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Taliban Targeting Aid Workers in Pakistan?; Stabbing Suspect Volunteered for Bridge-Building Group; Union Chief vs. Palin; NASA's

Fri, 08/27/2010 - 10:13am
The Associated Press

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Volunteered for Bridge-Building Group; Union Chief vs. Palin; NASA's

Deep Space Discovery - Part 1>

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, a stunning new twist in the case of a Muslim cab driver brutally stabbed in New York. Even as he appeals for tolerance, some who know the suspect say that is what the assailant had actually worked for.Foreign aid workers helping with the flood relief efforts in Pakistan face a new threat from the Taliban. We're going to tell you what the U.S. government is saying about it.

And rescue workers send water, liquid protein, medicine down a tube to miners trapped 2300 feet underground, and can they keep it up for months?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with breaking news. The salmonella outbreak which led to the recall of half a billion eggs has now sickened some 2400 people making it the largest such outbreak ever recorded.

And Federal officials believe they have found the source saying it is likely that the contamination came from feed given to the hens at two large corporate egg farms.

We're going to talk to CNN Casey Wian in a minute, but first I want to go to Brianna Keilar. The salmonella outbreak is spurring efforts to get a food safety bill off of the back burner and that bill does have bipartisan support, but it's been stalled in the Senate. What do we know Brianna, about the likelihood that the legislation is going to go through now?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this egg crisis is really spurring Congress collectively to say, hey, we need to do something here. This is a really big deal.

This was already in the works actually, The House has already passed a bill. And so, this just kind of creates urgency here as the senate looks to move forward with this once it comes back from the recess.

So you've got the egg crisis but just take a look at a number of other outbreaks that we've seen just in the last couple of years. In January, there was salami and sausage and then last year you had ground beef and peanuts, peanut butter.

You also spinach. I mean who can remember -- forget that from 2006. And so as I said the senate still needs to sort of pick up the ball here. It's in their court, but they are expected to when they come back.

MALVEAUX: And what's in the bill?

KEILAR: There are a number of regulations. One of the things would include more inspections. Because you might be surprised to learn that right now the FDA -- it maybe FDA inspectors only go to say a food plant once every several years.

Also, better tracking of the illnesses as well as contaminated food. This is so that they can get that food off of the shelves sooner. And then also, the FDA would be given direct recall power.

This is fascinating. The FDA can only directly recall baby food at this point.

MALVEAUX: Really?

KEILAR: Yes. So all of these recalls spinach, peanuts, this is them working with the producer and not actually a direct recall. It's the producer that's doing the recall it would change that.

MALVEAUX: And the food industry usually fights additional regulations. No so much this time. Can you tell us why?

KEILAR: Yeah. They're onboard this time. At least there's no real food producer that's coming out against this, Suzanne. And here's the reason. I think it really speaks to the spinach outbreak in 2006 with the coli.

So what you had was only fresh spinach was affected and this was really just one farm that was responsible for this, and yet, I spoke with consumer advocates who said frozen spinach industry has not recovered to its pre-2006 sales levels.

So you have certain producers who are saying look there are some bad actors and something needs to be done. It's affecting us industry- wide and we need to make sure that consumers can be confident and that the government can actually step in.

The one thing here to consider is that the senate and the house, they will have separate bills. There are some substantial differences. The senate bill is a little softer on the regulation and so, they're going to have to work out those differences, and that is what we are looking at here.

MALVEAUX: OK. Brianna, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The Centers for Disease Control and prevention estimates around 76 million cases food board disease occur each year in the United States. Now according to a report on the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the Food Drug Administration.

You go leafy greens, like lettuce and spinach the have the most reported cases of illness. They can be easily contaminated on the farm or during handling and preparation.

Now next on the list are eggs which can cause salmonella if not cooked properly and then tuna is number three. It can be easily spoiled it releases natural toxins if stored above 60 degrees.

Now also on the list are oysters, potatoes, cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, sprouts and berries. The list does not include meat and poultry since they're regulated by the Agriculture Department and not the FDA.

Well, close to half a mile underground, there are 33 trapped miners. They are organizing themselves finding ways to survive what could be a very long ordeal.

Now, on the surface, families are keeping a vigil as authorities are lowering food, water to keep these miners alive. Our CNN's Karl Penhaul is on the scene in Northern Chile.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Rescue workers pack a thin metal tube with survival rations water, liquid protein and medicine to keep the trapped miners alive. It takes some 20 minutes to wince the tube down to the shelter where the men are stranded 700 meters or 2,300 feet underground. Some may be cracking under the ordeal.

JAIME MANALICH, CHIEF HEALTH MINISTER: At least three or four of them are having a real hard time regarding they are not sleeping well. They are very nervous, and in some ways depressed.

PENHAUL: Workers expected to start at the weekend to drill a shaft big enough to pull the men back to the surface. But some of the miners will have to diet to stand a chance of squeezing through hole which will measure just 60 centimeters or two feet wide.

MANALICH: According to the medical records that we have, exactly nine of them were overweight. We suppose that we think that they have lost already 8 kilos.

PENHAUL: On the surface, it's a struggle, too. The biggest challenge for families now may simply be staying patient. Many of them are putting their faith in religion and the old mining superstitions.

They have built shrines to their loved ones and they painted their hopes and prayers on the rocks.

Nineteen-year-old Jimmy Sanchez is the youngest of the 33 miners. His girlfriend, Helen, nurses their two-month-old daughter.

PENHAUL (voice-over): She says Jimmy fears the dark, confined spaces and the spirits of dead miners. Everyday Jimmy had a premonition and he did not want to go to work and he was afraid of the mine and of going underground, she says. But in a letter sent up to his mom Tuesday, Jimmy was putting on a brave face.

I want to eat so many things. I'm hungrier than ever. All these days I've been dreaming about my mom cooking for me. That will soon happen. After the bad comes the good, he wrote.

Other families read their mail sent by the same metal tube being used to feed the men. These words from miner Pedro Cortez. He writes, down here, we have lived through the worst. So stay calm. Our suffering won't last much longer.

Rescue workers haven't yet had the heart to tell the miners precisely that it could be weeks or months before they emerge from the underworld.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is next with the CAFFERTY FILE, then the bank that did the right thing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now, it's reaping the return on its investment.

In a stunning new twist in the case of a Muslim cab driver brutally stabbed in New York.

Plus, the search for planets like our earth yields remarkable find details of NASA's newest discovery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is here with the CAFFERTY FILE. Hey, Jack?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN, CAFFERTY FILE: That wasn't me.

MALVEAUX: You're on.

(LAUGHING)

CAFFERTY: Sounded like I ate something bad for lunch, didn't it? Don't look now. I have no idea what the hell that was. Don't look now, because Big Brother may be watching you and apparently there ain't a damned thing you can do about it.

Time Magazine reports in California and eight other western states the government can sneak on to your property and plant a GPS tracking device on the bottom of the car and then track you everywhere you go, and it is all perfectly legal.

An Appeals Court has ruled that the government can monitor you like this almost any time it wants and without a search warrant. The case began in 2007 when government agents decided to monitor an Oregon resident they thought was growing marijuana.

They snuck into the driveway in the middle of the night, and attached a GPS tracking device to the bottom of the jeep. When the man challenged the government's actions, the 9th Circuit Court ruled twice that the government did everything just fine.

It was all okay. This kind of activity has more in common with the KGB than it does with a free country like ours. What ever happened to a citizen's reasonable expectation of privacy? Well, the court ruled that the man's driveway is not private.

Since strangers or delivery people can access it. This also means that wealthy people with gated driveways and fences and security gates, well, they get more privacy than the rest of us do.

But there is a glimmer of hope in all of this, there is another Appeals Court in the District of Columbia recently ruled that the tracking devices installed for an extended period of time is an invasion of privacy and requires a warrant.

All this will likely wind up at the Supreme Court doesn't seem like it should have to go that far all you have to do is read the constitution, but hey what do i know.

Meanwhile, one conservative Judge who is against this kind of spying put it this way 1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it is here at last. Here is the question, should the government be able to track you using a GPS device but without getting a warrant first? Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, and post a comment on my blog. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: It is pretty surprising, Jack, when you hear that story.

CAFFERTY: Although somebody pointed out, I guess if you have a cell phone, they can figure out where you are based on the signal that gives out, or something. So I don't know how much privacy we have left these days. Not much I suspect.

MALVEAUX: Yeah. Well, hopefully there is no reason to track either one of us? What do you say?

CAFFERTY: No, but they ought to be tracking that horrible noise we heard at the beginning of this segment. I'd be all over that.

MALVEAUX: Don't worry Jack nobody heard it, nobody heard it it's alright. Thanks Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes, you did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast five years ago one business focused on doing the right thing. Now it's finding that being a good neighbor has paid off. Our CNN Jeanne Meserve takes us to Gulfport, Mississippi, for the story. (AUDIO GAP)

MALVEAUX: We don't have that piece, we'll bring it to you a little bit later. We're going to move on. There may be the Taliban's new target.

International aid workers are trying to help the millions of people affected by flooding. We are learning details of the unfolding threat.

Plus, what American Airlines allegedly did that land it the largest fine ever for a U.S. carrier. That is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: When Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast five years ago, there was one business that focused on doing the right thing. Now it is finding that being a good neighbor has indeed paid off. Our CNN's Jeanne Meserve takes us to Gulfport, Mississippi, for the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, there is an old phrase The Good You Do Comes Back To You, and in Gulfport, Mississippi, it came true. Katrina chewed up and spit out much of Gulfport, Mississippi, including the Headquarters of Hancock Bank.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see this floor was completely trashed. It was 100% loss.

GAY TODD, BANK EMPLOYEE, HANCOCK BANK: I'm just glad to be here.

MESERVE: Bank employee Gay Todd still tears up remembering not what was lost but what her bank gave.

TODD: They looked after the community. I'm sorry.

MESERVE: Without electricity, records or even all of its buildings, Hancock started opening the day after the storm, improvising with trailers, folding tables and faith.

GEORGE SCHLOEGL, FORMER HANCOCK BANK CHAIRMAN: We made human judgments and those people that needed help we gave help.

MESERVE: What kind of help?

(AUDIO GAP).

SCHLOEGL: Cash.

MESERVE: Waterlogged money salvaged from ATMs and vaults was literally laundered, washed, dried, ironed and loaned to customers and non-customers alike. SCHLOEGL: And we would write a little I owe you on whatever little piece of paper that you had, that you had, that you could put your hands on little sticky pads, a piece of napkin.

MESERVE: Marvin Cory got a few hundred dollars.

MARVIN CORY (PH): A lot of people's lives depended on buying able to go buy gas, ice.

MESERVE: And you needed cash to do it?

CORY (PH): You needed cash to do it.

MESERVE: Hancock Bank says millions of dollars of salvaged money was used to make its unconventional Katrina loans. All but $300,000 was paid back. And there were other unexpected dividends. In the four months after the storm Hancock's deposits grew 40 percent.

And in 2009, George Schloegel the Bank Chairman during Katrina was elected Mayor of Gulfport with 90 percent of the vote.

SCHLOEGEL: Basically people are honest and want to do the right thing, and they will stand by you, if you do the right thing by them.

MESERVE: Like Hancock bank this pharmacy says that after the storm, it gave people the medicines they needed for a simple IOUs. They got 90 percent of their money back and got a lot of new customers. Here in Gulfport, Katrina may have damaged buildings, but it built community. Suzanne, back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Hi, Fred.

FREDICKA WHITFIELD, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Hello, again, Suzanne, hello, everyone. Well, Toyota is recalling more than 1.3 million Corollas in the U.S. and Canada, because of problems in the engine's electronic control unit.

The company says it can cause hard shifting, prevent the engine from starting, and in some cases stop the engine while the car is being driven. The U.S. government says it has received more than 1000 complaints, including that involved crashes or fires.

And three Canadian men have been arrested on terror charges. Two from Ottawa and one from London, Ontario. Police say the men formed the core of a terrorist cell and that a year-long investigation uncovered planned and components to make roadside bombs.

And Swedish authorities have schedule an interview with the founder of the whistle-blower website Wikileaks which recently posted thousands of documents about the Afghanistan war. Julian Assange was briefly charged with rape and harassment in Sweden but the rape was quickly dropped. Assange says he has no details of the allegations that he is facing but maintains that he is a victim of a smear campaign.

And American Airlines is facing the largest fine ever posed by Federal Aviation Administration more than $24 million. The government says his airline failed to properly inspect wire bundles in its MD80 fleet in 2008 resulting in massive groundings and thousands of canceled flights. American says there was never a safety issue and it vowing to fight the fine -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Fred.

They're in Pakistan helping flood victims, but have they now been targeted for attack by the Taliban? A new warning from the State Department.

A key union leader warns that Sarah Palin will become a grim chapter in the history books. We'll tell you hear what she has to say in response. And a modern day witch hunt targets children. A shocking report you need to see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We want to caution you some viewers may find the next report disturbing. It's about a modern-day witch hunt unfolding in one of the world's poorest countries and in a cruel twist; it is targeting the most vulnerable citizens that is its children. Christian Purefoy has the story you'll only see here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: His name is Godswill (ph) and he's been beaten and abandoned. Cast out by his own family and society at large accused of being a witch. No matter that he is a five-year-old boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The boy said, I (INAUDIBLE).

PUREFOY: He's apparently been here for three days and his mother abandoned him accusing him of witchcraft. You can see he's got some scars and he even doesn't want me touching him.

PUREFOY: (INAUDIBLE) believes there are thousands of children like Gods Will in this region of Nigeria, and he's trying to rescue them. Using a little care and attention, Sam starts the process of trying to restore Gods Wills trust and the world around him.

SAM IKPE-ITAUMA, CHILD RIGHTS REHABILITATION: You can see from here, he was undergoing some torture. You can see that there are some injuries, and scars all over his body, mean that he must have passed to level of -- high level of torture and traumatizing.

PUREFOY: At this orphanage, Sam cares for more than 200 children who have suffered similar ordeals. IKPE-ITAUMA: A child is such to be a witch to possess certain spiritual spell capable of making a child to transform into like cats, snakes, vipers and also bringing about havoc like him killing of people, bringing about diseases and misfortune into the family.

PUREFOY: Sam believes there is no such thing as witchcraft and trying to raise awareness in communities no gripped by hysteria. Belief in witchcraft is rooted in centuries of tradition, but only in the last 10 years, says Sam that it's become associated with child abuse.

IKPE-ITAUMA: It's actually is sort of a crisis; because of the poverty is a big factor that actually propels this child witch phenomenon. Poverty is actually a twin sister to ignorance.

PUREFOY: Children can be accused of witchcraft for almost any reason, and maybe seizures or maybe just talking in their sleep. Six- year-old Emma (INAUDIBLE) was blamed by her stepfather for bringing about the death of her mother with black magic.

IKPE-ITAUMA: You can see from this face here the scars gradually wearing off and one of the (INAUDIBLE) is hot water to bathe her face, and used machetes to cut her finger off as a sign to show that she is not wanted there.

PUREFOY: With new cases every week, Sam is simply overwhelmed.

IKPE-ITAUMA: I have become sick sometimes when I see a child, I cannot take a child to the center, because the center is already accumulating a lot of children, and we do not have the spaces for children.

PUREFOY: No one knows why Gods Will was accused of witchcraft. His parents have still not been found, but for now, he and the other children are safe. Christian Purefoy for CNN in Aquibo, Nigeria.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The United Nations says there are other factors in addition to poverty that contribute to the accusations of witchcraft and orphaned child is more likely to be targeted as are children being raised by relatives or step parent. An aggressive child or loner is at higher risk and those with physical deformities and those mostly accused of witchcraft are boys.

MALVEAUX: With some 17 million people already affected by the massive floods that have swept through Pakistan, authorities are warned that another 500,000 to evacuate immediately because of the rising water levels.

And more rain is forecasted for all four Pakistan provinces in the next 24 hours.

Meantime, there is chilling news for foreign aid workers who are assisting in flood relief efforts. Now the State Department says that the Taliban may be targeting them for attack. Our Brian Todd is looking into that.

Obviously, Brian, it's very disconcerting, and it's not going to help all those people who desperately need that help.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly won't help the victims, Suzanne, and these aid workers have to be so exhausted. They're on the verge of collapse, and now they've got this to worry about.

According to the State Department, the U.S. government has obtained information about threats against foreign aid workers who are helping victims in Pakistan. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley would not discuss specific intelligence, but at a briefing today, he did mention threat information from some notorious and dangerous groups. One you'll hear him say in a moment is the TTP, the main Taliban militant group in Pakistan fighting the Pakistani government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We are concerned that extremist elements within Pakistan including the TTP may well, you know, decide to attack foreigners who are in Pakistan helping the people of Pakistan. Or it may choose at this time to attack, you know, government institutions in Pakistan that are responding on behalf of the Pakistani people. I think it just underscores the bankrupt vision that these extremists have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Crowley says that State Department is working with the Pakistani government to deal with this threat. That one group, the TTP, the Pakistani Taliban, had a leader named Baitullah Mehsud, who was accused by the Pakistani government of masterminding the plot to assassinate Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Mehsud publicly denied it at the time. He was killed in a missile strike last year, a U.S. missile strike, but that group is still very powerful and considered very dangerous, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And is this threat expected to go beyond aid workers?

TODD: Well, they are concerned about some high-profile people who have been through there. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan has circulated through the region in recent weeks. U.S. Senator John Kerry has been there, as well as Dr. Rajiv Shah, the head of USAID, the main U.S. aid agency. A lot of high-profile dignitaries are circulating around there to help in the relief effort. You've got to believe they're concerned about their safety, as well.

MALVEAUX: OK, Brian. Thank you so much for bringing that to us.

Joining me now is CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend. Now, Fran is also an external board adviser to both the CIA and the Homeland Security Department.

Fran, thanks for joining us. I want to ask here, because it seems baffling. The Taliban obviously is trying to win the hearts and minds of the people there in Pakistan. Isn't this against their own self-interests?

FRANK TOWNSEND, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Suzanne, what they're worried about is that the American people, the American government and the Pakistani government will actually win the hearts and minds by providing the aid. And so what they want to do is intimidate them out of the region so that it's only these groups related to the Taliban who are able to help the people of Pakistan.

They want to show that the government of Pakistan is ineffective in terms of not only being able to deliver the aid, but protect aid workers, so they've got multiple, you know, sort of objectives in targeting the aid workers and getting them out of this area.

MALVEAUX: How difficult is it to protect aid workers who are involved in this type of humanitarian mission?

TOWNSEND: You know, it's incredibly difficult. We've seen not only in this instance, but in Afghanistan, itself, where aid workers are either kidnapped or targeted and assassinated.

And so, this becomes a real problem, because one instance like this, and it causes all of the aid -- nonprofit aid groups to pull back. They're afraid to be there as part of the distribution chain.

And so this becomes a real struggle and a real test of the capability and the willingness of the Pakistani government to put themselves at risk and go in there and ensure their safety.

You know, Brian mentioned the links back to TTP here. We should remind our viewers, this is the same group, TTP, that had links to the attempted Christmas day -- not Christmas day, the Times Square bomber. And so this is a powerful group that's extending its reach and targeting U.S. interests, and so I have every reason to believe that American authorities are taking this threat quite seriously.

MALVEAUX: If the Pakistan people find that their own government is ineffective and if that's what they believe, doesn't that undermine U.S. interests, our own ability here to work with the Pakistan people against the Taliban?

TOWNSEND: Absolutely. We've seen this same problem, whether you're talking about Pakistan and the people not thinking their government is effective or Afghanistan, where the question has been corruption. This poses a tremendous -- this isn't something that the U.S. government on its own can overcome. It needs a credible effective partner that is seen to be credible in the eyes of its own people, and so, this is a problem both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

MALVEAUX: All right. Fran Townsend. Thank you, Fran.

A stunning new twist in the case of a Muslim cab driver brutally stabbed in New York.

Plus, details of NASA's distant discovery that one researcher says is like opening a treasure chest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: There are stunning new revelations about the brutal attack on a Muslim cab driver in New York. As the wounded driver speaks out, calling for New Yorkers to love and respect one another, those who know the suspect, the young student, say he actually worked to build bridges across religious and ethnic divides, so what went wrong?

Our CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been digging into this. Deborah, what do we know about this case?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the big question on everyone's mind right now: what did cause a seemingly happy young filmmaker to suddenly snap?

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