Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


China May Have Unwittingly Helped Avian Flu Virus Mutate; Clash of Conscience at Pharmacies

Aired June 21, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, a shocking blunder by China in the fight against the deadly bird flu. Chinese farmers may have unwittingly given birds a drug that in fact will help the virus mutate and create the pandemic that health officials around the world have feared.

Also tonight, a clash of conscience at pharmacies all around the United States between women asking for contraceptives and right-to- life pharmacists. Among my guests tonight, a pharmacist at the center of this escalating controversy.

And we'll go to a border down in Texas for a special report on the increasing risk of an explosion of violence and lawless in Mexico crossing into this country.

Tonight, we begin with a happy ending. An 11-year-old boy missing for four days in Utah's rugged mountains has been found safe, alive.

Searchers on horseback today found Brennan Hawkins near a lake about five miles from the Boy Scout camp where he was last seen. The boy arrived just moments ago at a hospital in Salt Lake City.

Ted Rowlands reports from Summit County, Utah.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An amazing end to a story of a missing boy. Brennan Hawkins, an 11-year-old has been missing since Friday night. The search nonstop for this little boy, and today, at about noon Mountain Time, he was found about five miles from where he was last seen at a Boy Scout camp.

According to those who saw Brennan, he was cold, he was dehydrated, but otherwise, amazingly, he was in good health, found in the same nylon shorts and sweatshirt and tennis shoes that he was last seen in. He said he wanted to see his mother.

He did see his mother. His family accompanied him to Salt Lake City, where he was hospitalized. But he is in good health. And a search -- the search has come to a dramatic, wonderful ending here in Utah.

Family members thanked all of the volunteers that came out here, and they said that they could not have done it without all of the help. Thousands of people came out here to scour the rugged mountain area. And it paid off.

Brennan Hawkins, the 11-year-old who has been missing since Friday, is OK, in good condition, and with his family tonight.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Summit County, Utah.


DOBBS: And now an ending to a sad and tragic story that began 41 years ago today. A jury in Mississippi today found 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of three civil rights workers. The former member of the Ku Klux Klan had been charged with murder. The jury was deadlocked on the case as recently as last night.

Ed Lavandera reports from Philadelphia, Mississippi -- Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, well, Edward Ray Killen around here is known simply as "Preacher Killen." And 41 years ago, prosecutors say he masterminded the conspiracy, if you will, to murder three civil rights workers who had come here in 1964 in what was known as the Summer of Freedom to help register black voters.

It was a case that galvanized the country and led to major civil rights legislation and changes during the 1960s. But Edgar Ray Killen sat stoically today as the verdict was read to him.

He was not convicted of murder. Instead, he was convicted on three counts of the lesser charge of manslaughter. That stems from the fact that prosecutors believe they weren't able to exactly prove that Edgar Ray Killen was at the murder scene at the moment the three civil rights workers were killed, but that he led the conspiracy and the charge to have them murdered.

Defense attorneys have said today that there was just too much political and media pressure on this jury, and that the compromise, in their words, of the manslaughter charges is what they reached.

Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were murdered just south of town here. They had been arrested early in the afternoon on Father's Day of 1964. They had come here to investigate the burning of a black church and the beating of several of its members by the Ku Klux Klan, and shortly after that they were arrested for speeding.

On their way out of town a few hours later, prosecutors say that there was a mob of nearly 20 Klan members that had tracked them down and murdered them. They were later buried under 15 feet of earth. It took 44 days to find their bodies.

But now, 41 years after, it's the first time the state of Mississippi has filed murder charges against anyone in that group. And although there is mixed reaction to what the verdict ended up being, many people are hopeful here that this will put somewhat of an ending on this grotesque chapter of the civil rights era -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much. Ed Lavandera, reporting from Philadelphia, Mississippi.

On Capitol Hill today, scathing criticism of Pentagon bureaucrats and their failure to provide adequate equipment for our U.S. Marines in Iraq. The chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Duncan Hunter, accused Pentagon officials of lacking a sense of urgency. At the same time, an internal Marine Corps investigation declared that Marines do not have sufficient weapons, communications equipment or properly equipped vehicles.

Jamie McIntyre reports.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Top Marine Corps leaders were accused of rejecting creative ways to add protective steel plates to unarmored Humvees in favor of a high-end solution that took months to get through the bureaucracy of the Pentagon.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: And while they're waiting for the fancy stuff to arrive, that is, for the new kits that are coming in, that you have advised us will be -- will be there in full supply by December of this year, but while we're waiting for that, they could be putting this on, they could be saving lives.

MCINTYRE: At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Chairman Duncan Hunter confronted two top Marine generals with photographs showing how an enterprising gunnery sergeant in Iraq fastened homemade plates to wheel wells of Humvees, saving the lives and limbs of his fellow Marines. Why, frustrated members wondered, wasn't the stop gap option pursued with more urgency.


MCINTYRE: Committee staffers first pushed for the quick fix back in February, then again in April.

HUNTER: You agreed on the 21st to get this thing done. And we all left that meeting with the understanding that this thing would be done. May passed, no action.

MCINTYRE: The Marines instead contracted for commercially-made underbody armor kits that provide better protection but won't all be delivered for eight more weeks. In retrospect, the generals admitted it was a mistake not to rush steel plates already in Kuwait to Marines who were under daily attack in the most dangerous parts of Iraq.

BRIG. GEN. WILLIAM CATTO, MARINE CORPS SYSTEMS COMMAND: That's my responsibility, because I did not push them fast enough. I assure you that we were paying attention. Again, this is a lack of leadership on my part for not paying more attention to that specific contract.

MCINTYRE: And ultimately, they said what experience in Iraq is showing is that the vulnerable Humvee is being rendered obsolete by the tactics of the enemy.

GEN. WILLIAM NYLAND, ASSISTANT COMMANDANT, MARINE CORPS: I think that the utility, if this is the threat of the future, the long-term utility of the Humvee has to be questioned. We have to take continued steps to find what will defeat this kind of a threat.


MCINTYRE: And a Marine Corps inspector general's report finds that those Humvees are wearing out faster in Iraq because of wear and tear and the weight of the extra armor. In fact, the report finds that the Marines in Iraq are using about twice the amount of equipment that they would normally be issued. And what that means is the Marine Corps is going to have to buy more of just about everything over the next few years to keep the Marines properly equipped -- Lou.

DOBBS: Properly equipped. Two-and-a-half years almost into the war in Iraq, and there are still inadequacies in provisions and armament for our Marines and soldiers. What is the Pentagon's response to Duncan Hunter, the chairman?

MCINTYRE: Well, you heard the one Marine Corps general take responsibility there for not rushing one of those options in a little bit faster. What they say was they were trying to have something that was a more complete solution. And, in fact, they were concerned that the solution that was used by some of the troops on the ground, in some cases, could make the situation worse.

They admit in some cases that wasn't the case. But overall, the Marine Corps says that the troops in Iraq are properly equipped. But what they're finding is that they don't have the inventory back here to equip -- to continue to equip them that way, and that's why they're going to have to increase their purchasing over the next couple of years.

DOBBS: Jamie, this is something the Marine Corps and the Pentagon I can't imagine being very proud of. Jamie McIntyre, thank you for that excellent report.

A top American commander in Iraq today declared the United States could begin withdrawing substantial numbers of our troops early next year. Lieutenant General John Vines said significant withdrawals could only take place, however, after Iraqi elections are held in December.


LT. GEN. JOHN VINES, U.S. ARMY: At this point, I would not be prepared to recommend a draw-down prior to the election. Certainly not any significant numbers. It may be that some of the units that are here now, we will not ask for replacements. And we continue to assess that, and we're not at the point where we make the decision yet.


DOBBS: Insurgents, meanwhile, have launched new attacks in Iraq. A suicide bomber killed a security commander and two of his guards in the northeastern town of Halabja. Some suicide bomb attacks in Iraq, it turns out, may have European links.

British police today arrested a suspected radical Islamist terrorist in the northern English city of Manchester. The man is a former roommate of a French citizen who blew himself up in a suicide bomb attack against our troops in Iraq in February. It was the third major anti-terrorist raid in Europe over the past week. European police have been targeting groups that are suspected of supporting the Iraqi insurgents and terrorists.

Still to come here, an apology by a leading Democratic senator after he compared American interrogators in Guantanamo Bay to Nazis.

And President Bush holding a strategy session with Republican senators, trying to re-launch his stalled plan for so-called Social Security reform.

And alarming gaps in our defenses against radical Islamist terrorists with nuclear or radiological weapons. That special report coming up here next.


DOBBS: President Bush today held a strategy session at the White House with Republican senators. One of the top issues, the Senate's failure to confirm John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. President Bush and the senators also discussed so-called Social Security reform, a presidential initiative that is stalled.

Suzanne Malveaux reports.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Emerging from an hour-long long and class photo with President Bush, Republican senators made news. On Social Security, Senator Robert Bennett announced that President Bush encouraged him to go forward with his bill to overhaul Social Security that does not include the president's plan to establish private accounts.

SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R), UTAH: He just said, "I like your bill," period. I'll take that.

MALVEAUX: Bennett says the president would prefer to keep private accounts in the Social Security legislation, but that this may signal that the White House, struggling to win support, is opening the door to alternatives.

BENNETT: We have a lot of hope that we can use this bill to break the logjam and move forward on Social Security. We'll find out in the weeks to come. But it's nice to know that the president is on top of this and is fully aware of what we're doing, and is encouraging me to go forward.

MALVEAUX: White House aides say the president is not abandoning private accounts, but see Bennett's plan as a possible test case to see if Democrats, who refuse to talk about overhauling Social Security unless private accounts are taken off the table, are serious about reform.

NICOLLE DEVENISH, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This puts the ball back in their court and gives them an opportunity to really, you know, maybe put their money where their mouth has been.

MALVEAUX: A spokesman for the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid, called the latest move by the White House a bait and switch.

In another battle of Democrats over President Bush's U.N. nominee, John Bolton, the Republican leadership raised eyebrows when it seemingly did an about-face. Earlier in the day, The Associated Press reported that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he would not schedule another vote on Bolton's nomination, that it was now in the hands of the president. But emerging from his lunch with Mr. Bush, he renewed his commitment to push forward.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: The president made it very clear that he expects an up-or-down vote. And in talking directly to the leadership and to our entire caucus, I hope we can deliver that up-or-down vote. So we'll continue working in that regard.


MALVEAUX: But there is increasing talk here at the White House, as well as on Capitol Hill, of course, that the president may exercise his authority to appoint Bolton during a congressional recess if the Senate cannot break the impasse -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, first on the issue of Social Security reform, so-called, is this the beginning of an exit strategy by the White House, as some Republicans in Congress have suggested the president pursue?

MALVEAUX: Well, essentially what the president and the White House is doing is they're trying to embarrass the Democrats, they're trying to make that case that they're obstructionists. So they're putting, at least floating this idea out there. And just to see what their response is. They may not end up supporting it after all, but the president, again, doesn't have support for his own plan.

DOBBS: Absolutely not. Polls showing overwhelming disinterest in this initiative and any other. In point of fact, and on the issue of John Bolton, Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, for an hour left -- left John Bolton hanging in the - hanging, twisting, if you will, in the wind, then the reversal after meeting with the president. What's the point of that reversal? MALVEAUX: Well, essentially he spoke with the president, and he said that the president wants to move forward here. And this is a very similar strategy, though, Lou.

If you take a look at Social Security, as well as this whole Bolton thing, if they move forward, if they continue to push, they can show that the Democrats are obstructionists, and then perhaps work a deal behind the scenes, or perhaps use that alternative that has been discussed, a real possible alternative of moving forward with that congressional recess appointment.

DOBBS: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you, from the White House.

In Congress today, disturbing testimony about the threat of a nuclear weapons attack or a dirty bomb in this country. Lawmakers heard troubling evidence that our nation's security agencies are not doing enough to test for dangerous materials coming into the country.

Jeanne Meserve reports.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the water from where the World Trade Center once stood, the port of Newark. Although New York remains terrorist target number one, almost four years after 9/11, only 45 percent of the cargo arriving there is screened for nuclear materials.

BETHANN RONNEY, PORT SECURITY AUTHORITY, NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY: Approximately 15 percent of our containerized cargo volume moves by rail or barge out of the port. None of that cargo, or virtually none of that cargo, is currently being scanned by the radiation portal monitor deployment.

MESERVE: In Newark, radiation portals are set off by one in four containers because the portals can be triggered by natural sources of radiation, like ceramics and kitty litter. And they cannot detect nuclear material shielded by lead. New technology is being developed, but some lawmakers fear it is not being done effectively.

REP. PETE KING (R), NEW YORK: We have the Defense Department, we have the Department of Energy, we have Homeland Security, we have the State Department all going in, if not different directions, in parallel directions, and it's really not as coordinated as it should be.

MESERVE: At a congressional hearing, experts suggested that more nuclear screening be done overseas, or offshore, and that detectors some day be put inside containers. But those solutions do not deal with nuclear materials already in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many locations do you think there are in this country where you could find Cesium-137?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it's fair to say the hospitals spend more energy and money disposing of hypodermic needles than they do taking care of their Cesium?



MESERVE: Many experts say the most effective solution is to secure nuclear materials here and overseas to keep them from getting in the hands of terrorists in the first place -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jeanne, thank you very much. Jeanne Meserve, from Washington.

A Democratic senator under a storm of controversy for comments he made last week about Guantanamo Bay tonight is apologizing.

Ed Henry is in Washington with the story and has details of what has become Senator Dick Durbin's about-face and apology -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. A dramatic development and an about-face, as you mentioned, from Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, apologizing tonight just in the last half-hour for a controversial comment he made one week ago, where he, on the Senate floor, compared the actions of some U.S. military personnel at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the actions of "Nazis, Soviets and their gulags, some mad regime, Pol Pot, or others that had no concerns for human beings."

That statement certainly caused a lot of ire on Capitol Hill. Republican leaders were pressuring Durbin for days now to apologize. He had repeatedly refused to do so, only expressing deep regret last Friday night. But then just moments ago, Durbin relented.


DURBIN: In my own words, made some characterizations about that memo. I made reference to the Nazis, to the Soviets and other repressive regimes. Mr. President, I've come to understand that was a very poor choice of words.


HENRY: This comes after heavy pressure from various Republicans on Sunday. Former prisoner of war and Senator John McCain said in fact that Durbin should go further and actually apologize on the Senate floor. Late last night, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and the rest of the Republican leadership sent a joint letter to the Democratic leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, demanding that Durbin go down to the Senate floor and apologize.

As you just saw, he finally did that this evening. And it's very interesting. Privately, Republicans are telling us this is kind of a coordinated strategy they now have. They want to go after Durbin, they want to go after the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and say that a lot of their comments have been extreme, especially on the war -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, there's no question that Senator Durbin's comments were unfortunate and extreme. But didn't the Democrats as well demand that he apologize for what was a blatant insult to our men and women in uniform?

HENRY: Actually, Lou, what's been interesting is that Dick Durbin, even though he's the number two Democrat in the Senate, was basically twisting in the wind for the last week. No democrats were really coming forward to either denounce this or to support him.

In fact, Democrats were mostly staying on the sidelines. Democratic Leader Harry Reid did voice what he called 100 percent support for Durbin in the last couple of days, but no other Democrats were going down to the floor to defend him. And as you point out, no other Democrats would denounce these words that clearly caused a lot of concern -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Ed Henry.

Up next here, women with prescriptions for contraceptives are struggling with some pharmacists who are morally opposed to filling their prescriptions. We'll have that special report for you. A crisis and clash of conscience.

And a new outbreak of the deadly bird flu in China. It could be the next global pandemic. Scientists want answers, but China isn't divulging what those scientists need to know.

Those stories are next.


DOBBS: Tonight, in this country, what is becoming a clash of conscience at pharmacy counters throughout the country. Some pharmacists are refusing to fill doctors' prescriptions for birth control and other contraceptives. Women contend those pharmacists are violating their medical rights. The arrival of Plan B, the morning- after pill, has only heightened the controversy.

Christine Romans has our special report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Havich was shocked when a pharmacist at her local Walgreen's refused to fill her prescription for birth control pills.

MICHELLE HAVICH, PHARMACIST REFUSED TO FILL PRESCRIPTION: A million things were running through my head, like why would she -- why is she refusing me my pills? And, you know, she said it was nothing against me personally, but obviously it was. She wasn't going to wait on me because of what my prescription was.

ROMANS: She was sent to another Walgreen's, and an hour later her birth control prescription was filled.

HAVICH: I think they should be required to give out your prescription. It's a legal medication, and it is medication.

ROMANS: Walgreen's says it must balance the needs of its patients with the beliefs of its employees. And the American Pharmacist Association has long held pharmacists do not need to fill prescriptions that violate their moral or religious beliefs. Pro-life pharmacists say there's a movement now to deny them their right of conscience.

STEVEN ADEN, CENTER FOR LAW & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: As health care professionals, they have a right to decide what medications, what therapies they'll participate in, and which violate their conscience. So that ought to be respected across the country. Unfortunately it hasn't been.

ROMANS: What some consider a lack of religious respect, others argue is an emboldened religious right.

ADAM SONFELD, ALAN GUTTMACHER INSTITUTE: You have people saying that, you know, their beliefs should trump those of their clients, and of their employers, and of the doctors who are prescribing these medications. And trumping their responsibilities as health care providers.

ROMANS: Pharmacists have been quietly refusing to fill birth control prescriptions for years, but the availability of the morning- after pill has heightened the debate. That pill, known as Plan B, prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. Some pharmacists equate it with abortion and have refused to serve patients with those prescriptions.


ROMANS: And in some cases, they won't refer these patients to another pharmacist. That's why the doctors who are prescribing some of these contraceptives are not happy.

Yesterday, the American Medical Association said it objects to pharmacists refusing to dispense prescriptions. And in Washington, a bill is being considered that would require pharmacists to fill all prescriptions -- Lou.

DOBBS: This clash of conscience we're going to be exploring further. Christine Romans, thank you.

I'll be talking with an Illinois pharmacist who morally objects to selling the morning-after pill, and he recently filed suit against the state of Illinois after the governor issued an emergency order requiring pharmacies that sell contraceptives to make the morning- after pill available to all patients and customers. He says the state has no right, however, to override his moral convictions. We'll be talking with him about this clash of conscience.

And that brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Do you support legislation that would require pharmacists, irrespective of their moral and religious beliefs, to fill all prescriptions, yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll have the results, of course, later here in the broadcast.

Some medications used by China may have caused even more concern about the deadly bird flu, which could become the next world pandemic. Health officials fear the Chinese have unwittingly made the virus even stronger by giving chickens a drug mint for human beings. But the Chinese are reluctant to admit anything.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest outbreak of bird flu in China has World Health officials scared. It's stronger than ever and becoming drug-resistant. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization confirms the Chinese have given their chickens a human antiviral medicine, Amantadine, to try to suppress the H5N1 bird flu. But it backfired.

The Chinese, by repeatedly giving the medicine meant for humans to chickens, have appeared to create a stronger strain of the virus. Global scientists say that would make sense with what they are seeing.

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: It certainly looks as though there is fire behind the smoke, yes. I suspect that this is exactly what happened. It's something that makes sense. It puts all the pieces of the puzzle together.

PILGRIM: The World Health Organization has sent a team to China to investigation, and World Health officials say the drug could be virtually useless to help humans at this point.

HENK BEKEDAM, WHO: We have increase in the resistance. That means that the virus is not anymore responding to the drug itself.

PILGRIM: The Chinese government, through its embassy in Washington, today categorically denied using the drug on animals. But the communist Chinese government has not been open about disease. During the SARS epidemic, Chinese officials initially denied its existence. Only after pressure from the World Health Organization were Chinese officials forced to acknowledge the threat.

The World Health Organization recently warned if there are global pandemic of any kind, millions of people could be infected. Scientists say avian flu could be the next pandemic, carried by migratory birds, making it very difficult to contain.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PILGRIM: Amantadine is one of the few drugs approved for treating humans with avian flu, and it's the most affordable, but now the worst fear is that the drug may be useless in helping with any widespread epidemic -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you. Kitty Pilgrim.

Joining us now is Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Fauci, it is good to have you with us tonight.


DOBBS: Amantadine, if indeed it turns out the Chinese did use this, what is the impact on Amantadine as an antidote to this potentially deadly disease?

FAUCI: Well, it's already happened, Lou. The fact is that when we isolated the virus in our attempts to make a vaccine, and we also tested its sensitivity to Amantadine, it became clear, over a year ago we knew, that in fact this virus was resistant to Amantadine, which is a commonly used drug for influenza. A very cheap drug, a widely available drug, a drug of which there are ample supplies.

So the fact that we already know there's resistance out there to this drug, means that our armamentarium of antiviral tools to fight this virus should it turn into a pandemic is severely restricted, because the other drug, the other class of drugs, for example, Tamiflu, that drug is quite good against H5N1. But it's in very limited supply, and it's expensive. So the very fact that we have resistance to Amantadine really makes our problem much more significant that it would have been.

DOBBS: Much more significant, and you place the blame squarely on the Chinese?

FAUCI: Well, I, you know, Lou, I don't know if we can say place the blame. The Chinese deny that they have encouraged the use of Amantadine widely to treat animals or to prevent infection. But people in China, certainly the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as veterinarians in China readily admit that in fact it has been in wide use. So it might not have been encouraged by the Chinese authorities, but there's little doubt in anyone's mind that it's been used.

DOBBS: And the fact that they're denying it really is -- I mean, Dr. Fauci, let's just move political correctness aside here, even on a geopolitical basis, the fact is, irrespective of what the Chinese said, the evidence is overwhelming that in point of fact, they have used it.

FAUCI: Right.

DOBBS: And Tamiflu is a potential aid here. Is there any chance, I mean, for crying out loud, we can't even provide flu shots to the American people at flu season -- is there any chance that we can develop successfully a flu, an avian flu vaccine in time to be of help should a pandemic break out in the near term?

FAUCI: Well, we're right in the process of actually testing a vaccine we've already developed. In fact, we're in the stages of the testing to determine the correct dose and safety. We've already given it to people who are young, healthy adults. When we collect that data, probably about mid-July, we'll be able to move into the elderly individuals.

We have a stockpile of about 2 million doses of the H5N1. If we have to scale up, we can scale up perhaps by tens of millions, but if we have a full-blown pandemic flu within the next several months, there certainly is not going to be enough vaccine available for everyone who would need it, which is the reason why we're pushing as quickly as we can to prove the safety and the appropriate dose of this particular vaccine.

DOBBS: Dr. Anthony Fauci, as always, thank you very much for being here to illuminate very difficult and complex issues, as you always do so well for us. Thank you.

FAUCI: You're quite welcome.

DOBBS: Up next here, two border towns, living in fear. Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, plagued by gang violence even after a massive troop deployment by the Mexican government, and Laredo, Texas, a city watching and waiting for spillover violence on its streets. State troopers have been called in. We'll take you live to the streets of Laredo, Texas tonight. I'll be talking with the city's mayor.

And the controversy over contraceptives. Our guest, a pharmacist who refuses to fill the contraceptive prescriptions of his customers. Should he be forced to do so by the state's government? You'll find out next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: In Los Angeles, a massive early-morning police sweep. Hundreds of heavily armed police officers backed by helicopters arrested 19 members of the violent gang operating out of the San Fernando Valley, the so-called Vineland Boys gang, the most notorious gang in Southern California. They're wanted for murdering a Los Angeles police officer in 1988, a Burbank police officer in 2003. The arrests are being made under federal RICO laws, which are used to break up organized crime. This operation is far from completed, however. Police are hunting down 42 gang members in the area.

A drug gang offensive in Mexico is just one week old, and already it is being called a failure. Mexican President Vicente Fox sent hundreds of troops into the lawless town of Nuevo Laredo and three Mexican states to crack down on drug gang violence. Fox said his troops would launch, quote, "the mother of all battles against drug gangs." But the killing spree is continuing, nonetheless. Gangs have now murdered at least 11 people since the federal offensive began. Observers say simply, these drug gangs are too powerful to control. They say Mexican law enforcement is too corrupt. They say Mexican forces are simply overwhelmed. More than 600 people have been murdered in drug-related gang violence in Mexico this year.

Laredo, Texas is just across the border from Nuevo Laredo. It is a town worried that violence on Mexican streets will spread to its streets, American streets. Bill Tucker reports from Laredo.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lawlessness, violence. Nuevo Laredo is a city out of control. More than 70 people have been killed in the city so far this year. The latest murder, a man killed in a hail of bullets outside a hotel. Despite being under the control of Mexico's federales, the violence continues. And only a river separates the dos Laredos -- Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.

SHERIFF RICK FLORES, WEBB COUNTY, TX: I've never seen anything like this before. It reminds me of watching television, you know, where there's rocket-propelled grenades, bazookas, automatic weapons, and gunfire right in the middle of broad daylight, with 50-calibers mounted on Suburbans. You know, I've never seen any of that. I thought it was only in the movies.

TUCKER: So far, the violence of Nuevo Laredo has not spread to Laredo, but fear of the violence is scaring the tourists away.

DANIEL PEREIDA, RIO GRANDE HOTEL: We have seen some cancellations. The entire city has seen cancellations.

TUCKER: The ties between the two Laredos are deep -- cultural, personal and economic. Eight thousand trucks come across the border into the U.S. daily, loaded with goods made in Mexico. Tens of thousands of people cross over from Mexico every day to work, shop, or go to school. The Laredo police are diligent in their efforts at preventing the spread of violence north. Assigning officers to work with Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Agency. The strategy is working, but resources are strained.

AGUSTIN DOVALINA, CHIEF, LAREDO POLICE DEPARTMENT: There's been an inordinate amount of violence. There's been an increase, a very marked increase in the homicide rate and the crimes of violence that are occurring across the border, obviously. And it causes us a grave concern over on this side.


TUCKER: It all comes down to this river, the Rio Grande. It is the only thing that separates Nuevo Laredo from Laredo and if people can cross it illegally to come into the United States, Lou, there is no reason to believe that violence won't as well -- Lou?

DOBBS: And of course, Bill, that is concerning all of the people of Laredo, Texas, in particular, the mayor of Laredo. She will be our guest here, right after this break. Bill Tucker, thank you.


DOBBS: Laredo, Texas is a city of more than 200,000 people and as we've just reported, drug-gang violence just over the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico is simply out of control.

The Mexican government is unable or unwilling to stop it. Laredo Mayor Betty Flores is our guest here us tonight. Good to have you with us, Mayor.

BETTY FLORES, MAYOR, LAREDO, TEXAS: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: The problems, as Bill Tucker just reported from Laredo, there's obvious violence moving across the border into your community, other communities along the border in Texas. Thirty Americans have been kidnapped, and it's seated in Nuevo Laredo. What can be done to stop it now, before it has the same threat against your city as it has carried out against Nuevo Laredo?

FLORES: Well, I think Vicente Fox has to do what he said he would do and help the people of Nuevo Laredo. The people of Nuevo Laredo are wonderful people. Their friendly people. They're our neighbors and they're our families and they also have been taken over by this outside forces that have come in to take over their city, pretty much.

DOBBS: Let's talk about your city: Two apparent drug-related gang murders in your town. Have the suspects been caught?

FLORES: Absolutely. We have a very good police force, very well trained, very well equipped and we've asked the governor to help us with some added equipment that we need, specifically communications.

The city of Nuevo Laredo have a lot of antennas, there are no requirements and no restrictions and so our communications systems do not work on the border when we're trying to catch the bad guys...

DOBBS: They can hear you.

FLORES: Yes, absolutely.

And so we've asked the governor for help there and we've asked him for a helicopter. Had we not had that Blackhawk helicopter that the National Guard made available to us, that one day that those murders occurred, we wouldn't have been able to catch the bad guys -- bottom line.

DOBBS: And Governor Perry has sent a hundred state patrol officers into your city to beef up security at the border -- how effective?

FLORES: I think it's -- any presence of law enforcement is going to be very effective, but you have to know and understand the border and that is -- there isn't anyone better equipped than the border patrol that we already have there that's well trained and our local police.

We also have constables, we have sheriffs, we have DEA, we have FBI. We have a lot of law enforcement in Laredo and therein lies the difference between our sister city of Nuevo Laredo and Laredo.

DOBBS: Well, let be honest, there's another big difference which you've already alluded to: Law enforcement in this country is certainly of the highest integrity. What we are watching in Mexico is a corrupt federal government, a corrupt provincial government and corrupt local government. Until the Mexicans deal with that corrupt structure of government, there's going to be a problem at our border, isn't there?

FLORES: That's right and that's the long-term solution. And that's something that has happened, that is not something that's happened recently. It's something that has always existed in Mexico and that we have tried to overcome and the only way that we're going to be able to overcome that, is that we get closer to Mexico: we, the United States of America.

DOBBS: Well, you know, the fact of the matter is, Mayor, if I can argue with you about one thing: We're about as close as we need to be. We've got a border, and in your case, a river between the two states. I don't think we need to get much closer than that, but the Mexican government needs to take responsibility for its own citizens in a number of ways.

Let me read, to you and to our viewers, a quote that you gave the "Fort Worth Star Telegram," quote, "I'm telling you right now, we can't do it on our own anymore. We need this assistance. The violence is spreading to our city." I understand a bit of the chamber of commerce importance in any mayor's job.


DOBBS: But the fact is, this has to be shut down 100 percent. The Mexican people are wonderful people. When you talk about how good the people are of Nuevo Laredo, it just makes it all the more criminal what is happening to them because of the corruption and the lawlessness. They fact is -- Congressman Cuellar, for example, has said, "Call out the National Guard, stop illegal immigration, stop the drug violence."

Would you support that?

FLORES: I don't think Congressman Cuellar has studied the issue enough, but I think I would support additional help.

DOBBS: Let me do a quick study.


DOBBS: Three million illegal aliens crossing the border, 37 Americans kidnapped, you, yourself, say the violence is crossing the border. How much more study do we need? FLORES: Thirty-seven Americans kidnapped, you have to understand who those 37 Americans were and how they were connected to the Mexican violence. It's not the same thing as you and I being kidnapped.

DOBBS: Well I suggest -- I take it you're suggesting they were drug-related kidnappings?


DOBBS: But the fact is that if that can occur, and as it has occurred, some of them were innocent, certainly not all of them were drug related...

FLORES: That's right.

DOBBS: That's something you want to see stopped, right?

FLORES: I want to see everything stopped because we need to continue to have the good economic relationships that we've always had.

DOBBS: Betty Flores, good to have you here with us.

FLORES: It's wonderful to be here.

DOBBS: Mayor of Laredo.

Coming up next here, my guest: A pharmacist from Morrison, Illinois. He's morally opposed to selling the morning-after pill. He lives his convictions and he says the state of Illinois has no right to override his moral judgment.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: My guest tonight is Luke Vander Bleek. He is a pharmacist from Illinois. He has a strong moral objection to selling the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B. Vander Bleek opposes a controversial executive order issued by the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. The governor's order stresses that if a pharmacy sells contraceptives, then it must fill all valid prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills without delay. Mr. Vander Bleek, good to have you with us on the program.


DOBBS: This is a difficult issue. One can understand, whether it is a matter of conscientious objection to military service, to any matter of conscience and religion, the difficult social, legal and in this case, commercial issues, as well, apply. What was your reaction when the governor issued his straightforward order?

VANDER BLEEK: Well, I really felt, Lou, that the order spoke directly to me as a pharmacy owner, since this was really the only product that we had had a policy in my pharmacy not to stock, and that we found to be morally objectionable, the first of its kind, really, ever out in the pharmacy marketplace.

DOBBS: This pill, though, is a contraceptive, is it not? It is not, if you will, in plain language, an abortion pill?

VANDER BLEEK: Well, I think that there are so many unanswered questions about this product, and I make a distinction between Plan B and other forms of oral contraceptive. It, basically in its intent and effect, that we can't seem to find any science out there that really tells us, in real terms, that this product does not have a deleterious effect on a human embryo. We're not being answered the question with real science of what happens if a woman has conceived a human embryo and then takes this medication. Does she continue with pregnancy to term or is it aborted?

DOBBS: Well, the makers of Plan B declined to give us a comment on precisely that issue, but they do say, on their Web site, that "Plan B is an emergency contraceptive that can be used it to prevent pregnancy following unprotected intercourse. It cannot terminate an established pregnancy." You don't see it that way at all?

VANDER BLEEK: Well, I think it's important to follow what their definition of pregnancy is, and it's interesting that the manufacturers of Plan B would not give you comment because they also would not give me comment, as a concerned pharmacist, when I called their science department to request more information about the product, and, you know, they regard pregnancy, for purposes of the definition of the medical information on their product, to be after an embryo has implanted into the mother's uterus. They do not seem to say anything with regard to just the embryo after fertilization.

DOBBS: Mr. Vander Bleek, the -- if this had been -- and this is a difficult enough question of conscience, I know, for anyone -- but if this had been a decision reached by your state legislature, and a matter of law, what would be your reaction? That is, ordering pharmacists to, irrespective of their religious views, to carry out a prescription, fill a prescription? Would it be any different?

VANDER BLEEK: Well, I think, Lou, I think it -- not really. I mean, I think we would still be challenging it to see if it were constitutional. I mean, I just can't imagine that government, under the constitution of the state of Illinois, or even the U.S. Constitution -- I'm not an attorney, and I can't really, you know, claim to be a scholar of the law -- but I can't imagine as a free citizen, a free society, that the legislature or government can sanction an individual business person, you know, to try to change their moral convictions or get them to abandon them.

DOBBS: If you fail in your lawsuit against the governor, you do have, of course, the option of not selling contraceptive pills at all. Is that the recourse you might follow?

VANDER BLEEK: Well, I wonder if that is true, in fact, Lou. You know in the reading of the document that has been presented for finality as the governor's rule going forward in a permanent way, it's hard for me to read into that document that if I just simply abandon contraceptives, I'll be allowed to continue practicing pharmacy, but if that is true and that were made more clear, I would abandon selling all contraceptives and continuing the practice of pharmacy, yes.

DOBBS: Luke Vander Bleek, we thank you for being here, and of course, we'll be following this very important case. Thank you.

VANDER BLEEK: Thank you, Mr. Dobbs.

Still ahead here, we'll take a look at what's ahead tomorrow. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results now of our poll, overwhelming: 93 percent of you support legislation that would require pharmacists, irrespective of their moral and religious beliefs, to fill all prescriptions; 7 percent do not.

Stunning poll numbers as well from California where residents are turning against their governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. A poll released today shows only 37 percent of voters approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance. Schwarzenegger said today he will continue to fight for the unpopular ballot initiatives. He says the latest polls don't worry him a bit.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R), CALIFORNIA: And it's very clear what the people are basically saying to us is, work together. Do what you did so well last year. Work together and solve the problems together and this is exactly what we're trying to do.


DOBBS: Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives include a cap on state spending.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow: a senator who is working to insure that the Border Patrol's funding is a priority on Capitol Hill. She'll be our guest, and the co-authors of an energy bill the Senate is now debating. Some say the bill would save nearly 2 million American jobs over the next decade. Please be with us. For all of us here, good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines