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CNN NEWSROOM

Verdict in CT Home Invasion Trial; Qantas Grounds A380 Fleet; Making Blood from Skin Cells;

Aired November 8, 2010 - 12:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's take you to Connecticut now. Dr. William Petit is speaking. Let me pipe down and let's listen to Dr. Petit.

DR. WILLIAM PETIT, HOME INVASION SURVIVOR: The jury took its time, listened to the evidence, and made an appropriate and just decision. We would also like to thank Mr. Dearington and the senior district attorney, Mr. Nicholson, Mr. Bob Sage (ph), Deoda Boggy (ph), who's been our advocate down here, and Jessica Nasarie (ph), who was in charge of all that A/V information up there. And thank them for their conscious, tenacious and persistent pursuit of justice for Hayley, Michaela and Jennifer.

And I think it's for everybody in society because crimes like this have to be pursued and prosecuted vigorously. The easy way out is to plead things out. And I was for the death penalty, but all along -- and I'll say it as I've said it before, it was not my decision. It was Mr. Dearington's decision. I agreed with it.

But he came to my house in 2007 and said, if there's any case that deserves the death penalty, it is this. And it's my fiduciary responsibility to apply the laws of the state that the legislature have written. And if I don't go for the death penalty in this case, there's no reason to ever have it on the books. I'll listen to whatever you have to say, Bill. I'll listen to you argue with me for hours, but this is what I think we should do.

And I agreed with him. I think in a civilized society, people need to be responsible for their actions. We heard that the defendant has never been responsible for his actions for most of his life, and people need to be responsible for their actions especially when they're viciously violent and create wanton destruction.

The bible tells us that we should follow a man's law and I think that's what has been done here. We all know that God, other than perhaps people like Christopher Hitchens (ph), know that God will be the final arbiter and I think the defendant faces far more serious punishment from the Lord than he can ever face from mankind.

There was an attorney in the courtroom that accused you, all of you, the media, and I think us as the family as well in general for creating an atmosphere of bloodlust. And I wanted to say something that day, and I know you wanted to speak every day. And I wanted to say, that is the kettle calling the pot black. If his defendant and co-defendant had not planned out and carried out this vicious attack, none of you would have been here today, we wouldn't have been here for 48 days of jury selection from January through May and from September through November for this trial.

So I don't believe that any of you nor any of us in the family created a climate of bloodlust. I still think the system must be improved for victims. I think regardless of what I'll get beat up for in responses, my other attorney's I think - 38 months to trial in a triple homicide is absurd. I think other states get it done in 12 to 18 months, and I'm not sure what's so wrong with our system that it's over three years. It appears to me - and I may be wrong, but it appears that the defense has unlimited access to funds whereas The Office of Victims Services does not.

I am fortunate I'm a physician; I had insurance when this happened. If I had not had insurance, if I had not been employed, if I had been a poor victim, hospitalized for a longer period of time, required ongoing therapy for a variety of ailments, the money would have run out because there's a fairly low limit to the money that's available to victims. I think that's something that the legislature needs to address.

There's many, many, many, many programs to rehabilitate criminals and I have no objections to that, but I think victims also need to be included in the fray. I realize whoever the new governor may be we're going to have a 3-plus billion dollar deficit that they're going to have to fix. But I don't think it should be fixed on the backs of victims.

And, again, just getting back to the 38 months -- and I don't know when we're getting to the next trial really -- fortunately in this case justice delayed wasn't justice denied, but it was many, many sleepless nights and a lot of worry and a lot of agitation. A lot of tears. I really thank you all for really your polite and kind demeanors in the courtroom and the steps of the courtroom.

There's a great many of you, and you have been quite polite and civil, and I very much appreciate that. I don't know if anybody else in the family has something they'd like to say.

REPORTER: Can you give us an idea when the verdicts were read what was going through your heart and your mind.

PETIT: The question was what was going through my heart. I was really crying for loss, you know. Probably many of you have kids. Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl, you know? Tortured and killed in her own bedroom, you know? Surrounded by stuffed animals. And Hayley had a great future. It was -- she was a strong and courageous person.

And Jennifer helped so many kids at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh and at Strong Memorial in Rochester and at the L (ph) Children's Hospital in Cheshire Academy and she cannot do that. So I was really thinking of the tremendous loss. It's a huge void in my life and our family and friends' lives. To all -- to hundreds and thousands of friends and people that have written to us to express their condolences and support. So, I was glad for the girls that there was justice because I think it's a just verdict. But mostly I was sad for the loss that we have all suffered.

REPORTER: Dr. Petit, now do you -- (INAUDIBLE)

PETIT: I don't know. The new trial will be a different case. They think the evidence is just as strong. I think it will be just as ugly and just as painful, unfortunately.

REPORTER: How will you do it, Dr. Petit? The day you escaped from the house, three years later, now you still only have half of it done.

PETIT: That's why the system has to change. Virginia, Florida, other places get capital felony cases to court in a year, year and a half. Especially when they have the perpetrators caught at the scene of the crime. Obviously it takes time if someone is on the run for two or three or four years and not captured. But it seems like you should be able to get to court within 12 to 18 months when people are caught at the scene and the evidence is overwhelming.

REPORTER: Was there a moment you didn't think you could do it, though, over the last three years? Was there a moment that you think back to?

PETIT: There's -- every day when I basically didn't want to get out of bed. Nothing against you guys, but I didn't want to park the car and walk across the street. I didn't want to get my picture taken for the 150,000th time. I just didn't want to be here and listen to the things that were being said in the courtroom. There was 1,000 times I wanted to jump up and scream out, which I suspect is what the defense probably hoped I would do.

But you see all these -- we have a big and supportive family and a lot of friends, and everybody's been supportive. And I think that's -- you know, without them I would have never been able to get through this.

REPORTER: Were with you trying to interpret when the jury was asking questions or not?

PETIT: The first day, yes. I felt so terrible I didn't know if I wanted to cry or just die so I stopped attempting to interpret any knock on the door and just said I would say a little prayer, as Jen would say, a prayer not necessarily to make things right but for the strength to just keep going forward. And so that became sort of my mantra. I would just say a prayer and say, we'll just keep going and take it minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

REPORTER: Dr. Petit, what's the reason (INAUDIBLE)

PETIT: It's helpful that justice has been served with an appropriate verdict. I don't think there's ever closure. I think whoever came up with that concept is an imbecile; whoever they are wrote it the first time. And I think many of you know it who have lost a parent or a child or a friend, there's never closure. There's a hole, you know. The way I've imagined it straight through, it's a hole with jagged edges and over time the edges may smooth out a little bit, but the hole in your heart and the hole in your soul is still there. So there's never closure. I was very much insulted when people asked me last year that if the death penalty were rendered would that somehow give me closure. Absolutely not. You know, this is not about revenge, you know.

Vengeance belongs to the lord. This is about justice. We need to have some rules in a civilized society, and if life is that important, we need to view it in that fashion.

REPORTER: We have marveled at your composure and your dignity for all this time. What have you learned about yourself in the last three years that you can carry forward that you didn't know before?

PETIT: I just know it's important to have a strong and loving family and friends around you because if you try to go it alone in the world you have a difficult time. So I thank God that that's what I had. Because if I was on my own I probably would not be standing here before you today.

PETIT: Can you tell us about your sister? We've watched her every day. She sits next to you. She's up every day...

PETIT: Well, Hannah's been crying on the inside the whole time and been the tough one on the outside. And I thank her for everything that she did, and we had -- there's five of us in the family and we got together many weekends. But her family and our family had a special relationship because Abby, who is a sophomore at the university of Vermont, was Hayley's best friend - Hayley was her mentor.

Andrew who was about Michaela's age, they hung out together, and we spent a lot of time together. You know, they live a quarter mile from my parents so usually when we saw my parents we saw Hannah and her kids. It's been a very difficult time for them to try to figure out why people would do what they did since Andrew was 12 when it happened.

HANNAH, SISTER, DR. WILLIAM PETIT: And Abby was 15.

PETIT: Abby was 15. So, I don't know what else Hannah wants to say.

HANNAH: I wouldn't have it any other way than to be here to support bill. Because like he said, family is the most important thing right now. We've lost so much of ours. It was three people, and to lose those three people who are so special, not only lose them but lose them in such a heinous, cruel, and depraved manner which we kept hearing about in the courtroom. We've been living it for the last three-plus years.

It's been a very difficult journey, but, like Bill keeps saying, all of our family and friends being around us and even the support of the media and the whole state of Connecticut and the country, it's just made our road that much smoother. I thank you and I also want to thank the jury for their brave deliberations. They got put in a position that nobody ever wants to get put in their life. He said I was crying on the inside all along. I was crying on the inside for them, knowing what they were looking at.

We've seen it firsthand, and I -- I can't say enough how badly I feel for them that they got thrust into this because of two people's decision to go in and destroy lives like that.

REPORTER: Hannah, was there ever any doubt that they would not see it the way you saw it, the way the family saw it?

HANNAH: Oh yeah, of course. There was doubt every day. You never know. I mean, that's what this whole court case was about. So, yeah, doubt every day.

PETIT: Hannah and my brother, Glen, stood in for me. I didn't find out until the end of that first week, since I was at St. Mary's, for whatever reason the medical examiner wanted someone from the family to identify the bodies, and Hannah and Glen went and had to do it. And, you know, I remember saying when they came back, I said, can we have an open casket wake?

And they both looked at me like -- and just started crying. You know, they -- they went and did it, didn't say a word to me, and just went and did it. So they're pretty special sister and brother.

HANNAH: Thank you. Thank you all very much.

PETIT: Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

(END OF COVERAGE)

VELSHI: Dr. Petit, the whole home -- family was taken hostage. Dr. Petit's wife was asked to go to the bank. She was forced to go to the bank and withdraw money, which she then gave to the assailants and was then killed in the home. The house was set on fire. He was able to escape. He's the only person in the house who was able to escape. This has been a very long trial. The verdict came down after four days of deliberation and Steven Hayes -- 47-year-old Steven Hayes was -- had been found guilty of murder and he was now sentenced to life in prison.

There is another man alleged to have been part of this who has said that he is a criminal and that he awaits his own death penalty, but that trial hasn't happened yet. So that will happen again after this. That was the reference that Dr. Petit was making.

But Steven Hayes has been sentenced to life in prison. Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor, was saying, by the way, that he had not hoped for the death penalty. He had testified that he felt a greater punishment would be for Steven Hayes, the assailant, to have spent the rest of his life in jail.

We've got some more news for you, including an update on Qantas, Airbus and Rolls Royce, the three players in this ongoing saga of these A-380 super jumbos that are having problems. We'll bring you up to speed on that on the other side of this break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: President Obama is wrapping up the longest stay he's ever had in any foreign country since he took office. The country, of course, India. Don't call it an emerging country, President Obama says, India has emerged, his words. The headline of the third and final day in the world's largest democracy is a speech to the Indian parliament in which he endorsed India's long and fervent bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Now, for generations, the P5, as they've been called, have been the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia. Those are the permanent members of the Security Council. There are other members who rotate. Now, just last month, India won a two-year seat on the council, one of the rotating seats, but only the permanent members have veto powers over any U.N. resolutions. That's why it's so important.

Now, China is against making room for India and India's arch rival Pakistan doesn't like it either. Nobody thinks it will happen any time soon, by the way, if ever. So why did President Obama bring it up? Well, the U.S. sees a huge potential upside to powerful India in terms of democracy. President Obama sees India's system as a model for developing countries.

And then there's the economy. We've discussed this. India is booming, creating more and richer consumers every year. And, finally, there's the issue of security. India is involved in Afghanistan, is joining the cause for nuclear nonproliferation. As for Pakistan, America's ties with that country do complicate its ties with India because those two are arch rivals. But that, too, was part of the president's address. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will continue to insist to Pakistan's leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders are unacceptable and that terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks must be brought to justice. We must also recognize that all of us have an interest in both an Afghanistan and a Pakistan that is stable and prosperous and democratic. And India has an interest in that as well. In pursuit of regional security, we will continue to welcome dialogue between India and Pakistan, even as we recognize the disputes between your two countries can only be resolved by the people of your two countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Now, the president has faced critics because of this trip. There were rumors last week about how much this trip will cost. The White House said those rumors are overstated. There are also critics about the president leaving the country at this delicate time at home, particularly in the economy. So the president and the White House are billing this trip as economic. India now has the fifth largest economy on the planet. It's growing by more than 7 percent a year. So far this year, the U.S. has exported a relatively meager $12 billion worth of goods to India, but on this trip alone, deals have been signed for almost $10 billion more from such iconic brands as Boeing, General Electric and even Harley- Davidson. The White House says those deals will translate into about 53,000 jobs.

All right, while we're talk about the president overseas, the mayor of New York says some members of Congress can't read. More on his words and the backlash to them in "Your Money," coming up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Today marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's election as the 35th president of the United States. In his honor, we're showing you some never-before-published photos from "Life" magazine. This, for instance, is a picture of JFK making a stop at a grocery store on the campaign trail in West Virginia in April of 1960. Coming up a little later, we'll show you a picture of the president, and his wife Jackie, at a ticker tape parade.

All right, time now for "Your Money." New York City's mayor had some colorful words about Congress this weekend. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Mayor Bloomberg said this while in Hong Kong.

"If you look at the U.S., you look at who we're electing to Congress, to the Senate -- they can't read. I'll bet you a bunch of these people don't have passports." He went on to say, "we're about to start a trade war with China if we're not careful here, only because nobody knows where China is. Nobody knows what China is," end quote.

Mayor Bloomberg was in Hong Kong speaking at a business leaders conference. He also told Americans to stop blaming the Chinese for their problems. Some of his words were pretty bold. I want to introduce you to somebody who knows very much where China is and what China is about.

Mayor Bloomberg, Christine, is not given too off-the-cuff comments that are ill-informed. He tends to think out his words very carefully. So I have to surmise that he intended to say what he said there. You are one of those Americans who understands China very well. You've been studying China and its emerging economy for many, many years. What do you make of this?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN'S "YOUR MONEY" CO-HOST: Well, it's interesting because his office, Ali, confirms that he made those comments. And I think you could say there's a little New York attitude in there.

VELSHI: Right.

ROMANS: I'm not sure he thinks they really literally can't read, but he's trying to show just exactly how serious the situation is. And while most people were looking at the politics of those statements and what a slap that was to the Republicans -- and, by the way, many Republicans, moderate and otherwise, are offended by those comments and slapping back -- I was looking at the second part of that phrase about, are we close to a trade war with China? And what would that look like and mean for the rest of us in our daily lives?

VELSHI: Right.

ROMANS: Is Congress clear about how important this is? And I think, Ali, when you look at the situation over the past year, from the last time when we were talking about G20 in Pittsburgh, to now when we have a G20 meeting coming up this weekend, all of the countries have really moved inward and a lot of the idea of speaking with one voice on the global stage has really moved backward and that's a real problem. And I think when you look at some of the different things happening in the economies and in the markets, you can see fear of that as well.

ROMANS: Right. And we -- I mean part of the issue with trade wars or currency wars is that the war is often not just with the other country, but it's often with your own consumers or workers in your own country. People like cheap goods and often are indifferent to where they come from, but cheap goods from somewhere else could cost you jobs at home. So this is a complicated, multilayered discussion that's been going on for a long time.

ROMANS: Trade wars and currency wars are always very, very ugly. And Timothy Geithner recently said, currency war, I don't even know what that is, you know, trying to downplaying this.

VELSHI: Right.

ROMANS: And, in fact, he is sort of the advance man in Asia right now. As the president's in India, the Treasury secretary is meeting with people at another Asian conference. And, frankly, you know, trying to assuage fears about what's happening here with the U.S. injecting all this money, the Fed injecting all this money into the system.

VELSHI: Right.

ROMANS: What's that going to mean for other countries, what is that going to mean for emerging economies with all of this new money flushing maybe into bubbles elsewhere around the world, what's it going to mean for commodities, because, after all, when you have money around the world chasing into commodities, that comes down to how you feed people, how you heat their homes.

VELSHI: Well, let's talk about gold. Gold went above $1,400 an ounce today. Is that related to fears about the Federal Reserve printing money and the possibility of inflation down the road?

ROMANS: What the markets are telling us is that money is chasing after hard assets that are definable. This is a reaction to a weak dollar, it's a reaction to fears of inflation and uncertainty overall about currencies. You're seeing gold, wheat, sugar, cotton at an all- time high. These are things that knock all the way down to the consumer. So this big conversation about what's happening with Fed stimulus, what's happening with our relationship with China and with many other countries, with global currencies, it all comes down to you in the end.

VELSHI: Yes. We'll talk about this more this week. G20, which is what you were talking about, is getting underway on Thursday in Seoul, South Korea. And let's talk about that. We'll also talk about it on the weekend, because we get a lot of questions about gold, should I be buying and is it going to be on a roll or is this the top.

ROMANS: Yes.

VELSHI: Christine, good to see you, as always.

Christine Romans, my colleague. You can watch us on "Your Money," Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sundays at 3:00 Eastern. Christine is also the author of "Smart Is The New Rich," which is a way for you to capitalize on the changes in the economy.

All right, when I come back, we're going to talk to Richard Quest. The two of us know a thing or two about the Airbus. We're going to let you know what the implications are of Qantas grounding all its superjumbo jets until they figure out what's going on with these engines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: All right. One of the stories that we've been following for you for the last few days is this Qantas and their engines. A new week and new trouble for Qantas, Airbus, and Rolls-Royce. Those are the three players in Thursday's emergency landing of an A-380 super jumbo jet. That's it right there. You can see the problems on that engine.

One the four Rolls-Royce engines blew up in flight. It damaged a wings and it scared the heck out of passengers and likely the crew, as well, if they're honest about it. Qantas grounded its fleet of A-380s for a couple of days to try figure out what went wrong. The very next day, a Qantas 747 -- different plane, different manufacturer -- flying the same route, experienced engine failure. Also a Rolls-Royce engine but a different type than the one that blew up Thursday. Anyway, the Qantas CEO came out today announced some bad news, problems found on several A-380s. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN JOYCE, QANTAS CEO: Oil leaks have been discovered in the turbine area of three engines. We have removed these engines from the aircraft for further testing. And we are now planning that the A-380 fleet will remain out of service for at least the next 72 hours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Qantas has six of the A-380s in its fleet. I haven't flown on one of theirs but I have been a passenger on an A-380. And not to state the total obvious -- this is a big, big, big plane. Overall length, 238 feet. If you stood on its tail, almost 20 feet taller than the golden gate bridge. The wing span, 261 feet. That's me getting on an A-380 a couple years ago. That's three NBA basketball courts laid end to end. This thing can carry in some configurations more than 550 passengers. I'm not the only one to have flown on an A-380. Obviously our good friend Richard Quest who's flown on everything the sky has offered has talked his way on to one of them, as well.

He's with us from London to talk about these developments. You know, Qantas will get their stuff together, they'll figure it out. But the implications here, the A-380, Richard, was such a major advance in the world of flying. I mean, past the Boeing 747 and beyond the Concorde, this was a miracle to see that something so big could fly. There are a lot of airlines really counting on the ongoing service of this very expensive, very big plane.

What does this mean?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, it's about the engines, not the plane. And to that extent tonight we had a statement issued from Rolls-Royce which basically says they're continuing to understand or make progress in understanding what happened.

But you talked about that 747 problem. Rolls also had another problem with its Trent 1000 engine. What they're saying tonight is there is no connection between what happened with the Trent 900 on the 380s and any other engine.

Now, why is that important? Because the Trent 1000 engine, one of which blew up in August while it was being tested, that engine is going to be used by Boeing on the Dreamliner.

VELSHI: Right.

QUEST: So tonight, even though, Ali, they say they still don't know why this Qantas engine went through a wobbly and did what it did, there's no connection between that and any other type of Rolls-Royce engine.

VELSHI: Except Rolls-Royce and General Electric are the biggest names in engines. Pretty much any plane -- most planes you're going to get on are going to have one of the two engines on there.

Interestingly, Qantas was saying it had something to do with oil leaking from the engine, the reason that they've now continued to ground their A-380s. Is there -- you are very in touch with sort of the aviation and flying and the airline community. Is there some sense this there's growing concern here or is this an isolated matter that they're going to get to the bottom of and solve as he said in the next 72 hours or so?

QUEST: Right. The question is, why has Qantas found what's called "oil puddling" in their engine of the turbines? And other operators like Singapore and Lufthansa did not find this?

Now, they've completed the checks that Airbus and Rolls-Royce have asked for. These checks are basically look at every single thing. Imagine everything and check everything. They haven't found them. And what no one can answer for me tonight is, what was going on with the Qantas engine that wasn't happening with the others?

Is this because Qantas was running their engines faster, hotter, 72,000 pounds of thrust versus 70,000? Who knows the reasons. But we can say tonight that the Singapore and Lufthansa engines have not found that puddling. The Qantas engines have. And frankly, Rolls- Royce, all they are saying is that it doesn't relate to any other engine.

It's not a completely satisfactory situation tonight in terms of the information, but then we are literally watching them do the investigation as step by step.

VELSHI: OK. You and I will keep our eyes on it and we'll let our viewers know if there's anything further that they need to be concerned about. Richard Quest, host of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." My good friend. He meets me on Thursdays on this show at 2:20 Eastern for Q&A.

I'll see you on Thursday, Richard. Thank you.

Imagine needing blood for a medical emergency. Instead of going to a blood bank to get the blood, you make your own blood out of a patch of your own skin. I'm going to introduce you to the scientist who is making this possible. This is a big breakthrough.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Fifty years ago today John F. Kennedy was elected as the 35th president of the United States. In his honor, we're showing you some never-before-published photos from "Life" magazine. This photo you're looking at shows Jackie and JKF riding through a blizzard of ticker tape in Manhattan's famed Canyon of Heroes, three weeks before Election Day. Coming up a little later, we'll show you a picture of JFK campaigning on top of a chair surrounded by kids.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Every day on Big I we bring you something interesting. I'm going to do that in the next block, it's a real interesting way of saving people who are at risk of drowning. But this one caught my imagination, as well.

Imagine being able to create enough blood for a human transfusion from a small patch of your own skin. That's the idea behind a new procedure that's being developed by Canadian scientists. They were with able to take a mature human skin cell and turn it directly into a blood cell without having to rewind the cell back into a stem cell. That means that there's no chance of rejection in transplanted cells because they're your own.

For years, their research focused on creating stem cells. But when that proved to be inefficient at creating cells for clinical use, their focus went to creating direct conversion. Basically what you're doing here is reprogramming a cell. That means patients who need blood, and that could including bone marrow, could have are access to their own blood.

Dr. Mick Bhatia is the director and senior scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He's the study leader.

Dr. Bhatia, thanks very much for joining us. That was our attempt of making sense of something you and your team have been working on for a long time.

How accurate is that?

DR. MICK BHATIA, DIRECTOR & SENIOR SCIENTIST, MCMASTER UNIVERSITY: It was spot-on. Perfect.

VELSHI: This sounds remarkable. It sounds really groundbreaking. Tell me about what of this has been able to -- has been done before and where you've taken this advance.

BHATIA: Well, it's been shown before that a Japanese scientist by the name of Shinya Yamanaka was able to take skin cells and turn them into stem cells. But those stem cells then had to be turn into cell types such as blood, in order to be useful. That's very inefficient process, as you mentioned earlier.

So we decided to explore other avenues of maybe saying, if the skin cells can turn into stem cells, why not directly into blood? And so we explored a variety of ways to do that and found one, a combination of things that seemed to work quite well.

VELSHI: And how viable is this, what you've found?

BHATIA: We've only done it in the laboratory right now. We've done it on multiple samples of human skin. We focused used on the human because we thought there was a clinical application to this. The next steps are going to be clear and there's a lot of work ahead, of course, to seeing this in the clinic. And that is to do efficient scale-up, larger numbers, not just a dish -- or a Petri dish-- but in large numbers of cells. And also to make sure that all the safety and regulation issues where dealt with before we even think about putting this into people.

VELSHI: Tell me about the implications. If your testing goes well, largely well, and you're able to proceed, what kind of implications could this have for people who -- just tell me what it could do.

BHATIA: Well, McMasters see that there's a lot of places one could go. We're targeting a particular type of patient, specifically in adult leukemia. That's where their blood system has a genetic mutation that causes them to have blood cancer. And then getting another source of healthy cells proves to be very difficult. So we thought that if we could take their own skin cells, make healthy blood cells because they do not have the genetic mutation, that they could be used and be transplanted back in without fear of rejection and hopefully replace the "bad" leukemic cells.

VELSHI: Let's talk about how much skin we're talking about and how much blood you get out of it.

BHATIA: Yes. You know, we're trying to do -- right now we've only done this in the laboratory. But just based on preliminary calculations -- and we're very luck country that surgeons already use skin and take skin for purposes of burn. They can take skin from one area of the body, grow it in a dish and then put it on other areas that are infected by either heat or acid burns. So here's some knowledge preexisting there.

We're hoping about a 4 x 3 centimeters, a patch of skin could be removed from a patient, be converted through this process, which we clearly have to optimize, and hopefully have enough to transplant a full-grown adult.

VELSHI: So, in other words, it's not like a one-to-one ration of the skin cells you take into blood cells. You're able to produce or you're able to create more blood cells than skin cells?

BHATIA: Yes. That seems like the calculation seems to indicate that. Because you remove skin, but the skin cells, once put into a Petri dish before we even perform a conversion process, can be grown and increased in numbers more than just the patch taken.

So, that gives you a higher number there. We go through the conversion process. And then once the cells have turned to blood, there's a lot of expertise around the world which already knows how to increase those blood cells that result.

VELSHI: I see, so you can multiply the skin cells, then convert it and multiply the blood cells. So you can end up with a lot more blood than you started in terms of skin cells.

This is fascinating. Dr. Mick Bhatia, thanks for coming and telling us about it as clearly as you have. I know it's much more complicated than you've told us, but it sounds hopeful. We will follow your progress and that of your group very closely. Thanks for being here.

BHATIA: Thanks for your interest.

VELSHI: Dr. Mick Bhatia is the director and senior scientist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

You probably used your remote to turn on your TV today. So, imagine a remote to power a robot lifeguard to save someone's life. That's it. You're looking at it right now. That can go out and save someone's life until humans can get there to take over.

That's today's "Big I." It's coming up right after this short break.

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VELSHI: The "Big I" is one of my favorite segments on this show. I hope it's one of yours. This is where we give you ideas and developments that could actually change lives. In this case, I'm going to introduce you to Emily. Emily is not a person. Emily is a lifeguard, a robot lifeguard who could save your life. But first, let me give you a sense of why this matters so much. Everyday in the United States, on average, ten people drown.

Let me give you a sense of what that profile looks like. Men are more likely, 3.7 times more likely to drown than women. Kids, 30 percent of kids who die in an accidental death in this country die from drowning. And blacks -- we did this a few weeks ago -- blacks are more likely to drown than whites. Blacks are 3.1 more times -- minorities are more likely to drown than whites. Black kids are 3.1 times more likely to die from drowning than white kids are. So, this is important whatever demographic you're looking at.

So, I want to tell you about Emily. Emily stands for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, and you're looking at it right now. It is a red waterproof canvass covered robot. Weighs 25 pounds. It can go 40 miles an hour and it can go 80 miles on a single charge. It can support up to five people who can hang off of it until help arrives.

The University of Arizona, NOAA and the U.S. Navy have all invested in this project. And with me here are Tony Mulligan. He's the CEO of Hydronalix. This is the adventure of Emily. And Jay Cohen, who is a board member. You're the former undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security. Both of you, thank you for being here. Tony, tell me how this works.

TONY MULLIGAN, CEO, HYDRONALIX: Well, basically, it's got a small electric signal. So, it's like a baby Jet Ski, and it has a small high-power battery pack. And it's operated by a lifeguard on the beach --

VELSHI: Using that.

MULLIGAN: Right there. Small controller. So, they have a throttle control and they turn left or right. And basically, when they want to assist somebody, they just throw it in. It takes a few seconds. They hit the gas, and she goes right through the waves.

VELSHI: The idea being it's faster, more efficient and get something out there to have people hold on and get the crew and the boat.

MULLIGAN: Right. And The lifeguards do everything they normally do. It's just that provides extra help a few minutes faster than the lifeguard can swim. In the case of the coast of Oregon, where our first Emily were deployed, she actually draws a line out of to 800 feet to the person -

VELSHI: Oh, wow.

MULLIGAN: -- so when they grab on -

VELSHI: They can pull it in. Where does the name come from?

MULLIGAN: Emily is named after a close family friend of ours. Emily Rochane (ph) who was, unfortunately, killed in April of this year by a car. But she was the kind of girl that always wanted to help people, and we thought this was a great way for her to keep on making an impact on the world.

VELSHI: Let's talk about the impact, Jay. This is -- how big an advance is this over technologies we have got out there?

JAY COHEN, BOARD MEMBER, HYDRONALIX: Very significant advance and, you know, I view the "I" as innovation. So, the batteries aren't new, the jet pump isn't new, the k-pock (ph) isn't new -

VELSHI: But you put 'I' together -

COHEN: -- and Tony puts it together. And then he sees a real need and he goes ahead and provides that solution. And you've indicated what the statistics are on drownings. This does not replace the life guard, this enhances the lifeguard, and that's why it's been so well-received around the country by the lifesaving services.

VELSHI: What do these cost, Tony?

MULLIGAN: They're in production. They're going to be about $3,500 each. We produced nine of these so far. And, basically, for engineering, testing and development. So we've -- since April, we have been basically running it pretty much every day or a couple of them in all types of adverse weather and getting as much input as we could from lifeguards and rescuers.

VELSHI: And we were saying that NOAA and University of Arizona, the U.S. Navy has invested in this. They're interested in using this type of thing?

COHEN: They are. We also have versions that are used for science research. We just recently sent one on a second mission to Nepal up near Mount Everest. We've also been using it for what's called bethemetry (ph), mapping out the water. Originally, that's what we were starting for with NOAA -

VELSHI: Oh, interesting. OK.

COHEN: -- it turned out she works so good in the rough surf on the shoreline that we thought, hey, this NOAA science tool could actually be used --

VELSHI: Oh, OK, interesting. OK, so it was designed for something else, but you figured out it could save people.

What a great, great invention. I like that. The "Big I" could definitely be for innovation. Taking ideas that are already out there and improving on them. Tony good to see you. Jay, thanks very much for coming in. If you want to find out more about this, go to my Web site. You can read up on the robot lifeguard. CNN.com/ali. We'll link you to what you need to know.

All right. W's new book. Conan's new show. And a middle school football trick play that you really have to see to believe. Coming up next. Stay with us.

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VELSHI: One of the most anticipated books of the year is out. Former president George W. Bush. His new book is called "Decision Points." It's out in stores today. He writes quite a bit about the September 11 attacks.

Bush describes the reaction when he was informed of a third airplane into the Pentagon. Here's what he says in the book. "I sat back in my seat and absorbed her words. My thoughts clarified. The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third, was a declaration of war." Former President Bush also talks about Katrina, the 1976 DUI arrest, Kanye West and FEMA.

He sits down with Candy Crowley for a special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Also big in the news today, Conan O'Brien's triumphant return to late night. We're now just nine hours away from Conan on our sister station, TBS The big show starts at 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Seth Rogan and Leah Michelle will be guests on tonight's show. The musical guest will be Jack White.

And seriously, let's just take a moment to watch this incredible play by the football team at Driscoll Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas. The player simply stand up and peacefully walks across the opposing line and runs for the touchdown. No words yet on whether this play was actually legal. Either way, though, (INAUDIBLE).

Big questions that surround the world's biggest planeafter one of the engines blows up in mid-air. Now Qantas found problems with several of its Airbus A380s. The latest developments.

Plus, aviation buff Richard Quest, joining me next.

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