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Tax Day Surprises; Cashing In On Fantasy Sports; Ebola Kills 112 People In West Africa

Aired April 15, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's the thing. You see that pressure playing out. They want to be the first but don't necessarily have the capabilities.

That said, when I spoke to Secretary Hagel last week in China, he does make a point of saying -- and this is true. This is an unprecedented cooperation here. You have half a dozen nations, loads of ships, countries that don't normally do these kinds of things together in close quarters, countries with real hostilities. They are at least working together, but God knows it hasn't gone perfectly well.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And one other thing that I think is just fascinating is here we have, as we have seen with Malaysia, here we have China not used to a free and aggressive press, and all of a sudden, they are forced to deal with that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, they use that word, irresponsible, to describe "The New York Times'" reporting, and you know, this is something they've done before with The Times and other Western media there. When they report out, for instance, corruption of senior Chinese leaders, they have shut "The New York Times" down in China. You can't watch it in China unless you use some sort of work-around because they shut it down months ago because of some of previous coverage.

What is interesting, though, and I make this point, is that many Chinese news consumers there have been praising the Western press, including the American press, because they have pushing the story hard. And they made the point on Chinese social media that Western press is pushing the story harder than Chinese state media that's just kind of sitting back and taking whatever is said in the news conferences.

So, the Chinese public is happy to have that kind of media coverage.

TAPPER: Well, that's nice to know.


TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up on THE LEAD, tanks are rolling, blood has already been shed. So that is keeping the crisis in the Ukraine from becoming an all-out civil war or other kind of war? We'll get a live report from the ground.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In World, on the threshold of a civil war. That is how the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev just described the stand-off playing out right now in Eastern Ukraine where the Ukrainian military has now mobilized what its fledgling government is calling "an antiterrorism operation" against pro-Russia protesters holed up in government buildings along the border.

Now, the Ukrainians say they've now recaptured consider said that they have recaptured an eastern Ukrainian airport, in a move that Russian media says cost four people their lives and left two more wounded.

But before you call it a comeback, check out this video of some Ukrainian volunteer soldiers getting provoked by the separatists in one border town who didn't seem all that intimidated at all by a gun pointed at their heads. Others even stood in front of Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle.

Meanwhile, Google has been symbolically drawn to the conflict after updating its Google map service for Russian users only to show what was once the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea as now being just another part of Putin's playground.

Nick Paton Walsh is in Donetsk. Nick, what exactly are you seeing where you are?

NICK PATON WASLH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's been a day of significant change here, Jake. We are seeing now the Ukrainian army moving around. We ourselves bumped into a convoy of armored vehicles there. About 80 in total, moving around to kind of the west town side of the two key hot spots where pro-Russian militants have taken over buildings here. They wouldn't tell us where they were going, and they seem to be moving to the north of that particular hotspot.

But the key place you mentioned, that airport -- actually, an air field, really. It's a military zone just outside of the town of Cramatosk (ph). That was where some Ukrainian paratroopers seemed to land today in substantial numbers. When we got there, we saw the local crowd gathered near the fence. Some were clearly unhappy about their presence, shouting abuse at them. Another man went to negotiate, and another man seemed to be drunk and walked towards them at all, warning shots fired in the air. A lot of tension, certainly.

And I think it must have been a surprise, those Ukrainian soldiers, to land and see the level of hostility that they experienced. That's possibly the first moves we're seeing now of the Ukrainians to try and introduce forces into this particular area. It's not an easy task. It's not that consistent or coordinated. They're not here in particularly big numbers, either. And certainly the statements we're hearing out of Kiev, Jake, one saying in fact they have already started an operation to retake one of the key towns here. Well, we went past it recently. There was no real sign in the skies or noise of any particularly substantial operation. So, it's going to be a very messy protest at best, Jake.

TAPPER: Nick, I wonder whether Ukraine is able to take back a few towns or not. I wonder if this show of force possibly could give Putin the excuse he and the 40,000 Russian troops on the border have really just been waiting for, this pretext.

WALSH: Well, I have to be honest, the Ukrainian troops we saw are supposed to be elite, and they did not look like in particularly good shape themselves. So, I'm sure that's not going to present a threat that's adequate enough for Putin. I think he has to intervene. But that was never the point in the first place.

The concern has always been in the background. If blood is shed, if there is violence where pro-Russian protesters who Moscow call compatriots are hurt -- and we saw no evidence of this ourselves today -- then that's the excuse Moscow feels it needs to intervene. Still 40,000 troops across the border. The Ukrainians we saw today were not a number enough to cause them any trouble at all. There's been massive investment by the Kremlin in their armed forces of late.

So that is really the question. In the days ahead, as these instances flare and we run the risk of seeing loss of life, is that simply what Putin needs to press the go button? Jake?

TAPPER: And Nick, you refer to the elite forces not looking all that elite. The Ukrainian military, just the regular joes, a lot of these guys have regular only a few weeks of training, right?

WALSH: Sometimes when there's the hastily formed national guard that they are trying to put together volunteers to bolster the armed forces, the armed forces themselves haven't been involved in many particularly intense conflicts in the past couple of decades, far unlike the Russians. They've been fighting away in Chechnya for quite some time. That's the concern, of course. Their equipment may not be up to it. It certainly does seem to have a fuel in some cases. The convoy we went along with seemed to have some technical problems along the way. Trucks peeling off as we drove with them.

So yes, certainly concerns about how they'll stand up to that very well-prepared force of Russian troops across the border who have been basically in a state of readiness now for a number of weeks. Jake?

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine, thank you, my friend. Stay safe.

So what can President Obama do to prevent a civil war from erupting in Ukraine, if anything? Our Michelle Kosinski is joining us now from the White House. Two sets of sanctions, Michelle, did not stop the invasion of Crimea and certainly didn't calm situation we're watching now on the border. What is the president's plan now?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it's interesting the way you asked that, too, Jake. What can the U.S. do to prevent a civil war? Well, Putin asked America that in the phone call with President Obama yesterday saying, well, maybe the U.S. could use its influence to prevent further bloodshed and violence there. But yes, sanctions is what the U.S. has been looking at. And day-to- day, the language changes subtly. It becomes more strident. It becomes stronger in tone in accusing Russia outright of doing certain things where as before it was more temporary. But still we hear the same phrases day after day as well. That we're pursing a diplomatic solution here, that there is no military solution in the U.S.' view for this.

So today sanctions were mentioned, and they were mentioned in a more, I would say, forward-thinking, forward-speaking way. Because every single day journalists have peppered the administration with, why don't we do something now? In fact, yesterday we asked, if Europe is so worried about its own collective economy and increasing sanctions, the U.S. is far less affected. There is so little investment and money flow between the U.S. and Russia, why doesn't the U.S. impose those sanctions now?

Well, the response was, okay, it is incumbent upon the U.S. to lead on this, and in Jay Carney's words, we are leading on this with the initial imposition of those sanctions. Today, he said yes, the U.S. is actively considering doing more and when it was asked when, what would trigger this, he said that we're hoping for progress. We're looking forward to the talks, the four-way talks on Thursday. Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the E.U.

So without saying so, he seemed to be saying, let's see how Thursday goes, and then maybe we will talk about those sanctions and see them come to fruition, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski at the White House, thank you so much.

Wolf Blitzer is now here with a preview of THE SITUATION ROOM. Wolf, it's a critical time in Ukraine right now. President Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin had a tense conversation, we're told. And you're going to talk to somebody about what the U.S. should do next?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers will join us live. We'll talk about that. He's got some strong views, and we'll get the latest intelligence assessment. Are Russian forces actually in eastern Ukraine right now? We'll have a detailed discussion of that. The former chairman of the joint chiefs, General Richard Myers, will be joining us in our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. We have a lot to talk about, Ukraine, the Malaysia Airlines story obviously what happened in Overland Park, Kansas. We're going in depth on a lot of good stuff.

TAPPER: All right. And who are you going to have on when it comes to the Overland Park story?

BLITZER: We're going to go to George Howell, our reporter was there when he was formally charged today with the counts -- the suspect, this white supremacist was formally charged with killing three people. He was an virulent racist and anti-Semite. And as you know, the three that he killed allegedly were all Christians.

TAPPER: Bitter and horrible story.

Coming up next, while eight out of 10 American also see a refund in 2014, the government collects taxes on some things you might not expect. And we'll tell you what ahead.

Plus, our Buried Lead. It's a nightmare virus that kills 90 percent of those who catch it, and now some doctors think it could go global. Our Sanjay Gupta joins us live from the epicenter of the epidemic.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our "Money Lead" now, if you woke up this morning with an ominous feeling that you forgot about something due today, call your accountant. It is April 15th. That means it's time to get your taxes in. While everyone expects to fork over some of their earnings, the government goes after a lot more than just paychecks and that could be especially painful if you've been out of the job. The 10.5 million people who rely on unemployment benefits are now having to hand some of that cash back to the government.

Alison Kosik is live at the New York Stock Exchange with more. Alison, the number of people collecting tax refunds is higher than ever, but for people without jobs, April 15th actually ends up hurting their wallets?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a big surprise if you think about it. Because if you get an unemployment check from the government, guess what? It's not all yours because it's considered taxable income. There's a suggestion coming from that says have your federal income taxes withheld when you first apply or if you are getting checks now, go back and do that now while you are getting these checks. So you won't be in for such a shock the next tax season.

If you feel like you can't give up that big chunk of that check, consider at least paying the estimated taxes so you are not hit with a lump sum and kind of left with that shocker next April 15th. One more surprise tax burden, divorce. Any alimony or spousal support you are getting from your ex is taxable.

Again, it's recommended you pay estimated taxes here and depending on what side of the coin you are on, there is a bit of good news here. So the ex who is actually paying the spousal support can deduct it and child support is not taxed. Of course, Jake, for any of these things, there is always exceptions so it's best to talk to your accountant.

TAPPER: Something else that I learned from you that I wasn't aware of, March Madness is over, my bracket -- let's just say that I led more with my heart than my head.

KOSIK: Too bad.

TAPPER: But for those who cleaned up in their office pools and for those who play fantasy sports, you have to report those winnings to the IRS also? KOSIK: Yes. Come on, if you won on one of these fantasy football tournaments, you can't just fly under the radar here. You have to pay taxes on fantasy sports winnings. This is actually on the honor system a bit. If you're actually playing through a bonafied sports organization, they are going to notice. They are typically only going to report to the IRS if you win above $600. You are going to get a form in the mail if they let the government know. Otherwise, you should technically, technically be doing it yourself. Believe it or not, surprise, surprise. Most people don't report it -- Jake.

TAPPER: Uncle Sam, another thing and he's got to get his greasy little fingers in is forgiven debt? How does the government justify taking money from people already struggling to pay their bills?

KOSIK: I know the tax man cometh with this one, too, because the IRS considers that forgiven or cancelled debt. It considers it as income. Let give me give you an example. Let's say you had your credit card bill cut from $10,000 to $5,000. Great news for your debt, right? But you're still going to have to pay taxes on that $5,000 that was forgiven. So keep that in mind -- Jake.

TAPPER: Incredible. Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

It's a microscopic monster that kills almost everyone it touches and a new outbreak is sparking fears that it go global. So what can be done to stop this terrifying virus and how do you get it in the first place? The "Buried Lead" coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time now for the "Buried Lead." These are stories we think are not getting enough attention. It is a deadly incurable fever that kills up to 90 percent of those who catch it, which is why a recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has been described by the World Health Organization as one of the most challenging it has ever faced.

Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been on the ground there tracking the spread of the virus and efforts to contain it as the number of confirmed cases ticks up to 163 with 112 of them already proven fatal. That's just over a three-week period.

Joining me now, chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta live in Guinea with more on the outbreak and what's being done to fight it. Sanjay, great to see you. Eleven more deaths confirmed since just last Thursday, the last time I saw you. How significant is this? Clearly the numbers are going in the wrong direction.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is not what they are hoping for. You know, you have many different organizations on the ground trying to tackle this. You know, it's challenging, Jake, just simply identifying the patients, then making sure you can isolate them and give them whatever treatment you can offer them. There is no specific treatment. There is no vaccine. There is obviously not a cure for this. So at some point, they hope the numbers start to dwindle down, but this was certainly a big jump over the last few days -- Jake. TAPPER: You've been all over the city. You have spoken to the people. Is the community there in Guinea, are they supportive? Are families becoming shunned if they have a connection to Ebola?

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting. It's a little bit different than what I expected. The capital of Guinea is the city of 2 million people. It has an international airport. It's a busy city and for the most part, you know, you don't see road blocks or a shutdown of commerce or some of the things that people worried might happen.

On the other hand, you know, family members of people who have been diagnosed as positive with Ebola, it's a tough life for them. There is a lot of stigma. Even though this is not an airborne disease, even though this is not a virus that clings to surfaces for a long period of time, these people, their money won't be accepted.

It's very hard for them just to conduct their lives so you have different groups of people. Also, you know, we're paying a lot of attention to this obviously as part of an international news organization, but if you are living in the more remote areas of the capital, you may not have as much access to the information and know the extent of what is going on.

TAPPER: You spent some time with the doctors treating the patients. Have they given you an idea of what the patients are experiencing? Is it the typical symptoms of Ebola, which sounds just horrific, like it's out of a horror movie or is there a different pattern in this specific outbreak?

GUPTA: There's a lot of similarities. I mean, this virus is a clever disarming virus. It goes in. It shuts off your immune system, which allows it to replicate even more and then it throws your body into hyperdrive in terms of clotting. That happens only inside blood vessels so you start to develop bleeding elsewhere in your body and a lot of that is happening.

The doctors themselves have to cover themselves up, every inch of their skin has to be covered because they are at risk. Fourteen health care workers have died. It's really challenging work. A piece of good news. You mentioned the stats, 9 out of 10 people typically die with the strain. Right now, if you look at the numbers, it's closer to about 65 percent. So it's a little better than normal.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Guinea, thank you. We appreciate it. Stay safe, my friend.

Before we go, when Mariano Rivera stepped off the mound for the final time last season, he became the last baseball player ever to regularly wear the number 42. That's the only number retired across all of Major League Baseball and it's become Jackie Robinson owns that number now and forever. It was exactly 67 years ago today that Robinson became the first African-American to break baseball's color line by suiting up for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

His contract paved the way for so many players that would follow, such as Willy Mays or Hank Aaron. That's why today all of baseball honors this civil rights pioneer by donning his number. Happy anniversary to one of my heroes, wherever you are.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer right now. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.