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3rd American Tests Positive for MERS; Pennsylvania House Candidate Attracts Nationwide Attention; Two Nigerians Informants Say They Know Where Boko Haram Camps Are Hidden

Aired May 19, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from New York.

A third American has now tested positive for the MERS virus. For the first time, the person contracted the virus right here in the United States. In this case, it was passed from a patient in Indiana who had previously been in Saudi Arabia where virtually all of the recent cases originated. This case may also have come from casual contact which was earlier thought to have almost been unheard of when it comes to MERS. But are U.S. hospitals ready for some kind of outbreak?

Brian Todd is joining us. He's been look at this part of the question.

Brian, how vulnerable is the U.S. health care system to this potential disaster out there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly could be vulnerable in some places. Hospitals in the U.S. are ramping up and they need to, with this new case, the first one believed to be transmitted within the U.S. In addition to the existing two cases inside the United States, we went to some hospitals to look at how they prepared.


TODD (voice-over): Serious new warnings from disease specialists on the potentially deadly virus.

DR. DANIEL LUCEY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: We definitely should expect more MERS cases to arrive in the United States.

TODD: Experts say the explosion of air travel between the Middle East, where MERS originated, and the U.S. makes that likely. Is America ready? Hospitals tell us they've been warned for at least a year, been instructed by the CDC what to do if MERS arrives.

Here's a first line of defense, a negative-pressure isolation room where MERS patients can be treated. It's got a special vent that moves virus-exposed air into a super filter.

LUCEY: The idea behind it is not circulate any germs or viruses to other parts of the hospital. TODD: American health care workers have been told to heavily screen patients who have MERS symptoms, like coughing and fever, to ask them whether they've to the Middle East recently. They're making care workers wear protective gloves, eyewear, gowns and --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the mask our workers wear.

TODD: A mask that provides more filtration. These are safeguards in big-city hospitals. But some small towns might not be as prepared because their health departments have been hit with major budget cuts.

JACK HERRMANN, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTY & CITY HEALTH OFFICIALS: We might not have the number of epidemiologists or labortorians or others in the public health field responsible for investigating these cases or monitoring the surveillance systems in place.

TODD: In small towns or big cities anywhere, medical staffers are at higher risk.

LUCEY: As simple a thing as just washing hands with water and soap. It's really, really essential.

TODD: Doctor Dan Lucey is an infectious disease specialist who has battled MERS in the Middle East and SARS in Asia and Canada. He says sometimes the procedures they use to treat MERS patients are what make health care workers vulnerable.

LUCEY: To open up airways there are certain medicine that they give them that could aerosolize or put a lot more virus into the air in the shared breathing space that health care workers have with their patients.


TODD: Dr. Lucy says during the SARS outbreak, it got to the point where health care workers treating patients had to be monitored by other staff members to make sure they were changing gowns, gloves and masks between each patient and doing it in the proper sequence. He says it's possible that may have to happen again during this MERS scare -- Wolf?

BLITZER: The two cases of MERS in the United States were individuals who came back to the United States from Saudi Arabia. This third case is very different. Explain.

TODD: This is different, because, Wolf, this is the first case transmitted actually on U.S. soil. The other two cases, the previous two cases, those two gentlemen, who are both health care workers, got it in Saudi Arabia, flew to the United States and potentially exposed a lot of people. The people they may have come in contact with have been tested and those tests have come back negative. So far, there's some pretty good news there. But with this first case transmitted on U.S. soil, that's what makes it different. Now officials are going to have to track that person's contacts. BLITZER: Very, very worrisome, Brian. Although, this third individual is apparently in very good shape?

TODD: That's right. He did not feel sick at all really during the time he had it. But, again, he may have been infectious at some point, so they've got to try to track the people who he came in contact with.

BLITZER: Good point.

Brian, thank you.

Up next, the ties that bind. A Congressional candidate in tomorrow's Pennsylvania primary has some major family political connections to the Clintons. So what will that make? Will that make a difference? Gloria Borger standing by.

And two Nigerian informants tell CNN they know where Boko Haram training camps are located but they say no one will listen. We'll have a live report from inside the prime recruiting ground. Our Arwa Damon is on the scene.


BLITZER: There's a Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania tomorrow for a House seat that attracted a lot of nationwide attention, some very high-profile campaigners, including bill and Hillary Clinton. One of the Congress candidates is Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law. But the ties between Marjorie Margolies and the Clinton family date back more than 20 years to the Clinton presidency.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, explains.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be here if her son was not my son-in-law.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): She is Marjorie Margolies. Her son happens to be married to Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea is now expecting a baby.


BORGER: And her mom may be running for president.

(on camera): Your son has married into a political dynasty. What's that like?


BORGER (voice-over): That depends on how you define normal. Because the back story of the two families is anything but.

BILL CLINTON: I'm not coming here saying vote for her because 20 year ago she saved the economy.

BORGER: She also saved Clinton's presidency. It was 1993. Clinton's defining economic plan was on the House floor and about to die.

MARGOLIES: The Republicans were high fiving, saying it's going down.

BORGER: She was a holdout, a Philadelphia freshman who had won by just over 1,000 votes.

MARGOLIES: A lot of Democrats were talking about changing their vote.

BORGER: That's when the president called.

MARGOLIES: I said, I will only be your last vote. I know how important this is.

BORGER: He hung up and then watched her from the White House.

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER CLINTON ADVISOR: So we all gather around this little one-foot, you know, 13-inch screen and watch the vote. Marjorie walked down the aisle to cast the vote and the Republicans stood there and taunted her. They said, bye-bye, Marjorie, bye-bye, Marjorie.


MARGOLIES: The vote was need. I gave him the 218.

BEGALA: I'm quite sure he knew that was a political death knell.

BORGER: And it was.


MARGOLIES: I do not regret my vote, nor do I apologize.

There was a lot of hostility in that room.

BORGER: Hostility that would send her packing after just one term. Fast forward 20 years, and now her old seat is open, with one big difference. The district has been redrawn and it's solidly Democrat. So she's at it again, locked in a tight primary as an advocate for abortion rights and the middle class.

(on camera): Is this a little bit the politics of redemption to a degree?

MARGOLIES: I'm not sure. I think it would be more resilient. I don't have any retirement skills.

BORGER (voice-over): She spent the last two decades on women's issues both outside and inside politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, is it there?

MARGOLIES: First of all, I think it has to be addressed.

BORGER (on camera): Do you think women have a harder time still running?

MARGOLIES: When I was running in the '90s, I always got questions as to who's taking care of your children. Even if the questions aren't asked, they're there.

BORGER (voice-over): In this campaign, she started as the big-name front-runner and has been attacked on campaign finances, for coasting early on, and for her use of a valuable asset, the Clintons.


ANNOUNCER: He seems like a great guy. But everything he's talking about happened in the past.


MARGOLIES: We always knew that if they came in too much, we would be blamed for their coming in too much. If they didn't come in enough, that people would say, they didn't come in enough. You're kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't. They have done everything we've asked them to do. And I am running on what I have accomplished in the last 20 years, and not on my affiliation with the Clintons.

BORGER: But she's not exactly running away from them either.

BILL CLINTON: This district will be well served if you elect her.

BORGER: Did she consult with the former president about running?

MARGOLIES: I called and he said, I think it's a good idea. But that's pretty much it.

BORGER: She's even more guarded if you dare to ask some personal questions about life in the Clinton family.

MARGOLIES: It's just -- it's an area that I will not get into. They are lovely. The Clintons couldn't be any nicer.

BORGER (on camera): Are you going to talk about what it's going to be like to be co-grandmother-in-chief?


BORGER (voice-over): After four decades in the public eye, Margolies knows how to stay on message even when it's Hillary Clinton.

(on camera): Is there any doubt in your mind that she's running?

MARGOLIES: She hasn't said she has made up her mind and I take her at her word.


MARGOLIES: She has said she's making up her mind and I take her at her word. She has said --



BLITZER: Gloria's joining us now from Washington.

So how does the race tomorrow shape up? Is she going to win? What's it look like?

BORGER: Well, you know, there's a four-way Democratic primary. As we said in the piece, this is now a Democratic seat, not a largely Republican seat. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, as sort of the odds-on favorite to win a congressional seat. But she does have some stiff competition. The polls are kind of unreliable, as you know, in these primaries. She seems to be up by a handful of points. She's got one main challenger. But she is not a shoo-in by any stretch. That is why she's had to call in the big guns, which are the Clintons.

BLITZER: Good work, Gloria. Good work on that report.

You know what else is even more important? Gloria Borger received an honorary degree from her alma mater, Colgate University --

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- this weekend. Gave the commencement address.

There you are, Gloria.


BLITZER: You'll see her up there. We've got a great picture of you at Colgate University.

We know your husband, Lance, was there, your boys were there.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: It was an exciting time for everyone at Colgate. Gloria, a graduate of Colgate. Not only she worked to get her actual degree but now she's got an honorary doctorate as well.


BLITZER: Wolf, thank you. You're so sweet. Thanks, all.

BLITZER: Thank you. And congratulations. Congratulations to Colgate University, an excellent school in New York State.

Up ahead, Nigeria's Borno State is a prime recruiting ground for Boko Haram. CNN went there, met with two informants who say they know where the terror camps are hidden. Our Arwa Damon standing by live with a report.

And later, Anthony Bourdain has a new appreciate for a U.S. state he says he once looked down on. He tells Anderson Cooper what changed his mind.


BLITZER: About 200 Nigerian schoolgirls are still missing five weeks after they were abducted in the middle of the night by the Boko Haram terror group.

Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, went to the region. She met with informants who say they know where the group's camps are located.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We meet in a safe house. Just speaking to us could cost them their lives, already at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the only way for our children and our future.

BORGER: Mohammad and Osama -- not these two men's real name -- are government informants on the feared terrorist group Boko Haram. They have seen the group's influence spread and lure in their friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After convince you, they take you. Once you move to their training camp, that is the end. You won't come back again.

DAMON: Recruiting from among the poor, who tend to make up their rank-and-file fighters, and drawing in the educated, trained in explosives.

(on camera): The two informants we met described their links to Boko Haram as being to midlevel fighters. They're not from the same state where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped. That is here, Borno State. This is the capitol where Boko Haram's radical ideology was born.

(voice-over): Unchecked by the government, the group grew more violent and ruthless, kidnappings becoming common.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take them to the bush and force them to join or kill you.

DAMON: The informants have heard of shadowy links to al Qaeda. Their friends who joined trained in Sudan and Somalia. They claim to know exactly where Boko Haram's camps are in their area, but for the most part they say the government has failed to act.

Similar to the accusations that Nigerian forces were warned in advance about the attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will use them. They will use them to negotiate with the government about those of their members that have been detained by the government or to use them as human shields.

DAMON: They've seen their friends slaughtered and they know the group will show no mercy.


BLITZER: And Arwa is joining us now, live from Borno State in Nigeria.

Arwa, a major, major report on your part. But does the Nigerian government take this intelligence seriously or not?

DAMON: Well, that's been one of the key problems these two informants were telling us about, why other people are reluctant to come forward with information that they may have, because they feel the authorities either don't take it seriously enough or quite simply aren't acting upon it. Plus, there's the risk that's involved, so if an individual is going to come forward with this kind of information, risk their lives the way these two men are, they want to know at that at the very end of it there's going to be some sort of measures that are taken to make that risk they're undergoing worth it -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Arwa Damon risking her life to do amazing reporting to CNN.

Let me just point out to our viewers in the United States and around the world that you are going to be receiving the Courage in Journalism Award in October for all the amazing work that you have done over nears years. A lot of us remember when in your opinion Baghdad during the war in 2003 and all the other dangerous spots you've gone in, risking your life on so many occasions, as you are right now. So on behalf of all of us at CNN, all of our viewers around the world, thanks very much. Job well done. A well-deserved Courage in Journalism Award for Arwa coming up here in New York in October.

We will be there with you, Arwa, to celebrate. Congratulations.

Up next, Anthony Bourdain has a change of heart about the U.S. state he once said he wouldn't even want to visit. Coming up, he tells Anderson Cooper about his newfound appreciation for his latest destination.


BLITZER: Anthony Bourdain admits he had pre-conceived notions about life, past and present, on the Mississippi Delta. Then he went there for the latest episode of "Parts Unknown" and came away with a whole different perspective. He talked with Anderson Cooper about what he learned.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, A.C. 360: You go to the Mississippi Delta. My family comes from Mississippi. My dad's side of the family were poor farmers there. Why did you go there?

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, PARTS UNKNOWN: I like that challenge my pre- conceptions and prejudices about a place. I grew up in an environment and a world at a time where Mississippi was looked down on and looked at with contempt and derision. It was the place, you know -- I grew up thinking Mississippi, they shot Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in "Easy Rider." I'm not going there. They're all racists and hicks. But it's such a deeper story. So it -- you know, when you're -- when you grow up with a prejudice like that it's increasingly interesting to me to challenge that.

COOPER: In the wake of Katrina, I went to Biloxi one day. Went into Mary Mahoney's, an old restaurant that's been there a long time. And the owner came out and said, "Hey, Anderson, welcome back." I said, "What do you mean"? He said, "You were here with your father in 1975," when I was seven years old or eight years old or something, and he showed me the table where I sat with my dad. I just -- there's something about Mississippi that -- I don't know, there's a memory there. There's a -- there's a history there.

BOURDAIN: It's beautiful. Physically, it's a beautiful place.

Look, I like going to a place where I sort of blunder about, a Yankee in a place has nothing to hear or learn from Yankees.

COOPER: How was the food?

BOURDAIN: Awesome. Great.

COOPER: My friend went down there for the first time and my friend said, "Everything's covered in sugar and fried."

BOURDAIN: That's not true also. Where did the food that we call southern, down-home, old-school southern cooking, where did that come from? Who created that food, what we're calling southern food now on TV? How is that different than the -- is it the real thing or is it a mutation? You know, the traditional southern cooking, in its purest, earliest form. And over time, it was a very different and often healthier thing.


BLITZER: You can see more of Anthony Bourdain later tonight, 9:00 p.m. eastern. He takes on bolder flavors, bigger adventures. He's exploring Punjab, India, for "Parts Unknown." 9:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight.

Now the story that had a lot of people holding their breath. Would a three-year-old colt about to make history be allowed to wear a nasal strip next month at the Belmont Stakes as he goes for the Triple Crown? Now we have an answer, and the answer is yes. New York racing officials deciding California Chrome may use it. Good luck.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you.