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New Orleans Votes; Marfan Syndrome; The Albino Code

Aired May 20, 2006 - 17:30   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Engineers wore suits that simulate what it's like to walk in the shoes of an older person. Things like poor vision, back pain and flexibility problems.

CALSEE ROBB, BOEING ENGINEER: No, I'm not a big fan of sitting. It's a lot easier to stand.

AYOUB: No, I need more leg space.

ROBB: It's harder to walk. It's harder to carry things. It's harder to see where you're going.

AYOUB: I just kind of want to lay there and just be very still and just kind of get it over with.

VICKI CURTIS, BOEING SENIOR ENGINEER: The project was pretty much an awareness for the engineers that things are going to need to change. The lighting is improved, better signage, bin latches that will open a little easier, lavatory door latches. I think you'll start seeing them with the 787 in 2008.



CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Who is going to lead New Orleans forward? Well voters are deciding between incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin and challenger Mitch Landrieu. Polls are closing in a little more than three hours, but we've got the latest straight ahead.

And world leaders congratulate Iraq after the new government is finally sworn in. It's the country's first democratic permanent government since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

NASA has rolled out the space shuttle Discovery to its launch pad. The shuttle is scheduled to take off sometime in early July.

And state and federal officials are promising a thorough investigation after a deadly blast killed five coal miners in southeastern Kentucky. One miner survived the explosion, which happened just after midnight this morning.

From Afghanistan, the U.S. military says one American soldier has been killed and six others wounded in heavy fighting with Taliban rebels. The six injured soldiers are said to be in stable condition. Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu, both men want to be mayor of New Orleans, but the mayor of what? The city's recovery on track? Nagin says yes. Landrieu says no.

Susan Roesgen looks at just some of the grand old lady's problems.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, you might think New Orleans is well on its way to recovery. Not really. While some areas are recovering from Katrina, 80 percent of the city was flooded and many neighborhoods are still stuck in a time warp.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: Hey. What's happening, man? How are they treating you these days?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doing good, mayor.


ROESGEN: Mayor Ray Nagin is fighting to bring the city back from the brink and fighting to stay in office.


NAGIN: Amen.

ROESGEN: He got a round of amens from a black minister's group when he told them he's the guy to stick with.

NAGIN: This city does not have the luxury of having someone new to come in to try and learn all that is going on and try to figure out how to keep this momentum going.



ROESGEN: Nagin says the city's recovery is on track. His challenger, Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, says it's not moving fast enough. Landrieu points to piles of trash and thousands of flooded and abandoned cars on the streets. And Landrieu likes to remind voters of the city's problems before Katrina, poverty and crime.

LT. GOV. MITCH LANDRIEU, LOUISIANA: The past is thinking that it is our destiny to be second-class citizens. Think about whether you want to go back to the past and have a place that's unsafe.

ROESGEN: Whoever wins faces a tough job right away, fixing a broken city while preparing for the next possible crisis with the start of the new hurricane season just 12 days away.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: That story originally aired on "THE SITUATION ROOM." And of course you can watch more of that great reporting weeknights on "THE SITUATION ROOM," first at 4:00 p.m. Eastern and then at 7:00 p.m., 4:00 Pacific.

As voters choose a new mayor in New Orleans today, incumbent Ray Nagin faces a stiff challenge from Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu.

A month ago, we talked with two voters from very different parts of the city. Darren Schmolke is from Lakeview, and that's an area that is rebuilding right now, and he supports Landrieu. Glenda Harris lives in the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward. She supports Ray Nagin for mayor.

Good to have both of you with us today. Let me start with you, Darren, do you think anything has changed in the city in the last three months?

DARREN SCHMOLKE, LAKEVIEW RESIDENT: Actually, yes, I see a lot of things going on through individual effort. So, yes, I see a lot going on right now, a lot of changes going on.

LIN: Yes, individual effort in your neighborhood. I mean you were able to rebuild your home, but you're a contractor, right?

SCHMOLKE: Yes, ma'am.

LIN: So you're helping a lot of your neighbors as well.

Glenda, you came all the way from Houston last time to cast your vote. Are you still living in Texas?


LIN: So this election means this much to you?

HARRIS: Yes, it does. I think we were -- I was glad to be a part of a team of nearly 300 citizens that came with me from Houston, Texas. We just had a rally at Duncan Plaza at City Hall. And I was glad to be there with them to show America and the nation that we are serious about our constitutional rights, the right to vote.

LIN: Glenda, has anything that Mitch Landrieu said in this campaign, because you're supporting the current mayor, has anything he said to you in the last couple of months resonated at all to convince you to change your vote?

HARRIS: Well, I mean, as I said before on April 22, both of them are fine young men and I respect them highly for their respective assignments and what they have contributed to our community. But as I look at the issues and as we prepare for the new upcoming hurricane season, I just think that the mayor, with his team in place now, is ready to meet that need. And seeing some of the recovery effort that's happening in New Orleans, and as Darren talked about the individual efforts, as well as the youth and group efforts where you see young people from colleges throughout the country and church groups coming to help and clear out and clean out and gut out homes, it shows that the nation is concerned about this problem.

LIN: But how do you compare Darren's neighborhood of Lakeview with your neighborhood of the Lower Ninth Ward and what's happening there?

HARRIS: Well I am awfully concerned that the Lower Ninth Ward was the last community accepted for readmission, when in fact St. Bernard Parish, that's lower than the Lower Ninth Ward, had already started its revitalization efforts. I am concerned that as a community we don't regionally make decisions, because when the water came, it regionally affected everyone from St. Bernard to Jefferson Parish. And that's how we ought to make decisions on recovery.

LIN: But it's a question of you know rebuilding and the future of the city, that's what's at stake for this next mayor. So, Darren, you stand there as a Mitch Landrieu supporter, Glenda supports Ray Nagin, what do you see as the fundamental differences between the two of you standing there and what your needs are and what you need from the next mayor?

SCHMOLKE: The -- I think Mitch Landrieu, I think his -- he can get things done in Baton Rouge, as well as Washington. And I think that's very important for us right now to get reconnected with Baton Rouge and Washington, so...

LIN: And why do you think Mayor Ray Nagin can't do that for you?

SCHMOLKE: Well he -- you know he had made it -- you know he's a good guy. He made a comment this morning that he speaks with his heart and sometimes that gets him in trouble. And I think controlling that emotion for a city is important. And so, you know I -- that's -- I don't -- I can't say that's a downfall of his, because I respect him speaking from his heart, you know, but I think you know controlling it is important.

LIN: Glenda, if -- this has been characterized as a vote for or against the current mayor. Why do you think he deserves a second chance?

HARRIS: Well I think he deserves a second chance because, as I said before, I have had the opportunity to work in government and I've had the opportunity to meet some of our congressmen in Washington, D.C. And as I've talked with them, very clearly they have shared with me that the current mayor has the ability to move forward.

And I think we are going to need that support regionally to make the efforts that we are going to need to do to look at getting additional funds into this area. New Orleans needs help now. And we need all the support we can get through all of these United States, from every congressman from every state, supporting and seeing the priority. And we're the richest country in the world, but New Orleans looks like a third world country.

LIN: It sure does. I mean people say we see brass bands, you know, partying on Election Day, but just a block away, total devastation. I think the both of you...

SCHMOLKE: Yes, ma'am.

LIN: ... should be praised for your courage and your persistence. Glenda, have a good trip back to Texas. We're going to be monitoring this election. Darren, good luck to you as well. Thanks for joining us again.

SCHMOLKE: Thank you. Yes, ma'am.

HARRIS: Thank you.

LIN: So what can happen if you have Marfan syndrome?


KAREN MURRAY, MICHAEL MURRAY'S MOTHER: If you don't know you have it, it's simple, your aorta will burst and you will die.


LIN: That's it. Athletes are not immune. Are you?


LIN: Thousands of Americans may be walking around with a time bomb inside of them and the signs may be obvious.

Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has one family's story as first seen on CNN's "PAULA ZAHN NOW."


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every day, Karen Murray searches for someone who looks like her son. She's trying to save a life.

K. MURRAY: What I would do is walk up to them and say, listen, my name is Karen Murray, nice to meet you. I try to shake their hand. I just want to stop you and tell you that you have some characteristics that are very, very similar to my son. You're tall, you have a thin stature, long arms, long fingers.

COHEN: It's those fingers, those incredibly long fingers, like her son Michael's, that tell Karen someone might die suddenly. They might have a weak heart because of a disease called Marfan syndrome. There's a good chance they don't even know they have Marfan, so Karen wants to tell them.

K. MURRAY: If you don't know you have it, it's simple, your aorta will burst and you will die. COHEN: And for athletes who don't know they have Marfan, it can be especially deadly. Ironically, Marfan patients often make great athletes due to their tall stature, lean frame and long fingers.

Flo Hyman, captain of the 1984 U.S. Olympic volleyball team, didn't know she had Marfan. She died on the court during a game.

And Chris Patton, a star player on the University of Maryland basketball team, also died on the court. If his doctors had known he had Marfan, they never would have let him play.

Karen Murray knows this might have been her son's story.

K. MURRAY: Michael is 14 and he's 6'4. He probably gets stopped three or four times a day to play basketball. He would have been pushed into sports and I would have lost him. There's no doubt.

COHEN: It's not just athletes at risk. Jonathan Larson, the creator of the musical "Rent," had no idea he had Marfan syndrome, a disorder people have from birth. Just days before "Rent" opened on Broadway, Larson felt chest pain. One emergency room told him he had food poisoning. Another told him it was the flu. But the next day, Larson died alone in his New York City apartment. Later, doctors realized he had Marfan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jonathan didn't know he had this disorder, even though he did show many of the outward physical signs.

COHEN: The National Marfan Foundation estimates that half the people who have the disorder are like Larson and don't even know it. That means tens of thousands go undiagnosed. And inside their chest, a silent killer, a weak aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart, which can rupture at any time.

DR. HAL DIETZ, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Now take your pinky and thumb and wrap them around the opposite wrist.

COHEN: Dr. Hal Dietz at Johns Hopkins, one of the world's foremost Marfan experts, is trying to teach doctors to look for signs of Marfan, because once it's diagnosed and treated, the patient usually lives a long and healthy life. But left untreated...

DIETZ: Someone can have a ticking time bomb in place, an aorta that is truly massively enlarged and ripe to rupture without anyone knowing about it.

COHEN: So why was Karen's son Michael so lucky? Why was he diagnosed? It wasn't his doctors. His mother diagnosed him. When Michael was born, Karen just knew something was wrong from those strangely long fingers that were bent backwards. She brought him to the best pediatricians in New York, but they didn't listen.

(on camera): What did they tell you when you told them you were worried?

K. MURRAY: Not to worry. He's fine. Be happy. You have a new, healthy baby boy.

COHEN (voice-over): Doctors even wrote in the medical records that Karen had "maternal anxiety."

(on camera): And all those doctors that you took him to, none of them mentioned Marfan's?

K. MURRAY: None.

COHEN (voice-over): What did help her was this, a CD that came with a computer she bought Michael for his fifth birthday. She looked up his symptoms and found Marfan. She rushed him to the hospital.

K. MURRAY: A team of four or five doctors came out white as ghosts, and they said his aorta is enlarged. It's double the size it should be.

COHEN (on camera): Do you remember when you were five and diagnosed?

MICHAEL MURRAY, MARFAN SYNDROME: I remember when my mom first saw the article on the computer, and I actually do remember that night.

COHEN (voice-over): Michael immediately went on drugs to help his heart and will still likely need heart surgery in the future.

Dr. Dietz said Michael's story is not unusual.

DIETZ: I think that the sad reality is that often a layperson with the use of the Internet and Google can know more about Marfan syndrome than their family physician.

COHEN: Michael is already getting care from Dr. Dietz at Hopkins.

(on camera): You get an echocardiogram done on your heart every...

M. MURRAY: Every six months.

COHEN (voice-over): Meanwhile, his mother will continue her search for people who might have fragile hearts and not know it.

K. MURRAY: I feel like I might have saved a life and I'll never know. I'll never know, but it helps me sleep at night.

COHEN: She does know that she may have already saved her son's life.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, New York.


LIN: And that story comes to us from "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Join Paula weeknights at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific. Well you've heard of "The Da Vinci Code," but have you heard of "The Albino Code?"


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the big verities (ph) cover-up in movie history.

DENNIS HURLEY, EXE. PROD., "THE ALBINO CODE": This is great. I burn easily.


LIN: Well the movie parody and Jeanne Moos when we come back.


LIN: Well you've heard the hype about "The Da Vinci Code." Now "The Albino Code."

CNN's Jeanne Moos has that story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember when the good guys used to wear white? Well, in "The Da Vinci Code," it's the bad guy who is white, all white, an albino monk.

PAUL BETTANY, ACTOR: Is there a secret you would die for?

MOOS: When Tom Hanks recently hosted "Saturday Night Live," there was an albino bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object to the way albino monks are portrayed in your movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am an albino monk, and we're pretty creepy.

MOOS: But real albinos do object. They're sick of being...

HURLEY: The loner, the butt of a joke or the creepy evil assassin.

MOOS: From "The Matrix Reloaded" to "End of Days..."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've come for you.

MOOS: ... to "Foul Play." Now, albinos are crying foul over...


MOOS: And retaliating with...


MOOS: A 12-minute parody. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an albino.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is what I said.

MOOS: Actually, the name they prefer is...

HURLEY: A person with albinism.

MOOS: Dennis Hurley is such a person. He's also an actor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must kill two people and steal the sacred keystone.

HURLEY: You know, my last job was at Foodmart.

MOOS: Dennis actually tried to get the part of the albino monk in "The Da Vinci Code," but it went to a non-albino, Paul Bettany.

BETTANY: Yes, I play an albino.

MOOS: But Dennis didn't get mad; he got busy making his parody film.

The real film.


MOOS: The parody.

"The Da Vinci Code."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witness the biggest cover-up in human history.

MOOS: "The Albino Code."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the big verities (ph) cover-up in movie history.

HURLEY: This is great. I burn easily.

MOOS: Dennis points out that real people with albinism tend to have problems with their eyesight, which would make for a bad assassin.

(on camera): But this is the kind of thing that really drives them nuts. His irises were pink, with dark red pupils.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll anger the red-eyed demon.

HURLEY: We don't have red eyes. That's just a myth. MOOS (voice-over): Dennis spent almost $10,000 making this parody. And just as the movie albino beats up on himself, the real albino self-flagellates with a fly swatter.

It's enough to make the Mona Lisa grin.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


LIN: There is much more ahead on CNN, including a look at the new vaccine that protects young women against cancer. It's taken a giant step toward approval. That's in the next hour of CNN LIVE SATURDAY.


LIN: Look at this, a quick hug in a very close mayoral race. Tonight, the future of New Orleans, live from election headquarters.

Also, will a new vaccine bring hope for some cancer patients?

And Beyonce and Jamie "Dream" big as they make a big splash in Cannes.

I'm Carol Lin and this is CNN LIVE SATURDAY.

First, let's catch you up on today's headlines.

First, the hour's headlines.

It is decision day in New Orleans and who is going to oversee the New Orleans recovery from Hurricane Katrina? Will it be incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin or challenger Mitch Landrieu? We're going to take you there live in just a moment.

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza kills the most senior member of the militant group Islamic Jihad. And also dead, a woman, her four year old son and the child's grandmother, they were in the car behind the target. Israel confirms the attack.


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