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Tuberculosis Scare; Iraqi President in U.S.

Aired May 31, 2007 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody.

I'm Heidi Collins.

Watch events come into the NEWSROOM live on Thursday morning. It is May 31st.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Two Air France passengers exposed just seats away from a man who's infected with an often fatal tuberculosis germ. The flyers live this hour.

HARRIS: Russian spy poisoned. Today, the man accused says the British did it. Andrei Lugovoi claims MI-6 engineered the murder.

COLLINS: Katrina blame game. The mayor faulting the feds and the state for the sad shape of the city. What about his role?

We ask our guests coming up live right here in the NEWSROOM.

He is infected with a rare, dangerous form of tuberculosis, and he is on the move. Within the hour, we learned the patient who set off a global health alert has left an Atlanta hospital. He previously said he planned to undergo medical treatment in Denver.

This morning, we're also hearing from air travelers who may have been exposed. Two people on a flight with the TB patient were on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING" just a short time ago.


BETH HAWKINS, FLEW WITH TB PATIENT: I went to my health department yesterday morning and I had a skin test done. And I've got to go back Friday morning to have that looked at.

But even still, they're recommending that all the passengers go back eight weeks later to get retested, because if by chance we did get infected, it's possible that it could show up negative tomorrow because the incubation period is so long. So we're still going to have to get re-tested after this.



MARK HILL, FLEW WITH TB PATIENT: I think that he, you know, owes an apology to close to 400 people that possibly he could have infected. And, you know, I think he was -- he was certainly torn, but there are different stories about what he was told and what he says he was told. So, at the end of the day, I think that he owes quite a few people an apology.


COLLINS: Health officials are scrambling to contact about 80 passengers now from two transatlantic flights. Air France Flight 385 from Atlanta to Paris, that was on May 12th, and Czech Air Flight 0104 from Prague to Montreal on May 24th.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been following the story for a couple days now and is here to talk more about the risk to passengers.

Because obviously, that seems like what everyone is talking about today. We know that he's no longer in this Atlanta hospital, Grady. But moved on to Denver. Why specifically Denver?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, what he has, XDR-TB, is a very rare thing. There's only been about 49 cases over the last 13 years. But specifically, two hospitals in that area, National Jewish Hospital, and the university hospital in that area, probably have one of the greatest experiences in being able to take care of some of these similar respiratory problems.

They do all sorts of things there. They're going to test to see if any antibiotic works.

We know he's extensively drug-resistant, so none of the antibiotics might work. They're going to test all of them and see if they work.

Also, if he needs surgery, Heidi -- because, actually, to cut out the area of infection, which may be an option for him, there's also a hospital there that does that. We talked to the surgeons there. They say they've never operated on someone who has XDR-TB.

COLLINS: Yes. Never heard of that.

GUPTA: It's a rare thing. But this is a new age. This is the first time we're seeing some of this stuff.

COLLINS: Right. OK. So, thanks for that, because that is the new information that we had this morning, that he was, in fact, out of Grady.

GUPTA: En route.

COLLINS: And we just weren't exactly positive. But obviously that was the plan from the beginning.

What about the passengers now? They're going to be taking a lot of tests in the weeks to come.


COLLINS: How does all of that work?

GUPTA: You know, it's a little confusing, I have to say. And we -- and I've been talking to the CDC quite a bit about this, and admittedly, this, again, is brand-new material for just about everybody here.

But of the things is they first were saying, we advise everyone in the first couple of rows around this man to get tested, and everyone else can get tested if they're concerned. A lot of people don't know what that means.


GUPTA: Should you be concerned, should you not?

Now they're coming out, a little bit more of a blanket statement, saying they're recommending -- there you see it there -- that all U.S. residents and citizens aboard these two flights get evaluated and tested. And this is a little more of a stronger statement, so they're just saying, look, everyone should just get tested here.

They're saying the risk is infinitesimally small that any of these patients are going to come back positive for the testing. All these passengers, I should say, not patients. A little slip of the tongue there. But they should all come back negative, but it's worth getting tested, especially if you're someone who may have a compromised immune system, small children. They're at higher risk.

Everyone just get tested.

COLLINS: OK. So then what -- when you talk about infinitesimally small, they obviously shouldn't be too worried.

GUPTA: Yes. You know, this is one of the hardest things I think as a journalist sometimes with public health stories...


GUPTA: ... is you're balancing something that's extremely potentially dangerous with a very small risk. How do we deal with that?

We had the same issues when it came to SARS, when it came to anthrax, when it came to monkeypox. People say it's just the concern of the day. Perhaps. But I think, you know, for the people, for the average person watching right now, this is absolutely of no concern to you, but to the people on that plane, perhaps, that they have enough of a concern, it will give them great peace of mind to actually have this done. COLLINS: All right. So, the next step for those patients then, more testing and...

GUPTA: You get the first -- you get the skin testing.


GUPTA: And then about eight to 10 weeks later, probably another set of testing as well. And if this makes anybody feel better, his wife with was tested, she came back negative. She spent more probably time -- his new wife, the honeymoon they were on -- spent more time with him more than anybody, probably. She's negative.


All right. Well, we'll talk with you again next hour.

GUPTA: All right.

COLLINS: We're going to actually talk to a couple of patients. Excuse me. I said the same thing as you.

GUPTA: Passengers.

COLLINS: Passengers, as well.

GUPTA: All right.

COLLINS: So we'll get more information from that.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Same flight, same row as the infected air traveler. We will talk with two more passengers possibly exposed to a dangerous form of TB. That's just a few minutes away right here in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Police recruits targeted in Iraq. Wire reports say a suicide bomber hit a recruiting station in the volatile Falluja area. At least 20 people reported killed, many more wounded.

U.S. forces launched more raids in Baghdad's Sadr City today. The military says it captured two people suspected of smuggling arms and militants from Iran. Iran says two people died in U.S. air strikes on Sadr City, but the military hasn't confirmed that.

President Bush hosting the president of Iraq this afternoon. The visit comes at the end of a bloody month for U.S. troops, one of the deadliest of the war.

CNN's White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano, is with us now.

Elaine, what is likely to be on the agenda this afternoon? ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tony, the pressure is certainly on the Iraqi government to show some signs of political progress, so really on the agenda today are going to be political goals as Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, sits down with President Bush here at the White House this afternoon.

Now, those goals include reaching an agreement on oil share revenue, also debaathification legislation, as well as constitutional reforms.

Now, before coming to Washington, Talabani had been at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for some medical treatment. It's unclear, though, Tony, what exactly he was treated for.

His visit though does come as the U.S. continues to carry out the latest Iraq strategy, one the administration says is meant to give the Iraqi government "breathing space".

Now, President Bush yesterday took part in a secure video conference with Iraqi leaders, including Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. The Bush administration itself is of course under intense pressure to show that the troop increase plan is producing results, so a lot on the agenda at a very critical time -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK. Our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano, for us this morning.

Elaine, thank you.

COLLINS: Ambush and air strike after a U.S. chopper goes down in Afghanistan. Officials say preliminary reports indicate the Chinook was shot down last night. All seven on board were killed. Five were Americans.

The chopper crashed in the southern Helmand province, where NATO and Afghan forces are fighting the Taliban. NATO says rescuers were ambushed on their way to the scene and called in an air strike. No word of any casualties from that attack.

Billy Graham's crusades, they have spanned generations. Now a new $27 million library will carry his message to future generations.

Dedication ceremonies set for this afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina. Former presidents Carter, Clinton, and George H. W. Bush are expected to be there. Graham, now 88, has numerous ailments, including prostate cancer.

HARRIS: What do you say we get a check of weather now? Bonnie Schneider is in the weather center for an update on Tropical Storm Barbara.


HARRIS: Still to come this morning in the NEWSROOM, a major bust in Seattle. Could it mean less spam in your e-mail?

Find out the connection in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Russian spy murder mystery. The accused killer now blaming British intelligence. We are live from Moscow ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: New Orleans on the mend. Its mayor on the attack. Even the White House feels the heat. A veteran New Orleans politician joins us live this morning in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Love is ageless, right? The bride and groom, well, let's just say it's no May-December romance. A front-row seat at a very, very special wedding in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Passengers on alert following a TB scare. Right now health officials are trying to locate about 80 air travelers who flew with a tuberculosis patient. The man has a dangerous drug-resistant form of TB.

Jason Vik and Laney Wiggins were on the flight with the man from Atlanta to Paris. On the same row, in fact. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us as well on this segment to keep the medical issues in perspective, of course.

GUPTA: Yes. There are many.

COLLINS: Yes, definitely.

And, you know, it certainly is a story that we've been talking about now for days, to be honest with you, and you guys as passengers right in that same row must have been severely alarmed when you first learned.

Jason, why don't you tell us how you found out that you were sitting next to this man.

JASON VIK, FLEW WITH TB PATIENT: Well, you know, we got a call on our way home. Some of our students had found out that we were on this flight. And to put it into perspective, I didn't get too alarmed. You know, I didn't know anything about the news, and I saw the news, and that's when I became alarmed.

About six hours later on Tuesday, I suppose, is when I got a call saying the guy was in row 51. And I wasn't sure what row I was in. This was three weeks ago.

And, you know, I called -- Laney Wiggins was next to me on the flight, and she said we were on, you know, 51. So, I got very, very scared.

COLLINS: Wow. We should say you guys were on a trip with your college, the University of South Carolina, 15 students that you were with.

VIK: Right. COLLINS: Laney, what about you? How did you find out?

LANEY WIGGINS, FLEW WITH TB PATIENT: My parents actually heard it on the radio at about 1:30 in the morning, Wednesday morning, and so I didn't find -- I was one of the last ones to find out. So, it was a little nerve-racking, but...

COLLINS: And now what has happened for you guys?

You know, to be honest, I was in the makeup room with you. Everybody at home, including my mother, is probably saying, now you're sitting next to them on the set. I mean, you must be getting a lot of that.

What have the doctors told you about your risk of infection and the risk to people who are around you as well?

WIGGINS: Well, they told me that if I do test positive, that I'm not contagious and that it's just the infection, which can be treated. It doesn't become the full-blown disease until it's not treated. So if I test positive, then I'm OK for now. And then if I test negative, then in two months I'll go back and be tested again.

COLLINS: All right.

So, Sanjay, what does all of that mean?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, there's still a lot of confusion here, because people -- there are some people who are very panicked about this, doctors who are immediately saying, well, maybe people should be quarantined, not be quarantined. The reality is, if someone's not sick, and if they're not actually having any of the bacteria in their sputum, they're not infectious, they're not contagious.

So, these guys are not contagious to us right now. Shaking their hands, doing anything is not going to spread the illness. But it doesn't take away some of the panic that still some people are experiencing.

COLLINS: You hear that, mom?

Yes, hopefully she heard that.

So -- and there's also, though, isn't there, an incubation period that we should maybe mention.

GUPTA: Yes. So, the testing is actually pretty good. Once you get tested, you're going to know within a few days whether or not you're positive or not.

But as far as symptoms go, that can take a long time to develop. So, if someone never got tested, for example, then years later started to get sick, it could have been an exposure many years before.

COLLINS: All right. So, have they placed you guys on any sort of travel restrictions or anything?

VIK: Not at all.

COLLINS: Nothing at all.

GUPTA: You had an experience though in the hospital yesterday. What happened?

VIK: Well, you know, I go to a military hospital. I grew up with military parents. So, most people go to the health department, you know, they get their shot, and 10 minutes, 15 minutes, you're in and out.

Well, I went to a military hospital in Fort Jackson. And when I walked in, they were very alarmed, like you guys were saying.

They weren't sure what was -- if I was contagious, so they gave me a mask and they put me in an isolation room, where my doctor was getting in touch with the CDC and the Department of Health and -- the Department of Health and Environmental Control, trying to figure out what they should do and how to handle the situation. So, I was there for about six hours and I went through chest x-rays, and then eventually the tuberculosis skin test, where I should be back on Friday for them to measure the results.

GUPTA: It's interesting, Heidi. I mean, you know, that just sort of shows you, even among hospitals...


GUPTA: ... different protocols on this. It just sort of shows you that there isn't a consistent message. So they put a mask on him yesterday at a hospital, yet he's sitting here talking to you today. Obviously, it does raise some questions.

COLLINS: Right. And I that raises a really good point, is that everybody's heard of tuberculosis. We've had the vaccine.

GUPTA: Right.

COLLINS: But not anybody, at least that I've been in contact with, really knows what it is and what it could possibly turn into.

GUPTA: Yes. Well, you know, tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that typically affects your lungs, and it causes that characteristic coughing that people talk about, night sweats. People can have weight loss and things like that.

But this Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis, there's a picture in case you're curious, can be very problematic for the simple reason that we know how to treat TB in this country. We're very good at it.

We don't know how to treat this as well, Extensively Drug- Resistant Tuberculosis. There aren't many drugs that seem to work. So the gentleman in question that we've been talking so much about, they're going to test these different antibiotics, see what works, see what sticks. It's literally trial and error. They may even have to do surgery on him depending whether those medicines work or not.

COLLINS: Yes. No kidding.

Jason or Laney, do either of you remember anything particular about this man?

WIGGINS: Not really. I mean, we were on an eight-hour flight. And some people cough and people sneeze, and people talk and laugh. And so you don't think anything really is out of the ordinary. So, I mean, I don't remember anything that was -- that stood out a as being unusual.

COLLINS: Well, let me ask you this -- do you think now knowing what you know that it was irresponsible for him to have gotten on an airplane, public transportation, and flying, Jason?

VIK: I absolutely -- I think if he knew he had tuberculosis, regardless of whether it was XDR, I think anything contagious -- you know, if he wore a mask, that's one thing. But, you know, for him to ignore health authorities is -- it's very irresponsible.

I think it's selfish of him to do that and put other people at risk. And, you know, now you're looking at 30 college students, no matter -- I mean, no telling how many kids were on this flight. And I think it's just ridiculous that somebody could put that many people at risk.


And quickly, Sanjay, when he brings up the point about children and immunities, people who have autoimmune diseases, they are already compromised.

GUPTA: Yes. You know, and the last time this happened, you had a quarantine, as in 1963. And now you have global air travel, you have people with HIV-AIDS who are immunocompromised walking around, people on medications that suppress their immune system. They could be at risk and not even know that they're at risk.

Also, what's so interesting is they talked a lot about contacting people like you because you were sitting some close to him. We probably got in touch with you faster than the government did in this particular case, and I think it just shows some of the work that still needs to be done with handling a situation like this.

COLLINS: Public health. Yes, definitely.

All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

And Jason Vik and Laney Wiggins, you'll keep in touch with us, let us know about your testing results and your progress, all right? VIK: Absolutely.


COLLINS: Thanks so much, guys.

VIK: Thank you.

HARRIS: And still to come this morning in the CNN NEWSROOM, an American president, but to Nancy Reagan he was simply "Ronny". Remembering the love affair. Nancy Reagan and Larry King in the NEWSROOM.


How an arrest in Seattle could make you happier and more productive. I'll tell you more about that in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: British Prime Minister Tony Blair is wrapping up his last days in office with a farewell tour. Latest stop, South Africa.

During a speech in Johannesburg, Mr. Blair urged rich nations to keep their promises of financial aid to Africa. The British leader trying to focus attention on the world's poorest continent before leaving office next month. Also on his agenda during his African visit, a meeting with former South African leader Nelson Mandela.

COLLINS: The U.S. government arrests a Seattle man they say is behind billions of spam e-mails per day. Twenty-seven-year-old Robert Salloway (ph) stands accused of fraud, money laundering and identity theft.

The feds are so confident they have their man, they say you will actually notice a difference in your e-mail accounts. A lot less spam.

Ali Velshi is here "Minding Your Business" on this one.

Wow, that's pretty impactful.

VELSHI: Yes. I mean, Salloway (ph) says -- he has pleaded not guilty to all of these charges. He'll be appearing in court on Monday. But authorities say he's the spam king responsible for billions, if not tens of billions, of bits of spam every day.

He's accused of getting his clients by offering to help customers increase traffic to their Web sites, but instead he takes the e-mail address of those clients, those companies, and uses them to send out the spam. So, you know, you'd get the spam from a company that you think sent it, but it's not them at all. So, they're getting a bad name.

Now, this isn't the first time that Salloway (ph) has got himself into trouble or found himself in trouble. In 2005, Microsoft won a $7 million judgment against him. Later that year, an Oklahoma Internet provider won a $10 million judgment against him.

The question is, Heidi, what's the solution? I mean, there's some to talk that 80 percent of Internet traffic is spam, and certainly most of my inbox is spam.

COLLINS: Yes, me too. And, you know, I don't know a single soul who actually enjoys any of it.

VELSHI: Yes. I'm always curious as to who actually buys anything that's advertised.

You know, Bill Gates came up with an idea, and others have worked on this idea few years ago, of somehow charging the sender something to send that e-mail, if you send more than a certain amount of e-mail. So, in other words, it's kind of like postage, right?

You either -- maybe you pay a cent per e-mail, and then if I'm OK with you sending the e-mail, I excuse you from paying that. But if you're going to send a hundred thousand e-mails out or a million e- mails out, you're going to pay unless people say, yes, it's OK for that person to send me e-mails.

COLLINS: Well, that's what I was going to ask. Is this costing him anything?

VELSHI: No. These spams are -- I mean, it's unbelievable how cheap it is. He ran two servers, according to the government. He did this whole thing out of his Seattle waterfront condominium.


VELSHI: Spam is easy. And it's not all illegal either. I mean, much of it isn't illegal.

The issue that they're charging Salloway (ph) with is impersonating other companies to send out spam, as if from them. But, you know, there's still a lot of spam out there that's completely legal. We'd just like to get rid of it. It would make you more productive and happier if you didn't have to keep on pressing delete.

COLLINS: Oh, I hate it.


COLLINS: All right, Ali. Thanks so much for that one. Some good news, hopefully, for the consumers, anyway.


COLLINS: Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business".

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ralitsa Vassileva, live in Moscow. I'll tell you a story of explosive allegations made by a former Russian spy against the spying services in Britain, saying they were involved in the death of a Kremlin critic.

I'll tell you what they have to say. That's coming up next in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Bottom of the hour. Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins. Welcome back, everybody.

Quickly want to go ahead and bring you the New York Stock Exchange, opening bell this morning. Should be ringing at any moment. Northwest Airlines there.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The bottom of the hour.

Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning.

I'm Tony Harris.


Welcome back, everybody.


HARRIS: Infected and on the move -- within the hour we got word that a patient with a potentially drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has left an Atlanta-area hospital. The man had been under a federal isolation order. He planned to seek medical treatment at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver.

The man's travels to Europe set off a global health alert. This morning, health officials are trying to contact about 80 people who flew with him on two transatlantic flights -- Air France Flight 385 from Atlanta to Paris on May 12th and Czech Air Flight 0104 from Prague to Montreal on May 24th.

COLLINS: Relations between Moscow and London further strained today. The man accused of poisoning former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko last year in London now blaming British intelligence.

Ralitsa Vassileva is coverage developments in Moscow for us this morning -- Ralitsa, tell us -- Russia is refusing to turn the main suspect over.

Now, he's very publicly pointing a finger back at Britain.

What exactly is going on?

RALITSA VASSILEVA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's going on is that Andrei Lugovoi, who is an ex-KGB agent himself, says that he is innocent. Russia says that they're not going to extradite him. They might try him in Russia if they have solid evidence that the British authorities can provide. The British authorities saying hey, a British citizen was killed on British soil. British people were exposed to Polonium 210, which was what they used to kill Alexander Litvinenko.

So they're at loggerheads at this point. They can't come to an understanding what they're going to do. For his part, Lugovoi made some explosive allegations, pointing the finger, as you said, Heidi, to the British spy services, saying that they might have been involved because Litvinenko was serving them as a spy -- was spying for them, but he had gotten out of control.

So that was possibly the motive why they would have been involved in his elimination.

He has a few other theories. He says he is innocent, had no reason to do that. And that's where things stand.

But the answer to the question of who killed Alexander Litvinenko in this horrible way, this agonizing death of three weeks in which we saw him perish after being poisoned by this radioactive isotope, that question is still up in the air, Heidi.

COLLINS: It certainly is and it is so incredibly unbelievable.

What can you tell me about this Boris Berezovsky, though?

Why is he implicated in all of it?

VASSILEVA: Lugovoi is implicating Boris Berezovsky, who is a tycoon -- a Russian tycoon who made an enormous sum of money, a fortune, during the Yeltsin years. He very close to that family, used his influence to get insider deals, became very rich, left Moscow, found political asylum in Britain. He's now wanted by Russian authorities on corruption charges, but the British people will not extradite him to face those charges.

So Lugovoi was saying that Berezovsky might have had also a motive to kill Litvinenko.


Because Litvinenko appeared to have had some very compromising documents on Berezovsky's political asylum, the way he achieved this political asylum in London. There were some murky dealings and Litvinenko had information on that.


VASSILEVA: So that might have been Berezovsky's motive to kill.

COLLINS: My goodness.

VASSILEVA: Still many questions, Heidi.

COLLINS: It is a complicated story, indeed. HARRIS: OK.

COLLINS: We certainly appreciate you following it for us.

VASSILEVA: Very complicated.

COLLINS: Live from Moscow this morning, Ralitsa Vassileva.

Thanks so much, Ralitsa.

HARRIS: New Orleans after Katrina -- Mayor Ray Nagin says the city is suffering from broken promises and he says the blame rises to the White House.

Is that fair?

Oliver Thomas is a political veteran in New Orleans. He spent more than a dozen years on the city council.

Oliver, great to see you again.

Thanks for being with us this morning.

OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS PARISH COUNCILMAN: Oh, Tony -- Tony, it's good to see you, as always.

And thanks for hanging in there with us.

HARRIS: Absolutely. I'm -- I'm looking for outrage on this, and I heard a bit of it from the mayor last night. Mayor Nagin critical of President Bush, critical of your governor.

And then he said this.

Let me get your reaction to it.


MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: There's a great song in New Orleans called "It Ain't My Fault." It's not our fault that the levees breached, that the federal government built. It's not our fault that we were stranded and left. It's not our fault that the Road Home program only has issued 12 percent of the grants after almost two years. It's not our fault that our water system is leaking today.


HARRIS: Oliver, what is your reaction to that rift from Mayor Nagin, the criticism -- spot on or off the mark?

THOMAS: No. It's not our fault. I think one of the major problems is that, you know, we needed this level of activism sooner than now. And, you know, the system has not worked. The process has not worked for us. The process has been slow, whether it's FEMA, whether it's reimbursements from the state, the federal agencies.

So I mean, you know, we've been killing people slowly here, Tony, and...


THOMAS: ... and all of the statistics here, as it relates to people's mental health, their physical and mental condition, jobs...


THOMAS: ... you know, what's happening with their homes, all of the statistics are getting worse.

So, recovery, you know, if you put me in ICU and then you send me to the recovery unit, I shouldn't be in ICU condition.


THOMAS: But we're in ICU condition.

HARRIS: That is so interesting.

I'm curious, though. I look to you. You're a smart guy.



HARRIS: There are so many smart people on the ground there in New Orleans.


HARRIS: How can this system be so gummed up, even now, close to two years after Hurricane Katrina?

THOMAS: Well...

HARRIS: What's going on?

THOMAS: Well, you know, I've never been a conspiracy theorist, you know, so, you know, we don't want to deal with that. But I really do believe there's a lot of things we could have done better. We could have accelerated some of our own programs. Look, if we have $5, spend the $5. If we had capital improvement that we could do, you know, let's stop waiting. You know, if you keep waiting on somebody to come and they never come, that tells you something right there.

So I think we -- we really needed to be a little more aggressive with our housing, dealing with seniors, healthcare. But at some point, our budget doesn't match the need.


THOMAS: You know, remember they blamed Mary Landrieu and David Vitter when they asked for $250 billion for our area.

Well, guess what we find out right now? HARRIS: What's that?

THOMAS: We don't have enough money. So they were criticizing them for asking what was due the people in this area -- especially because about where we're delivering oil and gas. But right now, we're -- the Road Home is running out of money. Infrastructure money is not enough to deal with all the parishes that were devastated because of Rita or Katrina, so...

HARRIS: Right.

THOMAS: So, you know, we...

HARRIS: I'm going to fine tune it.

THOMAS: You know, look, our needs.

HARRIS: I'm going to drill it down, Oliver.

You know...

THOMAS: Drill it down.

HARRIS: ... I'm going to do this. I'm going to drill it down.

THOMAS: I know it. I know it.

HARRIS: What I'm asking you is, are you saying that people -- and I'll point the finger at you because you're so strong...

THOMAS: Mm-hmm. Yes. Yes.

HARRIS: Were you as aggressive as you need to be?

Was the mayor as aggressive as he needed to be in terms of keeping pressure on every agency, from FEMA all the way up the line, and getting the job done for the people of New Orleans?

THOMAS: Well...

HARRIS: The people.

THOMAS: Tony, I think we all should have come together a lot sooner, you know and showed our dismay, our hurt, our pain, had our citizens travel with us, walk with us, get on trains and planes with us. I think you're absolutely right, you can't be a leader in this community and shuffle the blame off to everybody else while people are still suffering two years later. And if I have to accept some of that blame, I will.

I know that I've been extremely aggressive in trying to deal with federal agencies and some of the local, state agencies. But, yes, this is more -- there's a lot more we could have done. There's a lot more aggressive we could have been. And we needed to match our citizens' concerns.


THOMAS: This has been a citizen-driven recovery. This -- and they deserve to have us at least come up to a quarter of their level. You're absolutely correct.

HARRIS: All right.

Oliver, I wish -- let me just try to sneak it in. One -- the slate is clean right now. You're starting from today.

What do you do today that has a major -- not a minor, but a major -- impact on the lives of people who are still so disenfranchised by what is going on right now?

THOMAS: Well, we need to do like other organizations do -- AIDS, a lot of organizations with women, children's rights. Let's take Marion Edelman's process from the Children's Defense Fund. Let's go bring our suffering families and put them in the halls of Congress.


THOMAS: Let's put them in the halls of Baton Rouge. Something more has to be done so that they can see, and not only feel our pain, but see our pain.

HARRIS: Right.

THOMAS: We're American citizens.

HARRIS: Oliver, thanks for your time as always.

Great to see you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

Thank you, Tony.

HARRIS: Sure thing.

THOMAS: God bless you, man.

HARRIS: Sure thing.

Thank you.

COLLINS: We want to get a check of the weather now.

Bonnie Schneider is in the Weather Center for us this morning -- good morning to you, Bonnie.

Good morning, Heidi and Tony.


HARRIS: Still to come this morning in the in THE NEWSROOM, a national bird looking for a home. Peacocks pushed out by overcrowding finding a new place to nest, in THE NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass. It must be the season to pick a winner for president. We'll take you into the bleachers, when CNN NEWSROOM returns.


HARRIS: You already know to catch us weekday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 Eastern because you're watching. We're here and you're there.

But did you know you can take us with you anywhere on your iPod?

The CNN NEWSROOM pod cast available 24/7 right on your iPod.

COLLINS: India -- a nation teeming with people and bustling with commotion. Now, the overcrowding is endangering the lifestyle of one of its most majestic creatures -- the peacock.

CNN's Don Lemon is traveling in India.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The distinct call of India's national bird could be a cry for help. The president of India's World Pheasant Association says its beloved peacock is being crowded out of big city parks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parks and gardens are not meant for human beings alone.

Let's have a look.

LEMON: So instead of the usual egg-laying spots...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are known to lay eggs in this kind of situation.

LEMON: Some would-be malapeans are getting creative by not nesting on the ground and taking to the skies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where the eggs were laid.

LEMON: On a second-floor balcony twice, then a third floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the third ledge, about 35, 36 feet from the ground.

LEMON (on camera): Yes, this is really high.

(voice-over): Two birds abandoned their eggs, but one is still nesting. Workers and members of New Delhi's Height (ph) International Centre are going out of their way to make their newest resident comfortable.

The gardener collected soft twigs to spruce up the nest. (on camera): So what do you do if the crows come? Do you make them go away?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We have to open the window, also, if they don't. And we have to brush them away.

LEMON (voice-over): They've even established a quiet zone around the ledge. The drapes are ordered shut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So while mommy (UNINTELLIGIBLE). OK. OK. I'll show you.

LEMON (on camera): All right.


LEMON (voice-over): So while mommy rules the roost for at least two more weeks, the eggs from the abandoned nests incubate at the Delhi Zoo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure the architect never realized that these he's creating a place for them to nest. And so I think they be glad we found ledges.

LEMON (on camera): Now, that's good architecture.


LEMON (voice-over): Don Lemon, CNN, New Delhi.


HARRIS: Talking progress -- at the end of a deadly month for U.S. forces, Iraq's president comes to the White House. That is ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Love is ageless. The bride and groom, well, it's not a May-December romance, that's for sure. A front row seat at a very special wedding coming your way, in THE NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Another reminder that love springs eternal. The bride is 87. The groom is 79. Their devotion is timeless.

A toast now from reporter John Klekamp.

He is with CNN affiliate News 12 New Jersey.


RICHARD TORRENCE, JUST MARRIED: My love waits there in San Francisco.

JOHN KLEKAMP, NEWS 12 NEW JERSEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Edna loves Richard and Richard loves Edna, so much so, he serenades her with her favorite song.

EDWARD TORRENCE: ... to you, San Francisco.

KLEKAMP: Their first date wasn't in San Fran. They went to the track and bet on the ponies. Nearly 10 years later, they're betting on each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now pronounce you man and wife.

EDNA TORRENCE, JUST MARRIED: He just one day said let's get married.

EDWARD TORRENCE: She stuck with me through thick and thin, three heart attacks and cancer. And I'm still here, because it was meant to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may now kiss the bride.

KLEKAMP: Instead of a chapel, the couple exchanged vows at the Care One Nursing Home in Homedell, where both now live. Well wishers included very supportive staff, friends and family.

WILLIAM HARTNETT, EDNA TORRENCE'S GRANDSON: They want to be united. And we were all for it. We were all happy.

MARY O'DONNELL, EDNA TORRENCE'S DAUGHTER: It's really a great story. It's not so bad to get old, I guess.

KLEKAMP: None of this is anything new for the bride and groom, who have been through all this before. Edna is 87 and widowed twice; Richard 79 and divorced. They'll honeymoon in Atlantic City. Edna and Richard, defying their age and the odds, placing their bets again.

In Homedell, I'm John Klekamp, News 12, New Jersey.


COLLINS: Not your usual iPod crowd.

Grandpa's 100 and he's got his groove back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you try it out for me?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were no airplanes. There were no ballpoint pens. There were no computers, no TV.


COLLINS: OK. It is a long way from 1907 to 2007. Footloose centenarians in THE NEWSROOM. COMMERCIAL

COLLINS: Call him the Susan Lucci of spelling bees. Five years in the running, never a winner.

Will today be the day for Satir Fatel (ph), in THE NEWSROOM?

HARRIS: Osteoarthritis -- a painful condition that can strike at any time.

CNN's Judy Fortin explains how to handle it in your 30s, 40s and 50s.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doctor turned art dealer Mark Sublette likes to be in the game.

MARK SUBLETTE, OSTEOARTHRITIS PATIENT: They're authentic, for one thing.

FORTIN: Bidding at a Sotheby's auction, high adrenaline sports. But osteoarthritis made physical activity tough, even running his gallery.

SUBLETTE: Most people think of it as, oh, you look at some art, you maybe have a little glass of wine, you talk about, you know, the painting. No. The answer is really it's quite physical.

FORTIN: Osteoarthritis can happen in any joint in the body, especially knees. Bones are cushioned with cartilage and surrounding synovial fluid. With osteoarthritis, you lose that cartilage resulting in bone-to-bone exposure and pain.

Aging certainly plays a role, but it's not an old people's disease.

DR. JASON THEODOSAKIS, ARTHRITIS EXPERT: Osteoarthritis, which has been associated with older age, really occurs in people in their 20s or 30s. So it's a young person's disease.

FORTIN: In your 30s, managing osteoarthritis is all about exercise. Get plenty. But go easy on joint busters like running, tennis and skiing, particularly after knee surgery.

Just as important -- keeping your weight down.

In your 40s, it's important to see a doctor before starting on painkillers. You want to properly diagnose the disease, not just mask the symptoms.

In your 50s, some studies have shown taking supplements glucosamine and chondroitin may help stem the progression of the disease.

THEODOSAKIS: If you're keeping your weight down, if you're exercising, if you're taking the dietary supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin, you can actually slow the process. And some people actually get better.

FORTIN: Sublette now gets help handling heavy paintings, but has managing his osteoarthritis down to an art.

SUBLETTE: There's a point where you have to be smart and say, OK, I'm not going to do this. Yes, I could do it, but I don't want to pay the price of what potentially could happen.

FORTIN: Experts say with proper care, you can lessen your pain at any age.

Judy Fortin, CNN, reporting.



COLLINS: Good morning, everybody.

I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And good morning.

I'm Tony Harris.

Stay informed all day in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Here's what's on the rundown.

An Atlanta man with an often fatal form of tuberculosis perhaps on his way to a Denver hospital. Authorities still trying to track down passengers he may have infected on two transatlantic flights.

COLLINS: The cost of a college loan about to get costlier.

Personal finance editor Gerri Willis will be right along.

She's got tips to fight rising student loan interest rates.

HARRIS: Some are calling it a $39 million boondoggle. A federal agency that's not needed.

Our Drew Griffin investigates.

Smell the pork on this Thursday, May 31st.

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And a reminder right off the top, this hour we are standing by to hear from doctors and spokespersons from Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

We learned a short time ago that the man infected with a rare, dangerous form of tuberculosis is on the move. This morning we learned the patient, who set off a global health alert, has left an Atlanta hospital. He planned to undergo medical treatment in Denver.

CNN's Rusty Dornin has a time line of the tuberculosis scare.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Unclear precisely when or where he contracted T.B. But local health officials say the man's doctor first told them about it on April 25th.

Further testing showed it was multiple drug resistant. On May 10th, a county doctor joined the man's own physician in warning him not to travel.


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