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HIV Scare in Classroom; More Fatal Attacks in Iraq

Aired April 29, 2005 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Insurgents launch a deadly wave of attacks in Iraq. Nine car bombs, three hours, 24 people killed.
Plus, what could be a brand new threat from Iraq's most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. A new audiotape attributed to him with a message for President Bush.

And in a rare prime time news conference, the president focuses on rising fuel costs and Social Security.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... Social Security problem since 1983. We haven't had an energy strategy in our country for decades.


O'BRIEN: Will the president get results? The hard sell continues on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.


8:00 here in New York.

Good morning, everybody.

Good to have you along with us today.

We want to get to the story out of Philly today. A frightening situation for many. There's a third grader down there allegedly bringing a needle to school. He pricks a bunch of kids in class. One of them may be HIV-positive. Understandably so, parents are frightened. And we'll talk to Sanjay in a moment about what the parents need to know, what the kids need to know. So we'll get to that story in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Also this morning, remember those guys we were talking to?


O'BRIEN: You talked to them. They found all that money in Massachusetts. HEMMER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Remember, they said they found it in their yard, came on the show, talked about the money, showed us the money? Guess who they're talking to now? The coppers.


O'BRIEN: They're telling their story to the cops this morning and we're going to update you on what's happening, the new wrinkle in that story.

HEMMER: Now, just to be clear, that money is real.

O'BRIEN: Maybe. I don't know.

HEMMER: The story is a different thing, though.

O'BRIEN: We will see. The dealer who was helping assess the value says it would be impossible to counterfeit those particular bills that they found. But it's unclear what the issues are. We're going to get into more of that this morning.

HEMMER: We sure will -- hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are you suggesting we may have been had?

HEMMER: We and a whole lot of others, by the way.

O'BRIEN: I don't think their -- I think their story has holes, is what they're saying.

CAFFERTY: Are you suggesting we may have been had?

O'BRIEN: I think there story may have holes.


Coming up in "The Cafferty File," California Governor Schwarzenegger whining about some radio station billboards in Los Angeles.

Rush Limbaugh loses a big round in court.

And a burrito that terrorized New Mexico.

HEMMER: Catch it.

Thank you, Jack.

To the headlines.

Here is Carol Costello -- how are you, Carol?

Good morning. CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm fine.

Good morning, Bill.

Good morning to all of you.

Now in the news, some Democrats are criticizing President Bush, saying his plans to revamp Social Security would put seniors at a financial risk. The comments come one day after the presidential address, in which the president proposed asking future middle and higher class retirees to accept smaller benefit checks.


BUSH: Our duty to save Social Security begins with making the system permanently solvent. But our duty does not end there. We also have a responsibility to improve Social Security by directing extra help to those most in need and by making it a better deal for younger workers.


COSTELLO: President Bush takes his message on Social Security reform to Virginia this morning. He's set to leave for Falls Church in the next hour.

NASA is set to announce another delay for its Space Shuttle Discovery. The shuttle was originally set to take off on May 15 and then it was May 22 and now CNN has learned the agency will push back the launch date again, from May until at least July.

Safety concerns are apparently to blame. NASA will hold a news conference later this morning.

The California man who killed 5-year-old Samantha Runnion is now facing possible death. An Orange County jury convicted Alejandro Avila Thursday for the abduction, molestation and murder. Runnion had been playing outside of her home when she was taken kicking and screaming nearly three years ago. The penalty phase begins next week.

And prosecutors in the Michael Jackson case say they will rest their case early next week, and not today, as had been expected. The decision comes after Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, wrapped up two days on the stand. Rowe told jurors she thought the pop star was manipulated by his business associates, who she called "opportunistic vultures." She also called Jackson "kind" and a wonderful father, much to the surprise of prosecutors.

HEMMER: How do you think they're feeling today? Whoops.

COSTELLO: Not good.

HEMMER: I'm telling you.

Thank you, Carol. This story from Philly now. A third grader in North Philadelphia suspended from school today. The 8-year-old is accused of taking her mother's diabetes blood testing needle to school and then sticking 19 of her classmates with it. Now, one of the students who got stuck may have been HIV-positive. That's according to parents who were briefed by school officials just last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something that is not to be played with. You've got now little kids that are in danger.


HEMMER: The incident happened on Wednesday. Certainly there are many questions today.

Our medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here to sort through this -- good morning, Sanjay.


HEMMER: You hear about this story.

What's your reaction?

GUPTA: Well, obviously, a scary story. I think anybody can deny that. Eight year olds sitting around with a needle that may have also been infected or been affected, I should say, by someone who was HIV- positive, obviously concerning. But, also, I think any doctor listening to the story, anybody who is involved in this field will say that statistically these kids all have that going on their side, luck that is going on their side.

It is unlikely -- in fact, the CDC has never reported a case of someone outside a health care setting actually contracting HIV from a needle like this. Certainly in the health care setting it is possible. As doctors, we do take precautions with things like this. But very, very rare still, three in a thousand cases the likelihood of someone actually contracting HIV from a needle like this.

So, again, statistics are very much on their side -- Bill.

HEMMER: So then is it possible?

GUPTA: It is possible, but, again, never documented in this case. And as you said in the lead to the story there, this was a diabetic needle. So a very small needle. This wasn't a syringe full of blood, for example, which is the much more common setting in a health care setting. So unlikely given the small amount and unclear exactly who got poked when here -- Bill.

HEMMER: And for the parents who are sitting out there wondering, you know, is my kid infected or not, how long do they have to wait? How long -- does their kid have to be tested? GUPTA: Well, this is an interesting sort of thing. There are tests that give you results back very quickly. But as far as how long it takes for someone to actually develop the antibodies to the HIV virus -- that's what you're testing for -- that can take some time. And that really is where the rub is, Bill, because you usually have to get tested every month for a few months to make sure you're not started to develop these antibodies. And that waiting period is very difficult, for sure. But, again, it's unlikely that any of these kids, on the basis of this particular event, will become HIV-positive.

HEMMER: What do these hospitals do or what can they do in the meantime?

GUPTA: Well, to reduce the chances even further, I gave you the three in a thousand number for health care workers. They're going to use that same sort of data toward these children, as well. And they're going to say look, you know, to try and reduce the likelihood of any of these kids developing HIV, we're going to go ahead and give medications. These are anti-retroviral medications. These are medications basically to try and kill HIV virus, even though we don't know for sure that it's there. It's a prophylactic, if you will. And best data that says it reduces the likelihood of contracting HIV by another 80 percent.

So you can really take those numbers down from three in a thousand to less than one in a thousand.

HEMMER: Thank you, Sanjay.

Again, an elementary school down there in northern Philadelphia -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The al Qaeda leader in Iraq is making new threats against American troops. The threats are on an audiotape that's been posted on at least two Islamic Web sites. CNN has not yet authenticated that tape.

Also today, Iraqi soldiers and police have been the targets of suicide bomb missions in Iraq, in Baghdad. Six car bombs have gone off all around the city. Three others exploded southeast of Baghdad. That's nine car bombs in all. At least 24 people now dead, 100 others injured.

Ryan Chilcote joins us live from Baghdad this morning -- Ryan, we've kind of given out all the numbers.

Update us on the very latest on the situation.


Well, we start with that audiotape purportedly from Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, a very wanted man, of course, by U.S. forces, a terrorist here. On that tape, which we cannot independently verify at this point, there is a reference to the month of March, suggesting that the tape was recorded in March. On that tape, of course, also a pledge to continue to attack U.S. and Iraqi forces here in this country. Moving on to the violence, a lot to talk about, unfortunately, in Baghdad alone. We start in eastern Baghdad, where there was a double bombing. One car bomb going off. A Reuters crew rushing to the scene as a second car bomb goes off. Fortunately that Reuters crew was OK. But one Iraqi civilian did die and another eight Iraqi policemen were wounded in that attack. That was in eastern Baghdad.

Now moving on to northern Baghdad, another attack there. Four car bombs going off. All of them, according to Iraqi police, detonated by suicide bombers. All of them going off within minutes of one another in the same general vicinity.

And lastly, just southeast of Baghdad, in a place called Madain, three car bombs going off. Again, police saying that those were all detonated by suicide bombers.

Soledad, all in all, 11 bombs going off here in Baghdad and the immediately surrounding area before noon. Iraqi police telling us that at least 23 people were killed in those attacks, about 100 wounded.

The U.S. military has since put out a statement. They say that in general there is a downturn in the violence since the elections in January. However, the insurgents do maintain an ability to surge. That's what they are saying we are seeing today. They're also calling this a desperate attempt on the terrorists' part to try and discredit Iraq's newly formed government -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Ryan Chilcote updating us this morning.

Ryan, I think I have a moment to ask you a quick question.

You know, yesterday when we were talking, we were talking about the historic vote in the cabinet. And now we're talking about a big rise, an immediate, short-term rise, in violence.

Is there a sense that these two things are connected?

CHILCOTE: Absolutely. And this is part of a long-time strategy of the insurgents to strike, to try and discredit, perhaps, as the U.S. military is saying, to try and embarrass the Iraqi government, to try and show Iraqis that despite the fact that now they do have a formed government, that they are unable to provide security on the streets.

And that is job number one for Iraq's new cabinet. They're going to have to police the streets better. Iraqi security forces are going to have to do a better job at providing security.

O'BRIEN: Very, very difficult, obviously.

Ryan Chilcote for us this morning.

Ryan, thanks -- Bill.

HEMMER: We're going to get back to this money hoax that apparently is just unraveling at the moment in the State of Massachusetts. We'll talk to the police chief about these three men who, well, they have a bit of a different story today. So we'll get to that.

Also, baby boomers putting a new spin on retirement. They have found dream jobs for life and they'll show you how you can do it, too. We wrap up our "Never Too Late" series today.

Also, there are more ways now in the spring time than ever to protect yourself against mosquitoes. The buzz on some brand new bug sprays you need to know about this spring and summer.

First, how fast do they fly, the mosquitoes? A mile an hour, 2 1/2 miles an hour or five miles an hour? We'll have the answer for you after a break on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Soledad, how fast do mosquitoes fly?

The answer is B, 2 1/2 miles an hour. The hawk moth is the fastest flying insect, at 33 1/2 miles an hour. And now you know. And we did not sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but we feel smarter.

In many places, mosquito season is in full swing. And now there are more ways than ever to protect yourself from the bites and the threat of things like West Nile. For the first time, the CDC now endorsing two insect repellents. This in addition to the chemical DEET.

Holly Menninger is back with us today.

How are you doing, Holly?

Good morning.



How are you?

HEMMER: I'm doing just great, thanks.

You're not wearing your fancy t-shirt this time, though. We miss that.

MENNINGER: No, sorry.

HEMMER: Holly is an entomologist...

MENNINGER: I didn't have a mosquito shirt.

HEMMER: No problem. Holly comes to us by way of the University of Maryland.

OK, so for years we were talking about DEET. Now we're talking about a thing called Picaradin.

What is that?

MENNINGER: Well, it's a chemical that's been used for several years now in Australia, Europe, Asia. It's a little bit different than DEET. It's not going to be as greasy and the good news about it is that it doesn't melt plastic. So a lot of people who have used DEET-based products have found that their cameras, parts of their cameras melt, their binoculars, their watch faces may melt off. And it seems that, according to the research that I've read, Picaradin is just as good as DEET in terms of repelling mosquitoes.

HEMMER: Have you used it yet, Holly?

MENNINGER: No, I haven't. Actually, the first product in the U.S., I believe, is coming out this summer.


MENNINGER: And that's going to have it. I haven't seen it yet in the stores.

HEMMER: How does it compare, then, to DEET? You gave a few examples there. Is it more effective, then, overall?

MENNINGER: Well, they think that it's just as effective at lower levels as -- as low levels of DEET. So, for example, a product that contains about 20 percent DEET will provide insect repellency for about four hours. And so they think it's comparable.

HEMMER: All right. What about the -- what about eucalyptus, a new recommendation also, the oil?

MENNINGER: Yes. They think that that might be just as good, as well. I've read a couple of stories that suggest that products containing the oil of lemon eucalyptus would be just as good. And you find that in some common products on the market, as well.

HEMMER: How do you make a decision, then? How do you decide on which one to use? Personal preference could be one answer...


HEMMER: ... but, you know, give us yours.

MENNINGER: OK. Well, I think that the amount of products, they will tell you the active ingredient into a percentage, and that tells you basically how long that product will provide protection. So if you use a product, like I said, with 20 percent DEET, that'll last for about four hours. If you use a lower level product, it won't last as long. You use a higher percentage of a product, it'll last longer. So I think if you're interested in protecting yourself and your family for a couple of hours because you're out at a picnic, I think any one of those products would work well.

HEMMER: All right, four things I'm going to tick off -- apply the aerosol spray outside.

That is critical, right?

MENNINGER: Yes, because you don't want to get it in your face and your eyes, sensitive areas on you.

HEMMER: Number two, then -- adults apply it to children and avoid the palms.

MENNINGER: Definitely. You want to make sure that a parent, you're applying it to your child, you put it on yourself first and then apply it to your child. You don't want to get it on their hands, because kids often rub their faces and their eyes and it causes your -- it can cause irritation.

HEMMER: Listen, that's somewhat obvious. We know that. But why do you need to wash before going to bed? You don't want that stuff in your sheets or what?

MENNINGER: Exactly. They've, studies have shown that sometimes kids -- parents don't have their kids take a bath when they get inside after applying the spray and they'll actually transfer some of that chemical to their sheets. And so for the next couple of nights, they'll be re-exposed to the chemical and you don't want to do that. You want to make sure that you wash your hands and take a bath.


And the fourth thing is read the directions. And we can't emphasize that enough. But if you're not reading the directions, you shouldn't be using it in the first place.

MENNINGER: Definitely.

HEMMER: Thanks, Holly.


HEMMER: Holly Menninger...

MENNINGER: Thank you.

HEMMER: ... the entomologist down there for the University of Maryland.

Now -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, earlier this week we introduced you to the two young men who said they dug up buried treasure in Massachusetts, a crate filled with antique bank notes. This morning, the men are under arrest. Police say it's all a hoax.

The police chief in Methuen, Massachusetts is Joseph Solomon.

Chief Solomon, thank you for talking with us this morning.

Let's get right to what exactly has happened. Two of the men have been arrested.

Which men?


O'BRIEN: So these are the same men who have been making the rounds on the talk shows talking about exactly how they found the money. There they are right there on our set the other day.

First, tell me what's wrong with their story.

I want to play a little bit of what they told us yesterday.

Here's Tim talking about how exactly he came upon the money in the backyard.


TIM CREBASE, CLAIMED TO HAVE FOUND TREASURE: We were going to rip up a bush because the roots were going into the stairs and like breaking up the stairs. So my buddy had bought a brand new Expedition. So we waited to check out how the four wheel drive works. So I go out there and start kind of digging around the bush so we can up the roots and tie a tow rope to it and just rip the bush right out of the ground.

And so I start digging and my buddy Barry goes back to the truck. And I started digging away and I hit some kind of box.


O'BRIEN: So, is that story true or not true?

SOLOMON: No, that story is not true, not even close.

O'BRIEN: Well, what's the true story? What -- where did all that money come from? Is the money counterfeit?

SOLOMON: No, the money is not counterfeit. We worked with the district attorney's office from Essex County, the state police and Secret Service. It's not counterfeit but it came from a construction job that the men were doing and they discovered the money in somebody else's house and they came up with this ploy so it would seem real and that they'd be able to keep the money.

The sad thing is they turned something that could be like the American dream into a big fraud.

O'BRIEN: So they -- are you -- are they charged with stealing the money out of somebody else's home?

SOLOMON: Yes. What we've actually charged them with is receiving the stolen money, because the larceny occurred outside of our jurisdiction. So for the present time, we've charged them with receiving stolen property, over $250; conspiracy; and accessory after the fact. And we'll be working with the D.A.'s office to decide if the charges should be changed and moved to a different jurisdiction.

O'BRIEN: I know that they were being interviewed by police.

What have they told you? And, frankly, why would you go on national television and make up a big old story if, you know, it kind of seems like it would bring attention to your wrongdoing, if you know what I mean.

SOLOMON: Yes, we were wondering that ourselves. The only thing we could figure out is, you know, all the excitement brings you fame and they got caught up in all of that when they started the story to cover their tracks. And personally, if it was me, I wouldn't have gone on national TV. I would have dumped the money somewhere.

But basically they've given us information that corroborated some of the facts that we developed and specifically we don't want to talk about most of the facts of the case until later on some time today. But that we did develop that the money was taken from a construction site. We believe we know where it is. Detectives are following up today. And hopefully by the end of the day today, we'll actually be positive as to which house the money came from.

O'BRIEN: So, I know you're -- there's going to be more information coming out. But if you can clear up -- I mean every time you give me an answer we raise about 10 more questions.

Did it come from someone's home or sort of a general construction site? I mean is it someone who had buried the property in their own backyard, the money in their own backyard, or ripped off from their house?

SOLOMON: No, it was our belief they were doing a construction job on a roof and the money was found inside of the attic of a house. And it was just a remodeling job. And what -- the way it appears to us, based on how old the money is and the facts we have at the present time, the people who had the job done probably did not even know that that money was in their house.

O'BRIEN: Oh, interesting.

Can you tell us exactly how they were tipped off that that money came from their attic as opposed to being dug up in the backyard of somebody else's home?

SOLOMON: How the guys came about it was they were actually doing...

O'BRIEN: Well, you say the people in the...

SOLOMON: ... a construction job.

O'BRIEN: So the people in the house didn't realize they had the money in their attic? Or are you saying that the people in the house...

SOLOMON: Yes, it's...

O'BRIEN: ... when they saw this on TV, realized they had been ripped off?

SOLOMON: No. The people whose house it was taken from still don't know today that it was taken from their house, because they're not the ones who put it there. It was put there many years ago, it's our belief. And somewhere a prior owner, one or two houses, one or two owners back, are the real owners of the money.

O'BRIEN: Did all the media attention, is that what tipped off the prior owner of the house who remembered that, boy, he had a lot of old money stuck in the attic and never told anybody? Is that how, in the end, that you guys stumbled -- realized that this was all fake?

SOLOMON: No. It was actually based upon the various different stories that were being told and some great investigative work by the detectives, the state police and the Secret Service. So far, right now, the real owner of this money has not come forward and they do not know the money was even in the house. So we're still going to track down the owner, but they haven't been tracked down yet.


O'BRIEN: Chief Solomon, I thank you for talking with us.

Obviously lots of questions still, and we look forward to getting more answers later today.

HEMMER: Well, you know when those guys were sitting over there the other day, they brought in these tin cans, right?

O'BRIEN: And you were more...

HEMMER: Now, they were probably made of steel.

O'BRIEN: You did say they're really clean.

HEMMER: Well, they were -- it was old. I mean maybe it was 50 years old, maybe it was 100 years old.

Chief, are you still with us?

Oh, maybe he's gone. That's a shame. Because I wanted to know whether or not there was any dirt on this steel can? If these things had been buried for 100 years, there has to be some sort of residue contained on there, and there was not.

O'BRIEN: You did remark that they didn't look super, super dirty. HEMMER: No.

O'BRIEN: They just looked old.

HEMMER: But then again (INAUDIBLE)...

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, again, they...

HEMMER: ... investigation either...

O'BRIEN: And lots of questions, obviously.


O'BRIEN: And they'll give us some more answers later.

HEMMER: You know, I wonder if he's ever met a smart criminal.

O'BRIEN: Well.

HEMMER: You find all this stuff and you go on national TV show after show after show? Not thinking.

O'BRIEN: Well, we'll see.

Ahead this morning, baby boomers with a new plan for retirement pursuing their dream jobs. How can doing what you love pay off? Our special series, "Never Too Late," coming up on AMERICAN MORNING.


O'BRIEN: Let's get right to Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Soledad.

President Bush, in his speech last night, said he wants to cut Social Security benefits, future benefits, for wealthier retirees. But don't be fooled. Social Security is called the third rail of American politics for a reason. Democrats have already branded Bush's proposal as a massive cut in Social Security and conservative Republicans are worried that the new plan could cost them in next year's mid-term elections.

But with support for his private accounts almost non-existent, the president decided to gamble. His idea could save Social Security $3 trillion over 75 years.

The this morning is, is cutting benefits the way to solve this country's Social Security problems?

Larry in Ohio writes: "I believe in President Bush, but I am disappointed that his proposal seems to punish those who have worked hard and succeeded. I support personal accounts for just that reason. I would rather invest my money myself."

Virgil in Indiana writes: "Cutting Social Security is not going to solve our nation's problems. Here's a stupid thought, though. Maybe if we brought some of the higher paying jobs back to the U.S., put more people back on the payroll to be paying into Social Security, we might not have this problem at all."

Charles in Tennessee: "Go ahead, cut the benefits of Social Security, but only if they plan to raise welfare."

And Richard in Washington writes: "Jack, if Social Security benefits are reduced, retirees can still enjoying shopping at Wal- Mart, buying their medications at online drugstores from Malaysia and probably find some good dog food recipes in the AARP magazine.

HEMMER: Putting it all together.

O'BRIEN: Whoo.

HEMMER: That was really the headline last night, too, that means testing idea that he floated out there. When you retire, what are your means and based on that how much should you make, if at all, from the Social Security program?

CAFFERTY: Yes, but you know how they distilled that headline down in the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post?"


CAFFERTY: President Bush wants to cut Social Security. That's all. And it's the lead story in both papers.

HEMMER: Well, Thank you, Jack.

We'll talk more about it a bit later.

In the meantime, though, what, you've got a tease, don't you?

O'BRIEN: Don't go anywhere.

HEMMER: Don't go anywhere just yet.

O'BRIEN: Don't go anywhere.

CAFFERTY: "In The Money" this weekend, we're going to take a look at the country's appetite for oil and how it drives our foreign policy and our domestic way of life. Saturday at 1:00 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

Join us.

HEMMER: It's habit forming.

Thanks, Jack.

The Michael Jackson trial continues. His ex-wife standing by her man. Is it a clear sailing case now for the defense from here on out? Rapid fire reaction from our "Gimme A Minute" panel in a moment here, when we continue, after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


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