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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Battle Over Ground Zero Islamic Center; Interview with Ron Paul
Aired August 23, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Larry.
And thank you all as well for joining us. Tonight, the battle over the Ground Zero Islamic center is growing and some sound bites have surfaced from the imam.
But are they really? A fire breathing blogger said so. We've heard the whole tape. We're going to bring you the context that you're not going to see elsewhere, you can make up your own mind.
Also, former presidential candidate Ron Paul, why he's breaking from fellow Republicans on the issue of the mosque?
And later the eggs linked to deadly salmonella and one of the companies linked to the eggs. What we discovered about its safety record and what we're finding out about government regulators who are supposed to be looking out for us.
Plus they called it highway robbery, local law enforcement pulling people over, stripping them of cars, cash and valuables, they said it was legal. Tonight, you'll see what happened after people demanded justice from these grabby officials and we began keeping them honest.
First up tonight though, the mosque and the truth. I'm not talking about the debate over whether it's right or wrong to put an Islamic center with a prayer space two blocks away from Ground Zero.
As you can see from the protesters for and against over the weekend on lower Manhattan, there's no agreement on that. Instead tonight, we're focusing on how the facts that we all need to honestly consider the issues are being distorted.
We've been here before, and pretty recently as well, when that tape of Shirley Sherrod came out and she appeared to be a racist. Now, when you listen to her full remarks though, it turns out she was saying something more new ones, something, well, different, in fact, quite the opposite.
And today, right wing blogger, Pamela Geller put this up on her website, under the headline, "Exclusive: Ground Zero Mosque Imam Feisal's Extremism Exposed." She then includes a clip as proof from a Q & A session at a talk in Australia in 2005.
(BEGINV VIDEO CLIP)
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF, IMAM: -- arises, sir, from the fact that political problems and the history of the politics between the west and the Muslim world.
We tend to forget in the west that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.
You may remember that the U.S.-led sanction against Iraq led to the death of over a half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: That's the imam in 2005. You could you see why people are offended. And I could say that as someone who's seen innocent victims on the battlefield on all sides.
And the innocent victims of 9/11, the emotions are equally raw. The anger affects how people see the world, which is what the imam was talking.
Well, also condemning terrorism, such as the London subway attacks which had just happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAUF: I'm not saying this condone. Acts like the London bombing are completely against Islamic law. Suicide bombing, completely against Islamic law, completely, 100 percent, but the facts of the matter is that people, I have discovered are more motivated by emotion than logic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: That's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf part of the entire discussion, but that part was not highlighted on Pam Geller's web site.
But she did highlight some others, ones that she claims shows the imam doesn't think Islam needs to change. In fact he says, it needs to get back to its roots about tolerance. She also quotes him using the "n" word, which he does along with "whitey", "tootsie," male and female.
To show how emotions trump reason, people will find any reason to divide them, which is ironic, blood on its hands, comparing America to al Qaeda, they invite an emotional reaction, which is precisely what the imam was and apparently still is arguing against.
Those are the facts, the best we can tell. But there are some who say it simply isn't for any of us to pass judgment on who should build a mosque, and where they should build it, as long as it's on private property and no laws are broken. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, he believes that, and apparently so does Republican Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. He joins us now from Texas. Thanks for joining us, Congressman.
REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL, (R) TEXAS: Thank you. Good to be with you.
GUPTA: Now, I read your article. You say this whole issue is really an issue about property rights and everything else is, quote, "really about hate in Islamophobia.
But, you know, I want to start by asking, is what happened on September 11th, nine years ago different? The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, are there certain lines to be drawn even when it comes to this property rights issue?
PAUL: No, you should draw lines, but I think the lines are being drawn improperly. Al Qaeda was responsible. Several hundred al Qaeda existed at that time and maybe there are still several hundred more.
Bu that doesn't mean the whole Muslim religion should be indicted that was my complaint. I mean, McVeigh probably was a Christian, and he bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building. But does mean that a Christian church can't be built near there, and Christianity is to blame?
I don't like that broad brush. So yes, the violence was committed by al Qaeda and they're bad people and we should do what we can to destroy them, but that doesn't mean that we should destroy the whole concept of the Muslim religion.
And if they can bring this out, whether the mosque is stopped or not, the implication here is that Islam caused 9/11, not a narrow branch of the Al Qaeda. To me, that is crucial, because it deals with our foreign policy, it deals with -- even in that clip earlier on, Madeleine Albright admitted, she said, well, 500,000 people are killed so be it if that's what it takes. So the Muslim have justification for, you know, their worries and concerns.
GUPTA: Do you -- I mean, there's a lot of pain and anguish I think from people who are worried about this -- this Islamic center being built here. Do you see that point of view at all?
PAUL: To worry about it? Well, I worry about it because I'm afraid it stirs up hatred. That's why I worry about it. I mean, there's -- and I think they're off on a tangent.
I think the purpose was too often to just blame Islam, but there are other mosques in that area. This is not on -- you know, right where the towers were. This is over -- not too far down the street, but what about the strip joints?
Are these people who are holier than though condemning the strip joints nearby because it defames Ground Zero? I don't think that's the consistency. I think this goal was to blame Islam for 9/11 and I think that is wrong. I don't think that was the cause. Al Qaeda did it.
GUPTA: And you talk about the fact that a lot of the Islamophobia. I mean, your son, Rand Paul is running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky is opposed to this facility being built. Is he Islamophobic?
PAUL: Well, I don't know what his position is, but he's certainly not Islamophobic. I don't know his details, he speaks for himself. He has a different position, but I wouldn't put him in that category, no. But I think the emotions are high, and people --
GUPTA: I mean, the reason --
PAUL: -- are lining up on each side.
GUPTA: The reason I asked, Congressman, because in your article you talked about the fact that this really is a property rights issue, but you believe a lot of the extraneous issues are due to hate speech and due to Islamophobia, which is why I asked the question specifically about your son. I know you're not speaking for him, but I wonder if you put him in that same category.
PAUL: I don't put everybody who's a candidate in that same category that might have a reason for. You would have to ask him for his reason. But, no, everybody who's opposing it doesn't even understand the foreign policy or why we're in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They don't have this understanding. They don't want to see the connection. My goal is to make the connection for people to understand what's going on and why al Qaeda has become so militant and hateful toward us.
And why painting Islam with a broad brush makes our problems worse, because we're not narrowing down on the real cause, those who perpetuated 9/11. If we don't get to that, we can't solve this problem.
GUPTA: Let me just ask politically, not to belabor this point, specifically about your son, but he had said President Obama was wrong to weigh-in on this controversy, and he's, quote, "a liberal elitist who believes that he knows what's best." That's your son's quote.
You and the president seem to be on the same side of this particular issue. Do you have a reaction to your son's comment on that?
PAUL: I think you have to ask him about it.
GUPTA: All right, well, we'll try to talk to him about it as well, but I just wondered if thanksgiving dinner -- you were going to talk about it, give us a little peak behind the curtain there. Obviously, there's a lot to talk about particularly with this -- PAUL: Well, you're doing what they've been doing on this whole debate, trying to stir up trouble.
GUPTA: Well, you know, I think it's a fair question, and it's father and son having, you know, pretty diametrically opposed view points on this. I did want to ask you another question about -
PAUL: I don't think so - I don't think that's fair. I don't think they're diametrically opposed. I haven't discussed it with him so I just can't believe they're diametrically opposed.
GUPTA: Well, all right, fair enough. You believe that the Islamic center should be built and he doesn't, but before I let you go, I did want to ask you about --
PAUL: That isn't even my point. I am totally unconcerned about whether it's built or not built. I'm concerned about why this has become an issue. That's what I'm concerned about. I'm afraid you didn't quite get my point.
GUPTA: Do you think it should be built?
PAUL: It is saying that -- I don't care whether it's built or not built. Everybody says it's private property, they should be able to do what they want to do. They printed that. Once again, the point I'm making is not to blame Islam for 9/11. You have to blame only al Qaeda.
That is a completely different story than all these innuendoes that you're bringing up. I don't think that's part of the question. You have to narrow in, because it has to do with our foreign policy. That's what I'm dealing with is the foreign policy.
The foreign policy is crucial because that's why we have perpetual war. That's why -- and I think this is all connected. Not in a way that is conspiratorial, but in a way that is almost -- people slip into this.
It's real easy for people to get to hating Islam, but they -- to me, that's equivalent to hating Christians because Timothy McVeigh was a Christian, that I don't like, nobody should like this being painted with a broad brush. It was done to the Jews before, and I don't like it. I like to stick to the facts, I like to talk about the foreign policy, and how it's related.
The side show, which is what I call this, is just there to stir things up, and prevent us from dealing with the real problems, and that is our intervention is foreign policy, that gets us too much involved overseas, too many people die on both sides.
And we're totally -- we have to address that, we have to get away from, are we going to support the building of the mosque is it that was sort of your innuendo when you bring the question up with my son. You're missing the whole point when you think that is the crucial question. The crucial question is our foreign policy, that's what I want people to think of. GUPTA: All right, it's a well-written article, Congressman, I enjoyed reading it. People at home should read it. We like to stick to the facts as well. Congressman Ron Paul, thanks so much.
And let us know what you think, join the live chat now underway at ac360.com. Up next, suspicions about the imam's state department trip overseas.
He's been taking them for years, what's different this time? Our allegations of secrecy and duplicity really justified. We'll check out the facts.
And later, your health, tracking the tainted eggs. One of the companies on the hot seat, and why a truly unbelievable case of government red tape could be making all of us sick. Stay with us.
GUPTA: We're talking about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a man who some say is too extreme to be allowed to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero and other say, he's moderate enough to go on government- sponsored bridge building missions to the Islamic world.
The Obama administration believes he's a moderate so did the Bush administration. Others though raising suspicion that he's using his current mission to raise money for the mosque, and that the government is keeping us in the dark about the details of the trip.
After the "New York Post" mentioned the secrecy allegation we reached out to one of the critics. New York Congressman Peter King who told us, quote, "it might be appropriate to withhold details of his itinerary for security purposes while he's traveling. However, as soon as he returns, the state department must make full disclosure of everywhere he went and everyone he met."
But is the congressman even right about being kept in the dark and what about the other suspicions? Randi Kaye tonight keeping them honest.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're wondering what Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is doing in the Middle East, these pictures tell at least part of the story.
This is the imam addressing guests at a Ramadan meal in Bahrain just yesterday. This photo shows the imam praying at the ambassador's residence there. He's the man on the left. It's the imam's fourth outreach trip overseas for the U.S. state department.
In 2007, he made two similar trips to the Middle East for the Bush administration, and in January this year, he made his first trip for the Obama administration to Egypt. Imam Rauf needs about $100 million to build a mosque and Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero. If you believe the imam's strongest critics, then you may also believe he's overseas raising that money from extremist groups in countries that sponsor terrorism. New York Republican Congressman Peter King told us, "it might be appropriate to withhold details his itinerary for security purposes while he is traveling. However, as soon as he returns, the state department must make full disclosure of everywhere he went and everyone he met."
Keeping them honest, has the state department really been withholding itinerary details or anything else about this trip? We asked a department spokesperson, and were told, quote, "we've discussed where he's traveling to. The dates, we've been pretty open." Listen to this state department briefing from August 18th.
PHILIP J. CROWLEY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, STATE DEPARTMENT: He'll be traveling to the region at the end of this week starting as I recall, in Bahrain, then Qatar, then the United Arab Emirates. He has participated -- I think this is his fourth trip, you know, as part of international information program.
KAYE: The State Department has offered up more details. It's a 15-day trip focused on outreach to Muslim countries and the imam will be traveling with rabbis, priests and other religious figures. Why do something like conservative blogger Pamela Geller continue to fuel the outrage? Geller recently on Fox News.
PAMELA GELLER, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: They're hooking him up with the biggest money in some of these countries that have very, very questionable ties to terrorists.
KAYE (on camera): Hooking him up with terrorists? Looking to invest in a mosque and community center near Ground Zero? Hardly. First of all, as far as we can tell, not a single penny has been raised for the project. On top of that, the State Department says, the imam knows the rules, the department has tried over and over to set the record straight.
MARK C. TONER, ACTING DEPUTY DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Speakers are prohibited from raising money and using this program to raise money. He's aware of the prohibitions.
CROWLEY: He's there to promote this kind of international dialogue, they're there to provide perspective on behalf of the United States and not to engage in personal business as part of the program that they're participating in. He has agreed to that.
KAYE (voice-over): Zeeshan Suhail who's worked in the community with the imam, says he's a peaceful man who's so effective at bringing people together that the State department keeps calling on him.
ZEESHAN SUHAIL, MUSLIM CONSULTATIVE NETWORK: He's doing what he's does best and what he's done for nearly 30, 40 years now, which is interfaith, bridge building, bringing communities together.
KAYE: Rabbi Irwin Kuhla has known him for more than a decade. He's traveled with him all around the world. (on camera): Is this all about stoking fears?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what it is there really is fear in the country that what fear and anger does, it always clouds judgment, and what we have right now is like a wildfire.
KAYE (voice-over): A wildfire that no matter what the truth, just keeps getting stoked. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
GUPTA: A lot on the table there. We're interested in getting the facts, so joining me now, CNN contributor, John Avlon, senior political writer at the "Daily Beast" and author of "Wingnuts."
Also a best-selling author Bruce Feilar, who's books include "America's Prophet" and "Walking in the Bible," which was on the New York Times bestseller for a year and a half. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Bruce, this cultural center, it's been in the headlines as you know, for a few weeks now. But even in just a few weeks, it feels like the controversy has evolved worlds away from where it began. Are we entering sort of a whole new phase of this debate?
BRUCE FEILAR, AUTHOR, "AMERICA'S PROPHET": I think so, Sanjay. I think that when we started, it was a local issue about whether this Islamic center should be built at all and this kind of unusual question of two blocks versus four blocks, ten blocks, there's already been a mosque there for 20 years, what about that one?
I think it then moved into kind of a larger political issue and became the wedge issue we've seen repeatedly, because some of the wedge issues of recent times, whether it's abortion or gay marriage have become less red hot in the country right now. This one rose up.
I think where it's moved now, and I think this trip in the Middle East is a perfect example of that, it's become the latest skirmish in this issue of, what is really the big question of religion in the world today, which is can we get along? Can the religions figure out a way to relate to one another?
That's not by trying to kill one another? So it's really become a global conversation about what are kind of American values in this larger kind of religious time of transformation that we're in around the world.
GUPTA: Yes, and building on that, John, I wonder if you could help connect dots here, how does this controversy over the Islamic center relate to those polls we saw last week, the one that suggests one in five Americans think President Obama is a Muslim?
JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "WINGNUTS": It's interesting. In some ways this fight over the mosque has become nationalized, internationalized and it's become a proxy war. I was at the two protests over the weekend, pro and con, you saw so many different issues being projected on the crowd.
The crowd expressing anger not just for the mosque or support for the mosque, but supporters of the mosque talking about Bush, screaming free Palestine, a lot of free floating issues. Specifically with the Obama derangement syndrome, those myths, the stubborn myths that he's somehow is a Muslim or not born in America, seems to affect a portion of Americans, a discouragingly large portion.
This to some extent is the fault lines, the issue is, is President Obama somehow pro-Muslim. These are the fault lines, this e-mail internet change that help pump up the fear and the hysteria, and stoking the doubts. They all intersect with this mosque issue, that's one of the reasons it's become such a pungent, powerful, combustible issue in our debate right now.
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I get these e-mails as well. I'm sure you guys do - I mean, some of them are unbelievable to read. Is all this anxiety really about the center? Or even about Islam? I mean, is there a lot of --
FEILAR: I don't think so.
GUPTA: Is it just bleeding over into the issue?
FEILAR: I want to pick up on what John said. I think it is -- what's going on now, I believe is that this has become as we just heard, kind of a proxy war for a larger question what is America's place in the world.
We are heading now within weeks to the ninth anniversary of 9/11 and what's the situation that we're in? We have spent trillions of dollars in Iraq, and this is the week that we're pulling out? What's the result? It's an ambiguous result.
We have 100,000 Americans in Afghanistan, fighting with modern Muslims against extremist Muslims. What's the result? It's ambiguous. We've been focusing on the Middle East, we have China on the rise, India on the rise. We have this issue on our southern border with lots of immigrants.
There is this larger question, what is America's place in the world. We have a choice here. We can build a wall around America or we can say America's role as a leader in the world depends on getting along with someone.
He may -- these people may not speak our language or say things that we all disagree with, but what is at stake in this larger conversation is can we co-exist, live, work and live in a larger globalized world with people that we don't always agree with?
GUPTA: Just now, John, 9/11's coming up in a few weeks, we already know there are mosque protests planned for that day near the site. In retrospect is that what we're going to remember about the ninth anniversary of 9/11, all of these?
AVLON: It shouldn't be. 9/11 is a day for remembrance. It needs to be beyond politics, beyond partisan politics and the fact, if it becomes effectively hijacked again by extremists on either side trying to prove a political point.
This is a time for remembering and honoring, and remembering that we are still at war. There is a global war between freedom and finalizing going right now. We need to keep in mind to honor our dead here and look to the future with a sense of unity.
GUPTA: All right, Bruce Feilar, John Avlon. I have a feeling we'll be talking about this again. Thanks so much for joining us.
Up next, it's both a miracle and sadly a horror story as well. Thirty three miners alive after nearly three weeks underground. Amazing story, 33 miners who might not be rescued until December. We're going to go live to Chile for the latest.
A bus load of hostages, an ex-cop with an assault rifle, how the crisis began and how it ended.
GUPTA: Tonight what some are calling the miracle of 33 miners in Chile. It's an incredible story. The men have been underground since August 5th. A cave in trapped them nearly 2,500 feet below the ground. Their families simply pray that they were alive and finally yesterday, against the steepest of all odds, this amazing image.
A video camera lowered into the shaft showed one of the men peering back into the lens. The news got even better after that. The miner sent a message from below, read by the Chilean president a note that said, quote, "all 33 of us are well inside the shelter."
It's a small shelter just over 500 square feet about the size of a studio apartment and now being shared by nearly three dozen men. There's a tough part as well. Official say it could take months to reach them. Karl Penhaul is at the mine and joins us by phone for the latest.
Karl, I hear they're saying months until the miners get to safety. What can you tell us specifically about that?
KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes, it's a complex procedure, Sanjay, because what they actually have to do is bring in a different drill from a different part Chile.
Now, that drill is on its way, it has to be broken down into pieces. So once that drill gets inside the mine, near where I am, they will take several days to assemble it, and then begin drilling down that 2,300 feet down to the shelter where the miners are.
This driller is not very far, I understand it can drill between 60 and 90 feet a day. Depending on what the rock-like conditions are. It's not just a straight shot eye. They have to drill a small hole first, and then once they drill the small hole, they drill a wider hole, a little bit wider than shoulder length. And it's then they can start to bring the men out, so do the math. If it's a maximum 90 feet a day at 2,300 feet, you can see -- and they go in there twice, progress is going to be very slow. Like you said, people think maybe they'll be out by Christmas.
GUPTA: I understand through that same shaft where they put the camera, they're putting down some glucose water, food, they can even put down oxygen canisters. What is the biggest concern officials have at this point and over the next several weeks?
PENHAUL: I think there are several concerns. First of all, officials want to figure out really what the physical health of these men is like. We understand, in an interview with the Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, that the men say that they survived on small rations of canned tuna and mackerel that were in there the shelter. They weren't eating every day, but every other day. They also shared, between the 33 of them, a jar of peaches, as well.
And so first of all, they have to be careful about how they feed them from here on in, if their bodies can really take some higher energy food right now.
And then, of course, there's the whole issue of mental health. These men have been underground now in the bowels of the earth for 18 days. They've got to understand now that it could be three or four months more.
And so what the psychologists are saying is that the men have got to continue to learn more techniques of working in a team. They've got to figure out some kind of routine of getting through the day. Even if it's just keeping that 500 square feet -- the kind of studio apartment space clean and tidy.
And also, there's going to be a line of communication that they can speak up to the surface. And so their families, as well, will have to be cheering them along, giving them encouragement to keep body and mind together.
PENHAUL: Right. Well, some good news, Karl, but some tough challenges ahead, no question. I'm sure you'll keep us updated on this. Thanks so much.
Let's get the update -- the latest on some of the other stories that we're following tonight, as well. Brianna Keilar joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Sanjay.
Nine people are dead, seven wounded after a gunman hijacks a tour bus in the Philippines. Upset over losing his job, a former police officer, armed with a machine gun, took the busload of tourists from Hong Kong hostage this morning. The ten-hour stand-off ended when he sprayed the passengers with gunfire, forcing police to storm the bus. The gunman was among the dead.
Recovery in flood-ravaged Pakistan could take months, if not years. This is according to a State Department official who described the damage as, quote, "epic and devastating." In addition to seeking long-term recovery funds, the Obama administration hopes to redirect $7.5 billion in existing Pakistani aide to the more than 20 million flood victims.
And in Peru, a panel of judges is considering whether to throw out the confession of Joran Van Der Sloot in the murder of a 21-year- old woman. The 22-year-old Dutch citizen argues the confession is illegal, because his attorney at the time was state-appointed. The judges are expected to hand down a decision about that in about a week.
And it is official: Levi Johnston, he's filed paperwork confirming his intent to run for office in Wasilla, Alaska, presumably the same office once held by Sarah Palin. Now, while Johnston didn't specify the job he wants, CNN has confirmed the famous teen dad is actively shopping a reality show chronicling his run for mayor -- Sanjay.
GUPTA: Yes, I saw that. I think they started off the campaign with, "This is not a spoof. This is not a joke." And we'll see how it goes from there. Right, Brianna?
KEILAR: It's one of those shows that I say I won't watch, and I'll totally get stuck watching it.
GUPTA: People are going to -- be curious how it turns out.
KEILAR: Maybe you can come back and tell us about it sometime.
GUPTA: I will.
KEILAR: Still ahead, massive egg recall. With 1,000 people already suffering from salmonella poisoning, and a half a billion eggs pulled from the shelves, what do you need to know to protect your family today?
And alarming new details, as well, about a giant corporation behind the tainted supply.
Also, new details in a Texas corruption case that we've been following for months now. Small-time officials accused of highway robbery. A former prosecutor says it's all legal. How the D.A. seized millions in cash and property, only to line his own pockets.
GUPTA: Tonight, as the nationwide egg recall grows, we are learning some disturbing new information about one of the producers linked to the salmonella outbreak and what some see as the government's failure to keep families safe from tainted food.
First, here's where the massive recall stands right now. At least 17 states have been affected. More than half a billion eggs -- half a billion -- possibly contaminated by the bacteria that officials believe has sickened about a thousand people. The FDA has traced the possible source of the outbreak to two Iowa-based farms. They are Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, and they both produce hundreds of millions of eggs.
Today, the House Energy and Commerce community asked both companies for inspection records and all documents related to questions of safety and animal cruelty violations, as well.
Wright County Egg is owned by DeCoster Farms, a huge company that has been fined in the past for safety violations. And just this past June, the company's owner admitted to 10 civil counts of animal cruelty at a farm in Maine.
This is some of the undercover video taken from that facility. The allegations included not treating injured chickens, failing to promptly remove dead birds, and confining hens to overcrowded cages.
It's tough to look at. At the same time, one member of Congress says this outbreak could have been prevented. Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut says the USDA is responsible for egg safety at processing plants, not the FDA, which is leading the inspection. The Democrat believes that this split jurisdiction created, quote, a "disjointed inspection process."
We're talking about lack of oversight, and much more, frankly. Michael Pollan says the problem goes deeper than that, the best selling author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" was named one of "TIME" magazine's most influential people this year. Michael Pollan joins me now.
It's a great book. I read that book, Michael. Thanks so much for joining us.
MICHAEL POLLAN, AUTHOR, "THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA": Thank you, Sanjay.
GUPTA: You know, you have said that egg production has changed dramatically over the last several decades, and that it's now easier for chickens to spread disease because of their cramped quarters.
In fact so cramped I want to -- for a second, I just want to show people something here, about those quarters set up by the United Egg Producers, a national trade group.
Take a look at this piece of paper. I don't know if you can see it. These are the guidelines right here for the minimum cage floor space, 67 square inches. This is the actual size I'm showing. I don't know how well you can see that. Sixty-seven square inches. And also, the guidelines for a non-caged animal, as well. That's the outer box, cage free space. Not much better. They get to roam free, but they only have about 120 square inches per bird. This is the actual size. It's almost unbelievable that what we eat is from an animal living in this condition, Michael. Have you heard that, as well?
POLLAN: Yes. Well, you know, look, these animals live between 5 and 10 to a very small cage. They spend their entire lives living that way. They don't have enough room to turn around or spread their wings. They have their beaks clipped off so they don't cannibalize one other. It's kind of a brutal situation, and it's -- I don't think it's surprising at all that animals living by the millions under such circumstances would carry disease.
GUPTA: Is it -- is organic food in this situation safer than the type of food that we're seeing here? And I don't ask that to be blithe. I'm curious, because you hear differing opinions on this.
POLLAN: Well, you know, I haven't seen any research to persuade me that that is true. Organic laying hens, though, do not live in cages. They live -- they must have access to the outdoors. They must have somewhat more space. And so that -- and there have not been the same sort of outbreaks with organic operations.
However, organic egg production is so tiny compared to conventional egg production, that that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Studies done in England and the -- by the European Food Authority have found that, if the animals are not in cages, and if they are organic, that they tend to carry less salmonella. So there is some evidence, and the Humane Society of the United States argues strongly that, if we can get them out of the cages, we will reduce the incidents of salmonella.
GUPTA: You know, the whole issue about who's in charge here, I think people are surprised to know, Michael, that these recalls are voluntary, despite what's happening. There doesn't seem to be a lot of regulation between the agencies that regulate our food.
I mean, the FDA oversees fresh eggs. The USDA overseas pasteurized eggs and chickens. But you made an interesting argument. You say this is exactly the way the food industry wants it. Why?
POLLAN: Sure. The more you divide up the organizations that have authority over you, the less authority they have. Divide and concur has really been the strategy of the entire food industry when faced with regulation.
There was a push at the beginning of the Obama administration for a single food safety agency that would oversee all of our food. It makes very good sense. Other countries have this. Our food industry has fought tooth and nail to keep power divided. And power divided is never strong.
GUPTA: You know, again, just following up really quickly on this whole issue about the different types of options people have. They can buy factory, cage free, organic, but they're going to pay accordingly. I read your book again, and you've talked about this. Is it worth it to pay more, do you think? Are you getting a healthier product, do you think?
POLLAN: Well, it depends what you're buying. I mean, I buy eggs. I eat eggs. And I buy them whenever I can at the farmer's market. And I know how those eggs are raised. They're raised on grass. Those animals live outdoors. They're in very small flocks. They're, in fact, raised much as eggs were raised in the days before we had to worry about salmonella, which isn't, by the way, that long ago.
These changes in egg production really date to the 1970s and '80s. Before that, we didn't have a salmonella problem. We also didn't raise chickens, you know, ten to a cage and a million to a hen house.
And so, you know, there are options. Yes, they cost more. Industrial, conventional eggs only cost about 13 cents a piece. The eggs I buy cost about 50 cents a piece. I tend to think that's worth it. And, you know, two eggs for a dollar makes a very nice meal.
And I think it's important that we support a kind of agriculture that can assure us that they're treating animals well, and minimizing the risks. Cheap food is wonderful. We all like cheap food. But we have to understand that when we're spending billions to deal with a salmonella outbreak, it isn't really as cheap as it seems.
GUPTA: Medical costs can sometimes trump food costs.
GUPTA: Good point, Michael Pollan. Thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
And taking about salmonella as well, I want to break down exactly what this is. It's a type of bacteria. It's common in the environment, and it can be on different types of food. This strain specifically, salmonella enteritidis, is found in chickens. They can carry the bug or even pass it onto their eggs without getting sick themselves. They can -- sort of carriers.
Now, if you get salmonella through contaminated eggs or meat, the bacteria goes to the lining of the small intestine. Symptoms can be mild or severe, and mainly, it's going to be G.I. or gastrointestinal symptoms: cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting. It can also cause fever and cause severe headache. One possible long-term complication, it can get into the joints and cause arthritis, and that can linger for months or even longer.
Mild or severe, most people are going to recover fully. Complications can be serious. Older people, young babies and people with immune problems are going to be most at risk.
In the worst case, the bacteria can get into the blood stream and cause a severe infection called sepsis. That's life threatening, although with treatment, the mortality rate is still pretty low, about less than a tenth of a percent.
Salmonella makes about 1.3 million people sick every year. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's neck and neck with campylobacter, another bacteria, the second most common food-borne illness. The most common, by far, is Norovirus. It makes about nine million people sick every year. Big numbers. By contrast, E. Coli only makes about 40,000 people sick, and botulism -- we talk about that a lot -- only causes about 50 or 60 cases total every year. Of course, those tend to be more severe, sometimes even deadly.
Next on 360, highway robbery, quite literally. A Texas prosecutor who gave a fortune in seized money to his secretaries. He's facing justice. We'll have the update in our "360 Investigation." That's ahead.
Later, judgment day for a former man accused of murdering a pregnant woman and then fleeing the country. Much more coming up on 360.
GUPTA: In Texas, a former prosecutor is under indictment for what some are calling highway robbery. Drivers in southeast Texas pulled over by police and then stripped of their cash, their cars, their jewelry. Talking about millions in cash and valuables over the years, some of it pocketed by the local prosecutor.
We spoke to him last year before he was indicted. And during the Emmy-nominated investigation, the man now facing a felony charge insisted everything he did was legal. Tonight Gary Tuchman is "Keeping Them Honest."
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It literally paid to be loyal to this man, the former district attorney in Jim Wells County, Texas, who was extremely generous to three of his secretaries who he says watched his back.
JOE FRANK GARZA, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: They were my eyes and ears in the community.
TUCHMAN: How generous was Joe Frank Garza? He admits that for years he wrote checks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars that likely at least doubled their salaries. Much of that money came from U.S. Highway 281 near Alice, Texas, where very often drug couriers, illegal immigrants and the people transporting them would rather escape into the brush than ever see their vehicles again.
And that's just fine with the sheriff's department in Jim Wells County. Deputies bring the vehicles to this lot, auction them off, and the department keeps the money.
Oscar Lopez is a long-time county sheriff.
(on camera) If you didn't get that money, what would happen to your department?
SHERIFF OSCAR LOPEZ, JIM WELLS COUNTY, TEXAS: We would be in bicycles -- riding bikes. And I'm not saying that in fun. It's the truth. TUCHMAN (voice-over): Under Texas law, cops are permitted to seize certain valuables during investigations of possible serious crimes and their bosses are then permitted to spend the forfeiture money for law enforcement purposes.
As for the D.A., his office also gets a cut of the money. All of this raises this question: doesn't this create an enormous temptation to seize valuables from citizens who are not suspected of serious crimes?
JUAN HINOJOSA, TEXAS STATE SENATOR: To me, that's just outright theft, highway robbery.
TUCHMAN: Juan Hinojosa is a Texas state senator. He was driving down U.S. 281 in Brooks County, not far from the city of Alice. Police gave him a warning, not a ticket for weaving and having windows too darkly tinted. He says the accusations were untrue.
HINOJOSA: The whole purpose of the stop was trying to see if they could find cash in my truck. One of the things they were doing is profiling people.
TUCHMAN: Check out this police videotape. Another Latino man, this one not a state senator, stopped on 281 because his front license plate was on his dashboard, not on the bumper. Javier Gonzalez had about $10,000, most of it, he says, to pay for funeral arrangements and a tombstone for a dying aunt. He was charged with money laundering. The deputies confiscated his cash.
His attorney said there was no evidence of such a crime and sued.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It happened on a highway, and they were robbed. And it just so happened that people had uniforms.
TUCHMAN: The county D.A. decided to settle the case. Gonzalez got his money back and $110,000 in damages. But the sheriff continues to stand by his men.
LOPEZ: They do everything correctly, sir.
TUCHMAN: So why did the D.A. agree to the settlement?
GARZA: I said, look, it's taking too much time. Let's just get rid of it.
TUCHMAN: Even without that money, Garza's office took in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. He got 30 percent of the county's forfeiture money.
GARZA: When I was there, there wasn't a single item in that office, down to the last pen there, that was paid with county money. It was all forfeiture money.
TUCHMAN: Under the law, a D.A. can use his share of the seized assets for, quote, "official purposes." So that's what makes an accusation by this man, who beat Joe Frank Garza in his reelection bid, so notable.
ARMANDO BARRERA, CURRENT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Most of the money that was used by him was for three secretaries.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Most of his forfeiture money?
BARRERA: Most of it. It was approximately $3.8 million.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Over an eight-year period. It's a strong accusation.
GARZA: I saw nothing wrong with it.
TUCHMAN: Which the former D.A. doesn't dispute, although he does say he also gave smaller amounts to other employees.
(on camera) The new D.A. tells us that the records show that you gave hundreds of thousands of dollars over eight years to three of your secretaries?
GARZA: Could be.
TUCHMAN: And do you think that's proper?
GARZA: As far as I'm concerned it was. No, I take it back, as far as I'm concerned it is.
TUCHMAN (on camera): The secretaries who worked with the old district attorney no longer work in the district attorney's office. The new D.A. has new secretaries, and he says they won't be getting extra pay from the forfeiture fund, no matter how good they are.
(voice-over) We were not able to talk to any of those secretaries on camera. We did ask their old boss if giving them all that money is truly an official purpose envisioned under state law.
GAZA: There's no definition, nobody can tell you what an official purpose is.
TUCHMAN: Indeed, even the new D.A. agrees the law is ambiguous. And that's the main reason why there's so much controversy with forfeitures here and elsewhere in the Lone Star State.
GUPTA: So what exactly is an official purpose, I guess. Hey, Gary.
Have you had a chance to talk to the former district attorney since his indictment?
TUCHMAN: Yes, Sanjay, I talked to Garza today, and he was a lot less chatty than the last time I talked to him. He said he did not want to make any comment whatsoever.
He did say to talk to his attorneys, and the only comment that his attorneys as of yet have not called me back.
But either way, this is a very serious charge. It's a felony, and if convicted he faces the possibility of at least five years in prison.
GUPTA: Well, an amazing investigation, Gary. Thanks so much.
And still ahead, new information about the death of a killer whale trainer and whether or not Sea World is to blame for the attack.
Also, it's official. Nine months after the car crash that uncovered a sex scandal, Tiger Woods' marriage is over. We've got the details next.
GUPTA: A lot happening tonight, and Brianna Keilar is following more of it. Here he is again with a 360 bulletin -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Hi, there, Sanjay.
We begin in North Carolina with judgment day for a former Marine convicted today of murder. Cesar Laurean will spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2007 killer of Maria Lauterback, a fellow marine who was eight months pregnant. Her remains were found in early 2008. And the two were once stationed together at Camp Lejeune.
Sea World has been fined $75,000 by the Department of Labor's occupational safety and health administration in the wake of February's deadly killer whale attack on a trainer. The agency said Sea World knew of the inherent risks of allowing trainers to interact with dangerous animals, and yet still required them to work within pool walls, on ledges and on shelves dangerously close to those animals.
Finally, and not surprising, Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren, have called it quits. They announced their divorce today. And in a statement, they said, quote, "We wish each other the very best for the future."
Of course, reports of their impending breakup have persisted since the golfer's infidelities first surfaces nine months ago. Now official, Sanjay.
GUPTA: All right, Brianna. Thanks so much.
Just giving a quick programming note, as well. We talked earlier in the program about the 20 million people affected by the floods in Pakistan. It's a crisis that's only getting worse. A story that we think is very important. So tomorrow I'm going to Pakistan, and I look forward to bringing you stories from there in the coming days and weeks.
We've got more 360 after the break.