us here at CNN.
And the Assad government has put the country really under lock and key. Syria's neighbor to the north, Turkey, today has sealed off the Syrian border.
With all of that in mind, CNN's Ivan Watson has entered northern Syria. We will speak with him live here in just a moment.
But I want to bring in CNN's Hala Gorani.
I know you're incredibly familiar with Syria.
First, just talk to me about the significance of the fighting now in Aleppo.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aleppo is the country's economic hub. It's the most populous city in the country. Damascus is the administrative capital, a very old and ancient and populated city.
But Aleppo traditionally has been a trading center. There you have a Google map of Aleppo. Here I recognize it right away is essentially the most famous landmark, the 13th century medieval citadel. (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: This is the cradle of civilization, this area of the world.
GORANI: Absolutely. This is by any measure a very old city. By some accounts, the oldest continuous land habited city in the world.
BALDWIN: We highlighted some of the areas in Aleppo where some of these revolts I know have been breaking out. Just to explain to people, in Damascus where again highlighting other areas in different neighborhoods where people have revolted, so far it's calm. I say that loosely because the government has come in and quelled those particular revolts.
GORANI: Yes. And you're seeing Midan, for instance, if I can look at it just a little bit this way and see some of the old neighborhoods very close to the center where you had Free Syrian Army rebellions in full swing. The government knows how important it is to maintain ahold of Damascus and Aleppo and coming in with the big guns and so far at least retaking control of those neighborhoods.
BALDWIN: But could the same thing happen in Aleppo?
GORANI: That's the expectation. Now that you have Free Syrian Army fighters close very to the center, and I think if we can bring back that Google map, you see this is the old city here. We saw video and it was confirmed to me by one of my sources in Aleppo as well that the Free Syrian Army rebels were about a kilometer away from the citadel.
This is truly the center of the city. The expectation now is hang on the regime isn't give up control of Aleppo in one day. They're going to come in. We already hear that from the northern part of Syria some reinforcements are moving from Idlib, the northern provinces, to Aleppo in order to reinforce army troops there and start the battle to retake control of those neighborhoods.
BALDWIN: What about also just the significance? As we mentioned, Turkey to the north. There are these different border crossings. These are the different areas where they have blocked now the crossings.
Why is that significant and talk about just getting things to and from both countries?
GORANI: Well, Turkey has blocked the commercial border crossing, but it's promising humanitarian officials at the U.N. that it will continue to allow refugees.
Syria is a country that's strategically important in the region. All you have to do look at this map. Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey -- this is a country that the control of which matters regionally because it has so much influence on bordering countries that have very important strategic influence in the region. But you can see it there on this map. Now this is where it's all happening, Aleppo and Syria. We're going to over the next few days see battles between regime forces and the rebels. It could be extremely bloody. BALDWIN: We were seeing saying early just quickly that the best metaphor, the best parallel, if you will, Damascus is like our Washington. Aleppo like New York City.
GORANI: Right. Yes. I think one is commercially important. The other one is politically and administratively important. But in terms of the population, they are closer say than Washington and New York.
GORANI: But even in terms of the population, you have three or four million in one and a little more than four million in the other.
But, yes, it is a good distinction, it's a good way to explain perhaps to our American viewers the difference between the two cities.
BALDWIN: Hala Gorani, thank you, as always.
GORANI: Thank you.
BALDWIN: As we mentioned, we do have Ivan Watson, and we will get to him here in just a second, but first I just want to show you something that certainly caught our eye this past Monday. Syrian rebels armed with automatic weapons, AK-47s, you see some of these rebels.
They have their faces obscured by masks. Now, if you would, turn your attention toward the man addressing the camera and to the banner he is standing behind. It reads in part, there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah. White lettering, black background, and it's significant and we're pointing this out to you right now because the message and the format are very, very reminiscent of al Qaeda.
Bob Baer joins me live now from Irvine, California, and Bob is a former CIA operative. He was a former director of CIA operations in the Middle East.
Bob, welcome. Welcome back to you.
We keep reading stories. I just read another one this morning in the paper about al Qaeda glomming onto this chaos, this sectarian conflict we're seeing playing out in Syria. You're talking to people in Syria. What are you hearing? Are they in there and if so how big of a threat are they?
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, Brooke, first of all, this is a mess.
You have to consider that violence like this has not hit Syria really since the Mongol invasion. The Syrians are not used to this. The country has disintegrated in a major way. The Free Syrian Army, don't consider it an army. There's no command and control. There's nobody in charge. A lot of these are roaming gangs.
What we see in situations like this, we saw it in Somalia, we see it in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Anyway al Qaeda is attracted to, it's to chaos. Islam becomes the default of any sort of order. Additionally, the whole idea of suicide bombings has clearly moved into Syria. These people, these small units are doing major damage to the regime and adding to the chaos. Very seriously, this is a situation that al Qaeda will take advantage of and we will see more of it.
BALDWIN: A lot of people, including James Clapper, director of national intelligence, a couple months pointing out absolutely the suicide bombings are the hallmark of these jihadists.
I just want to show our viewers this map here once again. As Hala so perfectly pointed out, this is so key in the Middle East. Because you have Syria and then right here you have Israel just a stone's throw away from the capital city of Damascus. Then you have Lebanon. You have Jordan to the south and Turkey to the north.
Geographically alone, Syria would be a heck of a foothold, Bob Baer, for al Qaeda, would it not?
BAER: It's the cornerstone of the Middle East, always has been. You add to that -- it's alarming, but it's the truth -- is chemical weapons.
The problem is with the invasion of Iraq, we expected to find them. But that threat was always overblown. The Syrians really do have binary sarin and V.X. gas. You can put this on the end of an artillery shell and you can fire it.
If you have the lunatics getting their hands on one of these things and fire one into Israel, anything can happen. That threat, is it real or not? We don't know. That's the whole problem with the chaos there.
BALDWIN: It's difficult to see actually material evidence on the ground in Syria. But I know it's certainly a threat and certainly a fear.
Bob Baer, thank you so much.
As we mentioned, Inside Syria, we have a crew. We have Ivan Watson on the ground. We can't tell you exactly where he is. We can just tell you that he is somewhere in northern Syria.
Ivan, I know you have access to people who are coming and going inside of the city of Aleppo. What are you hearing? You're talking to people. What are they saying about the situation there?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fighting has been intense since Friday, basically.
The rebels mounted an offensive on Syria in the wake of a bombing in Damascus that killed four, at least four top Syrian security officers, chiefs, ministers and so son. They have tried to capitalize on this blow to the regime by trying to capture the commercial capital the country. The fighting has been fierce. Every village I have traveled through has sent some of its local rebel brigades to the front line to try to capture this key lynchpin city.
And they are coming back not quite in coffins, but they're suffering casualties. We have seen two funerals just by chance driving through villages in the last two days for rebels who were killed by helicopter gunships, which they complain they don't have weapons to fire back against.
They can't reach this lethal aircraft that's bringing down some of the fighters. We're also seeing signs of the devastating impact this is having on the civilian population, Brooke. We have gone through villages that were virtually deserted. We have seen cars, truck, vans loaded with civilians fleeing Aleppo with their belongings.
And what is totally twisted about this is in some cases the civilians fled their villages first to Aleppo because it had been a safe haven from the fighting and instability and now that the fighting has erupted in the neighborhoods of this city, now they are fleeing back to their villages to escape the second round of fighting.
BALDWIN: This is Aleppo. This is the situation there. I was just talking with Hala about Turkey and these different points on this map where they have now cut off at particular points on the border crossing. My question to you is are the refugees, are they able the leave Syria and head northward or not?
WATSON: I don't think we have seen any closure of the informal border crossings that have been functioning now for more than a year that more than 40,000 have used to escape fighting here and they are now living in Turkish camps. Haven't got any indication that the Turks will stop that constant flow of civilians going back and forth nor the flow of fighters or journalists like myself who the fighters and the civilians in many cases they are just jumping through holes in the long border fence.
And the Turkish border police have taken a very laissez-faire approach to dealing with them. I met with a Libyan fighter today kitted out in full camouflage carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle who just came in the border from Turkey before dawn with four of his fellow fighter buddies and they were going to join a group of foreign fighters battling in one of these Syrian cities.
That gives you a sense of how pourous this border is. Whether or not the Turks completely shut the official border crossing, it's not likely to have an impact on the informal traffic we have seen along the border fence.
BALDWIN: Well, 17 months and counting. The slaughter continues. Ivan Watson, we appreciate you and your crew. Please keep telling these stories within the borders of Syria.
A lot more unfolding right now, including this. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BALDWIN: Police shoot and kill two men and now one city is on edge. The voices of the protesters are getting louder and the violence is out of hand.
I'm Brooke Baldwin, and the news is now.
(voice-over): They're calling him the serial infector. A medical worker accused of giving dozens of folks hepatitis C across the country.
Plus, as Wall Street braces for Facebook's earnings, how much are you worth to the company? Wait until you hear the answer.
And from Grace to activist, Debra Messing joins me live on what she wants the world to know about AIDS.
BALDWIN: It is game over for nine Olympic athletes suspended for doping offenses. Apparently, the track athletes destroyed their Olympic dreams just days before the Games begin. No Americans are in this group here, so the banned athletes include three Russians, two Ukrainians, a Bulgarian, a Moroccan, a Greek, and a Turkish national.
CNN's Alex Thomas joins me live.
Alex, hold in the world did they get caught?
ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, dreadfully sad to be talking about doping or effectively cheating in sport with the happy sounds of rehearsals for the opening ceremony taking place in the main Olympic Stadium behind me.
But these athletes were caught thanks to a new tactic by the drug testers and that's biological passports. Like your regular passport that keeps track of where you have traveled around the world, the biological passport keeps track of changes in athletes' urine and blood samples over a period of time.
Actually the sample that caught out these nine were taken last year at the World Athletic Championships in Daegu in South Korea. When testers compared them again with samples from more recent times they could see the changes and variations in things like the count of red blood cells.
It really caught them out. And just to show how red-handed they were caught, seven of the nine I think admitted that they had cheated and immediately accepted their bans.
BALDWIN: So they say, yes, that was me. I know that the IAAF says it may be conducting hundreds more of these as you mentioned them the biological passport tests during these Olympic Games. That then begs the question. Might we see more doping bans coming up?
THOMAS: I think without question throughout the Games, without a thought.
And while that might make some fans nervous thinking can we trust the performances we're seeing, the drug testers will say actually catching them shows we are ahead of the cheats. That's the big battle for scientists in this game. Can they invent better and more sophisticated testing to keep up with the better and more sophisticated cheating, if you like?
And actually if they smash the systematic rings that we have seen in things like cycling's Tour de France and it's left to just rogue individuals to try and cheat with drugs, then the testers are in a better position. In this case, the IAAF, world's athletics governing body, said this was sophisticated doping involving human growth hormone and synthetic testosterone, although a biochemist I spoke to a little bit earlier said actually it's not sophisticated doping, but at least it shows the testers are getting the job done.
BALDWIN: Live in London, Alex Thomas, thank you. Opening ceremonies this Friday.
You know you go to the hospital for treatment, right? What if you get infected instead? Hospitals in seven states are contacting patients after they say a man was intentionally spreading hepatitis C.
BALDWIN: A hepatitis C care right now in multiple states all because of the alleged actions of one man, a traveling lab tech.
Listen to this federal prosecutor speaking in New Hampshire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KACAVAS, FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Kwiatkowski was here originally as a traveling med tech. He knew he had hepatitis C as of at least June of 2010.
He continued to divert drugs and permit tainted syringes to be used on patients under his care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The Feds say this man, 32-year-old David Kwiatkowski, infected at least 30 people when he worked as a medical tech in New Hampshire. But look at the map, because these are the states where this man has worked as a traveling tech. Each is very much so now investigating. Thousands of patients need testing.
Pennsylvania was just added now to this group.
I want to bring in our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.
And I say hep C, yikes. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yikes is right.
Hep C is serious. It attacks your liver. It's the number one reason why people need liver transplants in this country.
BALDWIN: Wow. How did this happen? How are investigators saying he spread this?
COHEN: They haven't given details about him, but they call this a drug diversion case.
And let me tell you what they mean by diversion case usually. Let's say I'm a lab tech and you're the patient. And I have got a syringe of let's say fentanyl, which is a very powerful narcotic. I like fentanyl. I want some. I give myself a little and then I give you yours. And you can get hep C, or I like it a lot, I give myself all of it, fill it up with saline, and give you saline.
Those are two ways that...
BALDWIN: Still, we're sharing the needle.
COHEN: Still, we're sharing the needle. And if I have got hep C, then you have got a good chance of getting hep C.
BALDWIN: He was a traveling lab tech. Tell me, there has to be background checks from the hospital. Right?
COHEN: I'm sure there probably are. These are agency that place health care workers for a living. That's their profession.
This is very common. Nurses, lab techs, all sorts of people go through the agencies. Even if they had done a background check on him, though, here is the issue. Nothing might have come up. He might not have any background at all.
And I want to tell you about an FBI affidavit that I was reading that has some details that relate to this. What they found is that in 2008 when he was working in a different state, they found -- the FBI agent interviewed a hospital employee and they said an employee in an operating room observed Kwiatkowski enter an operating room, lift his shirt, put a syringe in his pants, and exit the room.
They then noticed some fentanyl was missing. Three empty syringes bearing fentanyl labels were founds on his person, were found on Kwiatkowski. An empty morphine sulfate syringe and a needled were later found in his locker. They then did a drug test. They found fentanyl and opiates in Kwiatkowski's urine.
This was in 2008. He then went on to work in more hospitals in more states up until just recently. They are supposed to report this to the Drug Enforcement Agency. We don't know if they did or if they didn't. BALDWIN: Quickly because if I'm sitting here and I'm thinking could this have been me, guys, throw the map up, the map of the United States with the different states. What do you do if you live in one of these states and you're worried?
COHEN: If you lived in one of these states and received medical care and you're worried that he worked in your hospital, contact your State department of health.
You go on CNN.com. You will see our story and it lists many of the hospitals involved.
BALDWIN: OK. Frightening. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.
BALDWIN: A city is very much so on edge here as the voices of protesters get louder and louder every night, the violence out of hand all over shootings by police. We're live in Anaheim next.
Plus, Cal Ripken's mother abducted by gunpoint. We're learning more about this nightmarish incident for her.
BALDWIN: The mayor of Anaheim, California, we talked to not too long ago says nobody wants to see another night like last night.
Let me just set the scene for you, police firing rubber bullets into angry mobs, crowds, spitting at police, taunting police, tossing rocks, setting fires in trash cans. And you see the store windows there shattered, two dozen people hauled off to jail, more than 20 businesses damaged.
Protesters, they are furious about these two police shootings that happened over the weekend, one involving an unarmed man.
Casey Wian is live in Los Angeles with more on this.
Casey, I talked to Mayor Tom Tait a little while ago. And he seems to think that the violence is over. He talked to me about this City Council meeting last night. And he's hoping it's over. Set the scene for me today.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's what happened last night, Brooke.
There was a City Council meeting. And part of that meeting was designated to address these communities' concerns over these two officer-involved fatal shootings of suspected gang members over the weekend. There wasn't enough room in the City Council chambers for everyone who wanted to attend that meeting.
And so the police officers saying, acting out of safety, trying to keep the emergency exits cleared, backed everyone away from the chambers. Up to 1,000 people ended up converging on downtown and venting their anger at not being able to get into that meeting and at these two shootings over the weekend, one, as you mentioned, of an unarmed man who police say was in a very high-crime, known drug area. He was known to them as a gang member.
They say that he reached for something in his waistband and turned toward officers. The officers thought that was a gun, fired at the man twice and killed him. Now this man's mother -- Manuel Diaz is his name, 25 years old, his mother disputes that official police account. She has hired an attorney. She's expected to sue the City of Anaheim.
According to her what happened is her son was speaking with friends when he was confronted by police. He was shot in the back, according to her, and shot again as he fell down. Obviously two different stories here. It's being investigated, the shooting, by outside agencies.
The Orange County district attorney's office, state agencies and federal investigators will be conducting an independent investigation. City officials are hoping the community will remain calm until the full facts of this incident are known, Brooke.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hoping the community will remain calm. We won't know until night. Last night was night number four. What, Casey, what is being done to keep the peace this evening?
WIAN: Well, police are very prepared. The police chief did participate in a news conference with the mayor. One of the things he was very upset about is the fact that a lot of outside agitators, in his words, were part of these protests last night. Let's hear what the mayor had to say about that earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR TOM TAIT, ANAHEIM CALIFORNIA: I'm disturbed by the events that took place outside city hall. Some protesters, many who we believe were not from our city, chose to take advantage of this evening of dialogue to try to create chaos in our downtown neighborhoods. They chose violence and vandalism over respectful communications.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WIAN: Police say they have help from other local law enforcement agencies while they deal with these possible protests, if they continue tonight. But the mayor has said that they have met with Latino communities' leaders and they say that no one wants this violence to continue. So hopefully it will remain calm tonight. But we just don't know, Brooke.
BALDWIN: We don't know. Casey Wian, thank you so much. We'll be watching (inaudible) California very closely.
Also today we're getting more information about the 74-year-old mother of baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. She at least is safe after being kidnapped at gunpoint from her own home in Aberdeen, Maryland, yesterday morning. Lisa Sylvester is in Aberdeen, where I know police chief there, I met with reporters just last hour -- tell us, fill in the blanks, Lisa. What happened?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Brooke. Here's what we know at this time. And it was -- this all started about yesterday morning around 7:00 am, 8:00 am, when apparently a man went to Violet Ripken's house and he essentially abducted her at gunpoint. He put her in her own vehicle and he spent most of yesterday just driving around through central Maryland.
That's according to the Aberdeen Police Department. And it was only until last night, it was around 8:30 last night when in a neighboring county, in Baltimore County, where someone saw a suspicious vehicle. And they called it into the Baltimore County Police Department.
That tip eventually led to Violet Ripken being found outside of her home in her car early this morning around 6:15 or so, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Do we know if Violet Ripken was targeted at all? Do police have any clue as far as a motive or is it just too early?
SYLVESTER: You know, that's a great question, Brooke. You know, did -- the question is, you know, did this person, this suspect, did he know that this was Cal Ripken's mother?
Well, what the authorities are telling us at this point is there was no ransom that was ever discussed. No ransom ever came up. And we heard a short while ago from the Aberdeen police chief, Henry Trabert, who had this to say about the suspect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF HENRY TRABERT, ABERDEEN, MARYLAND, POLICE: Police are still looking for a white male, late 30s to early 40s with a tall, thin build. He was last seen wearing a light-colored shirt, camo pants and eyeglasses. We believe the male is still armed with the handgun and should be considered dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: So in addition to that individual, they are also asking for people, anyone who might have seen her car, which was a silver Lincoln Town Car; 1998, I believe, was the model of that year. They are asking anyone with information who might have seen this car, might have seen anything unusual or a man fitting that description to go ahead and give them a call.
And you know, we should say at this point it's a mystery what this individual's motive was. But this is really a high profile case now, Brooke.
BALDWIN: It is. At least she's OK. We'll be watching with you, Lisa Sylvester, in Aberdeen, Maryland, thank you, Lisa.
As for the president, President Barack Obama getting to enjoy some quality time in the French Quarter tonight. New Orleans is the last stop on his three-day campaign trip through five states. He'll be giving a speech at the National Urban League Conference and he'll also hold fundraisers, including one at the House of Blues.
The trip is ending just as the numbers are looking up for the president. Take a look with me. CNN averaged a number of recent national polls, and we found that the president is leading Mitt Romney by four points, 47 percent to 43 percent.
Now look what a whale did to his trainer at Sea World in San Diego. We're showing you because the trainer is OK. But how can this video be used against Sea World? We're on the case, next.
Newly released video shows how life as a Sea World trainer can go from fun to frightening, really, on the turn of a dime. Warning to you: it might be tough to watch this video. But here we go. This video, watch closely with me. It shows a killer whale at Sea World.
This is San Diego. Kasatkas (ph) the whale, dragging its trainer. See the trainer there alongside it. Foot stuck for over a minute, and how the trainer, Ken Peters (ph) struggles just to try to get to the surface of the water here. This video is actually from 2006. It was used in a worker safety hearing in September, but it was just released as part of a public information request.
The whale pulled Peters down a second time. Ultimately, again, we're telling you this is the story here -- as you can see he's fine. He got away. But you can see that Kasatkas (ph) tried to pass through a fence to get to him. The trainer suffered a broken foot.
I want to bring in criminal defense attorney Drew Findling. He was on the case. Welcome, sir. Good to see you back here.
DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Great to be here.
BALDWIN: Talk to me about this video. Is this just lawsuit central now?
Well, I don't think it's really going to open the floodgates for lawsuits because the deal is that these employees have a limited number of places that they can do this type of work. So if they start suing places like Sea World they won't have anyplace to work. These are people that have dedicated their life to this kind of specialty. So they're really not going to be the ones to file lawsuits.
BALDWIN: They're not going to be, you say. Let me tell you what Sea World is saying. And they quote, Sea World, "This video clearly shows the trainer's remarkable composure and skillful execution of an emergency response plan, both of which helped result in the successful outcome with minor injuries.
It should be noted that CalOSHA did not issue any citations to Sea World as a result of this incident. Sea World's trainer returned to work shortly after the incident and remains a member of the team at Shamu Stadium to this day."
If a worker were to have gotten much more injured than simply a broken foot, do you think though, despite everything you just said, that there's justification to sue?
Well, clearly they are assuming a certain degree of risk. That being said, I mean, that was cleverly written by Sea World's attorneys. It goes without saying, that -- this happened in 2006. And what happened was, they didn't even respond. They didn't change their normal habits in the workplace.
It took the federal government in their OSHA case, when the United States of America came in, that thereafter said no longer during the show will we put these people in with these killer whales. We'll put barriers up between them as well.
So there's clearly been changes. I think what is going to be important is when you look at the lawsuit that's pending in Orlando, where a trainer was actually killed.
FINDLING: 2010, I'm sure those lawyers -- because that case is pending. Right now we're looking at this video that just became available to the public. And the big question is why did it become available to the public?
It did because the author of a book that just came out about near- death experiences against Sea World filed this OSHA request. So this is out there and it's going to be looked at by those lawyers in Orlando.
BALDWIN: Wow. Drew Findling, "On the Case," Drew, thank you so much.
FINDLING: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: And now this from "Grace" to activist. Debra Messing joins me live on what she wants the world to know about AIDS. Don't miss my conversation with her. There she is. Hello. Next.
DEBRA MESSING, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: Hi.
BALDWIN: For the first time in a generation, the International AIDS Conference is right here in the United States. This is the world's largest gathering ever on the disease. And really the buzz is all about the chance of this first AIDS-free generation since the disease erupted back in the '80s. And here -- just a couple of featured speakers here on how far the world has come since then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELTON JOHN, MUSICIAN: Ladies and gentlemen, by all rights, I shouldn't be here today. I should be dead, six feet under in a wooden box. I should have contracted HIV in the 1980s and died in the 1990s, just like Freddy Mercury, just like Rock Hudson.
BILL GATES, CEO, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Go back to 2003, almost nobody in Africa was getting treatment. We thought of treatment as a $10,000-a-year type thing. So everything was stacked against saving these lives. And yet a variety of people, a lot of people here, decided it shouldn't turn out that way. The Global Fund was created. PEPFAR was created.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And another speaker at the conference known for her punchlines, Debra Messing. You knew her, you loved her from the hit TV sitcom, "Will and Grace." She had a much, much different purpose today and yesterday. The actress and AIDS activist wasn't trying to make people laugh but dream, dream about what the world could be like when certain what-ifs came true. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MESSING: What if boys and men were routinely circumcised? What if more people stayed faithful to their partners? What if stigma and discrimination didn't keep people from learning the truth about HIV? What if more people got tested? It's fast, painless and confidential. I speak from experience. I was tested at Irene's (ph) local clinic. I had the result within 20 minutes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So Debra mentioned a woman by the name of Irene. She has HIV and Debra Messing met her during her trip to Zambia back in May as an ambassador of Population Services International.
I want to bring her in. Here she is. Debra Messing joins me live in Washington.
BALDWIN: Hello, Debra. It's wonderful to have you on.
MESSING: Thank you for having me.
BALDWIN: Well, nearly every AIDS expert in the world is smack dab in that city where you're sitting right now for this AIDS conference. And this is the first time it's happened in the U.S. in 22 years.
And I lived, I worked in D.C. I covered the AIDS epidemic because I'm sure, as you know, in the District of Columbia, they have the worst HIV rate in the nation. It's 3 percent. So I want you to just first tell me off the top here why you're there, why you're begging the world to care.
MESSING: Well, I was inspired to get involved because I had a personal loss 20 years ago. My teacher died of AIDS complications. And then I got involved with the global health organization PSI. They were the ones that I traveled with to Zambia, where I was able to see and learn how the combination HIV prevention approach is working. It's so exciting that, as you've said, for the first time in history an AIDS-free generation is really within sight. These innovations, these interventions are working. It's just a matter of getting them to the people who need them. People are living much longer when they finally get on ARVs.
I had the privilege of meeting a woman named Concilia (ph). You might have a picture of us.
BALDWIN: We do.
MESSING: And --
BALDWIN: We have it.
MESSING: -- and it was --
BALDWIN: She was emaciated, it looks like.
MESSING: She was -- it's the same person in that picture.
BALDWIN: It's incredible.
MESSING: And that picture was taken the day she began her ARVs. And you can see now, after she simply -- it was just a matter of getting the medicine. She is now robust and healthy and happy.
At the time before she had her medicine, she was being cared for by her 3-year-old daughter. She was too weak to get up to get water. And now she is strong and an involved mother and working. And so she represents that this really is a death to life --
MESSING: It is.
MESSING: It is. And we're just here to encourage our government and policymakers to stay the course, that -- to not stop now. The commitment, the strong commitment finally and politically with policymakers will make all the difference.
BALDWIN: I want to -- I want to -- if you will, stand by, and I'm going to take you over a break, because I want to talk to you. We just saw a picture of you taking a test in Zambia, and I want you to tell me about that experience. Another huge issue, I've been talking to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, you talked to him; the stigma, the discrimination that comes from this.
And also, I want to ask you about your son and how you tell your son, how you raised your son and raise awareness when it comes to being careful. Stay with he.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: We are grateful to be talking to Debra Messing, activist and AIDS activist. Her pioneer TV show "Will & Grace," which ended in 2006, most definitely brought gay issues right into your living room. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
"GRACE ADLER": Well, we did it. I was terrified at first but it turned out that there was just a little prick, a little pain and then it was over.
"JACK MCFARLAND": You know, he's standing right behind you.
"DANNY": We had our HIV test today.
"KAREN WALKER": I had a endive salad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So you joked about it then. You're talking about it very seriously now. You took the HIV test, Debra, when you were in Zambia. You said it was, what, 20 minutes and over. And I just want to ask you about that and also a huge roadblock or challenge here is the stigma that comes along with this. What do you tell people?
MESSING: It's true. The stigma and the discrimination is the thing that is stopping people from actually going and getting tested and being empowered with the knowledge of what their status is.
And that's the most important thing. That's the first step. And so that's why, when I was in Zambia, I had it -- I did the test so that I could speak from experience. It took a second to actually do the test. And then I waited 20 minutes and I had the results. And the thing that's extraordinary about the work that's being done is that it's a combination approach.
MESSING: And so not only did I get my status, but then I immediately was counseled. If I had tested positive, I would have been told how to stay healthy, how to eat in order to keep myself fortified, now having the virus, where to go to get the ARVs. And as someone who tested negative, I was counseled on how to maintain that negative status.
BALDWIN: So you could have been prepared. You would have been armed with knowledge. Final question for you, if you can, just put on your mom hat, because I know you're a mom to 8-year-old Ronan. And here's a cute picture. And I know you have a couple years here to work on it.
BALDWIN: But I just am curious for other moms out there, who are watching, you know, how do you talk to your son about, you know, HIV prevention? Have you even thought for a millisecond about how you'll teach him that?
MESSING: Oh, I've thought a lot about it. Obviously, as you said, he's too young to have the conversation for him to really understand, but he knows the work I'm doing. He knows why I'm going to Zambia and why I went to Zimbabwe two years ago to try and help people stay healthy. And he's very interested in that.
And so -- ABDULLAH: he gave me clothes to bring to an orphanage that we visited. So he's becoming an activist himself.
And when the time's right, I'll have a very frank conversation with him. I mean, the thing is is that we have scientifically proven methods and tools to prevent AIDS transmission. And that's worth celebrating. And so we have something that we can definitively tell our children. This will keep you safe.
BALDWIN: Yes. Debra Messing, thank you, thank you, a million times over.
MESSING: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Just how easy is it for someone to slip onto a plane without a ticket or a passport? Well, an 11-year-old boy in Manchester, England, managed to do precisely that with ease, might I add.
The boy slips away from his parents at a shopping center, then sneaks past passport control and boarding pass checks, goes through a metal detector and just like that he was on a plane to Rome before anyone realized this embarrassing mistake for airport security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSELL CRAIG, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Well, the airline has suspended the ground staff that were involved in making the forechecks at the gate before the boy boarded the aircraft. From there we are doing our own investigation as well. Whether that will result in further action against airport staff, we don't know at this stage.
Manchester Airport insists the incident was not a security breach.
Thank you so much for watching. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Now we're going to Wolf Blitzer, taking the show on the road today, Aspen, Colorado. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.