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Severe Weather in the South; Cold Medicines Unsafe for Toddlers, Infants; Thai Authorities Build Case against Sex Offender; Comparing GOP Candidates

Aired October 20, 2007 - 16:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the crib had flipped over and the mattress was the only thing that saved the baby. The mattress was on top of the baby but I mean, there was thousands of pound of stuff wrapped over this baby. I don't know how he made it.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN, ANCHOR: But he did make it despite that tornado that twisted and tossed him some 40 feet. That story is up next in the NEWSROOM.

Plus, brand new presidential poll result from value voters with conservative candidate has a real prayer with them. The result just might surprise you.

GOV. SONNY PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: I declared an emergency in 85 of Georgia's counties due to the threat in the water supply in the northern part of our state.

WHITFIELD: And Georgia's dry counties in our top story. In the southeast, dry disaster has begun their calling on Washington for help.

You are in the NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We will start this hour with a crisis in the state that feels like a desert. Today Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is pleading with President Bush to keep drinking water flowing to dozens of counties and the city of Atlanta. Warnings about the area's break neck (growth) are on the verge of coming through amid the regions withering drought. Here with the story is CNN's Josh Let.

JOSH LET, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what has been going on is today he was talking about this as a federal bureaucratic nightmare. I live in this region, we live in this region and I didn't even understand some of the stuff until today. Because we understand that the weather has been tough, right. There hasn't been enough rain, that we're losing our water. But all of sudden what we're hearing now is a complaint of a nightmare in the bureaucracy, that this is a man-made problem as well. Let's take a listen, first, to what the governor said.


GOV. SONNY PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: We are also mired in a frustrating, manmade disaster, a federal bureaucracy. The actions of the corps of engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Services are not only irresponsible, I believe they're downright dangerous. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LET: All right. So that was flying around. What is it all about? I want to talk to you through now what these federal agencies do and how they affect the water. Here's the deal. Some of Georgia's water that flows to Alabama and also to Florida, where it helps cool power plants and it also helps keep alive fresh water mussels and sturgeon, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now, it sounds like a random detail right? But here's the deal, in order to do all of that stuff, billions of gallons leave this area every day, going to Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The army corps of engineers said it's legally required to do that. It controls this water. It says it has no choice but to let that water go to those areas and keep those things alive.

WHITFIELD: Because those are the rules.

LET: Right, because those are the rules. That's what they're saying but what I got here is what the Georgia government is pointing to, and that is this opposite side, which is the Fish and Wildlife Service saying you know actually they don't have to do that. During a drought situation they can expedite any changes they want to. There is flexibility. So if they want to, they actually don't have to keep giving up that water.

WHITFIELD: They meaning Georgia.

LET: And the army corps of engineers.

WHITFIELD: They making the decision on its own.

LET: And the Army Corps of engineers doesn't have to do that. Right, the reason he's so frustrated is that the army corps of engineers is saying we have to let this water go. Right? Then, you take a look at the Wildlife Services and they're saying, ah, ah. You can let Georgia hold on to some of that water if they want to. So, that's where you get this bureaucratic nightmare. These two agencies giving a different impression about what they're supposed to do with the water in the first place. That's why he's so upset about it and that's what we are hearing about it.

WHITFIELD: So what is at the root of what's being protected here? Are we talking about the endangered species or are we talking about, you know, human consumption, out-of-control needing to be curved for the sake of helping to save these endangered species?

LET: I know, it's confusing, isn't? Because in a way it sounds like it boils down to people versus animals. Because humans need the water so stop sending it to those mussels over there. Because obviously, you know, protect the humans first, right? Here's the trick, mussels, and I just learned this, actually purify water making it drinkable for everyone. So mussels actually do play a role in making sure there's drinkable water. So it's not as simple as let the mussels die if they have to. Meanwhile in Georgia, Fred, some mussels are dying and they're not as endangered as they are in Florida. But in Georgia, some mussels, these are mussels. WHITFIELD: Try this basin, yes.

LET: Well, this over here is in Georgia where some mussels are dying because of the water that's depleting and going to Florida. So, this is the frustration of Georgia.

WHITFIELD: And people have been seeing these lakes shrink all summer long. So, what now?

LET: All right. So this is where we get into politics and that's kind of, this political dynamic that we're seeing today. The governor here, Governor Purdue, is a big supporter of President Bush, right? Big Republican, big supporter of President Bush. So, today sounds a little bit of quid pro quo. Let's listen to what he said.


GOV. SONNY PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: We need the president to cut through the tangle of a necessary bureaucracy to manage our resources prudently.


LET: All right. So he goes out in public and he basically says, President Bush, pay up. It's time for you to pay up politically. I supported you all along. My state needs the water. You slice through this nightmare right now, end it, so that we can hold on to more water. He's waiting now to see what the president will do.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So he wasn't kidding about playing hardball. He didn't pick up the phone and call his friend, the president. He decided to take it to the airwaves and let everybody know that he's making this direct appeal to the White House.

LET: He didn't just make a call. When you as a governor go out in public and you say, I need the president of the United States to slice through this for me right now, you're making a political statement. We want to drive that home.


LET: It's a political statement as well. He's saying pay up, it's time, my state needs this. What we're going to see now, we got a link with the White House and will be following it throughout the weekend. What will the White House do now as a result of this new open public push from Georgia to hold on to that water?

WHITFIELD: All right. In fact, let's try to find that out right now. Thank you so much, Josh.

LET: Yes, thanks.

WHITFIELD: Our Elaine Quijano has been traveling with the president and the White House has in fact responded to Georgia's request with a definite maybe. So, here is the White House statement released this afternoon on regional water distribution. "We have already begun drafting interim rules to use procedures and flexibility to address the endangered species requirements and the Army Corps of engineers has started the process of revising the operations manual for the Chattahoochee river basin."

So government health is one thing, but relief from above, well that couldn't hurt. Bonnie Schneider is in the weather center. Bonnie, is there any rain? It would have to be really significant rain in the forecast to really make a difference?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Well, first. Yes, the first part of your question, yes, there is some rain. Is it going to make a difference? I'm not so sure. Let me show you first the latest drought monitor. And you can see the states that are highlighted in the darker red show that we have cities like Birmingham, Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville and even into parts of South Carolina and North Carolina still under this severe drought, extreme drought, actually. And this is coming from the U.S. drought monitor and this problem does, of course, persist because when we look at the rain in the region, we have rain up in the northeast. We have rain to the south. But we don't have any of it where we need it across the southeast. And as we take a look at some of the numbers, the way things breakdown, it may surprise you how far behind we actually are for some of these cities in terms of a rainfall deficit. These numbers go back since January, the beginning of this past year. And the deficit for Atlanta, over 16 inches of rain where we should be when you're talking about what's normal for this time of the year. Even if you had a few inches below in terms of a deficit, that wouldn't be so bad. But when you're talking about over 12 inches, 16 inches, that's a serious situation. Of course, for Huntsville, it's much worse; the deficit there is 23.97 inches. And again, the normal rainfall so far as we get close to this time of this year would be about 44, 43 inches. And looking at the forecast, you can see we only have a slight chance of rain, for example, in Atlanta with thunderstorms in the forecast. Tuesday and Wednesday. And it's probably not much to make a huge difference there or in Nashville where we also have a chance for rain in the forecast Tuesday and Wednesday. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much. We've got our fingers crossed, Bonnie.


WHITFIELD: And we will of course have more on the drought situation later on, including a look at how people in the Atlanta area keep their lawns so green or not. T.J. Holmes on the cat-and-mouse game with the water police. That's straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

And you may have noticed something a little different on the bottom of your screen today. The CNN logo on the lower left corner, well it's turned green. That's because CNN is going green over the next week. We are digging deeper on environmental issues, covering stories that affect all of us, from the air we breathe to the fuel we use. It all coincides with the premiere of "Planet in Peril," a special report from Anderson Cooper with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and "Animal Planet's" Jeff Corwin. That's next Tuesday and Wednesday on CNN. New reports of antibiotic resistant Staph infection, the superbug as it's being called has hit Iona College, just north of New York City. Nine athletes and a coach have been infected. Frank Holland of CNN affiliate news 12 Westchester has more.



FRANK HOLLAND, NEWS 12 WESTCHESTER (voice-over): On Friday, Iona College announced that nine football players and one staff member have a strain of the potentially harmful Staph bacteria resistant to most antibiotics known as MRSA. Staph is a common bacteria carried by most people without any negative effects. However, when an infection develops, it could often look like the boils or pimples in these photos. County Health Commissioner, Dr. Joshua Lipsman says that Iona, as in most cases, the Staph bacteria was spread through physical contact

LIPSMAN: What you have with these young people is close quarters and congregating and sharing of equipment.

HOLLAND: The first MRSA case at the school was reported in September and the latest was discovered just last week. Dr. Lipsman praised Iona for testing any person that appears to show symptoms of the bacteria and for preventive measures like disinfecting equipment and athletic facilities.

LIPSMAN: They are doing such a good job of looking through these cases after they had the first one, that they're finding a lot of people with mild illness who might otherwise have had it but gone undetected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just washing my hands, taking lots of showers. You can't really do anything else.

HOLLAND: Student athletes were not allowed to comment on the MRSA outbreak but other students were concerned about possibly getting a Staph infection and say they are taking steps to be safer. Iona spokesman Cecelia Donahue says the college has the same approach and is doing everything it can to protect the 4,400 students on campus.

CECELIA DONAHUE, IONA SPOKESPERSON: We are evaluating all of our procedures and see if there's anything we can change, anything that we can do better.


WHITFIELD: Coming up in about a half hour from now, we'll talk to our Dr. Bill Lloyd about these potentially deadly superbugs. We'll talk about just how scared you should be and what you can do to try to avoid it.

And a toddler, twisted and tossed but alive. Family could have been mourning the tragic death of their child. But instead they are marveling in his incredible survival. That's up next in the NEWSROOM.

Plus, the results are in. America's value voters make their choice for president. Here's a hint, it's not a Democrat.

Also, this may look like a normal workout, sort of, kind of. But there is a twist. It's a workout for the mind and the body. That's still ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: The wind, rain and tornadoes took six lives in several states, but it's the story of a tiny survivor that took our breath away. A 14-month-old boy tossed 40 feet in the air by a twister, found alive amid the rubble of his family's home.

Somehow, the crib and him got sucked out of the house because I think what had happened was when he had landed, the crib had landed upside down and when the debris came down on top of it, it crushed the crib. So when we took everything off, we found pieces of the crib, so we knew this could be the area. And when we pulled the bed mattress off, that's where he was laying underneath.

So little Blake will be fine. He suffered only cuts and bruises. In the words of one firefighter on the scene, "sometimes miracles do happen."

Combine a tanker truck with a flammable load and a sleepy driver, and you've got a traffic nightmare. In New Orleans, an 18-wheeler overturned this morning with several of its gas cylinders igniting and hitting nearby cars. The incident shut down Interstate 10 for hours. And it also stranded scores of drivers.

David Copperfield's camp is strongly denying a sexual assault allegation against the illusionist. Copperfield has been contacted by the FBI in the case and his Las Vegas warehouse was raided. Police say a report was filed by a Seattle woman about an incident that allegedly took place in the Bahamas over the summer.

And despite a large security presence, some sporadic violence still broke out at this weekend's protests targeting IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington. Among the incidents, one young woman was hit with a flying brick and a police officer was pushed from a scooter. Demonstrators say the financial organization's policies harm the world's poorest people.

And they are indeed jumping for joy and just for kicks at the Annual Bridge Day Festival in West Virginia. This is the only day of the year that big jumpers are allowed to take the plunge like this from the New River Gorge Bridge. Boy, they are bold. And for the non-adrenaline junkies among us, there's a lot of other stuff bringing people out - food, entertainment, and, of course, the beautiful fall foliage. And that's quite the sight.

Well, drought certainly the big weather story of the day. But now you can add the word snow. Isn't that right, Bonnie? SCHENEIDER: That's right. We have heavy snow warnings for areas in the cascades, including Mt. Hood, Oregon. Take a look at the live picture now. We can show you that the now is falling. Look at that, it's kind of wetting the lens there. You can see some of the snow in the distance. We actually saw snowplows driving by. Heavy snow not for not just Oregon but Washington state, some colder temperatures, too. And also a look at the drought forecast for the southeast. That's all straight ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sounds good, Bonnie.

Plus, here's a big H2O no-no in some Georgia counties. Thanks to drought, sprinklers are the stuff of (scofflaws). Coming up. Right along with the water patrol.

And then we head to Louisiana where this man is poised to make history if he wins. A live report from the bayou state coming up in the NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.



GOV. SONNY PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: On top of that, we are also mired in a frustrating manmade disaster of a federal bureaucracy.


WHITFIELD: That's the governor of Georgia declaring a state of emergency over the drought crisis in his state and urging the federal government to restrict water flows from Georgia's reservoirs into neighboring states. The state is also making residents do their part. Water restrictions including outdoor watering bans are in full effect. In one Georgia county, in fact, cheating could cost you big time. CNN's T.J. Holmes hitches a hide with the water patrol.


T.J. HOLMES, CNN, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Griggs is on the patrol. He's on the lookout for green grass, a sign that people are watering their lawns.

MICHAEL GRIGGS, WATER PATROL: This lot here. Really, really green.

HOLMES: He's also checking water meters.

GRIGGS: Should be no use on your irrigation meters.

HOLMES: Douglas county in suburban Atlanta is under a total outdoor watering ban. It's Grigg's job to find violators and take action immediately. Shutting their water off. So far nearly 20 households have had their water turned off.

PETER FROST, DOUGLAS CO. WATER & SEWER AUTHORITY: Yes, if property owners want the water back on in the morning, it's $1,000. If not, if they want to wait until we were able to schedule for the turn on, then they only have to pay the trip charge which is $25.

HOLMES: Future violations only get more expensive. The second violation is at least $350 and the third is $1,000. Peter Frost, the executive director of the local water and sewer authority, says these drastic steps are necessary.

FROST: We're trying to stop our reservoir from getting into a critical condition.

HOLMES: This is the county's reservoir, or what's left of it. And like most in the southeast U.S., it's drying up. Because of the low levels, the water district is now piping in 60% of its water from a neighboring county but that water supply is also nearly gone. For now authorities are making plans and doing what they can to keep the water they have from going down the drain.

GRIGGS: Don't need to be on right now.

HOLMES: T.J. Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's check in with Bonnie Schneider. So Bonnie, folks want to know when can they, you know, get some rain to at least water their lawns, since they can't turn on their sprinklers?

SCHNEIDER: I know. As you can see right now, we only have rain into Florida and up to New York areas where we have the drought. Unfortunately, we just don't have the rain right now. But I want to show you some of the forecast we are looking at as we kind of go off into the future. I'll step out of the picture so you can see it completely. What we're looking is a forecast for wetter than normal in terms of rainfall but not where we want it, maybe some part of areas where we're getting some of the drought, including Tennessee. But as you can see, we're still looking at drier-than-normal conditions for a good portion of the southeast. This outlook comes to us from NOAA and it actually goes from December straight through February of next year. So it's not too promising in terms of what we can expect over the next, you know, few months as we go forward and as we go into another year. Well, I want to talk about what else is going on as we look at some of the weather that's affecting areas into the pacific northwest. Lots of wind and rain across areas into Washington, Oregon. We have a live picture to show you of Mt. Hood, Oregon. And it shows the snow is coming down. It started this morning. It's coming down heavy and hard. We can see a foot of snow in this region. This is a live picture from a ski resort. You can actually see the ski resort through the raindrops on the camera as some of the water has melted there. Nice to get this water over to the southeast, but this is where it is coming down heavy and hard in terms of snow. There is a winter storm warning that's in effect until 4:00 p.m. today. As you can see, it does include areas of both Oregon and the Washington Cascades. So, we'll be watching out for that as we work our way through the next few days.

Now, speaking of what's ahead, Santa Ana winds, a big concern for California. Starting tonight into tomorrow, high pressure to the north and low pressure to the south, the wind blows from high to low, and when you have such a strong pressure gradient, what you get are very strong winds and as they come down the mountains and the Santa Ana region in southern California, the winds pick up and they also heat up. So we are looking at strong winds right now to the west. They will come out of the northeast starting tomorrow. But look at this temperatures are on the rise. These temperatures are at least 15 degrees above normal for Los Angeles. It may even get to 90 degrees on Monday in some areas. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: That is a toasty fall. All right. Thanks so much, Bonnie.

Well, coming up, which republican for president has a prayer with value voters? The winners and losers in a straw poll straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: Here is a quick look at what's happening right now. The White House said today its studying ways to help Georgia out of its mounting water crisis. The governor Sonny Perdue declared a state disaster for 85 north Georgia counties today and also asked for a federal disaster declaration. Georgia said that drinking water for millions of people could be exhausted by the end of January.

Pedophile suspect Christopher Paul Neil is to remain in jail in Thailand at least 12 days as police rebuild their case against him. The Canadian teacher was finally tracked down Friday, ending an international manhunt. He's suspected of having sex with dozens of boys in several different countries.

And Myanmar is lifting its curfew today as well as its ban on assembly. The moves are taken as signs that the military government thinks it has stifled the recent uprising.

All right, choosing sides today, a little politics. Religious republicans in Washington, a straw poll has just been released from a conservative conference in Washington. And it shows that Mitt Romney impressed most of the value voters just by a hair, though. He captured just 1% more than second place finisher, Mike Huckabee, among those who participated in the vote. Ron Paul came in third with 15%, followed by Fred Thompson, with 10%. All the top GOP candidates have been courting this key voting block. Joining us now from Washington, CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Good to see you, Bill.


WHITFIELD: So, it was a huge victory, is it not, for Romney?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I call it a significant step for Mitt Romney because he's a Mormon. And Mormons are supposed to be distrusted by Christian conservatives, evangelical Christians, many of who consider Mormonism as a sect and a heretical sect at that.

He came in first here by a hair and that shows that they may be able to get over their distrust to Mormons and also the fact that he had another handicap. He's endorsed their positions but only recently. Until 2005, he took a relatively liberal position on issues like abortion and gay rights. He changed his views on abortion when he was governor but he's come to endorse the positions only in recent years. But, of course, these are Christian conservatives who willingly accept and welcome converts. The one caution I would raise, however, is that among the people who actually attended the conference, roughly 1,000 in Washington, Romney only got 11% of the vote.

Mike Huckabee, who came in second overall, dominated the vote among people who were actually in the room. But a lot of people voted online and by mail. In fact they have been voting since August. We cannot be entirely sure who these people were except they were all members of the Family Research Council's Political Action Committee.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Huckabee, as you mentioned, coming in second has to be really encouraged by all of this. Meantime, Fred Thompson, though, coming in third, maybe his expectations were high. This has to be a pretty big blow, right?

SCHNEIDER: It is a disappointment. He actually came in fourth and that was a little embarrassing because he came out behind Ron Paul, who was a libertarian candidate. Fred Thompson was supposed to sweep the conservative vote, he's a Southerner, he's endorsed conservative positions, claims to be a strong, legitimate conservative on all of their values issues. His fourth place showing, I think, is a very big disappointment.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So what's the next big test for these guys?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the real test of the viability -- their viability in the Christian conservative community is the Iowa Republican caucuses in January and the South Carolina Republican primary. Those two events have a large constituency of Christian conservatives, and that will be the true test of which of the Republican candidates has the strong standing with that vote.

WHITFIELD: Alright, Bill Schneider, thank you so much. Nurse that voice, too.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah. We suffer from our art.

WHITFIELD: Give it a little rest. Part of the best political team on television, thanks so much, Bill.


WHITFIELD: Well, Louisiana voters head to the polls today in the state's first post-Katrina statewide elections. Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco is not running again. Leading the gubernatorial pack is the 36-year-old Oxford educated son of Indian immigrants. Analysts say, Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal could get 50% of the primary vote today and avoid a runoff all together. If elected, he would become the state's first non-white governor since reconstruction. He would also become the youngest governor in the U.S. Joining me from New Orleans to talk a little bit about this potentially 'watershed' election is Kurt Sprang. He is an anchor with the CNN affiliate WGNO in New Orleans. Good to see you Kurt.

KURT SPRANG, WGNO CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred, how are you today?

WHITFIELD: I'm doing great. Well, this is pretty big because while folks of the region know him as a congressman and they are familiar with the name, on a national scale, folks are not that familiar with him, so tell me a little bit about who Congressman Jindal is.

SPRANG: Well, a lot of people would tell you he's one of the smartest people in the state, as you mentioned in your introduction, he is a Rhodes Scholar, Oxford educated, a very smart man. He has been very well known in this state as a reformer in health care and he's working very hard to try to win a race that he nearly won four years ago. He took Kathleen Blanco to a runoff and lost in the runoff.

WHITFIELD: So does that mean that this really is kind of a post- Katrina statement being made? Even though Kathleen Blanco not necessarily running again but this is a statement that maybe the voters want to make?

SPRANG: What I think you're seeing here is, like any election, you hear healthcare, education, reform is a big word, you hear those thrown around in elections just about anywhere in the country and here in Louisiana as well, those words mean different things for different parts of the state. Education for other parts of the state may mean standards. Here in New Orleans, it may mean getting schools open.

WHITFIELD: And, he is even quoted as saying, you know, if he were to, you know, get the majority vote, even if there were a runoff election, he's saying this really does demonstrate this election is really not about black, white, green, yellow, anything. It's really about what people want addressed, that people want their state to move forward.

SPRANG: Reform has been a huge part of this campaign from all of the candidates. In fact John George is a very successful businessman. He's running. Reform, a big part of his message. State Senator Walter Valasso(ph), former Republican, turned Democrat strictly for this race to run against Bobby Jindal, also pushing reform. So, reform has been a message across the state for all of the candidates in this race.

WHITFIELD: Is that the message, too, when we talk about, you know, a state that historically does not necessarily vote for anyone who isn't a white male but at the same time Louisiana being put on the map, especially in the past couple of months with the whole Jena, Louisiana. Is there a message being sent by the voters?

SPRANG: Well, I think perhaps you might see, if you want to make the argument that perhaps people voted based on race in the past here, that perhaps reform will trump that this time around.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kurt Sprang of WGNO in New Orleans. Thanks so much. Good to see you. SPRANG: My treat.

WHITFIELD: Well, nobody knows where it comes from, the 'superbug,' it's resistant to antibiotics as well. We will hear from one of the kids who actually survived it. And so what is this bug? How do you avoid getting it even in the first place? We will take a closer look straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


In today's (HEALTH FOR HER) segment, an important warning for moms and dads about cold medicine. An FDA advisory panel says don't give it to young kids. The group says over-the-counter cough and cold remedies are not safe for children under 6. Medical experts say the pediatric versions are not kid friendly and can lead to excessive or unintentional overdosing. The panel stopped short of issuing the statement warning for kids over 6.

More worries today about the spread of a so-called superbug staph infection. Nine college football players and a coach infected with it at Iona College in New Rochelle, just north of New York City. One of the athletes that had been hospitalized has since been released. That's the good news. But West Chester County Health Officials are asking hospitals and doctors to report any more outbreaks as they try to determine if a pattern of infection is indeed emerging. The ten cases were caught early and all are considered -- yuck -- mild. The superbug is resistant to most common antibiotics. Yet, as we have seen in New York and other places, if caught early, it is treatable. Our Keith Oppenheim spoke with a Chicago boy who is getting over a bout with the dangerous superbug.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Twelve-year-old Pharon Cowser lies in a hospital bed next to his mom. Less than a month ago, he truly thought he was going to die.

PHARON COWSER, MRSA SURVIVOR: I was telling my mom I don't want it be here no more. She said, what do you mean? I said I want to go with God. I can't be here.

OPPENHEIM: Pharon was fighting a staph infection known as MRSA, a strain of bacteria that is highly resistant to most antibiotics.

INDA COWSER, PHARON'S MOTHER: He had a fever for like 35 days straight, 102. He was in excruciating pain. I mean, his screams worst than a horror scream I ever heard.

OPPENHEIM: The question is, how did this nasty bug get into Pharon's body? The answer is no one is quite sure. The bug might have got into his system from a scrape he got when he fell off his bike. He might have gotten it later when he went to the emergency room. However it got in, the 'superbug' acted fast. Pain in his legs, excruciating pain and a fever.

DR. ROBERT DAUM, PEDIATRICS, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Patients like him, once it's in the blood stream sometimes get showers of organisms, bacteria all over their body and this is when things get out of control for us very quickly.

OPPENHEIM: Dr. Robert Daum of the University of Chicago says it was once thought MRSA was contracted mostly in hospitals and now that's changed.

DAUM: The community is where the epicenter is now.

OPPENHEIM: It's most likely contact in the community that led to 17-month-old Simon Sparrow catching the bug three years ago.

EVERLY MACARIO, SIMON'S MOTHER: I still can't believe it.

OPPENHEIM: Everly Macario is Simon's mom.

MACARIO: He just did not look like himself at all. His whole body had just transformed into something else.

OPPENHEIM: In less than a day after going to the hospital, Simon died. The doctors say most cases are not nearly as extreme, that MRSA can be treated.

DAUM: If you scrape your knee and start to get a fever a couple days later that doesn't look like a cold, go see the doctor.

OPPENHEIM: In Pharon's case it took nine surgeries and 47 days in the hospital to get to this point.

COWSER: I feel like a whole new boy.

OPPENHEIM: Some indication that a superbug, powerful as it may be, can be stopped. Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.


WHITFIELD: Wow, that's something else. Well, Dr. Bill Lloyd joins me now to talk about the superbugs. Dr. Lloyd, these superbugs can kill people. Just how scared should we be? Because this is really frightening stuff.

DR. BILL LLOYD, SURGEON: Fredricka, the real news about this story is that this MRSA, the superbug, no longer lives exclusively in hospitals like the story we saw.


LLOYD: This involved a young boy in the community. New research out this week shows that nearly half of MRSA infections in the United States now appear to be rising within families, households, schools and communities. People who have never been to the hospital so now more than ever, we have to be careful about hand washing and things we come into contact with.

WHITFIELD: So, why is it spreading like this? Is it something about the location the places that those exposed to the infection are going? Is it hygiene?

LLOYD: It starts because you offer a portal of opportunity. Like a little cut or scrape, like the story we saw, and by not covering that wound and coming in contact with somebody who already has the MRSA bug, you give a passageway for the germ to get in. Healthy people who don't have cuts or scrapes that are in contact with other people probably are not likely to contract MRSA. However, you have a little pimple, and you go to the gym and you don't wipe down between using the different apparatuses, there's a possibility that you may come into contact with somebody else's pimple and low and behold, you end up very, very sick.

WHITFIELD: Wow. How do you reduce the risk?

LLOYD: As we mentioned earlier about hand washing, just like in hospitals, number one risk in schools, in gyms and around the house and including the workplace as well. You can use those disposable hand sanitizers as well. They are loaded with alcohol. They will kill the germs, too. Be aware of your surroundings. Try to avoid heavy crowds. If you have any kind of injury, a pimple, a zit, a cut, a scrape, make sure you have it covered with a band-aid at all times. Not just to protect the wound itself so it will heal, which is a good thing, but also to protect it from exposure to other people's germs. And don't share things. This is the season to become greedy. Don't share towels, razor blades, toothbrushes. I have not shared a toothbrush with anybody, but don't do it now.

WHITFIELD: Why would anybody want to do that?

LLOYD: But if you did, you know, funny things happen in sports clubs, fitness clubs and gyms. I have seen people sharing razors. Don't do it. The chance of exchanging MRSA is there and with that you can become very, very ill. You need to know all of the warning signs.

WHITFIELD: Seems like other things can be transferred too with the sharing of razors. But I digress. Let's talk about the whole notion then that this is something that's not treated by antibiotics, at least not in the latter stages. So if that's the case, then if you do have it and you catch it in the early stages, how is it being treated?

LLOYD: Well, an important point is that if you do notice signs of infection, redness, pain, fever; get to the doctor right away. Don't hesitate to ask the nurse or the doctor, "Is there any chance this might be the superbug?" Interesting things happen when you prod somebody and if you're in a community loaded with MRSA, they may right away start you on an antibiotic that will protect you from MRSA. If, on the other hand, they give you an ordinary antibiotic and you use it for a day or so and things are not getting better, get right back to the doctor and say, "I've tried routine stuff. Let's move onto something else."

WHITFIELD: Wow and these pictures are really something. Although, a lot of folks can look at this and just think is a simple rash. Maybe they have been exposed to poison ivy and next thing you know, it's something really serious like this MRSA. LLOYD: Yeah, this is the time to be aggressive about that, particularly for our children. A school yard injury that's not protected coming in contact with MRSA can make your child very, very sick. If your child has a fever, you have to have an explanation. If MRSA gets into the blood stream, we call that 'sepsis.' It's highly virulent and comes with a very, very poor prognosis. So, keep your antenna up and keep your hands washed and if you develop any type of infection, don't hesitate to ask the healthcare provider, could this be the superbug?

WHITFIELD: Okay, Dr. Bill Lloyd, thank you so much.

LLOYD: We will talk again soon.


Coming up -- need a little nudge to workout? Everybody does. Maybe you can get a little help from above as well. A divine workout is what they are calling it in the NEWSROOM.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jim Acosta in New York, coming up in our next hour in the NEWSROOM, the Big Apple's big plan to place thousands of new security cameras across the city. How much surveillance is too much surveillance? I will have that story coming up.

WHITFIELD: You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: News that's happening right now, a state of emergency in north Georgia. Governor Sonny Perdue made that declaration today saying the region's water supply is dangerously low. Perdue is also asking President Bush to declare a major disaster area in 85 counties.

Thai investigators are building their case against accused pedophile Christopher Paul Neil. They say the case is based information from three Thai boys who say they were abused by the Canadian teacher. Police have identified Neil as the man seen in hundreds of internet photos sexually abusing a dozen young boys.

And the U.S. Treasury Secretary delivers a warning about the economy. Henry Paulson spoke at a meeting at the international monetary fund and he said the credit crisis does pose a risk to the global economy but he said he's confident economic conditions are strong enough to weather the financial storm.

And you may have noticed something unusual, or at least different, at the bottom of our screen, right there. The CNN logo in the lower left corner has turned green and that's because CNN is going green over the next week. We're digging deeper on environmental issues covering stories that affect all of us from the air we breathe to the fuel we use. It all coincides with the premier of (PLANET IN PERIL). A special report from Anderson Cooper with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Animal Planet's, Jeff Corwin, that's next Tuesday and Wednesday 9 p.m. eastern only on CNN. TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Fredricka!

WHITFIELD: Hello. Straight ahead, more in the NEWSROOM with Tony Harris.

HARRIS: How are you, lady?

WHITFIELD: I'm doing great. How about you?

HARRIS: So, you know there's this school district, Calexico. Calexico County in California, right there on the California-Mexico border.


HARRIS: This is a district with a problem. A number of the students don't live in the district, and Fredricka, I know what you're thinking, you're saying that this is a problem that a lot of districts around the country face.

WHITFIELD: People bus their kids to another district because they like the school, right.

HARRIS: Here's the problem in Calexico County. A lot of the children don't even live in the country. They don't live in the United States. They live in Mexico and cross the border every day...

WHITFIELD: With their lunch bags and book bags?

HARRIS: Yes. To go to school in this district, this is a good district and they want to get the best education possible. How do you enforce the rules, residency rules?

WHITFIELD: Because I'm not seeing border patrol with their weapons approaching a seven-year-old...

HARRIS: No, you wouldn't see that.

WHITFIELD: ...with a book bag and lunch.

HARRIS: I will tell you the taxpayers in that county are not happy. So at 5:00, all about eight minutes or so from now, we will show you how the county is responding and it's pretty severe. You're not going to see the border agents.

WHITFIELD: Wow. I'm not surprised. A lot of folks are fired up.

HARRIS: Let me see what else we have here. Oh, the water police.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, they're out in full force. You're not watering your lawn, are you?

HARRIS: If you live in Georgia and the grass is greener on one side of the street -- WHITFIELD: You have a problem.

HARRIS: You got a real problem.

WHITFIELD: Houston, we have a problem.

HARRIS: So, we're going to hit the road with the water police in Georgia because it's really bad and you have been reporting that.

WHITFIELD: But, I would imagine it has to be more than that. I would think they are checking the water activity because what if you just happen to have grass that's a little bit more, I guess, succulent-like than your neighbors.

HARRIS: Yes. So, there are all kinds of methods being employed now because, as you know, it is rough here in the Southeast. That's coming up at 5:00. We have been talking three minutes, so seven minutes way at the top of the hour.

WHITFIELD: Alright. We'll be watching.

HARRIS: Okay, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Thanks, tony.

Alright, well, exercising, everybody does it. You do it, right? Exercising?

HARRIS: Absolutely. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, exercising to music, nothing new.

HARRIS: Thank you for noticing, Fred.

WHITFIELD: But up next, the routine workout takes a spiritual twist as well. Alright, putting a little soul in those steps next in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Well, devotees call the workouts 'inspired.' It's a new spin on exercise blending religion and aerobics, where the faithful are just that, faithful to their bodies and souls. Zain Verjee has the story.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A heavenly workout for the body and the soul. Instructor Mary Ward is stepping and stretching for Jesus, along with Christians who want to exercise their faith.

MARY WARD, EXERCISE INSTRUCTOR: It's uplifting. It's refreshing. It's renewing. It's community. It's fun.

VERJEE: The class starts with a prayer and then works up a sweat to popular Christian music. Toni Kram has been taking these classes for three years and is inspired.

TONI KRAM, BODY AND SOUL PARTICIPANT: Your mind gets exercise, too, and your spirit. To me, that's not just a workout but it's also a spiritual exercise.

VERJEE: Body and Soul's nonprofit divine routine started in the D.C. area and has spread to more than 30 states and 15 countries. For many believers, part of being a good Christian means trying to stay physically fit. Many churches preach incorporating faith into health routines. Pastor Steve Reynolds, in Annandale, Virginia, tells his flock they need to have a 'bod' for God.

STEVE REYNOLDS, REVEREND, CAPITAL BAPTIST CHURCH: Hey, you know, this body has been made by God and for God. I need to honor him in this way.

VERJEE: In the last two years, he's lost 104 pounds and written a book about it. The inspired sign-up for competitions, even take that before picture and pray for the after one. Back at body and soul --


VERJEE: -- the workout is over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your spirits get lifted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel so thankful, honestly, thankful for the Lord, for his many blessings.

VERJEE: And it's time for prayer. For these Christians, blending fitness and faith brings them one step closer to God.

WARD: In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

VERJEE: Zain Verjee, CNN, Washington.

WHITFIELD: Well, from the CNN center in Atlanta, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The next hour of the NEWSROOM with Tony Harris begins right now.

HARRIS: Who could come out of this? You might be surprised who survived a tornado's fury.

Health alert! Another school is dealing with this deadly germ and the southeast is in deep, deep trouble. Lots of sun, no rain and almost no water. What happens now?

And hello, everyone, I'm Tony Harris. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Take a look at Georgia deep in drought. Dramatic pictures of the ongoing crisis in the Southeast that is getting worse by the day and just hours ago, Georgia's Governor, Sonny Perdue pressed the panic button. Facing a drought of historic proportions that has drained area reservoirs, Georgia Governor, Sonny Perdue, has just declared a state of emergency in 85 counties. That includes the entire Atlanta metropolitan area Purdue says Atlanta could run out of water, listen to this, in 80 days.