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THE SITUATION ROOM
South Asia Quake; Interview with Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Afairs Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam; End of Days?; Interview with Reverend Jerry Falwell; Cronyism and a Possible Flu Pandemic
Aired October 10, 2005 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where news and information from around the world arrive all at the same time.
Happening now, it's 2:00 a.m. Tuesday already in Pakistan, where the death toll is climbing and time is running out to reach survivors of a killer quake, trapped under mountains, literally mountains of debris.
The world's most wanted terrorist believed to be hiding in the area. Will the quake finally flush out Osama bin Laden, or will the tragedy work to his advantage?
Biblical proportions again. The tsunami, the hurricanes and now the South Asia earthquake, why some see signs the end of days may be near.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The numbers are staggering and climbing each hour. Scenes like this are being repeated across large sections of South Asia. Crews removing bodies from the countless number of buildings literally leveled by Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake. More than 30,000 are believed to have died, at least so far. Many, many thousands of others are injured.
The disputed Kashmir region especially hard hit, along with Pakistan and parts of India. You can see in these images from Kashmir that many buildings have collapsed straight down, their upper floors now at street level.
And from the air, you can see the extent of the devastation. In addition to the dead, there are an estimated five million people left homeless. Relief is pouring in from around the world, but even now the ground continues to shake with aftershocks and even more damage still possible.
Let's go straight to the scene. CNN's Becky Anderson is live in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Becky, what's the latest?
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, time is running out for so many people in this region, you're absolutely right, Wolf. But for this site here, which is in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, there is some hope among the debris of this 10-story building, or was a 10- story building until 8:50 local time on Saturday morning. That is when this building, one of eight, completely pancaked, went straight down, devastated.
It didn't look as if anybody would walk away from this site. However, there have been what effectively people are calling miracles at this site. Just in the last hour or so, we have seen a mother and a child pulled from the debris of this site behind me alive.
Now, these search and rescue teams from Britain here, 28 members of that team working alongside the Pakistani army, gearing up once again for -- on that rescue effort. It's been very quiet here over the past couple of hours as they were listening for sounds from the debris.
They got what they wanted, they got a message. They pulled a mother and a child out in the past hour or so alive.
BLITZER: Do they believe there are many other survivors in this building? And was this building mostly housing mostly Pakistanis or foreigners?
ANDERSON: Yes, this is a fairly affluent area, so it would have been quite a lot of foreigners in this area. Many of those who have been evacuated have been able to move in with other people, as opposed to being left on the street.
Yes, this building in a fairly affluent area, as I say. And this is what is so quite amazing about this scene. We're told by the search and rescue team here that inside that rubble now, they believe there are some 50 to 65 people who are still alive. But if you can see, there are some air vents, effectively, that they've created in amongst this debris, where they say there's people inside, putting light inside, effectively trying to get air to those they believe are still alive there.
They say upwards of some 100 people walked away from this site. There have been 35 bodies removed from the debris, but they are optimistic, even after some 65 hours of evacuation at this site.
Back to you.
BLITZER: All right. Becky, thanks very much. We'll check back with you throughout this hour. Becky Anderson is on the scene in Islamabad.
For more on the situation in Pakistan, we're joined on the phone by Tasnim Aslam. She's a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Islamabad. Thanks very much, Tasnim, for joining us. What kind of assistance are you getting from around the world?
TASNIM ASLAM, PAKISTANI MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Well, we have been getting very generous support. We have got -- first of all, we started getting rescue teams which are now spread to all the affected areas. And a moment ago, somebody was saying that two people have been evacuated from the building in Islamabad that collapsed on Saturday. Another miracle, seven children have been rescued from the debris of a school in Balakot today after 64, 65 hours. So we have -- we have not given up hope.
The Chinese and British teams that are working, along with our people in these remote areas, are still hoping that some people trapped there are alive, and we can pull them out. Apart from these rescue teams, we have also got what we need, some stuff that would enable these people to survive in the north. And in Kashmir (ph) it is now getting cold.
BLITZER: Tasnim Aslam is a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry in Islamabad.
Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Pakistan. We'll be continuing our extensive coverage of this earthquake.
Let's bring in Tom Foreman. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to give us a little different perspective now of what has exactly happened there. Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've been looking at why Islamabad in particular got caught so much in the middle of this thing. Let's take a look as we zoom in a little bit here to take a closer look at Pakistan.
It's the country right here, just above India. And I want to show you the major fault line that we're talking about -- right there, great big, fat red line. That shows where two gigantic plates of the Earth are grinding against each other.
And if we go into Islamabad, I want to show you the affected area as we go in. Look at it. It's there in blue. That's the area that was hit the hardest.
This is where the quakes were centered, but their shocks moved this way. And right between the fault line and the big hits is where Islamabad is located.
Now, fade this out a little bit, and you'll see that this is sort of a flatter area in here. But obviously, big population centers get hit really hard. And we've seen this in earthquakes in the past, the buildings pancake, just like we've talked about. The top floor drops down, down, down, down, until it's flat on the ground, a big problem.
However, there are some other issues here which some people are going to have to deal with. And they're going to be very difficult. When you look a little bit more north of here, into these areas, this is the big population center they have to search in. But look at this. All of these areas up in here, all the little villages that were hit up in here, take a look at that terrain, because that's where they're going to have to try to reach people.
Roads have been cut in here. There is no way to reach these villages, except by helicopter. And as we know, they don't have nearly enough of them. Wolf.
BLITZER: Think of the Rocky Mountain when you're looking at this area around Kashmir, whether the Pakistani section or the Indian section, and you get a better sense of the awesome struggle that it will take to get into these villages.
FOREMAN: And in many cases, we're talking about mountains in these regions which dwarf the Rocky Mountains. So you're talking about an extraordinary challenge to get in and help these people. You're absolutely right.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman. Thank you very much.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. It is amazing. It's awful what's going on nowadays, isn't it, Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There's a whole list of things, I know. It's, I'm sure, just coincidence, but you wonder if somebody is trying to get our attention.
I got in trouble for even making that allusion earlier. A couple people wrote to me and said, "How dare you" and yadda, yadda, yadda. But, you know, wildfires, a couple -- three earthquakes, including the one that's buried those villages in Guatemala. You've got this earthquake in South Asia.
It's a string of calamities that we haven't witnessed, at least recently.
The New Orleans Police Department right in the middle of one of them, and has a bit of a black eye these days. Authorities are investigating police officers who allegedly broke into a car dealership back before Hurricane Katrina got there and stole 200 cars, including some new Cadillacs.
Once the storm came, about 300 officers either died, abandoned their posts or disappeared. This footage you're looking at, that guy being tossed up against the car, officers roughing up a 64-year-old man in the French Quarter. And then the guy being tossed against the car is an Associated Press Television producer.
All this caught on tape.
No doubt the New Orleans Police force has been working under some very stressful conditions -- no question about it -- ever since Katrina. Three-fourths of them lost their homes, some of them still sleeping in their cars. Their families are scattered or worse, and they continue to work 12-hour shifts.
All that said, though, you can't go around beating up people and stealing cars and stuff.
Here's the question. What should be done about the New Orleans Police Department? You can e-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com. The ones that are left, for the most part, good cops working their tails off under very, very stressful conditions. Nevertheless, you can't have this kind of stuff. And when you have people videotaping cops roughing somebody up like that, not good. Not good at all.
BLITZER: All right. Not good at all. Thanks, Jack. We'll check back with you shortly.
Still ahead, reading the signs. The earthquake in Asia helps convince a leading religious figure that the end may be near. Is Pat Robertson on to something? We'll discuss the scriptures and the debate that's ongoing right now.
Plus, an amazing story of survival from the quake zone. How it happened and how they're celebrating, that's coming up.
And will the hunt for Osama bin Laden be hampered by the quake devastation in Pakistan? The former Defense secretary, William Cohen, and a "Security Watch" update all coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The religious rumblings began when Hurricane Katrina hit, and they're growing louder after the earthquake in South Asia. Some who are waiting and hoping for the seconding coming of Christ are reading a lot into these recent disasters, including, perhaps, some high-profile religious figures.
BLITZER (voice over): A horrific earthquake, tens of thousands of people dead. Some born-again Christians see it as another sign the end of days may be near.
PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN COALITION FOUNDER: I don't have any special word that says this is -- this is that, but it could be suspiciously like that. These things are starting to hit with amazing regularity.
BLITZER: The Reverend Pat Robertson cites recent disasters of biblical proportion from Hurricane Katrina to the tsunami in Asia last year. This is a hot topic of discussion amongst some Christians, particularly evangelicals. They point to scripture foretelling earthquakes, wars, famine, and other upheavals before the second coming of Christ and the rapture, when true believers are carried off to heaven.
ROBERTSON: If you read back in the bible the letter of the Apostle Paul with the church of Thessalonia, he said that in the latter days, before the end of the age, that the Earth would be caught up in what he called the birth pangs of a new order.
BLITZER: Robertson is not the first prominent minister to suggest a biblical connection to recent disasters. Here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Reverend Franklin Graham recently suggested the devastation of New Orleans might be part of god's bigger plan.
FRANKLIN GRAHAM, PRES., SAMARITAN'S PURSE: New Orleans has been known, of course, as a party city for Mardi Gras, voodoo, all types of things like this -- Bourbon Street. And as a minister of the gospel, there are a lot of people in New Orleans that are praying that God will bring a stronger moral fiber to this city than this city's ever had before.
BLITZER: But some other religious figures shy away from linking natural disasters to the scriptures.
JOYCE MEYER, JOYCE MEYER MINISTRIES: One thing I know for sure is I'm supposed to help people. And so that's what we're busy doing. We're not trying to figure out who did what and who is responsible for this and that, and why and where. We're just trying to help people.
BLITZER: Religious figures are not marching in lockstep on this question of disasters and the end of days.
Let's hear from another prominent minister, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. He's joining us from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Also joining us, our faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher. She'll help us with the questioning.
Reverend Falwell, I'll begin, though -- thanks very much, first of all, for joining us. Do you agree with the Reverend Pat Robertson that we may be at the end of days right now, that there may be some biblical explanation for what's going on?
REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Well, Wolf, most evangelicals that I know have believed for a long time that the coming of the lord is imminent. But it is very wrong to set dates. And, of course, Pat wasn't doing that.
But we don't know. I have no way, nor does anyone else, of knowing that the tsunami, or Katrina, or Rita, or this terrible thing in Pakistan, or the outbreak of terrorism, all these things that have come upon us so quickly, have anything to do with the lord's soon return.
We'ere to live as though he were coming today, but we're to work and plan with the next generation in mind. And to me, that is what I am doing. The answer is I have no idea.
BLITZER: Well, I asked -- I invited you on in part because I went back in 1999 -- this is what you were quoted as saying. This is six years ago, Reverend Falwell.
You told about 1,500 people at a conference that you believe the second coming of Christ probably will be within 10 years. That's what you said in 1999. You also said, "The lord is coming sooner for us than anyone in history. I believe it is this generation that will probably be here when the trumpet sounds."
Do you remember saying that?
FALWELL: Oh, sure. And I think every -- every Christian I know, every pastor I know who believes in the pre-millennial, pre- tribulational coming of Christ for all of his church have said that in every generation.
My friend, the late Dr. Emar Dihan (ph), told me as a young pastor -- he wasn't young, but I was, 50 years ago -- that the greatest sign of the lord's soon return is the re-gathering of the Jewish people to Israel, and the budding of the fig tree, and so on. He was right then, and it is not wrong now to say the lord could come today.
It may be 10 years from now. I do expect him in my lifetime. But the question I think you were asking earlier was, do these disasters all tie in, in any significant and intelligent way for anyone to determine when the lord's coming, or is this a sign of his coming? And I think the only right answer to that is I don't know.
BLITZER: All right.
Let me bring Delia Gallagher into the questioning. Delia?
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'd like to ask the reverend, considering that the imminent return of Jesus has been discussed since the time of the gospel writers, of course, it was always said that the second coming is imminent. And yet, hasn't happened four some 2,000 years. How do you explain that to your followers?
FALWELL: Well, Simon Peter did that in his second letter. He said scoffers shall come, say, where's the promise of his coming?
He has promised before he was coming. He hasn't come. And the fact is that that in itself is an indication that we should live, teach, preach, plan, with a view of his imminent return.
Again, it's been 2,000 years. That is -- that is as a grain of sand on a seashore in God's eternal plan. And so it may not be in my lifetime, my children, my grandchildren's. But I am living and expecting that he could come. And I'm 72, that I could go up in the rapture and not death. And I think that's the way God wants all us who take the bible seriously to live and believe.
BLITZER: Delia, you have another question for Reverend Falwell?
GALLAGHER: Well, I'm also curious to know whether this is just something particular to evangelicals, or whether you think it's a more widely-spread -- widely-held belief, certainly amongst Christians? Do you have an indication of how many people might subscribe to that kind of an idea? FALWELL: Well, I don't know. There are 80 million evangelicals in America, but there are many, many Christians worldwide, hundreds of millions who take the bible literally, who do believe that he came, Christ came the first time and answered a fulfilled prophecy, and that he's going to come a second time.
I sort of agree with what Wolf said a while ago, and whoever your guest was then, that I believe that all these things, we're to learn from them. And they're to be wakeup calls.
Maybe God is -- maybe Wolf is right. Maybe God is trying to get our attention. I do not at all disagree with what Dr. Franklin Graham said. I think he's right. And if that happened in Lynchburg, my town, I would hope that we would be saying, what can we learn from this?
BLITZER: Well, on that point, do you -- do you believe that God was punishing the people of New Orleans for what had been going on there, Mardi Gras and all the partying and all of that? Is that what you're saying, Reverend Falwell?
FALWELL: I don't think that's what Franklin was saying, and not what I'm saying.
BLITZER: No, he didn't say -- specifically, he didn't say that.
BLITZER: I'm asking you if you believe that this is wrath of God, if you will?
FALWELL: No, no, because many, many sweet, wonderful people of faith were affected, and they're always affected, just as well as the casinos and those involved in drugs and crime, et cetera. It is always a mistake to say this is the judgment of God, because none of us is in a perspective, a place where we know that to be true.
All I'm saying is, we should all learn from it. And if God is trying to speak to us, we should be called to repentance and to holy living and to training our children up in the nurture and the admonition of the lord.
BLITZER: All right. Like James Dobson, there's been some suggestion that you've had some private conversations with people at the White House, Reverend Falwell, on Harriet Miers, and getting -- trying to get reassurance that she'll be, from your perspective, a good Supreme Court justice. Have you had these conversations with Karl Rove and others?
FALWELL: Well, Tim Goeglein called me an hour or two before the announcement, and I just simply asked him, who is Harriet Miers? I did not know her.
And he told me the private general counsel to the White House the last five years, and a former Texas Bar president and Dallas Bar president, and so forth, and a woman who shared the president's agenda and philosophy. And I learned, later, not from the White House, but from Christian friends, that she's a fine evangelical Christian lady, a part of an aggressive and evangelical church in Dallas.
But no. I can't imagine -- I cannot imagine that Karl Rove or Tim Goeglein or anyone at the White House would even ask her questions dealing with her views on, for example, abortion or gay marriage, or any of the social issues. And I would be all the more surprised if she answered them, since those are issues that will come before her, no doubt, if she is confirmed.
I believe in what the president is saying. I'm a strong believer in George W. Bush's integrity. He said he was going to appoint members to the court in the likeness of Scalia and Thomas, and we have Roberts, and now perhaps we'll have Miers. And because I believe in the integrity of the president, I have no questions beyond the ones I just mentioned.
And I seriously doubt the White House has shared anything beyond that with anybody. I don't think they know any more than I just said.
BLITZER: All right, Reverend Falwell. We have to leave it right there. Thanks very much for joining us.
Delia Gallagher, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM. We hope you'll be joining us frequently under -- as part of your new assignment.
Delia Gallagher and Reverend Falwell, thanks to both of you.
FALWELL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, pulled from the rubble. Amid the devastation and the despair of the disaster zone, there is a story of survival and hope.
And just weeks after the chaos of Katrina that forced the FEMA director to resign, is another political appointee up to the job right now of preparing the country for a possible flu epidemic? Brian Todd is looking into that.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: New allegations of cronyism are being leveled over at the White House. This time over a top health official some say is simply not prepared to deal with a potential flu pandemic. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. He's got more on this story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the same type of charge drawn against former FEMA secretary Michael Brown. And again the timing is crucial.
TODD (voice over): To the various alarms raised about the possibility of an avian flu outbreak in the U.S., add one more -- the charge that one of the Bush administration's top officials tasked with helping to prepare for such an outbreak is not up to the job. REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), GOVERNMENT REFORM AND OVERISGHT COMMITTEE: He has not had the kind of experience that I think is necessary to be the principal adviser on bioterrorism and other national disasters for the secretary of Health and Human Services.
TODD: Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman has been a persistent critic of Stewart Simonson, assistant secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services. Simonson's department is responsible for making sure the U.S. has enough vaccines and antivirals to combat avian flu if an outbreak occurs.
In July, Congressman Waxman grilled Simonson about purchasing the drugs at a House hearing on public health preparedness.
WAXMAN: If we need more, and more for sale, why haven't we ordered more?
STEWART SIMONSON, HHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Well, I should say we're in discussion with Roche about their production capability and what they can provide us. And they're aware of our -- of our preliminary plans. However, it's worth pointing out that, much like with the vaccine, we were well ahead of others in buying antivirals.
TODD: Some critics on the left charge that Simonson is another administration crony, comparing him to former FEMA Secretary Michael Brown, a charge a Health and Human Services spokeswoman calls scurrilous.
Before taking his current position last year, Simonson was special counsel to then-HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and advised Thompson on homeland security issues. In that job, Simonson was a key figure in Project BioShield, a program designed to speed up the manufacture of vaccines against biological and chemical weapons. A "Washington Post" report last month concluded the program "has by most accounts bogged down and shown few results."
Before joining HHS in 2001, Simonson was a top official at Amtrak and had been an adviser to then-Wisconsin Governor Thomson on crime and prisons. The liberal "New Republic" magazine in its October 17 issue lists Simonson among what it calls the 15 biggest Bush administration hacks. HHS officials admit Simonson has no undergraduate or advanced degree in public health. But his former boss vigorously defends him.
TOMMY THOMSON, FMR. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The truth of the matter is, is that Stewart Simonson knows the subjects, he knows the science about these diseases, he knows how to get prepared. He is an extremely capable, competent, confident individual.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, HHS officials would not make Simonson available for an on-camera or a telephone interview. But department spokeswoman Christina Pearson called the charge that Simonson is not qualified ridiculous. She says Simonson and the department have gotten high remarks for the public response to Hurricane Katrina, and she says during the 2001 anthrax scare, Simonson was instrumental in cutting through red tape to get an anthrax vaccine into the national stockpile.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you very much.
Coming up, the quake and al Qaeda. Could Osama bin Laden taking advantage of the catastrophe in Pakistan?
And in a disaster which has claimed so many lives, one man's struggle for survival is a symbol of hope.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Couple of stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's turn to CNN's Zain Verjee. She's watching these developments. What are you picking up, Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We got some information from the Associated Press, Wolf, saying that a small plane has made an emergency landing on a very busy stretch of Interstate-5 because of engine trouble. That according to authorities. You see the plane here on the shoulder of the freeway.
This is near Santa Clarita in California. There were no injuries or no traffic collision, according to a California Highway Patrol Officer. This is a single engine aircraft, and it was reported down just before 1:00 pm local time with engine problems. The traffic jams were forming behind this.
This is north of Los Angeles. The plane located here as you see on the right shoulder of the southbound side of the interstate. This is I-5.
And also, another story we're just getting in, Wolf, Gregory Olson, the world's third space tourist is about to undock from the International Space Station and head back to Earth. He's the millionaire from New Jersey. He's with a two-man crew, a Russian and an American. And they're going to get into the Soyuz, the spacecraft, and head home. They're undocking here from the International Space Station. And they're going to go 250 miles from the station to Earth. It's going to take them something like 31 1/2 hours. And they'll be landing in Kazakhstan in Russia around dawn on Thursday.
BLITZER: It only cost him $20 million for that ride.
BLITZER: That's right. Thanks very much, Zain. We'll get back to you. I want to go to Islamabad right now. We're getting some more specific information on that earthquake, Saturday morning. It erupted in Pakistan, causing extensive damage including in the capital of Pakistan in Islamabad. This high-rise apartment building in an upscale area simply leveled by that earthquake.
There's no doubt that there have been some good stories coming out of the rubble. Only a while ago, a mother and her child were rescued from the rubble. They're continuing to search for others.
The earthquake devastates a vital U.S. ally at this time in the war on terror. But could the quake flush out Osama bin Laden from his presumed hiding place in some of those rugged areas along the Pakistani-Afghan border? Or could al Qaeda be taking advantage of the chaos?
Let's turn to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre. Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, for four years U.S. and Pakistani forces haven't been able to find bin Laden, and no one seems to think the earthquake will shake him lose now.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Any speculation about the fate of Osama bin Laden has to begin with the acknowledgment that while U.S. intelligence thinks he's holed up in Pakistan, no one really knows. Saturday's earthquake was centered along Pakistan's eastern Line of Control -- the dividing line between Pakistani and Indian zones of Kashmir.
The destruction does extend to the west, but not as far as the rugged border region where bin Laden is thought to have been given sanctuary by sympathetic tribal leaders who are largely outside government control.
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Most people in the U.S. military that I've spoken with don't think that it's going to make a big difference in terms of Osama bin Laden's capabilities in that area. They hope that it will, but they haven't seen any concrete evidence of that yet.
MCINTYRE: While the U.S. and its Afghan allies have dispatched a dozen helicopter to aid in delivering supplies and evacuating victims, the U.S. military insists joint patrols along the border region have been unaffected by the quake. And U.S. commanders say the manhunt for the moment is taking a backseat to humanitarian relief.
MCINTYRE: A senior defense official tells CNN that at this point they have no information that bin Laden was killed or injured by the quake, or for that matter even inconvenienced. But they are keeping a sharp eye out for any idea that he have to move and give his position away.
BLITZER: All right. Jamie McIntyre, thank you very much.
So, could the quake pull resources away from the hunt for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden? How can the U.S. deal with this situation right now?
Joining us our world affairs analyst, a former Defense secretary, William Cohen. He's also the chairman and CEO of Cohen Group here in Washington.
Let's get to the first issue. The resources, coming from -- U.S. resources from Afghanistan to Pakistan to deal with this humanitarian tragedy. Is the U.S. military being pulled too thin?
WILLIAM COHEN, CEO THE COHEN GROUP: Well, under these circumstances, I think we have no choice but to help out under this kind of duress for the Pakistani people and the Indians who have been injured. I recall back in 1999, a major earthquake took place in Turkey in Izmit. There were some 20,000 who were killed. We ordered some transport planes, including 22 helicopters, three Naval ships, water purification systems, anything we could do to help these people in stress.
BLITZER: That was under your watch?
COHEN: Under my watch. Also in 1999 in China -- China had a major earthquake just north of Beijing. And we had two planeloads of C-17's full of blankets, tents, equipment, medications, and so forth. It's the right thing to do -- a humanitarian gesture. And hopefully it will also build some goodwill. But basically, whether it builds it is not, is not the issue. We need to help.
BLITZER: Is this going to help? I mean, hard to speculate, but what goes through your gut, is it going to help Osama bin Laden in terms of his agenda, or maybe he was hurt as a result of this?
COHEN: Well, he could have been hurt. But I don't see how it helps his agenda. This is not something that was perpetrated by the United States or his enemies as such. This was major -- perhaps the biggest earthquake in their history. I don't see how he exploits this.
In terms of finding him, as Jamie McIntyre pointed out, it's been four years. And we'll continue to look. But we shouldn't focus so much on bin Laden, as to whether or not that's going to put a stop to terrorism.
The fact is, as we've talked many times before, that has become horizontally distributed many parts in the world today. And it's not just bin Laden. It would be great if we could catch him. But it's not going to be the dis-positive thing.
So, I don't think we should focus so much on whether it helps or hurts him. Right now the focus ought to be can we get help to people in need?
BLITZER: And I remember at the end of the Cold War when the Berlin Wall went down, the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was so much speculation at the time. The U.S. military's now major mission is going to be humanitarian, dealing with these kinds of disasters, these natural disasters. Certainly that has changed.
The question is, how much of the military is devoted to these humanitarian projects and how much to combat and war?
COHEN: Well, it's not segmented out as such. One of the great things about our men and women in uniform, and they are -- we consider the best in the world is because they can do everything. They can go from a humanitarian rescue mission to a peace keeper, peace maker, to full scale war. All of them are prepared to do that. So when the situation calls for it, they can shift from a combat oriented mission to rescuing people. And that's why we're are as good as we are.
BLITZER: Warriors in every respect of the word.
COHEN: And humanitarians.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. William Cohen is our world affairs analyst.
Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, stepping down from the stepped up security -- New York City easing its high alert on the subway system. But, how real was the threat to begin with? And how necessary were all the precautions?
Also, a beating on the street, another black eye for the New Orleans Police Department. What should be done about it? Jack Cafferty going through your e-mail, not literally, he's reading your e-mail.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: More now on our top story, that earthquake in South Asia. Every person pulled alive from the rubble is giving rescue crews hope. CNN's Zain Verjee joining us once again from the CNN Center with details of one such rescue. Zain?
VERJEE: Wolf, it's now been almost three full days since the quake struck and crews are working around the clock to reach trapped survivors. News cameras recorded one such effort in Muzaffarabad and that's the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
VERJEE (voice-over): A 20-year-old tailor, Tariq, has been trapped here since the earthquake struck on Saturday morning pinned by concrete and wood with dead bodies on either side of him. His rescuers offer food, but despite not having eaten for three days, he says he only wants water. The work continues, the focus on this single victim now trapped some 54 hours. Finally, the last bits of rubble are removed and Tariq is free. Tariq leg is injured, a door is put into service as a makeshift stretcher and he's carried off to get medical attention.
VERJEE: Wolf, scenes like this one are taking place all across the affected areas with an increasing sense of urgency since the likelihood of finding people alive diminishes each hour.
BLITZER: All right, Zain, thank you very much.
And pledges of financial aid are pouring into the region along with emergency supplies. CNN's Ali Velshi is keeping track of this. He's got the "Bottom Line" from New York. Ali.
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Wolf, just giving a sense of the magnitude of aid that's going into Pakistan, a lot of it -- I was talking earlier about the U.S., $50 million committed to the U.S. plus some material. Well, Kuwait has donated $100 million, the United Arab Emirates $100 million, Australia's kicked in with $5 million, the EU, $4.4 million.
Although, as we know from other things like the tsunami, the initial days are always -- sometimes it tends to increase because the magnitude of the destruction becomes clearer. The United States Department of Defense, as we've heard a number of times, has contributed some aircraft, some C-17s. They've also sent blankets, tents, some more planes are coming in.
One of the things that was interesting is that 250 rolls of plastic sheeting is being sent in by the United States with the Red Cross, that's meant for shelters for families who don't have their homes.
As you know, in addition to the number of people we think have been killed by this, there are a number of people who don't have homes. It's very hard for a shelter to be put in. So, we're sending in 250 rolls of sheeting, 5,000 blankets and 5,000 water containers.
BLITZER: All right, Ali, thank you very much. Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is checking the situation online as well, coming up with some amazing pictures and other developments. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: Some more photos and some more resources. I want to show this map we found of Islamabad. And you can see right here F-10, that's the zone that we've been talking about. You've been seeing some of those amazing photos coming from there.
Here's a closer up map. This is the apartment building that we were showing you. That's exactly where that's located. Here are some of the photos that are being posted from flickr.com, that group photo blog that we often refer to. Here another one of the ambulances ready to transport the wounded and the dead. Here another, breaking the concrete blocks up, I would imagine to be able to get to survivors who are underneath, if there are still some and also more in search of the wounded and the dead.
What we're seeing from blogs, are efforts to reach out. This is Metro Blogging, this is a group blog, a global group of blogs, and they are in various cities all over the world. We saw them reach out in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. Here they are in Lahore for everyone who wants to help out. They have a comprehensive list of how you can do so.
Another one in Karachi, an organized list of ways that you can help. And finally, I wanted to show this blog, it's called Quakehelp.blogspot.com. It was set up after the tsunami, a collection of resources, so that people could come together and help out and now they're posted information like vital roads being reopened -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jacki, thank you very much.
Up next, New Yorkers breathing a collective sigh of relief at least for now. The city starts winding down from the subway alert scare, but is the threat still there?
And cops caught on tape, what should be done about the New Orleans Police Department? We want to hear what you think. Jack Cafferty's been reading your e-mail. We'll let you know what he's come up with.
BLITZER: New York City officials are scaling back some increased security measures put in place after last week's threat against the city's subway system.
CNN's Mary Snow is joining us now live from Manhattan. Mary, what's going on?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the heightened alert had been in place for the subway system for four days, but today, the city saying it is scaling back, this after the police department here in New York said that earlier intelligence information could not be corroborated.
This alert came into place last Thursday. Subsequently, today, government sources saying that three men who were arrested in Iraq, this after being identified as possibly being involved in the plot had been interviewed and did not know anything about the plot.
The mayor, police commissioner and federal officials did not see eye to eye over the credibility of this threat, but the mayor, Mike Bloomberg, defended his decision to heighten security, and also reiterated that the city is still on an orange alert. What it means about the scaling back, which the police department said began this afternoon, is that extra police, personnel who were placed on the subways, will be reduced. And bag searches will still continue, but extra bag searches that have been put in place will also be scaled back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Mary, thanks very much.
Let's stay in New York and go to Jack Cafferty, who's been going through your e-mail. Not literally, just reading some of the e-mail that comes into his office.
CAFFERTY: No, that's right. We had the one guy claim that he ran upstairs to check his computer every time he heard you say that.
In light of the videotape, Wolf, of those New Orleans cops beating up that 64-year-old man in the French Quarter and then slapping around an Associated Press Television producer, we've been asking the question, what ought to be done about the New Orleans Police Department, which is, in their defense -- and there's no defense for beating a man like that on the street -- but they are understaffed and overworked and under a tremendous amount of stress and strain ever since Katrina went through there.
Ed in Woodbury, New York, writes -- pardon me: "The Department of Homeland Security should cancel all funding for the city of New Orleans until they clean house with their police department. The NOPD is a disgrace to New Orleans, to law enforcement, and to America."
Jay writes: "Paid leave. Turn in arms and have National Guard take over until the region is stabilized."
Ginny writes: "The officers of New Orleans who have lost homes, families, et cetera should be psychiatrically evaluated, and then those who are understandably unstable should not be on the streets."
Nancy in Boston writes: "We need to give the New Orleans Police a lot more support. I think we need to send dozens of police volunteers from around the country who are fresh, well rested and have no personal problems, have not lost their own homes, and rotate them in and out."
Kevin in Houston writes: "The policemen who beat the gentlemen should be fired and jailed, point blank."
Viewing that, what was on the video, says it all. I don't think anybody at this point would care what happened before the tape began rolling. No excuse for that kind of abuse of someone. But they're having a tough time with it down there.
BLITZER: All right, a tough time all around. Thanks very much, Jack. We'll see you tomorrow.
Up next, finding jobs after Hurricane Katrina. A preview of a CNN special aimed at putting residents in the Gulf Coast disaster zone back to work. Paula Zahn will join us next here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANITA HILL, WITNESS: I have no personal vendetta against Clarence Thomas.
ANNOUNCER: When law professor Anita Hill came forward with sexual harassment charges against a future Supreme Court justice during his Senate confirmation hearings, it shocked the nation, divided and captivated it at the same time.
HILL: I seek only to provide the committee with information which it may regard as relevant.
JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I've heard enough lies.
ANNOUNCER: No matter who you believed, Hill's televised Senate testimony brought workplace sexual harassment into the forefront.
HILL: It's good to be home.
ANNOUNCER: After it was over, Hill went back to teaching law at the University of Oklahoma, but her life would never be the same.
HILL: I had no appreciation for the fact that there would be so much attention to this issue, and that I would become a symbol of the issue.
ANNOUNCER: Hill wrote a book about her experiences called "Speaking Truth to Power." She is now 48 years old and teaches at Brandeis University at Massachusetts. What drives her, she says, is a responsibility to her students.
HILL: They deserve a better society. That is what motivates me, and I think that I can be a part of creating that. Having given that chance, I don't want to blow it.
BLITZER: Countless jobs were lost when first one, then another hurricane slammed into the Golf Coast. Beginning tonight here on CNN, Paula Zahn will take a closer look, a week-long special look, "My New Life," aimed at helping hurricane victims find jobs and start over again.
Paula is joining us now from New York with a closer look at this special. Paula, what do you have planned?
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. I'm really excited about what we're going to be trying to do tonight all along the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita literally put hundreds of thousands of people out of work.
And while Americans have been incredibly generous, the fact is that storm victims really need one thing to get themselves on the road to recovery, and that is a job and a steady paycheck. And that will put them on a road to a new life. So tonight, I'm going to try to match up a couple of job seekers with what I suspect are a lot of people out there in our viewing audience who are in a position to hire people. And one of our workers tonight is a cook. The other is a law school graduate who had recently landed a job, only to lose the job to the hurricane, as well as the home she had just bought.
And we've set up a number of ways to get in touch with them, on the air, by phone, by e-mail, or our own Web site. And perhaps tonight, they'll be able to say this is the night I started my new life. I hope you all will join us. We're keeping our fingers crossed that there are some good, generous people out there.
BLITZER: I'm sure there will be, and these are going to be very lucky individuals looking for jobs, because there's going to be a big audience out there of potential employers who could hire them. How did you find these individuals you're going to be profiling?
ZAHN: Well, that's a tough thing, because you're talking about, they believe at some point, maybe a half a million people out of work because of these hurricanes. We did a lot of screening, and we tried to find people who were looking for a variety of jobs, but as you're going to find out tonight, these are folks who have been around and around, interviewing, and nothing has worked for them so far. So we hope of the 10 people we profile this week, out of the hundreds of thousands who need these jobs, that magic will strike.
BLITZER: "PAULA ZAHN NOW" airs 8:00 p.m. tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Paula, thank you very much.
That's it for me. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT standing by in New York. Lou, what have you got?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
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