Return to Transcripts main page


Obama Wins North Carolina, Hillary Ekes out Indiana Win; Campaigns Move to West Virginia; Bush Threatens to Veto Housing Bill; Myanmar Struggling in Cyclone Aftermath

Aired May 7, 2008 - 13:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: On the ground in Myanmar at the height of the storm. Days later, the world pleads with the leaders of the shattered nation, "Let us in."
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A squeaker for Clinton, a blowout for Obama. A day after two big primaries, the former first lady still running second in votes, delegates and money, but she is still running, Don.

LEMON: The big question, what happens next?

KEILAR: Exactly.

LEMON: Who knows? Who knows?

KEILAR: Exactly. Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

All right. The big story this afternoon: Barack Obama won big in one state. Hillary Clinton, well, won barely in the other. Today Obama is closer to clinching the nomination, and Clinton is looking for cash and all those all-important super delegates.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in West Virginia with the Clinton campaign. And our Jessica Yellin is in Indianapolis.

Jessica, let's start with you. Jessica, it was a nail-biter, huh, in Indianapolis?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really was. You know, Don, the Clinton campaign was hoping she would win by a significantly larger margin.

Now, today they're saying they're quite pleased that she won, because initially, she had come from behind. And you know all the spin. But right now, Senator Clinton is looking at increasingly narrowing opportunities to become the Democratic nominee.

So many people today saying that it's really time for her to start thinking about backing out. Even George McGovern, a candidate she worked hard for when he was running for president three decades ago, more than three decades ago, had -- and was a strong supporter for her is calling for her now to bow out of the race and back Barack Obama.

Now Senator Clinton, though, is not doing that. She just held an event in West Virginia. That's next state that's going to vote. She is determined, her campaign says, to, quote, "let this play out," and has even loaned her own campaign more than $6 million over the last month, they say, showing her commitment to staying in the race.

The Obama campaign today saying, "Look, he has the delegates. He has the popular vote." Last night you could see it in his body language and the tone of his voice, Don. He really seems to feel that he knows he's going to be the Democratic nominee -- Don.

LEMON: OK. So Jessica, you mentioned George McGovern here and him urging Clinton to drop out. I'm wondering how might this affect her campaign. And might this -- unpledged delegates we've heard so much about, could this sort of be a snowball effect? How might this affect the Clinton campaign?

YELLIN: Right. Well, we talked so much about momentum in this race. And right now the fight is for super delegates, those unpledged super delegates, to come out and back one candidate or the other.

Senator Clinton is, you know, supposed to be sitting down with super delegates in Washington today to argue for them to come out for her. When you have someone like George McGovern saying, "It's time for you to bow out," saying it so publicly, that really undermines the case she wants to make to them.

I should point out one important super delegate, Keith Schuler from North Carolina, a Democrat who's won a conservative area and is kind of a new Democrat, he has just come out for Senator Clinton. So she's picked up one. There's not signs that it's all over. But the George McGovern thing, Don, it really does not help her argument at all -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Jessica Yellin in Indianapolis. We appreciate that.

Let's go now to West Virginia where our Jim Acosta is.

And Jim, we heard Hillary Clinton just moments ago speaking and still fighting. It doesn't appear that she's ready to bow out of this thing.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. She is campaigning on the economy and campaigning on that issue hard in Shepherdstown, West Virginia today.

But West Virginia, as Jessica mentioned, only offers 28 pledged delegates. It's another sign that the nomination math is getting harder for Hillary Clinton every day she stays in this race.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Coal is king in West Virginia. But another fuel, gasoline, is running a close second these days. And that hurts in a state where workers have one of the longest commute times in the country.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I've never felt more helpless as being governor of my great state of West Virginia that I just want to jump in and do something. It's wrong.

ACOSTA: Which is why West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is open to Hillary Clinton's plan for a gas tax holiday. But that doesn't mean the super delegate is ready to make an endorsement.

He did take note, however, when Barack Obama infamously referred to bitter small-town Pennsylvania voters who cling to their guns.

MANCHIN: I'm going to give every candidate the benefit of the doubt sometimes.

ACOSTA (on camera): Well, you must have heard something.

MANCHIN: Sure. Well, here, first of all, I can assure you we're a state that really, really clings to the Second Amendment.

ACOSTA (voice-over): West Virginia plays to nearly all of Clinton's demographic strengths. It's older, whiter and more rural than the rest of America. But that doesn't mean voters here are resistant to change.

DAVID LOVEJOY, RETIRED COAL MINER: I think it's time. Either a woman or a black person or an average American, I think it's time.

ACOSTA: This is, after all, the state that made Democratic primary history a half century ago.

(on camera) Can people in West Virginia vote for a guy named Barack Obama?

ROBERT RUPP, WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY: Forty-eight years ago they asked if they could vote for a Boston -- Boston Irish millionaire who was a Catholic, and they did in a landslide vote.


ACOSTA: And Barack Obama is expected to campaign here in West Virginia. And you can look for both candidates, Don, to fight hard for the support of this state's very powerful coal industry.

LEMON: Hey, Jim, how far are you from -- where are you? You're in your West Virginia. Are you -- how far are you from where the Hillary Clinton campaign is now? You're in Charleston. She's in Shepherdstown, right?

ACOSTA: That's right. We are several hours from Shepherdstown, West Virginia. That is up on the Maryland and Virginia borders, and it's actually what a lot of strategists would call an exurb in that many people in that town drive long distances to commute to work in the Washington, D.C. area, which is why high gas prices are on the mind of voters up there and down here, as well. LEMON: The reason I'm asking is because she's going to hold a press availability in just a bit in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. She had a press availability earlier. And you're looking at live pictures now of where she's going to do it. But she's going to take questions from the press, Jim Acosta. So you're several hours away. I guess you won't have the chance to throw in your two cents.

ACOSTA: I don't think she'll hear my question.

LEMON: We appreciate your reporting. Jim Acosta, reporting.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

LEMON: Also, I want to ask you, real quickly, before we go.


LEMON: Chelsea Clinton, significant. She has been with the campaign a lot. Is she having any effect on this campaign?

LEMON: I think so. You know, they -- they have looked to Chelsea Clinton to really cut into Obama's, you know, aura there on the college campuses. And Chelsea Clinton has made a dent there with young voters across the country. You heard Hillary Clinton last night when she gave that speech in Indianapolis congratulate her daughter for the job that she's done out there.

And I've heard a lot of people, you know, read into Hillary Clinton's remarks last night, and wondering whether it was a sort of a valedictory speech, almost sort of an exit speech. Not so sure that's the case.

But we did hear Hillary Clinton talk about Chelsea Clinton doing so well on the campaign. It almost sounded as if she was thanking her daughter, just in case this campaign doesn't go on. But that's probably reading between the lines way too much at this point.

LEMON: Yes. Everybody is reading something into this. And I'm being told she's at Shepherd University, and that's where she going to do it.

Jim Acosta, thank you for your reporting, sir.

KEILAR: And here is where we stand in the delegate race. By CNN's estimate, Barack Obama now has 1,842 delegates. Hillary Clinton 1,686. Obama is 183 delegates short of the 2,025 needed to win the nomination.

And up next is the West Virginia primary. That is next Tuesday. Twenty-eight Democratic delegates are up for grabs there.

LEMON: Well, if you're a political junkie, is the place for you. Check out our new interactive delegate counter game, where you can play real-time "what if" scenarios with delegates and super delegates. Brianna does it right up here on the anchor desk all the time, because she is actually a political junkie. Right? KEILAR: Yes. I've got it, actually, up right now. Sure do.

LEMON: That and much more, at, where Brianna Keilar -- you should start a blog over there.

KEILAR: I probably should.

A veto threat to tell you about today from President Bush. He warned House Democrats against providing government mortgage insurance for struggling homeowners.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are committed to a good housing Bill that will help folks stay in their house, as opposed to a housing Bill that will reward speculators and lenders.

I will veto the Bill moving through the house today, if it makes it to my desk, and urge members on both sides of the aisle to focus on a good piece of legislation that is being sponsored by Republican members.


KEILAR: Well, despite the president's threat, the House may vote on the measure today.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve joining us live right now.

And I know that this Bill has some support from some Republicans, Jeanne. What can you tell us about it?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you there are two housing bills making their way through Congress right now, both being debated on the House floor.

One of them would give incentives for people to buy up foreclosed property, with the idea of stabilizing neighborhoods. The other one is the one the president was talking about, which is more controversial, which would provide $300 billion in government guaranteed loans to people who are facing foreclosure. There are some people in the House who agree with the president, others who definitely do not.


REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: This country needs help. And they're looking for their government to do what government is supposed to do: help their country in a moment of greatest need. And there's no greater need today than to help in this mortgage crisis.


MESERVE: The Bill passed out of committee, I should say, with ten Republicans supporting it, and the general belief has been that it would move to the House with some Republican support. On the Senate side, things a little less clear at this point. The ranking Republicans on the -- the ranking Republican on the banking committee has said that he sees more of the president's point of view. He sees this more as a bailout, but he does say that discussions with Democrats are continuing here. So not dead yet -- Brianna.

KEILAR: But so is all this action on the Hill kind of a moot point there, Jeanne, if there's a veto threat?

MESERVE: Well, the government -- excuse me. There may be some wiggle room here, particularly if it's approved (ph). Some people like the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, making comments which seem to be giving tacit approval to the approach of the House Bill.

But the White House is also proposing its alternative, which would provide fewer government-backed loans. They want to expand an existing FHA program. It would give help only to those who have missed three mortgage payments or fewer -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Thanks, Jeanne. Jeanne Meserve for us at Capitol Hill.

LEMON: All right. Now to a story that's captured a lot of attention in the nation. More than a dozen police officers could be pulled off the streets of Philadelphia after a beating last night that was all caught on camera.

This is what we can show you right now: officers pulling three men out of a vehicle. Some hold down the suspects -- hold the suspects down while others kick, punch and beat them.

The mayor's spokesman says police were investigating a triple shooting at the time and warns against prejudging everybody. We don't know everything that was taking place.

Jason Carroll is in Philadelphia. He is there on the ground now, and he'll be filing a report live for us a little bit later on, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

KEILAR: The U.N. is pleading with the government of Myanmar to led aid workers in to help storm victims.

Food and medicine are trickling into the country with some difficulty. The volunteers from outside are having a tough time getting visas. And once they get in, they face poor or even nonexistent roads, no communication, and also a government not used to outsiders.

It's four days since this Category 3 hurricane wiped away much of the low-lying parts of this country. And the official word from Myanmar's hardline military government is more than 22,000 people have lost their lives. That figure is not universally trusted, we should tell you. And it may in reality be much, much higher.

LEMON: We want you to look -- take a look now at these amazing pictures that are just into the CNN NEWSROOM. Boy, look at that. Video taken as the cyclone was ravaging towns on the Burmese coast. People struggling, well, just to stay upright there. The pictures tell the story. Trees bending under the cyclone winds.

And of course, the terrible aftermath. Homes in that part of -- in that part of the country there weren't built to withstand wind and rain like this.

There's also a question of how much warning -- how much warning did villagers get and whether they were told the size and strength of the oncoming storm.

KEILAR: Surrounded by death. Cyclone survivors in Myanmar are struggling to survive the aftermath of all this. Food, water, power, shelter, all are precious commodities, rare if not nonexistent.

CNN's Dan Rivers has seen the devastation in the southern township of Bogalay. And a warning, folks, you may find some of these pictures disturbing.


DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took almost everything. Cyclone Nargis has left Bogalay a shell of a town. People scavenging in what looks like a war zone.

The blank, numb stares of survivors tell of the horror here. And the horror is still stalking these streets. Some scenes are beyond words.

Bodies are being unceremoniously dumped in the river. Monasteries used for temporary shelter for hundreds of people. Here, 600 are sleeping where they can.

(on camera) Everyone in this room has lost their home, and many have lost their loved ones. The monks say there is enough food to feed these people for two more days. After that, they don't know what they're going to do.

(voice-over) The food, carefully watched by young novices.

This woman says there's nothing left. She's totally dependent on the monastery.

This man says, "I'll have to survive somehow. I'll eat whatever the people donate."

In another monastery, we find what they call the operating theater. This place seems utterly without medical supplies, as this man's wounds show.

(on camera) Well, this is one of the relief centers in Bogalay, if you can call it a relief center. But there's not much in the way of aid being given out. A little bit of rice. But many of these people lost everything they own and including many of their loved ones. There are horrific scenes here, with the bodies being dumped into the river. We can't really film very overtly here. The authorities are not pleased we're here. And at the moment, I think soldiers are coming, so we're going to have to leave.

(voice-over) Myanmar's top military brass flew in to assess the damage. From the air, the epic scale of this disaster was clear: mile upon mile of devastated countryside.

But it's only up-close on the ground that you see the human face of this tragedy. Making shelter where they can under the black skies that brought such mayhem and suffering.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Bogalay, Southern Myanmar.


LEMON: And of course, we know you may want to help out. At we have a special page on the devastation in Myanmar, complete with links to aid agencies that are organizing help for that region. It is a chance for you to impact your world. And let us be your guide with that.

KEILAR: Imagine if America's next president ended up sharing the president with George -- presidency, rather, with George Bush. That would be strange, right? Well, Russia got a new president today, but the old one still holding a whole lot of power. Will that work in a democracy? We've got details ahead in the NEWSROOM.

And we're getting new home video of a devastating cyclone in Myanmar. We'll show you that. Plus, a professor here in the United States desperately trying to find out if his five brothers survived the storm there. He'll join us live in the NEWSROOM, just ahead.


KEILAR: Coming off a very rough night last night, rough primary situation in North Carolina, as well as eking by in Indiana last night, Hillary Clinton now in West Virginia taking questions.

Let's listen.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two hundred and nine or ten is the number. And at some point one of us will get there.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... swing voters, working-class voters who Democrats need (ph). (UNINTELLIGIBLE) North Carolina. And argue that is the most significant part of the Democratic Party. So how can you argue (ph) electability if your support in that key demographic is (UNINTELLIGIBLE). People might argue you can win over that group. Isn't it the converse that Senator Obama can also win over your (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? CLINTON: Well, Ron, I obviously will work very hard to win the support of African-American voters, as I always have. I'm not ceding any vote now, and I totally respect the decisions that voters are making to support Senator Obama overwhelmingly.

Come the fall election, I think that African-American voters, which are a very important part of the base of the Democratic Party, will support the nominee, because the differences between either Senator Obama and myself and John McCain are so stark. And the consequences of four more years of the failed economic policies and the policy in Iraq, I think, will be abundantly clear.

But what we have not been able to count on in the last election are the voters I'm getting. Women, particularly lower-income women, didn't vote for John Kerry. Hispanics didn't come out for Senator Kerry in the numbers that people had hoped for. Working people are really a part of the base that we lost that we're trying to win back.

So I'm sure that whoever the nominee is will make a strong case to put together the numbers you need to get to the electoral vote magic 270, but I think the base I put together in these primaries is a stronger place to start from. That certainly is my assessment as I stand here today.

I haven't seen you in a while. How are you?

QUESTION: Hi, Senator. Nice to see you.

CLINTON: Nice to see you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can I ask a question?

CLINTON: You certainly can ask a question.

QUESTION: Does your statement today mean that you intend to stay in this race through the vote on the convention floor?

CLINTON: Well, I'm staying in this race until is there's a nominee. And I obviously am going to work as hard as I can to become that nominee. That is what I've done. That's what I am continuing to do.

I believe that I'm the stronger candidate against Senator McCain, and I believe I would be the best president among the three of us running. So we will continue to contest these elections and move forward.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... that you're putting the Democratic chances in November at risk by staying in, continuing to stay in?

CLINTON: I just don't believe that. I think we've had an historic record turnout by both of us bringing people into the Democratic Party. The numbers are just incredibly encouraging, because people are actually voting for a Democrat. And I think we can build on that going forward. At least, that's my anticipation. But I also think it's still early. I mean, everybody is so focused on where we are right now. I guess I remember that in June of 1992, that's when Bill really wrapped up the nomination, the middle of June after the California primary. You know, I remember very well what happened in the California primary in 1968 as, you know, Senator Kennedy won that primary. We traditionally have gone longer than you've seen in the last couple of cycles. And there isn't any problem in closing ranks and unifying.

When Senator Kerry got the nomination in, I guess, March, you could say, he was ahead of President Bush, but he didn't win. So this is a dynamic electoral environment. What matters is what strength you have going into the general election, who you're going to be able to bring to your side. What the electoral map will.

Look, like if we had the rules that the Republicans have, I'd already be the nominee. If they had our rules, they'd still be fighting it out. So the Republicans look at it from the perspective of the general election backwards. How do we get to 270 electoral votes?

We have a much more complicated process. And we're in the middle of it or toward the end of it.

But if you look at what I've won over the last couple of weeks, from Texas to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Indiana, certainly three out of those four are states we're going to have to try to win. And I intend to try to do that. And I think that that's what we need to put together.

So we should stay focused on nominating the stronger candidate against Senator McCain and who would be the best president.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... about 40 percent of your supporters (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Senator Obama support John McCain if their candidate wasn't chosen. What can you say to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) unify the party (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

CLINTON: Well -- well, either one of us could be wrong. Right? But that's up to the leadership of the Democratic Party, of which I am a part, to make a case very strongly and persistently that whoever voted for either Senator Obama or myself should be very careful about voting for Senator McCain, because if you voted for either one of us, you're not voting for continuing George Bush's continued economic policies and you're sure not voting for continued troop presence in Iraq. And you're not voting to put Supreme Court justices on the court who will turn the clock back on civil rights, women's rights and human rights.

So I think we're going to have a very strong argument. I just do not, you know -- I don't buy that. No. I don't buy that at all. I don't buy that at all.


CLINTON: Well, I respect him. And you know, he has a right to make whatever decision he makes. I was pleased today to get Keith Schuler's endorsement. Yes.


CLINTON: Well, it's a sign of my commitment to this campaign. It's a sign of how much I believe and what we're trying to do.

And my supporters have been incredibly generous. You know, they are putting money into this campaign on an hourly basis. I read their e-mails. You know, single moms who decide to give me $20 out of their paycheck every month. Retired people who have never contributed to a campaign before.

And you know, I'm trying to make sure that their investment is a good one. And because we are being outspent. Everybody knows that. We historically, in the last several months have been outspent two to one, three to one, four to one, even five to one. But we've remained competitive. And I have been willing to loan that money to my campaign so that we could be competitive. And I think it's paid off.


CLINTON: Well, we're going to work hard here in West Virginia. I'm very excited about competing here. I like this -- this election in West Virginia, because these are people who really need a president. You know, these are people who get up every day and do the best they can. They're hard-working people, and they want somebody who's going to get up every day and work hard for them.

And I think we'll be able to run a very vigorous campaign here. Then it's on to Kentucky and Oregon and the rest of the contest. So we're going to be competitive, and we're going to work as hard as we can, like we always have. And I think that we'll see where it all ends up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time for one more, folks.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) make a decision that does not back the entire delegation (ph). Would you abide by that and stop calling for all the delegation supporters?

CLINTON: Well, under the rules of the Democratic Party, the rules and bylaws committee makes the first determination. And if people are not satisfied with that, they go to the credentials committee. So we'll see what the outcome is.

And this is really about fundamental fairness in recognizing the legitimate votes of two important states that Democrats have to try to win in November. And I think that there are a number of ways to resolve this, but it does need to be resolved. And it needs to be resolved in an equitable way that people will accept.

And it's not me; it's people from these states. They're the ones who have filed challenges. They're the ones who have said that, you know, they won't accept certain outcomes.

All I've said is you've got to figure out how to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan that is a reflection of the votes that they cast, because those were legitimate elections. And they deserve to have those votes counted.

Thank you all. Thank you all very much. We're getting on the road again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, everyone.

KEILAR: You are just watching Senator Hillary Clinton. She just spoke to the media, taking questions there. This is an event in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

And one of the interesting things about this event is she wasn't originally supposed to speak at it. It was supposed to be an event that Chelsea Clinton spoke at. And then last minute, there was a change to the schedule. Hillary Clinton came in to speak at this event, basically showing that she is still in the race, really trying to present a solid base there.

And one of the things she was asked about was the switching of an endorsement. Former Senator George McGovern switched his endorsement today from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama. He is a party elder. He got the Democratic presidential nomination back in 1972. Obviously, didn't win. And Hillary Rodham Clinton worked for him -- worked to help get him or try to get him elected during that campaign.

Well, not only has he switched his endorsement, but he's actually calling on her to quit the race. And we just heard Senator Clinton there brushing off that decision.

We will continue to monitor all the political events today right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Yes, going to be a very busy day for that, I think. I'm pretty sure. OK, a campus drug raid we want to tell you about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about trafficking, we're talking about people who were trafficking in drugs. And that's the thing that we were not prepared to turn around -- turn our back on.


LEMON: Well, this is a major drug ring allegedly operating out of college fraternity houses that shut down.

KEILAR: And the changing of the guard at the Kremlin. Russia's new president taking office. We're going to go live to Moscow for the latest.

LEMON: And this wasteland, this scene of the storm's destruction in Myanmar. The number of dead is -- well, it's simply staggering. And the survivors are hungry and they need help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: All right. There's going to be a new man or new woman here soon, but there's a new man in charge of the Kremlin now or is there? Forty-two year old Dmitry Medvedev was sworn in as Russia's new president today. The Vladimir Putin protege promised more civil and economic freedoms and quickly named his predecessor to the prime minister's post.

Many fear that sets the stage for a puppet presidency. CNN senior national correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow and he joins us now. That is a real concern for people there, a puppet presidency, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Dmitry Medvedev is this 42-year-old former lawyer who essentially for the best part of the last 10 years or so has been the sidekick of Vladimir Putin, the outgoing, now the former Russian president. He was essentially handpicked by President Putin to be his successor. He endorsed him. He got a massive popular vote as a result of Vladimir Putin's really big standings with the Russian public.

And there is this concern now, now that Vladimir Putin has been officially kind of nominated as the prime minister of the country. There will be a kind of two senses of power developed in Russia where historically power has always been concentrated in the hands of just one man in Putin, in Yeltsin, in the communist leaders and of course in the czars.

There is also a great deal of concern, Don, about what kind of president Dmitry Medvedev will be if he gets his own way and he can get the policies through that he wants to get through. He gave some indication in his first speech as Russian president. He said he would do everything he could to protect the rule of law.

Here is what he had to say.


DMITRY MEDVEDEV, NEW RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It is our duty to make sure that the law is really respected, that we overcome the legal nihilism (ph) that is an obstacle to our development. The maturity and effectiveness of the legal system is an important condition for the development of the economy and social sphere for the support of business and for fighting corruption.


CHANCE: As we mentioned, Vladimir Putin set to become Dmitry Medvedev's prime minister. So he is leaving power, rather he's leaving the Kremlin but he's not leaving power, it seems Don.

LEMON: All right, Matthew Chance in Moscow, Matthew, thank you for your report.

KEILAR: A country reflects on six decades of pride and struggle and doubt. Israel's Independence Day. We are live from Jerusalem. LEMON: And this just into the CNN NEWSROOM and hope you are sitting down because it is staggering numbers, new information about the death toll in Myanmar. We are being told, CNN is learning that it could exceed 100,000 people. This is a wasteland, of course. It is a scene of destruction from the storm. People there are hungry and the survivors are looking for help.

We'll update you on this devastating situation in a moment.


LEMON: Breaking news into the CNN NEWSROOM. We have been reporting on the devastation in Myanmar for days. Now we are getting word from the U.S. government, the charge d'affaires office in Yangon, Myanmar, that the death toll in the Irrawady (ph) delta may exceed 100,000 people, 100,000 people possibly died in this storm, this cyclone that just bustled through the area there.

We are getting new reports from people there on the ground and we're going to try to update you in a little bit in the CNN NEWSROOM. This is really just devastating and shocking news here Brianna, that as a matter of fact, we heard the first day that it was 4,000, 5,000 people. Then went up to 10,000 people. The numbers started going up to 20,000 and now we are hearing it could exceed 100,000 people. You can only imagine if 100,000 people died here in the U.S. just how much of a story it would be. This is unbelievable information.

KEILAR: Then, that makes you think of how many people are homeless. Of course, how many people are injured and how much help all of those folks need. Aid supplies bound for Myanmar. They are bound for Myanmar right now and boy, does this country need it.

With each passing day since this cyclone last Friday and Saturday, the risk of problems mount in the aftermath. Helping the suffering is not a simple task. Nothing involving Myanmar's government even explaining Myanmar's government is simple.

Just to do a little bit of that for us is Dr. Tun Myint, a Burma- born political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

DR. TUN MYINT, CARLETON COLLEGE: Thank you. I'm sure people inside Burma will appreciate CNN covering this story.

KEILAR: What is so interesting, Doctor is that you have five brothers who are still in the country. You left back in 1988 when this military junta came to power and there was a crackdown. I know that you've been able to reach two of your brothers. When did you reach them? What did they tell you?

MYINT: I was able to communicate with them last night at 1:00 a.m. here in Minnesota time. Luckily and also good news for me is that they were not physically life threatening condition, but their homes and shops were damaged. The condition right now is, the key is getting water for drinking and cooking although the consumer prices of the household goods went up five times within four days. KEILAR: And Dr. Myint, were your two brothers able to tell you about your other three brothers?

MYINT: Yes. All other, three other brothers are all fine under the condition now. So I was able to get information about my family. Everybody is safe and no one got injured and so on. So that is good news for me.

KEILAR: Are they all in the main city there Yangon?

MYINT: Four brothers are in Rangoon (ph), in the suburb of Rangoon. One brother is up north in the (INAUDIBLE) division, which is very far away from the cyclone so he is fine.

KEILAR: OK and just to clarify, Rangoon, also the same as Yangon. People call the cities different things.

MYINT: That's right.

KEILAR: But what did your brothers tell you about relief efforts? Have they seen any aide workers?

MYINT: They have not seen any aid workers in my brother's area, at least. What they are seeing is basically residents in the nearby area and all the monks are the ones cleaning the debris on the streets and so on. They haven't seen any government officials or soldiers who are quick to move in when there are protests. They are just waiting for some sort of relief from both government and international organizations there.

KEILAR: Let's talk about that because it seems like there is so much red tape. We've heard about all these relief resources, all these relief workers pardon me, who are waiting in Thailand at the embassy for Myanmar, trying to get visas. They can't get in. It's like they are mired in bureaucracy. Why is this government so hesitant to reach out and let people in?

MYINT: There are many reasons. One is they don't want to get any information, any images out of Burma, especially monks and citizens helping themselves and monks helping citizens to get out of this situation. They don't want to see these images out of Burma.

They would rather see their soldiers and uniform people working on the streets cleaning. They would selectively choose to portray this crisis management situation like they would be (INAUDIBLE) doing a good job. And also this is somewhat maybe a PR kind of thing for them as well. So that is one reason.

Second is that the nature of this homocentric military regime is that the low-ranking bureaucrats, as well as middle-ranking bureaucrats and also all the way to the top, they do not perceive themselves as having the capacity and authority to make decision even to let those visas position quickly possible.

So that's a homocentric bureaucratic system going on and also perception within these districts and the people who are working this system is under blockage for this kind of effort.

KEILAR: I think that gives people a better understanding of the kind of government that we are dealing with here.

Dr. Myint, thank you so much for being with us. We are thinking of you. We are especially thinking of your brothers who are there in Myanmar trying to deal with the situation. Thank you.

MYINT: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: We also know that you may want to help out there, all of our viewers. You can do this at We have a special page on the devastation in Myanmar. It's complete with links to aid agencies that are organizing help for the region. These are reputable aid agencies. It is a chance for you to impact your world and you can let us be your guide.

LEMON: The Jewish state turns 60-years-old. That's not even a lifetime some would say, but Israel's relatively few decades of independence have seen several lifetimes of unrest, of despair and of conflict, all of which remain to this day.

CNN's Atika Shubert joins us now from Jerusalem with the very latest on that. Sixty years, how is it being marked?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Today is really the inaugural day that will mark a week of events and festivities for Israel's independence. At the moment there is happening now a ceremony at Jerusalem Mount Hertzel (ph), a torch-lighting ceremony.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is there. There will be fireworks displays, a laser light show. Tomorrow the Israeli air force and Israeli navy will put on a huge display, but perhaps the climax is actually next week when U.S. President George Bush will be coming here as part of the celebrations.

For many Jewish Israelis, there is plenty to celebrate. Israel sees itself as a nation that has not only survived against the odds, rising from the ashes of the holocaust, but has actually managed to thrive in a hostile situation, emerging victorious out of the number of wars that it's had with Arab neighbors.

But of course, there may celebrations for some but not for everybody. For Palestinians, independence is also the (INAUDIBLE) or the catastrophe to mark when thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes in Israel's 1948 war of independence. So it's really mixed feelings on the 60th anniversary. There are celebrations for some, but for others it's solemn remembrance, Don.

LEMON: All right, Atika Shubert reporting from Jerusalem. Thank you, Atika.

KEILAR: Dying for treatment? Lawmakers hear how the nation's big city emergency rooms are ill prepared to handle a disaster.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: If disaster or terrorism strikes, can U.S. emergency rooms handle it? That is the question being posed to Federal health officials in light of big budget cuts. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen here with more for us.

This is really a scary thought that these ERs would not be able to handle a surge in patients like we saw for 9/11, something like. What happened at these hearings today?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: At these hearings, Federal officials said no really, things aren't that bad. The Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said if there was a big disaster, we could handle it. You can listen right now to this exchange between Congressman Henry Waxman and Chertoff. Waxman says think about Madrid, think about the Madrid disaster for the terrorist attack four years ago when thousands of people had to go to hospitals.

Could we handle it? So listen to this exchange.


REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D) CALIFORNIA: Do you think we have the capacity to deal with such an attack?



COHEN: He went on to say, Chertoff went on to say look what happened at Minneapolis when the bridge collapsed. The hospitals handled that quite well. And then Congressman Waxman said yeah, but not all that many people went to emergency rooms in the Minneapolis collapse. He said I'm talking about what's going to happen again in a Madrid-like situation where you have thousands of people injured. In Madrid sometimes hundreds of people ended up in one hospital in a matter of three hours. That a big worry.

KEILAR: That's also what's very interesting too about 9/11. There weren't that many injured when you compare Madrid, many more injuries. There is also a study, right, that shows some of the problems that emergency rooms have had. What does that tell us?

COHEN: There's a congressional study that really completely disagrees with what Chertoff said this afternoon. That's a study that was done by this committee that held the hearing. And what this study found is that emergency rooms are nowhere near ready for something like what happened in Madrid.

Let's take a look at some of the specifics. This study found that more than half of emergency rooms in seven big cities are already above capacity without a terrorist attack, as we speak. On average those hospitals had only five available beds in intensive care. So in other words, if that sixth person came in in critical condition, there is going to be a problem. Also the study found that the situation was particularly bad in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. KEILAR: Let's talk about two of the big events we have coming up this summer, of course, the political convention. So how did Denver fare? How did Minneapolis-St. Paul fare?

COHEN: They found that those, there were some problems in those cities with the level one trauma ERs. That's the highest level of trauma in an ER. They found that in Denver, one in three of those emergency rooms were already above capacity. In other words, just on a normal day you are already above capacity. And then in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the emergency room there already at 91 percent capacity.

KEILAR: Ninety-one percent.

COHEN: Ninety-one percent, right and when they get to capacity and go over it. That's when you see beds in hallways, beds in waiting rooms and that's already happening.

KEILAR: Beds where they shouldn't be.

COHEN: Right. Exactly.

KEILAR: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

LEMON: Campus drug raid.


STEPHEN WEBER, PRES., SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY: We are talking about trafficking. We are talking about people who were trafficking in drugs. That's the thing that we were not prepared to turn around and turn our back on.


LEMON: A major drug ring allegedly operating out of college fraternity houses. It is shut down.


LEMON: Busted, busted on campus. What a bust it was, an alleged drug ring run out of fraternity houses. Police in San Diego have arrested, get this, almost 100 people, most of them students at San Diego State University.

And CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports on that.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): University students led away in handcuffs, shackled together by San Diego investigators, a total of 75 students facing a variety of charges, including selling cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy on campus.

WEBER: We are talking about trafficking. We are talking about people who were trafficking in drugs. That's the thing that we were not prepared to turn around and turn our back on. We had to deal with this.

GUTIERREZ: The undercover investigation was called operation sudden fall. It was launched by DEA agents after a student was found dead in her bedroom from a drug overdose a year ago. A second college student died from an overdose at a fraternity house during the investigation.

DAMON MOSLER, SAN DIEGO PROSECUTOR: There was one main fraternity that definitely was as a group selling, a second one where a significant portion of the brothers were.

GUTIERREZ: Federal agents and university police infiltrated seven campus fraternities and say they uncovered a well-organized drug dealing student network. Agents alleged dealers communicated with customers via text messaging in one case advertised the sale of cocaine and listed the reduced prices. They say they seized four pounds of cocaine, 50 pounds of marijuana, methamphetamine, 350 ecstasy pills and a shotgun and three semi automatic pistols. The university president says this was much more than recreational drug use on campus.

WEBER: We did the right thing and we stepped up and I think frankly more universities need to take this sort of proactive action.

GUTIERREZ: Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


KEILAR: This wasteland, this scene of storm destruction here is Myanmar, the number of dead staggering and the survivors are hungry and need help.