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Health Officials Say Man Who Died From Ebola After Collapsing at an Airport in Nigeria was an American; Ukraine Denies Firing Short- Range Ballistic Missiles at pro-Russian Rebel Targets

Aired July 29, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome Back to the LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In more world news, Ebola is a virus you would think is whipped up by horror sci-fi writer, one that really had a warped mind. It typically kills 90 percent of those who catch it. This is how close it came to potentially reaching the U.S.

Health officials say a man who died from Ebola after collapsing at an airport in Nigeria was an American. And he had one more stop to make before going home to Minnesota to see his wife and kids. This outbreak of the virus is now the largest ever in terms of those infected and in reach.

CNN's Pamela Brown has much more for us on this very real health care.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's really frightening, Jake. CNN is learning the CDC has sent a team over to Nigeria to track down anyone who came into contact with the Ebola patient who died there just a few days ago. And right now, the CDC has other teams ready to go out the door. Health officials are telling me they are very concerned about this latest Ebola outbreak because it has reached a heavily populated city with millions of people at the hub for international travel.


BROWN (voice-over): U.S. health officials in West Africa scrambling to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from reaching the states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly serious diseases are only a plane ride away.

BROWN: The right now U.S. health officials are searching for anyone who may have had contact with this U.S. citizen Patrick Sawyer. He recently every from Liberia to the heavily populated city of Lagos and died there from Ebola on Friday, not long before he was supposed to fly home to Minnesota according to his wife.

DECONTEE SAWYER, WIDOW: With Patrick's death, it's hit our front door because he was well-known in the community. Like everyone knew him. So everyone feels like they've lost like their best friend or their brother.

BROWN: Right now, two American aid workers in West Africa infected with Ebola are fighting for their lives undergoing treatment at an isolation center there. Since March, it has spread across several nations borders in Africa with more than 1,000 cases have been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. More than 600 of those infected have died.

The centers for disease control in Atlanta has issued an alert to health care workers in the U.S. to watch out for any patient who's may have recently traveled to West Africa and could have contracted the virus. They CDC also sent guidance to American air carriers on how to identify and deal with passengers displaying Ebola symptoms and how they should disinfect aircraft after an infected passenger leaves a plane.

DOCTOR MARTY CETRON, CDC DIRECTOR, GLOBAL MIGRATION AND QUARANTINE: Airline carriers, crew members, airports can be very important partners in that frontline. Being educated, knowing the symptoms, recognizing what to do, having a response protocol, knowing who to call. Those are really, really important parts of the global containment strategy to deal with threats like this.


BROWN: And at least one foreign airline has suspended all flights into Monrovia and Liberia and free town in Sierra Leone. And Liberia is closing some of its borders and screening all outgoing and incoming passengers to Ebola at its airports. But the problem current tests detect Ebola only after a person shows symptoms -- Jake.

TAPPER: It is very frightening.

Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Coming up next, another team of investigators unable to get to the flight 17 crash site again today because of dangerous conditions on the ground. Now, new reports that Ukraine is firing missiles at rebels in the area. Is that just going to make things worse?


TAPPER: Welcome back to the LEAD.

Continuing in world news. Not to worry, folks. This is not a new cold war, at least not according to President Obama. As he announced new sanctions on Russia was asked the question, new sanctions for the war in Ukraine.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It didn't have to come to this. It does not have to be this way. This is a choice that Russia and president Putin in particular has made.


TAPPER: Meanwhile, U.S. officials tell CNN that the Ukrainian government is now firing short range ballistic missiles at pro-Russian rebel targets. Ukraine denies that saying it would accomplish nothing militarily right now. But the fighting has only gotten worse since MH-17 was shot out of the sky over Ukraine. And the violence is creating a virtual force field around the crash site, the crime scene.

Today, for a third day in a row, heavy fighting kept crash investigators from the scene. Let's bring in Marie Harf. She is the deputy spokeswoman for the state department.

And Marie, thanks for being here. So, there have been rounds of sanctions against Russia began in March. How will this new round that President Obama announced with regret in this voice, how is this going to be any different and change Putin's calculus at all?

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Well, Jake, we've been very clear over many months that we will continue to increase the pressure on Russia if it does not take steps to de-escalate.

TAPPER: And they keep escalating, Marie.

HARF: Well, the longer sanctions are in place -- Jake, the tougher and more impact they have. And today, you saw us put additional sanctions on three very key sectors of the Russian economy, arms, finance and energy. And these firms desperately want access to the U.S. financial sector and to the EU financial sector. And look, president Putin has a choice to make. He can either further isolate his country and pay the consequences or he can de-escalate and move it in a different path forward here. So it is as the president said, really up to president Putin make a decision here.

TAPPER: All right. Well, I think he's made his decision. But on the subject of trying to get him change his behavior, other Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is reporting that three U.S. officials confirmed to her that the Ukrainian military, the ones where the United States is allied with, has fired short-range missiles in the last 48 hours against the rebels. Now, the Ukrainian foreign minister has denied it saying it would be useful for them to fire them because of the way the rebels hide their weapons.

The first question, what's the truth here? And second question, would Ukraine, the government of Ukraine escalating hurt what the United States is trying to do in terms of Putin and the pro-Russian rebels?

HARF: Well Jake, I saw those reports earlier on CNN. And I actually can't confirm them. The Ukrainian foreign minister was actually here at the state department today. I saw his comments. So we're looking into them as we have information one way or another, we'll let folks know.

But the broader point here which speaks to your second question is that the reason there is so much instability in Eastern Ukraine is because of these Russian separatists. The Russian are giving them heavy weaponry, they are firing artillery into Ukraine and they continue to arm and train these separatists. There was no instability before Russia supported these separatists and their movement there. So the Ukrainian government has a responsibility to defend its territory and to defend its people. TAPPER: But Marie, is escalating defending its territory or is

escalating making things worse so that the pro-Russian rebels and Putin won't back down?

HARF: Well, we haven't seen the Ukrainian military escalate things, Jake. And again, I said we're looking into those reports that you mentioned earlier. All we've seen is the Russian side continue to escalate, send more heavy weaponry, send artillery over the border, continue the training even after this horrific civilian airliner was shout done by Russian separatists.

So again, President Putin has a real responsibility here to back up his words with actions. We haven't seen him do that. But he has a chance to as you heard the president a today.

TAPPER: I'm not coming down on the side of Putin here but doesn't Ukraine have a responsibility as well as to de-escalate things in the east of their country especially if inspectors are trying to get to that crash site?

HARF: Well, look. I don't want to equate Ukraine and Russia here in any way. Ukraine is consistently lived up to his obligations. It imposed the cease-fire of 40 kilometers around the crash site which the Russian separatists repeatedly broke.

Ukrainians has done everything in its power to get inspectors access here. It's the Russian back the separatists who have done exactly the opposite.

TAPPER: Marie Harf at the state department. Thank you for coming in and answering my questions.

HARF: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: When we come back, punishing Putin. Why some are saying the only way to put the Russian president in his place is by taking away his chance to be in the spotlight again at the 2018 world cup.

Plus, heart breaking images, children injured or worse, dead in this fighting in Gaza. Come up, the emotional and physical toll this prolonged battle is taking on the youngest and the most innocent victims.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. As we reported the White House today announced new economic sanctions against Russia, accusing Moscow of continuing to support pro-Russian separatists in neighboring Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies backing those rebels or any involvement in the shooting down of Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine.

It's not as if Putin's KGB background inspired a wellspring of trust in the United States when he took power. But still Putin's image, it's tough to remember, but it wasn't always this negative.


TAPPER (voice-over): Global exasperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin is growing. As investigators struggle to find out what exactly happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in an area of Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists, the U.S. government has been sharpening its focus on Putin.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Putin can make a huge difference here if he chooses to.

TAPPER: Earlier today, Secretary of State John Kerry issued this warning to Putin just hours after the State Department said that Russia violated a decades old missile treaty by testing intermediate range cruise missiles. That determination came on Monday, the same day the White House announced a new round of economic sanctions against Russia.

And then today, the European Union announced that it was joining in with economic sanctions of its own against Russian companies and so- called Putin cronies, who are said to have benefited from a destabilized Ukraine.

And Russia's hosting of the next World Cup in 2018 could be the next target. The U.K.'s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the "Sunday Times of London" that FIFA should pull the plug on the games saying Putin, quote, "can't have his cake and eat it." It wasn't so long ago, of course, that the United States and Russia were enjoying a much cozier relationship.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.

TAPPER: But now even former President Bush says that he has a different view.

BUSH: And then the price of-went up and Vladimir Putin changed. It emboldened him to follow an instinct that is pretty much zero sum.

TAPPER: For the past decade, the Russian propaganda machine has been turning out tough guy images of Putin shirtless fishing, shirtless horseback riding, Judo flipping. But it's not a joke. With Putin refusing to give up political power. The annexation of Crimea and Russia's potential role in shooting down this flight the image of a strong man has changed into a geopolitical reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He put himself in this box.

TAPPER: It's a metamorphosis that is finally catching up with him. As "The New Yorker's" David Remnick told Anderson Cooper.

DAVID REMNICK, "THE NEW YORKER": I see Putin becoming isolated. Even at home, despite his popularity rating, I don't see that lasting forever unless he finds a way out of this.

TAPPER: International pressure may be working. Last week Putin's tone seemed to have changed a bit about the crash.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Russia will do everything it can for a thorough comprehensive, deep and transparent investigation.

TAPPER: But access to that crime scene is a continuing issue and there's little evidence to back up Putin's claim that they're truly doing everything they can.


TAPPER: When the European Union voted earlier today to also impose a new round of economic sanctions on Russia, the E.U. warned that Russia will, quote, "find itself increasingly isolated by its own actions."

Coming up next, parents unable to accept the loss of their children. Kids watching their friends die. The human cost of the crisis in the Middle East coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Finally from us today, in three weeks of clashes between Israel and Gaza, so many of the victims' faces we've seen have been young ones. The spark for this current fighting can be traced back to June 12th when three young Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank and murdered.

One of the boys had dual citizenship in this country. Then on July 2nd, apparently in retaliation, a Palestinian teenager was burned alive. And now as Israel and Hamas trade attacks, it's the Palestinian people and Palestinian children most tragically who are taking the heaviest toll.


TAPPER: As adults in Israel and Gaza wage war, it is the children of Gaza who are paying the price. Amidst the bomb blasts on this narrow strip of land comes a chorus of crying mothers, wailing fathers, and the stark silence of stoic friends. All that this young survivor knows for sure are the names of his playmates who were killed.

I saw a boy cut up right here, over there a man he looked dead and I saw a boy who was dead, too. Sadly, his experience is shared all too keenly by children in Gaza. In this three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas, more than 1,100 Palestinians have been killed.

The U.N. estimates that more than 70 percent of them were civilian. And in an area with half the population under 18, the dead include more than 200 children. The Israeli Army says no civilians are being targeted, they accused Hamas of using residents as human shields but still, more than 200 children including the four boys killed while playing soccer on the beach or several others at an empty school being used as a shelter.

Polls suggest that most Israelis support the attacks on Gaza. But the Israeli Human Rights Organization Betsellum has not lost sight of the human tragedy posting the names and ages of the Gaza dead online, using YouTube to voice their names. The group was banned from reciting their names in an ad on Israeli radio.

HAGAI EL-AD, DIRECTOR, B'TSELEM: I think it's a terrible statement of where things are in terms of the public psyche in Israel these days, the dehumanization of Palestinians in general and Palestinians in Gaza specifically.

TAPPER: For those whose names have been spared from this list, the toll is still great.

EL-AD: It is essential that the Israelis see a human face of the price that is being paid by civilians.

TAPPER: The ammunition and shrapnel and bombs and missiles killing these kids. They are almost entirely Israeli. But the governments of Israel and the United States blames Hamas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any human life that is lost is a tragedy but ultimately, indeed, Hamas, they are accountable for localizing, unlawfully placing these rockets within the houses.

TAPPER: In this residence, the blood of a now deceased grandfather remains on the wall. I saw grandpa, his head was cut. His arms and legs were cut. He was all cut up, they say. And these children in the middle of this conflict remain in danger, their names potentially the next to be recited, their families the next to be gone.


TAPPER: Some children caught in this conflict are apparently in danger before they're even born. An Al Jazerra reporter tweeted this had picture of a baby pulled from the womb after her mother had been reportedly killed in an Israeli air strike. Miraculously it, appears the baby will be OK.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer who is live from Jerusalem in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.