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At Least 22 Killed in Bangkok Shrine Bombing; Rescue Teams Find Trigana Air Black Box; Thousands Pause for Moment of Silence in Tianjin, China; Trump Talks How He'd Use Military Power; Police Look for Hindu Shrine Bomb Suspect; Migrants Flock to Greek Island of Kos; U.S. Military to Help Fight Western Wildfires; St. Mary's Medical Center Shutting Down Pediatric Heart Program; "Batman" Hospital Volunteer Killed in Car Accident. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired August 18, 2015 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[02:00:04] ERROL BARNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Police say they're searching for a man who may be connected to this bombing in Bangkok.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: In Indonesia, crews have reached the wreckage of the Trigana Air crash and there are no survivors.
BARNETT: And later this hour, the U.S. is investing millions of dollars into these Syrian rebels. CNN has a look at who these men are.
CHURCH: Hello. I'm Rosemary Church. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
BARNETT: I'm Errol Barnett. Thanks for joining us. We'll be with you for the next two hours on CNN NEWSROOM.
It is just past 1:00 p.m. in Bangkok, Thailand, where police are searching for a man seen on security camera footage who may be connected to a deadly bombing in a popular tourist area.
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BARNETT: You can almost feel the force of the blast through that video. It shows crowds of pedestrians during what was evening rush hour as the bomb exploded on Monday.
CHURCH: At least 22 people are dead, including citizens from China, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. More than 100 people are injured.
And CNN spoke with one man who saw that blast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANJEEV VYAS, EYEWITNESS: If I was 30 seconds later, I would have been right in the middle of the blast.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was packed in the shrine as well?
VYAS: Yes, and I was standing in front of the shrine, I could hear music and chanting. There was a lot of people inside the shrine. There was music going on. So there were quite a few people in the shrine.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: And you saw people lying on the road.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: How did it unfold from there?
VYAS: So I saw this one guy dying in the middle of the street. He was lying on his side with his helmet on. There was so much traffic on the road and chaos that I just couldn't cross and just couldn't reach out for them and he was just lying over there and his arm was waving up in the air and I could hear a lot of people screaming and shouting but I couldn't do anything about it. I didn't know what was going on and I was smack in the middle of this.
BARNETT: CNN's Anna Coren is following develops from Hong Kong. She joins us now.
And, Anna, you are getting a description of how gruesome a scene this was and horrific an experience it was for people there. What can you tell us about the man being sought by police?
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have the picture of the man that are police are now calling a suspect, that is what was said by one of the police chiefs addressing the media. But if we can show the footage, it's of a man, a young man in a yellow t-shirt wearing glasses carrying a black backpack and also carrying a plastic bag. There is footage of him before the blast and then after the blast without a backpack, which is why authorities want to talk to him. There is no word as to whether he -- of who he is or who he may be affiliated with. But all police are saying is that they believe that he may be connected to the bombing in some way. And that they want to speak to him. At this stage no one has taken responsibility for the attack which happened in rush hour, just after 7:00 p.m. in Bangkok. The Erawan Shrine, which as we know, is a major tourist destination. It is popular among Thais and foreign tourists. But this major intersection is where there are luxury shopping centers and five-star hotels. This is an extremely busy place. So police are now surveying the CCTV footage. They are reviewing it. There are about 15 cameras in that particular area. And they are now looking at the footage. Obviously that is how they identified this one particular man. But as police say, this was a vicious and ruthless attack. And the fact that this bomb was planted at the shrine meant that they were targeting civilians as well as foreigners. And the death count shows that. 22 dead, of which at least eight are foreigners, Errol. BARNETT: You can take some comfort in that development. It's
encouraging to know that within 24 hours of this incident police do have a suspect. We know that forensic teams are still working the scene. They believe it was all done using a pipe bomb. But, considering the political tensions that have existed in Thailand for some time what about the motivations or the possibilities? Police say they actually were warned but that's all they sat they said. They didn't say when or by whom.
[0205:08] COREN: Yeah, police are saying they were warned but have not elaborated on that. We would be speculating.
But as to a motive, people are confused. Obviously, Thailand has been embroiled in political instability and turmoil for years, for decades now. But they have never seen anything on this scale. And I think that is what is really -- shook the city of Bangkok as well as the country of Thailand. They have not seen anything like this. There is the Muslim insurgency in the south where there have been many attacks but specifically in that area. Thousands have died but in that area. It has never been brought to the capital. That would see a dramatic change in tactics. And you have the conflict between the red shirts who are supporters of the former prime minister who was ousted back in 2006. They have been at war with the yellow shirts, the conservative royalists. And the red shirts staged massive sit-ins in this particular area where this bomb went off in 2010, paralyzing the streets for months on end. And that ended in 90 deaths with the military. And just finally, Errol, you then have the -- I should say the military coup, the military came into power in may of last year and since then it has been relatively calm. This is why people are so confused as to what the motive could be.
BARNETT: Anna Coren live with that development that the police are pursuing a suspect. When we get video of him, Anna gave us a description there but we will bring it to our viewers. Anna, thanks.
CHURCH: Marko Cunningham is a paramedic for Bangkok Free Ambulance and he was on the scene rescuing survivors and saving lives. He spoke with CNN a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARKO CUNNINGHAM, PARAMEDIC, BANGKOK FREE AMBULANCE: The injuries were so serious that it was very difficult to prioritize the patients. They were all in comatose states and with huge lacerations and so, triaging them was almost impossible. Every single person was on top of the list of triage. The people that seemed to survive were the ones that ended up underneath the dead people. So I'm guessing that the person in front of the blast took the blast and the person behind was somehow saved. And we had to remove dead bodies from the living people underneath. But I've never seen injuries this bad before. I've been to a few bomb blasts before. This bomb was particularly -- I don't know the word -- vicious -- and designed to cause maximum damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Marko Cunningham talking to CNN a short time ago.
We will bring you all the details as they come into us.
We turn now to news we're following out of Indonesia, rescue teams have found the black box of the Trigana Air Service flight that crashed on Sunday.
CHURCH: The bodies of all 54 people have been located. There are no survivors. Helicopters are on their way to the area to recover the victims' remains.
For more on this recovery effort, let's bring in Yudi Yudawan. He is a reporter with our affiliate, CNN Indonesia, and joins us live from Jayapura.
Yudi, what more information are you getting information on the crash site and the challenges ahead?
YUDI YUDAWAN, REPORTER, CNN INDONESIA: Thank you -- yeah, actually all the bodies already found in the crash site this morning time, according to the information from the National Search and Rescue Agency. But unfortunately, until now, all the team could not get at the body because of the bad weather, the visibility to reach the body and could not using the helicopter because of also the weather is unpredictable condition.
CHURCH: Yudi, I hope you can still hear me.
YUDAWAN: So far they try to evacuate the body by -- yep --
CHURCH: If you can talk to us --
YUDAWAN: Until now we didn't get any information until they evacuated all the bodies.
[02:10:10]CHURCH: All right, Yudi, you're the on talking to us there. We are having a number of problems, as you can see. We have about an eight-second delay. Apologies there. But certainly getting an idea and update of what is happening there on the scene.
BARNETT: More of the big stories for you now, thousands of people in Tianjin, China, paused in a moment of silence to mourn those lost in the warehouse explosions.
CHURCH: At least 115 people were killed and 57 people are still missing. Hundreds of tons of toxic sodium cyanide were found at the site and the cleanup is ongoing.
CHURCH: Will Ripley is in Tianjin and has an update on this. Will, the residents nearby want compensation and answers from the
government. But look what you have to go through as smoke still rises at the blast site. Rain can cause chemical reactions with the toxic chemicals there. What is the latest where you are?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, there is a black plume of smoke rising for much of this is day seven here. There is a grave concern about what was propelled from the blast site and sprinkled and landing everywhere. This gray chemical in this barrel is similar to one we discovered in a residential area construction site and it has a very unusual reaction. When exposed to water it creates heat and white steam. This sort of thing is scattered all about. You can see the proximity to thousands of homes, adding to their fears about whether it will be safe to return.
RIPLEY (voice-over): With terrifying force, the fireball left massive destruction, piles of debris and something else, small mounds of unknown chemicals emitting heat and what looks like steam when exposed to water, raising fears about what happens when it rains.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not going to move back until we are sure it is safe.
RIPLEY: This is one of thousands of homeowners now homeless. Families and the government don't know the full list of toxins propelled through this port city.
(on camera): Do you feel safe going home?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. The chemical stuff is all over. It's like a firework. You know, exploding, flying to everywhere. Some might fall to our yard, to our home.
RIPLEY (voice-over): More than 2,000 Chinese soldiers and hundreds of biochemical experts are working to neutral the threat, search around the immediate blast areas, taking air, soil, and water samples. These stray chemicals, sitting in an unsecured area less than a kilometer from the blast zone.
(on camera): Do you know what this is or if it poses a danger?
UNIDENTIFIED TIANJIN CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
RIPLEY (voice-over): Tianjin's chief environmental officer says that searchers have not entered residential areas due to safety concerns over broken glass. He says they will begin searching the areas if needed.
(on camera): Chemical experts say it's impossible to know what that is or what danger it may pose without further dusting. But there is a lot of it scattered about sitting close to thousands of home. (voice-over): This person owns an apartment under construction next
door. He takes us through building he was supposed to move into in less than two months.
After the exPLOsion, he says, "I worry about the pollution, the water, and soil, the structure of the buildings."
Like most Chinese homeowners, Chou saved for years to buy an apartment, unaware it was sitting next to a hazardous chemical warehouse, now the focus of a criminal investigation by China's highest prosecuting authority.
"Are the officials corrupt or what," ask this homeowner.
RIPLEY: She and others are demanding the Chinese government buy back their apartments, afraid of living next to what they call a ticking time bomb.
RIPLEY: At this now abandoned light rail station and also at this parking lot where much of Tianjin's bus fleet is sitting, we have seen chemical cleanup crews out in the last hour or so picking up a number of chemicals, some are white, some are gray, all scattered around this region which underscores the magnitude and force of this exPLOsion which launched so many of these toxins several kilometers from the blast site itself.
[02:15:00] BARNETT: Will Ripley there in Tianjin, China showing us how vast the devastation is. And it will be many months before the residents get the answers and responses they need.
Will, thanks for much.
CHURCH: We'll take a short break. But in the fight against ISIS, the United States is making an expensive investment in Syrian rebels.
BARNETT: That's right. You'll hear from one of the fighters in an exclusive report after this.
CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. U.S. Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, is talking about how he would use military power if elected.
BARNETT: His plans are bold, but as CNN's pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, reports, they don't sit well with some of the country's top generals.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump offering new details on his plan to fight is.
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: ISIS is taking over a lot of oil in certain areas of Iraq. You knock the hell out of the oil and we take over the oil.
STARR: On NBC's "Meet the Press" Trump was adamant how he would do it.
CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: You are talking about ground troops. Maybe 25,000?
TRUMP: We can circle it. We can circle it. We could have so much money.
[02:20:08] STARR: A Trump military critic says not so fast.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You just don't go into another country and steal their national wealth, which is what he has suggested we do.
STARR: The just retired top Army general had issues with Trump as well.
(on camera): When you hear Donald Trump say we should move in with our troops and take their oil and all the Iraqi fields and take the oil away from ISIS, does anything like that have military utility?
GEN. RAY ODIERNO, FORMER U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: There's limits to military power. We could have an outcome but is it -- the problem we have had, do we achieve sustainable outcome? It's about sustainable outcome.
STARR: You disagree with Donald Trump?
ODIERNO: I do.
STARR (voice-over): Te majority of U.S. air strikes against oil targets have been in Syrian, not Iraq. ISIS controls 10 percent of Iraq's oil fields. How much money would a President Trump get? In 2014, Iraq earned $300 million a day in oil revenue. Now it's down to roughly $240 million a day due to falling oil prices.
HERTLING: To suggest that we go in and bomb the oil fields and take them over is a violation of international law. Mr. Trump may have a lot of lawyers in the Trump Corporation but they won't get him out of The Hague when he is tried for that kind of a plan.
STARR: Where does Trump get his military advice?
TRUMP: Well, I watch the shows.
CHURCH: That was CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, reporting. BARNETT: The United States is vetting and training Syrian rebels to
play a crucial role in the fight against ISIS. But the program has been criticized for the millions of dollars to train just a handful of recruited.
CHURCH: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh got access to one of the rebels and has this report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what nearly $1 million worth of pro-American Syrian rebel looks like. These are the first pictures of the mere 54 moderate fighters the U.S. has painstakingly vetted, trained and equipped with these fancy weapons. But there aren't nearly enough of them yet to worry ISIS.
PATON WALSH: In fact, some of them were recently detained by al Qaeda after a firefight leading to claims the $41 million program was a failure.
One of them, Abu Skanda (ph), in Syria is speaking out.
(through translation): Nearly 17,000 men wants to join. But the training is slow. We need it to be faster. 30 days instead of 45 days. More trainees. Our training in Jordan did 85. There should have been 500 there and another 500 in turkey. We are thankful, but it needs to happen faster.
PATON WALSH (on camera): These men are an essential part of America's anti-ISIS strategy, inescapably vital. Without allied Syrian rebels to go on the ground and clear out ISIS, everything else is pretty much pointless. And as of now, inside Syria, there are just about 40 of them.
(voice-over): Here they are entering Syria recently after training days before being attacked by rebels from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra front. Some have been released.
And despite the awful start, Abu Skanda (ph) is determined to fight on. The Americans follow him, using a GPS on his wrist and in his vest when he targets airstrikes for them.
ABU SKANDA (ph), REBEL FIGHTER (through translation): I go to the front line of ISIS and give locations for the war planes to bomb. We have advanced satellite location devices to target anyplace on the front line whether we see it or not. There are daily drones. I speak to the Americans every hour, a total of four hours a day.
PATON WALSH: One hurdle in recruiting for the Pentagon is that their unit is only allowed to fight ISIS --
PATON WALSH: -- not most Syrian rebels' first and worst enemy, the Assad regime. But Abu also insists he will fight the Assad regime.
SKANDA (ph) (through translation): The second rule is that we fight whoever is fighting us. We will take arrows from ISIS and face Assad. Are we going to sit still and not fight Assad? We will stay in our homes. We don't want to cry on TV. We want Assad regime to be stopped.
PATON WALSH: After the vetting, the confused aims, one thing is clear, his unshakeable enthusiasm for the fight against ISIS and the regime that lies ahead.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN.
As Greece attempts to deal with its influx of thousands of migrants, we are learning that the journey there is just another steppingstone for many.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MIGRANT: No one will stay here. No one. We know that this country have problems economic problems.
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[02:55:31] BARNETT: A report on what some people plan to do after their arrival in Greece, next.
BARNETT: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and all around the world. I'm Errol Barnett.
CHURCH: I'm Rosemary Church. It's time to update the main stories we have been following this hour.
Bangkok police say they are searching for a man scene on security camera footage who may be connected to Monday's deadly bombing in a tourist area. At least 22 people were killed and hundreds injured at a popular Hindu shrine. No one has claimed responsibility.
BARNETT: Indonesian officials say rescue teams have found the black box of the Trigana Air Service flight that crashed on Sunday. The bodies of all 54 people on board have been located. Helicopters are on their way there to recover the victims' remains.
CHURCH: Hundreds of people who lost their homes in last week's explosions in Tianjin, China, are demanding government compensation. Authorities are still trying to sweep the site of dangerous chemicals. At least 114 people were killed. 57 are still missing, mostly firefighters.
[02:30:07] More now on our top story, the deadly bombing in Bangkok, Thailand.
Paul Chambers is a professor and military analyst at Chiang Mai University's Institute for Southeast Asian Affairs, and he joins us now live to talk about who might be behind this attack.
Thank you, sir, for talking with us.
Now, there has been no claim of responsibility as yet. But police are now pursuing a suspect dressed in a yellow shirt who was caught on security camera footage. What does that tell you?
PAUL CHAMBERS, PROFESSOR & MILITARY ANALYST, INSTITUTE FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA AFFAIRS, CHIANG MAI UNIVERSITY (voice-over): Well, thank you very much, first of all. I don't think it tells us very much. I think we need to scrutinize who might be guilty, who might have done this. And there are a lot of possibilities. First of all, of course, it could always be Malay Muslim extremists in the far south of Thailand. I doubt that basically because, first of all, there has been a dialogue going on with the military government since June. So I don't think they want to destroy that dialogue. Secondly, most of the Malay Muslim insurgent groups are part of that dialogue. It's illogical for them to want to have a bomb. Secondly, it's Uyghur terrorists. The Uyghur people are upset at the regime for deporting many Uyghur people to China recently. There are many Chinese who were killed in this attack. But I think, again, it's very, very unlikely. So I think we come down to three questions, who in Thailand has the capability to get this done? Number two, who had the most to gain? And number three, who could do it now? It points to the military or Thai police. Right now, there has been reshuffles of certain military people. And intermediate-level troops are not happy about the reshuffles. At the same -- with regard to the police. Number two, to there are pro toxin military and anti-toxin military. They are upset at the Prayuth regime. Under the water, of course. So I think, ultimately, it's the military or the police elements that are mostly involved. This sighting of what I think it said was an Arab person with a yellow shirt, I don't put anything into that. I think that could be even the beginning of blame game, trying to blame some group for something that actually isn't the case.
CHURCH: That's interesting. The police have very much pushed that. Of course you have the yellow shirts against the red shirts, very significant there in Bangkok, particularly. And you're not reading anything into that?
CHAMBERS: You hit the nail on the head. There have always been this red/yellow clash. But ultimately only military people have the capability of doing this bombing and only if there are military that are working with red shirts, is this going to be possible that red shirts are part of the bombing. But then again that brings us back to the military. There are certainly anti-military elements who hate Prayuth and his prime minister as well. When we say it could be red shirts, it's possible but ultimately those who planted the bomb have to be those capable of it, meaning military allied with toxin.
CHURCH: Paul Chambers thank you for joining us. There has been no claim of responsibility to this point. It's interesting that that has taken some time and we are yet to hear whether anyone is willing to step forward and claim responsibility for this.
Many thanks to you for joining us.
BARNETT: Another tragic migrant crossing in the Mediterranean has come to an end. A Norwegian ship docked in Sicily carrying the body of 49 migrants who breathed in toxic fumes from fuel. 315 others aboard the boat survived.
CHURCH: Italy's navy rescued them Saturday and transferred them to the Norwegian ship. A monitoring group says more than 2300 migrants have died trying to get from Africa to Europe in 2015, making it the deadliest year on record.
Many migrants are also flocking to the Greek island of Kos. More than 7,000 arrived there last month according to Doctors without Borders.
BARNETT: But the welcome they receive isn't always a warm one, is it?
CNN's Atika Shubert has more.
[02:35:00] ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dawn breaks on the Greek holiday island of Kos and this is how the visitors arrive, hundreds on inflatable dinghies from Turkey.
This group of Syrians stumble out on dry land happy to have survived the journey away from their war-torn homeland. They dry their children and take out the inflatable wings and take photos to send back home. Then they walk past the tent city that extends along the Kos beach front.
"We are from Syria," they announce.
Many of Kos' locals have offered food, water and washing facilities. But this time, overwhelmed by the numbers, residents shout at them to leave and to register with police.
SHUBERT: This is where they go, the new cruise ship sent in by Greece docked to house and register Syrian refugees. They wait here for hours.
(on camera): One of the families we spoke to is finally aboard the ship. Authorities say it has the capacity for 2500 people. In one day, more than 1,000 people are on board. But all of the new arrivals have said that Kos is just the doorway to Europe.
(voice-over): This 27-year-old from Damascus wants to study physics in Germany.
UNIDENTIFIED MIGRANT: No one will stay here. Because we know that this country have problem -- economic problem. We just want to go.
SHUBERT: He admits he hoped for better in Greece.
UNIDENTIFIED MIGRANT: When we was there in Turkey we hope to make it here. For all of us, that was 70 percent of the trip because it's sea and dangerous. But now after we arrive here and saw what we saw, it's very bad here. We cannot go back. We have to continue.
SHUBERT: For families with children, Kos is a safe and secure place to rest before moving on to places like Germany.
This woman tried to pay for a hotel room for her family but was told there is no space. Even so, she is grateful.
UNIDENTIFIED MIGRANT: The Greek people are very nice and give us many things. So it's for our children, water and some food. Yeah.
SHUBERT: New arrivals to Kos are trying to make the best of it, washing in the sea as tourists lounge in beach chairs nearby. As the sun sets, tourists return to hotels and migrants camp in the open and watch new arrivals come in the morning, boat after boat, with no signs of stopping.
Atika Shubert, CNN, Kos.
BARNETT: For the first time in nearly a decade, U.S. military soldiers will join firefighters battling wildfires scorching huge parts of the West U.S. About 200 soldiers from an Army base in Washington State will be trained and sent to the front lines.
CHURCH: The military are providing aircraft, which can drop large quantities of fire retardant. California, Idaho and Washington have seen the worst of the fires.
We want to get the latest on the conditions on the ground. Our Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us.
It's incredible how extensive these are.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The fire authority saying this is a five and Pennsylvania a potential to exhaust all of their resources. It is very expansive. It has consumed about three million hectares of land. Take the state of Massachusetts or the Hawaiian islands. It is comparable to that size of a land mass as far as how much has been consumed in the U.S.
We'll show you what's happening here in terms of numbers. There is the state of Massachusetts, roughly seven million acres of land across the United States much on the Western side of the U.S. That is more than two million acres above what is considered to have burned for the fire season. But the rainfall is there. Millions of gallons over the next five days. Unfortunately it's almost entirely east of the Rockies. And you look at the perspective, in some areas four to five inches. One of the fun facts is that an average size cumulus clouds holds 17 million gallons of water. Unfortunately, the northwest and southwest, bone dry conditions. Anything above 300 acres of grass burned or larger, seven million total have been consumed. The air quality in eastern Washington and Oregon and Idaho on high alert right now. These taken from 22,000 miles up in space looking down toward the Western U.S. You can see the smoke plumes pushing off to the east as the winds go from the West to the east. The eastern portion of Washington you see that going into Monday, the smoke in place pushing now into western areas of Montana as well. But 12 days so far this calendar year, Seattle has exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Three is what you typically expect in the summer season. That is quadrupling. Portland has reached or exceeded 90 24 times this year. 11 times is normal. To put this into perspective, Atlanta, Georgia, well known for extreme heat, sees about 30 days a year of 90-degree heat. Portland has seen 24. Portland is comparable to Atlanta. So the heat is immense over a very large area.
[02:40:46] BARNETT: Making that point.
Pedram, see you next hour.
CHURCH: Thank you.
BARNETT: Hillary Clinton is speaking out about the e-mail scandal that is plaguing her run for the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: And you know what? It's not about e-mails or servers either. It's about politics. I will do my part to provide transparency to Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNETT: Coming up next, the fallout and pushback from the Democratic presidential front runner. Stay with us.
BARNETT: Want to get you an update to a CNN investigation of a story we have been following for a year. St. Mary's Medical Center in Florida is shutting down its pediatric heart program. Since 2011, at least nine babies have died in the past year. A tenth baby was left paralyzed.
CHURCH: A CNN investigation found, from 2011 to 2013, the hospital's mortality rate for open-heart surgery was more than three times the national average.
CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, brought us the story in June. And here is a portion of her report.
[02:45:00] DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weeks into life this tiny baby, Layla McCarthy, needed heart surgery. Here at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Dr. Michael Black performed the procedure to widen the aorta.
CHRISTINE MCCARTHY, MOTHER OF LAYLA: He made it seem like he was the best person to do it.
MATT MCCARTHY, FATHER OF LAYLA: No sweat, it's a walk in the park.
COHEN: But the surgery was a disaster.
CHRISTINE MCCARTHY: I looked at her and her legs had stiffened up a lot and started to go into a table-top position.
COHEN: After the surgery, Layla was paralyzed. Here she is today. The McCarthy's had no idea that her daughter's tragedy had a disturbing back story, one that no one had told them.
Just three months before her operation a baby had died after heart surgery performed by Dr. Black, and five months before that, another had died and a month and a half before that another had passed away.
CHRISTINE MCCARTHY: It's horrible that you go into a program like that and they can be dishonest with you and they don't feel the need to tell you what happened there before.
COHEN: One week after the surgery that left Layla paralyzed, Amelia Campbell died. Then Parish Wright a few months later, and Landon Summerford a few months after that.
The hospital and the heart surgeon, Dr. Black, rejected requests for an on-camera interview. So we tracked down the CEO, David Cravoni (ph), to give him a chance to explain.
(on camera): Hi, Mr. Cravoni (ph), it's Elizabeth Cohen at CNN. Hi, Mr. Cravoni (ph), it's Elizabeth Cohen at CNN. How are you, sir? Sir? We want to know why -- what the death rate is for your babies at the pediatric heart hospital in your program.
(voice-over): He also wouldn't answer the parents' questions, why do so many babies die at St. Mary's.
Last year, a team of doctors from the state of Florida's Children's Medical Services evaluated the program at the request of St. Mary's, which sought to, quote, "evaluate and identify opportunities for improvement."
The head of the team, Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs, found St. Mary's was doing too few surgeries to get good at it. How few? In the United States, 80 percent of children's heart surgeries programs perform more than 100 surgeries a year, each procedure giving them valuable expertise. But the review of St. Mary's program shows, in 2013, the hospital performed 23 operations. It is unlikely that any program will be capable of obtaining and sustaining high quality when performing less than two operations per month, Dr. Jacobs read.
CHURCH: St. Mary's Medical Center released the following statement obtained from local media. I'm quoting here, "This is the decision of the hospital and not based on a decision or recommendation by the state of Florida or any regulatory agency. The inaccurate media reports on our program have made it significantly more challenging to build sustainable volume in our program," end of quote there.
BARNETT: Dr. Michael Black's attorney released a statement. It says in part, quote, "CNN's reckless reporting has deprived the community of a vitally important medical program and Dr. Black will sue CNN for defamation for false and damaging statements and flawed reports," end quote.
CHURCH: It is a heartbreaking story.
We want to get this news to you just into CNN. India's first lady has died. She was born in what is now Bangladesh. She married India's future president in 1957. In addition to raising three children, she was a fan of the arts and a writer of two books. She was 74.
CHURCH: Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a community in Maryland is dealing with a huge loss.
BARNETT: The sudden death of a man who turned out to be a real-life superhero. We'll bring that to you after this break.
[02:53:08] CHURCH: Welcome back. We want to get you to what is such a sad story out of the U.S. state of Maryland. 51-year-old Lenny Robinson was known as the Route 29 Batman.
CHURCH: He dressed up as the superhero, providing moments of relief and laughter to hospitalized children. Robinson was killed in a tragic highway accident over the weekend.
Jessica Kartalija, from CNN affiliate, WJZ, has more about the man behind the mask.
JESSICA KARTALIJA, REPORTER, WJZ (voice-over): As Batman, Lenny B. Robinson loved bringing smiles to little faces, arriving in his Batmobile to visit children in the hospital.
LENNY ROBINSON, DIED IN ACCIDENT: They are constantly fighting for their lives. This helps them. That's what it's all about.
KARTALIJA: The 51 died Sunday when his Batmobile broke down along I- 70.
UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: This other vehicle from Virginia came through and struck him, which caused his death.
MARILYN RICHARDSON, KNEW "ROUTE 25 BATEMAN": It is devastating.
KARTALIJA: Robinson paid countless visits to Sinai Ruben Institute for Advanced Orthopedics.
RICHARDSON: That was a huge honor that he loved Sinai Hospital and he loved the Ruben Institute and, most of all, he loved our patients. KARTALIJA: A resident of Owings Mills, he owned a cleaning business,
later, he would buy the costume and cars and transform into a superhero, a favorite of his three children.
RACHEL FOOTE, FORMER PATIENT: Even though they are his immediate family, he was part of our family, too. He was such a big part of it.
KARTALIJA: Rachel Foote is a patient.
FOOTE: He talks to the patients and gives them encouragement.
KARTALIJA: Robinson became viral three years ago when he was pulled over three years ago when he forgot to take off his Batman tags on route to a children's hospital. Robinson called it publicity for volunteering.
FOOTE: The little things you do can make a huge difference in the life of someone else.
KARTALIJA: Like when he visited Elizabeth Garner at school for a walk to stop bullying.
Robinson's memory, alive inside everyone he touched.
RICHARDSON: We are very blessed and very thankful to have known him and to have had him for the time that we did and have such a close relationship with him. We just feel completely blessed.
[02:55:30] BARNETT: That was Jessica Kartalija, from our affiliate, WJZ, reporting. A good lesson to live by, share your time and being generous. He will be remembered.
CHURCH: He was a good man.
You have been watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church.
BARNETT: I'm Errol Barnett. We're here for another hour. Please do stay with us.